Inside (remake) (.5/5)

So I just saw the American remake of one of the best films of the New French Extremity movement, A l’Interieur (Inside), and it was pretty freaking pathetic.

So for those of you who don’t know, the movie is about a very pregnant woman named Sarah who recently lost her husband. On Christmas Eve night, a psychopathic woman in a black dress sneaks into her home. Her goal is to take Sarah’s baby, no matter the cost.

The original A l’Interieur, while not being a particularly fantastic film, is known among horror circles as having some of the most insanely brutal violence ever put on film. It was grisly, it was visceral, and at times it was genuinely shocking. It was completely no-holds-barred, made some commentary about femininity and motherhood, and is seen as not only one of the best films of 2007, but one of the best films in its subgenre which includes MartyrsFrontiere(s)Haute Tension (High Tension), Seul Contre Tous (I Stand Alone), IrreversibleTrouble Every DayDans ma Peau (In My Skin), Baise-Moi (F-ck Me), Calvaire (Calvary), and Sheitan. I have not seen many of these films, but I intend to.

Where A l’Interieur‘s remake fails most noticeably is in just how amazingly tame it is. There is very little gore, and whatever gore there is is not graphic at all. In the original, a huge part of the experience was the sheer brutality of the violent acts committed, but here, it winds up feeling almost like a Lifetime movie with how tame the violence is. Was this movie made for pathetic betas who couldn’t stomach the original? Was an American studio just unwilling to embrace how messed-up the movie was and decided to take out basically all of what made the original so memorable?

Which leads into my next point: what is even the point of this movie anyway? To satisfy the small niche of uncultured swine that are too lazy to read English subtitles? They never deserved to experience such a movie anyway. It’s like when the Spanish horror movie REC was remade as the American Quarantine. I’ll probably review that one eventually. Like QuarantineInside loses so much of what made the original special, from various themes tackled in the original’s plot to well-done violence to convincing acting to proper camerawork to even the original’s approach to horror. It’s not worth butchering a legitimately scary and blisteringly tense cinematic experience to appease a group of disgusting twats who are unwilling to even consider branching out to world cinema. Want an example of a remake of a foreign film done right? Martin Scorcese’s The Departed, a remake of the Hong Kong movie Infernal Affairs.

Acting. Alysson Paradis and Beatrice Dalle, who were absolutely amazing in the original, are replaced with Rachel Nichols and Laura Harring. And they are completely worthless. Alysson Paradis’s Sarah was going through crippling depression, which was conveyed supremely well, but she was so good at convincing me that she was a terrified woman trapped in an crazy scary situation. Rachel Nichols can’t convince me that she’s really undergoing a horrifically traumatizing experience, and frankly, she just looks kind of lost. And even though Laura Harring has plenty of films under her belt, she’s absolutely awful here. While I absolutely believed that Beatrice Dalle was absolutely insane and was completely prepared to do anything to steal Sarah’s baby, Laura Harring really just isn’t even trying to even look scary. She puts on one of the most underacted performances of basically the entire year. The only other time this year I have seen a performance by an actress who just does not care would have to be whatever-her-name-is that plays the Indian chick in freaking Mohawk. I would be willing to accept that Nichols and Harring are simply just the subjects of extremely poor direction, but were there seriously no better actresses who came to audition?

The reason I don’t think that the original movie was fantastic was because I viewed the majority of the killings in that film as happening out of misunderstandings or coincidences or just overall questionable circumstances. But what saved the movie was the fact that Sarah was just so well developed and sympathetic, Beatrice Dalle was amazingly scary, the violence was incredible, some of the dumb decisions actually had a reason to be there other than because plot, the acting was phenomenal, the camerawork was pretty much expertly done, and the tension was through the freaking roof. I can remember one particular shot toward the beginning of the original movie that showed Sarah going to sleep on either a bed or a couch in her house that is only lit by the streetlights outside. You see the psycho woman just fade in from a totally dark doorway. She doesn’t come all the way out of the darkness, but you see just enough of her to know that she’s there. That moment in that movie is legitimately terrifying.

But in the remake, the entire plot can only move forward with the help from a misunderstanding, someone making a stupid decision, or things just plain screwing up. That is literally how the plot happens. There are a series of really stupid occurrences that happen because Sarah is not wearing her hearing aid. She could have successfully avoided two characters’ deaths had she just been wearing her f-cking hearing aid. See, whenever I come across a movie where much of the conflict in it stems from various misunderstandings, I always start thinking up these silly fantasy scenarios in my head, wondering what might have happened if said misunderstanding(s) hadn’t happened.

The movie doesn’t even give me the proper time illustrating that Sarah is in a really bad place emotionally and establishing that something weird’s going on and that the psycho woman is already in the house before crap hits the fan. Rather, it needs to save time for some really stupid bullcrap at the end. I’ll get to that later.

While the original really liked its over-saturated yellow filter when it came to lighting, which actually really added to the overall discomfort, the remake just makes everything gray, and even has a 25% darkness filter over every shot. It doesn’t help that the camera starts shaking at the worst possible moments. And even that shot that I mentioned earlier is just replaced by a scene in which lightning from a window illuminates her standing next to Sarah’s bed in, of course, a jumpscare. And no, American filmmakers, unless lightning is hitting the ground literally right next to you, thunder and lightning never happen at the same time.

And the freaking ending. See, in the original, the movie ended in probably the most insanely brutal and f-cked-up way possible: Sarah starts giving birth to her baby, but it’s stuck. So the psycho woman has to perform an emergency Caesarean-section on Sarah to get the baby out. This is shown in pretty graphic detail, and there is blood EVERYWHERE. The birth scene ends, and the movie ends with a shot of the dead, blood-drenched Sarah and a shot of the psycho woman sitting in a rocking chair holding the baby. In the end, the psycho woman got exactly what she came for in probably the most brutal, visceral, and shocking way possible.

But the remake changes the ending in the worst possible way. Remember how when The Descent was brought to America, they truncated the ending because the original ending was “too sad”? Remember the American remake of The Vanishing, and how its ending was changed because the original’s ending was too disturbing? Remember that the American remake of Martyrs had the ending changed because the original’s ending was just too bleak and nihilistic? Well, here you go. I’m not going to spoil the ending because 1) it’s so insulting to the original’s fans and audiences in general to change one of the most messed-up endings ever into a ridiculously stupid happy one, and 2) regardless of whether or not you have seen the original A l’Interieur BESEECH YOU, DO NOT WATCH THIS REMAKE. THIS CRAP NEEDS TO STOP.

And I’m giving Inside a .5 out of 5, because really, it’s just another dime-a-dozen crappy remake rather than something that insults me on a fundamental level.


Mohawk (0/5)

So I just saw Ted Geoghegan’s new movie Mohawk, and it was worse than f-cking cancer. Now, I’d been interested in seeing this movie for the better part of two years, ever since his directorial debut We Are Still Here came out. I wasn’t one of the people that believed that Ted Geoghegan was some sort of Messiah that would save the horror genre; after all, I only ever thought that We Are Still Here was only okay. But it got a mountain of good reviews, so I was interested in seeing where he would go from here. But after seeing the abomination that is Mohawk, I can safely confirm that Geoghegan is nothing more than a one hit wonder. He made one good movie, and the rest of his movies are going to be crap.

First off, a brief history lesson for the illiterate: Native Americans were not this beautiful, advanced, horsebacked civilization in tune with nature and painted with colors of the wind to whom the concept of war was foreign. A pretty large majority of them were actually violent, savage, conquering, genocidal, evil people that only stopped genociding each other when the white man showed up. They’d been at war with each other since the Inuit tribes crossed the Bering Sea land bridge. Much of them practiced slavery, rape, cannibalism, human sacrifice, and various other horrific acts that would make Hitler look tame. And for a more specific example, the Comanche tribes would target women and children, butcher babies, and roast people alive. And where do you think we learned the noble and ancient art of scalping? In fact, the only reason that the white man could conquer this foreign and harsh yet resource-rich land was with the assistance of various tribes who had bones to pick with other ones. The conquistadors didn’t take over Mexico with only a few hundred dudes; they did it with tens of thousands of other natives, like Cortez toppling the Aztec empire with fifty thousand other natives enslaved by the Aztecs. Yeah, the white man did some pretty nasty things to them, but it wasn’t nearly as horrific as the things that the natives were doing to each other. In fact, the white man’s hands are pretty much clean; all they had to do was hand over some fire-water and boom-boom sticks to the natives and let them do the dirty work. Also, the smallpox blankets weren’t a thing. Any knowledge of germs or viruses or bacteria let alone microbial warfare back then would have gotten you labeled as a witch and burned at the stake. And no, the Native Americans were not wiped out through genocide; they were wiped out through diseases that the white man had not only long since gained immunity to, but, as stated earlier, had little to no knowledge of. Fast-forward five hundred years, and you’re getting super triggered reading this on your Apple laptop or your smartphone. I’m not some racist scumbag – this is freaking history. Now, before you label me as some horrible alt-right white nationalist, STOP. All I am doing is stating the facts. I’m not acting like the white man was some altruistic moral arbiter. Civilizations clash. It’s happened since well before the beginning of recorded history. And typically, the guys with the boom-boom sticks would beat the guys who not only had never heard of plumbing, transportation, mathematics, animal domestication, or anything that’s led to you reading this right now, but were still living so deeply in the Stone Age that they didn’t even use the wheel. That’s right: when the pilgrims led by William Bradford encountered Squanto and his bros, they still hadn’t even thought of anything resembling a wheel. There’s no difference between Anglo-Americans conquering North America and the Roman Empire conquering much of Eurasia. There’s nothing super-evil about the Americans conquering North America; it’s just that the clash of civilization is that much worse when the wheel-using white guys conquer the non-wheel-using natives. And when dealing with barbaric nomads, typically the guys with the guns win. It’s not exclusive to America. It’s not even that uncommon. But the American people weren’t these monsters hellbent on destroying every last native. Quite the contrary – the vast majority of Americans were trying to reach out to them, bring them into their culture, convert them to Christianity, and even intermarry (which was amazingly common). Yes, killing is very, very wrong. But so is misleading and guilt-tripping the masses of future generations for crimes they had no part in. And the remnants of Native American tribes have long since abandoned their violent ways. Now they’re just alcoholics living on government-owned reservations. Yes, the Americans conquered the continent, but they also set up a constitutional representative republic, advanced in a mere few centuries what the natives failed to do for millennia, and are the number one force for good on the planet. They don’t teach this in schools anymore because the only people in history that are to be viewed as irrevocably, irreparably evil is the white man.But I’m not allowed to point this out, because knowing my history apparently makes me a racist.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, on to the movie.

I brought up the history lesson for a reason: in Mohawk, the historically illiterate writers portrayed the Mohawk tribe (which, in Algonquin, means “flesh eaters”), which consists of a dozen or so people, as a peaceful people who are so advanced that the main chick even wears a brightly colored miniskirt. The writers portray the British folk as these really nice people who really don’t want to ask the natives to give up their land. And they portray Americans as these eeeeeeeevil savages who want to conquer and destroy everything. Sorry, but I’m not sure that’s historically accurate.

I wasn’t aware that having positive opinions about the United States of America and believing that its founding was ordained by God himself was such a controversial and unpopular opinion. This is one of the most anti-American movies I have ever seen, and it’s not even subtle about it. It’s so in-your-face and preachy and so unwilling to listen to the other side of history that it feels like propaganda.

Oh, and the movie is pretty awfully made when it comes to even the most basic building blocks of filmmaking.

Like story and characters. The story is supposed to be about this Mohawk woman whose name escapes me who’s the lover of some British guy whose name escapes me. Her suitor, some Mohawk guy whose name escapes me, is super angry about the Mohawk tribe’s neutrality, so he decides to do his own one man war against the Americans by burning down a fort full of sleeping American soldiers. That’s totally the moral thing to do and is totally not hypocritical at all. But seven American soldiers survive and begin hunting down the Mohawk woman, her lover, and her suitor. But the execution of this story isn’t even remotely competent, as rather than focus almost entirely on the protagonists and make the antagonists this unseen but ever-present threat, the antagonists get well over two-thirds of the screentime. This ties into the poorly crafted characters, or, should I say, stereotypes. All of the American soldiers are portrayed as super-racist hicks that want nothing more than to kill every last native and destroy the continent. The Mohawk woman is the peaceful native with a painted face that just wants to be with her lover. The Brit is the typical nice guy sympathetic to the natives’ plight. The Mohawk guy is killed off less than halfway through the movie, so I don’t care. See, this type of movie should be focusing on the protagonists, their desperation to escape, and their paranoia that the antagonists could be hiding under every rock and behind every tree and bush. But no. This movie focuses on the American soldiers and tries so ungodly hard to paint them as evil, hypocritical savages, but in knowing that the movie was so historically incorrect in doing so, I wound up siding with the soldiers and hoping that they would finally, blessedly hunt down and kill the protagonists quickly so the movie would be over. Mohawk spends so little time on the protagonists (and even makes the Mohawk woman the unseen presence toward the end) that I just didn’t care. The number one thing that Mohawk needed to do was to make me root for its main character (who, by the way, has perfect teeth for living in the early nineteenth century), and it failed so spectacularly at doing that that I was actively rooting for her demise.

And even when it comes to the technical side of filmmaking, Mohawk is thoroughly atrocious. The acting is so bad, having no middle ground between bored and painful, with the chick playing the Mohawk woman being the worst offender. The entire freaking movie, she lethargically strolls around the set looking super bored. She doesn’t just sound bored – she sounds dead. Oh, and she’s pretty freaking white for a Native American. The American soldiers all spit out their dialogue with the most cliche American South accent ever. One of them is even trying to be just like Gibbs from Pirates of the Caribbean from the look to the voice. Yeah, unlike the Mohawk woman, the other actors are at least trying, but they clearly got really crummy direction. I’m looking at you, Ted. It’s pretty obvious that these actors are either no-namers or friends with or neighbors of the director.

The camerawork is laughable. It’s clear that this movie was made with no budget and so was shot on the cheapest equipment possible in a vague forest that I presume was near the director’s home. The camera never stops shaking and seems to be really allergic to shooting at night without a ton of lighting. It’s poorly lit. It’s poorly edited. The only thing in this movie that looks even remotely good is the forest setting.

The costumes are full of anachronisms, with the most obvious example being that the main character wears a brightly-colored miniskirt. The only attempts to make the ostensibly Native American actors look Native American was to plaster them in ridiculous face paint. The numerous squeamish gore scenes are pretty laughably cheap and gratuitous, with the sound effects and blood gurgling being way overdone. And throughout the movie, you will see the characters engaging in actions that are highly unrealistic and silly.

The movie opened with some really painful electronic synth soundtrack, and I immediately thought, Oh, this movie’s going to try and emulate one from the ’80s. But the cruddy, lazy attempt at a Carpenter-esque soundtrack is the only remotely ’80s thing about this movie. It’s as if the director saw a few Carpenter and Fulci movies and thought himself a connoisseur of ’80s horror.

The horrible acting, the awful cinematography, the awful soundtrack, the blatant anachronisms, the poor costumes, the horribly botched attempt to make an ’80s-style movie, and the overall highly unpleasant experience that the movie as a whole is makes Mohawk damn near unwatchable. It’s a very angry, bitter, vengeful anti-American screed put to ninety minutes of celluloid. It’s not even a movie – it’s just two handfuls of random people tossed onscreen and forced to act out pitiful dialogue, and a desperate attempt to paint the founding of America as the horrific, super-racist spawning of a cancer on the world.

By the way, I didn’t go into this movie expecting to hate it. I saw the good reviews (though most of them were engaging in painfully obvious virtue-signaling) and ignored the low IMDb score and paid seven bucks to rent it on Amazon.

In 1968, George Romero released Night of the Living Dead. It was made for only a hundred thousand bucks, and the cast was made up of his friends and neighbors. It wound up being one of the greatest horror movies ever made and is still being viewed as a classic, and George Romero, God rest his soul, is looked at as one of the masters of horror. It seems that Ted Geoghegan was trying to do the same, but he failed miserably.

And I’m giving Mohawk a 0 out of 5. Get this f-cking thing away from me.

Review 95: The Life Zone (0/5)

Image result for the life zone

The Life Zone

Directed by Rod Weber

Starring Robert Loggia, Blanche Baker, Angela Little, Lindsey Haun, Nina Transfeld

Released on June 10, 2011

Running time: 1h 21m

Rated PG-13

Genre: Um…horror?


Obviously, everyone knows that abortion is the termination of a pregnancy. Abortion is an extremely touchy subject, especially when discussing it around women. Definitions of it range from “removal of a nonliving and inhuman but somehow parasitic clump of cells” to “mass genocide of unborn children in various disgusting ways and on a massive scale”. Opinions on it range from thinking that abortion can be done at any time for any reason to a complete ban unless the pregnancy is threatening the life of the mother. Most people try to take some sort of middle ground.

For the record, I am as staunchly pro-life as one can get, and view abortion as one of the greatest evils ever devised in human history. HOWEVER: the last thing I am willing to do is get in your face and scream about it. I’m not like one of those suspiciously rare maniacs that bombs abortion clinics and murders abortionists. Any and all attempts on my part to defund abortion providers and end the practice of abortion once and for all will only ever be through the legal system and through nonviolent means. I’m not going to spend this entire review screeching about how evil abortion is and alienating anyone who doesn’t share my opinions.

And when it comes to the movie I’m reviewing today, even though I’m super-pro-life, even I think that The Life Zone is a miserable and borderline unendurable experience.

Before I get into the film itself, I should probably talk about this movie’s writer and producer, Ken del Vecchio.

Vecchio is a guy with a massively overinflated ego who has directed, produced, and acted in over thirty low-budget films, the vast majority of which you have probably not seen. I certainly haven’t. I never even heard of Ken del Vecchio until I saw The Life Zone. Somehow, in 2010, he was elected to serve as a town judge in New Jersey. He was balancing his careers of filmmaker and judge pretty shakily until he released the controversial O.B.A.M. Nude, an obvious attempted punch to the d!ck of former President Barack Obama. This film depicted Vecchio playing a lazy, coke-snorting law student who makes a deal with the Devil, attends Harvard Law School, becomes a community organizer and eventually President, and transforms America into a communist dictatorship. I couldn’t stand Obama, but I personally saw him as just this tiny, sad, misguided little man who had no idea what he was doing. He certainly wasn’t the type of guy to turn America into Soviet Russia. The release of this film caused a state judicial panel to deem Vecchio’s two careers to be ethically conflicting. Rather than put up a fight, Vecchio stepped down and declared himself a martyr. He kept making a buttload of movies and tried to run for State Senate in New Jersey twice. He failed in both areas.

The Life Zone, released in 2011, is easily Vecchio’s most well-known movie. It was released as a pro-life horror movie. Because the two totally go together. It was even rated PG-13, so everyone can see it. This should be fun. The only defense I can offer Ken del Vecchio is that he put his money where his mouth is.

I can’t believe I actually spent money to rent this on Amazon.

We begin with three whole minutes of this eighty-minute movie just panning over or fading to different shots of a large hospital-ish room covered in equipment and religious imagery.

So three random women wake up in hospital beds in this large room in this Jesus-kissing hospital. There is a table next to each bed with a Bible and rosary on each, and there is a cross and a picture of Jesus and the Virgin Mary above each bed.

The first woman, Lara, played by literal Playboy Playmate Angela Little, wakes up and staggers around the room. Ominous whispering that has nothing to do with anything is heard. Lara collapses in front of a door, but she tries the handle and it is locked. Lara flubs a line. And her crying in desperation is so poorly acted. Lara hears a scream, and the title card shows up using a very cheap font.

Lara runs over to the second woman, Natalie, who is screaming because there’s blood on her hands. It’s coming from a wound on her knee, which has only been bandaged with a soaked stack of gauze. After the first few minutes of the movie, the wounded knee is never mentioned again. The two notice a third woman, Staci, and try to wake her up. They hear a voice behind them, and turn around to see a TV with an old man on the screen. The old man beckons them forward. Staci abruptly wakes up and goes toward the TV.

Apparently, what is being shown on the TV is a live feed, and the old man addresses the women, spouting a bunch of meaningless dialogue before the feed cuts out. Through the dialogue that the old man announced rather than acted out, the women are able to determine why they are here. But before that happens, Staci implies that somehow she is telepathic. This is completely random and out of nowhere, and nothing like this is ever mentioned again.

They’ve obviously been kidnapped, but why? Well, the reason that the three women have been kidnapped and are being held in this hospital-like room is because the three were all about to have abortions. Yes, that’s why.

A door opens and a doctor, Victoria Wise, walks in. She confirms their suspicions about why they were kidnapped, accuses them of attempted murder, and says that they will be held here until they give birth to their children, just as God planned. And the clunky dialogue exchanged between the four women is so ungodly bad. It is physically painful to hear, especially when recited by painfully bad actors. It’s clear that these ladies cannot act to save their own lives. It’s so obvious that the director only ever used the first take.

So we’re basically in a crappy version of Saw, except here, the victims’ captor isn’t a vigilante looking to make people atone for their sins by making them inflict grievous bodily harm on themselves that reflects their sins, but rather a pair of radical pro-lifers that are keeping them captive but comfortable and healthy until their babies are born. And in case you’re about to say, “Why are you saying that this is some radically pro-life movie when the characters here are written in such a way that the movie is obviously pushing a hardcore pro-choice bent?” Oh, just you wait. This movie is undeniably pro-life and is so in the worst possible ways. How that message will be conveyed will be revealed later, and you’re not gonna like it.

And since these women are to be kept healthy and comfortable until their babies are born, where’s the threat supposed to be? What is supposed to be the source of horror in this “pro-life horror movie”?

The identities and beliefs of the stereotypes masquerading as characters are revealed. Lara is a super-awesome lawyer and is pretty hardcore pro-choice, but she believes in some sort of middle ground and is ultimately accepting of the situation and the inevitable birth of her child. Natalie is the goody-two-shoes who was pressured into her attempted abortion by her boyfriend, but now that she’s in this hospital/prison, she’s more than happy to carry her baby to term, and she rather quickly adopts beliefs that abortion is evil. Staci is the annoying, bitchy, super-radical pro-abort that believes in abortion on demand at any time for any reason and that the baby growing inside of her is nothing more than an inhuman clump of cells. And Dr. Wise is a pretty staunch pro-lifer that is adamant about Lara, Natalie, and Staci carrying their babies to term because she herself could not have children. This is all the depth these characters get, and this is what determines their actions for the rest of the movie. You can clearly tell the movie’s attitude towards each character as well as its political bent by how more or less unlikable they are. They try to make Natalie and Dr. Wise likable by having Natalie be super nice and super happy to be giving birth to her child, and giving Dr. Wise a backstory about how her barrenness destroyed her marriage because I guess that her husband never even considered adoption. They’re rather ambivalent about making Lara likable, but they eventually make her hesitantly accepting of her situation. And they make Staci super unlikable by having her be super bitchy and super annoying and unwilling to even listen to other points of view. While there are radical pro-aborts in our society, including such a character in this movie is not going to make it appeal to the pro-choice crowd.

So this is basically where the plot stops until the last five minutes of the movie. I’m not kidding. All that happens until the last five minutes consists of scenes of

  • The women being forced to sit and watch videos about people’s varying opinions on abortion, the list of reasons people decide to abort, the touchy politics of abortion, abortion’s dubious legality, and whether or not what is legal is moral, all with the intent of eventually changing the women’s opinions into something more pro-life. They’re not even the touching, enlightening, or even scientifically substantive kind. These videos were clearly just made for the film with random people.
  • The women arguing amongst themselves with Dr. Wise sometimes included about the morality of and reasons for or against abortion, while using very basic talking points and dollar-store political commentary. Neither argument is convincing in the slightest, each argument is basically representative of very simple and stereotypical caricatures, and the fact that neither Staci nor Natalie and Dr. Wise are willing to listen to the other side of the aisle makes these exchanges of dialogue so painful that I had to shut my eyes. The characters go through each of these basic talking points as if they’re going through a checklist of screeds that either side parrots. This crap isn’t doing either argument any favors.

HIGHLIGHTS: 1) My head was in my hands when Lara tried to BS Dr. Wise by spending thirty seconds faking that she’s changed her views. 2) Staci brings up crazy pro-lifers that bomb abortion clinics and murder abortionists. Here’s a little fun fact for you: in the more than one hundred years since the founding of Planned Parenthood, there have been at most a dozen murders done for this reason. And seventeen people were killed in the Parkland shooting. I think crazy people getting their hands on guns when law enforcement have been given all these warnings and notices but haven’t done anything about the potential shooter is a much more pressing issue than radical Christian pro-lifers bombing abortion clinics. That’s just the facts, buddy. 3) When Staci is arguing with Dr. Wise, she brings up the oft-heard talking point of “Who are you to tell me what to do with my body?” Dr. Wise fails to bring up the obvious answer: “That baby growing inside you is not your body. It’s an entirely new person. Sure, it’s relying on you for sustenance, but it’s not your body, and you do not have the right to tell your unborn child that s/he does not have a right to his/her body.” 4) Throughout the movie, Staci can never really refute pro-life arguments, instead resorting to ad hominem attacks or question dodging such as calling a particular argument “stupid” or Natalie “juvenile” or saying, “Maybe I just don’t care. It’s my right.”

  • The women being addressed by the Old Man on the TV and Dr. Wise. By the way, if the women try to escape, an electronic device implanted in their necks will release an anesthetic into their blood, knocking them out. If they somehow manage to get away, they will die, as they are hundreds of miles from civilization. So where exactly are they?

HIGHLIGHTS: 1) When Dr. Wise is comparing the devices in the women’s necks to electric dog collars and the outside of the facility to an electric fence, the Old Man shouts “ZAP!” loud enough to be considered a jumpscare. 2) I couldn’t help but think that maybe these radical pro-lifers keeping these women as hostages could have at least thought of something simple: jus give these women an ultrasound. Maybe, once these women see the obvious humanity to what is growing in their wombs, they would reconsider abortion. Maybe that would have been a better course of action. 3) After the women just barely finish watching a newscast featuring people that actually support abortion, the Old Man comes back on with a massive shout. Was that supposed to be a jumpscare? He even tosses out a little casual sexism.

  • The women talking about escaping the facility. It all leads to nothing. No escape is made, and said talk of escape only ever serves to pad out the runtime.

HIGHLIGHTS: 1) Staci brings up the fact that they’ve only ever seen Dr. Wise and the Old Man, and says that there maybe is no one else there. Which begs the question: who else is there besides Dr. Wise and the Old Man? We never see anyone else, and for all we know, there could be no one else. Why don’t the women try to escape? We know that whoever is there is not going to hurt the women, as they don’t want to hurt their unborn children. 2) Natalie even brings up that they somehow kidnapped them from three different abortion clinics around the country, which begs the question: How? How far-reaching is this organization that they could kidnap three women from different locations across America? And what even are the circumstances surrounding this whole operation? What group is this? When did it start? Who did this group convince to join them? This facility looks like it took time to build, so where did they get all this money to build a hospital-type building and procure all the necessary equipment and technology? What construction team built this place? Does the government know about this? Where did this group get the legal backing to run their little facility? Who else knows of this place? Who even works here? 3) Staci talks of getting out by forcefully aborting her baby through various means, despite not thinking of the idea that maybe if she does that, she will be killed. She later just plops onto the ground randomly, a blood splotch inexplicably appears under her head, and Dr. Wise tells Natalie to prepare for an emergency delivery. The scene goes on for about a minute more, then randomly cuts off. The emergency delivery is never mentioned again, and the next time we see Staci, she’s just got a bandage around her head.

  • The women being given a video for each of them showing a family member wishing them well. 1) For Natalie, it’s her dad. In the video, her dad shows her her younger brother Mario. Just asking, but why do people pronounce Mario as “marry-oh”? So how large is the age gap between Natalie and Mario, and how old were her parents when they had him? The dad looks like he’s in his late fifties, Natalie is in her early twenties, and Mario looks like he’s six. 2) For Lara, it’s her boyfriend. He says nothing important. 3) For Staci, it’s her older sister, who tells her not to give in. The information I gleaned from this video is that Staci apparently has some sort of political clout, and that her sister is apparently an influential member of the press, and together, they force whatever laws they can. And the way they make it sound is remarkably mean-spirited. I wonder what this movie’s attitude toward Staci and her sister was supposed to be.
  • The women just hanging around and talking about nothing important.

HIGHLIGHTS: Yeah, I totally believe that this Playboy Playmate is a lawyer. A random scene of the women mockingly mimicking Dr. Wise and the Old Man’s mannerisms and then going back into arguing about abortion. A scene of Lara, Natalie, and Dr. Wise talking – Lara and Natalie ask Dr. Wise about her backstory and who the Old Man really is, and Dr. Wise deflects the question in a really dumb way. After a few minutes of dodging the question, she finally gives in. Later, a scene in which the three girls play Trivial Pursuit.

  • Random dream sequences. I guess these are supposed to be images and sequences planted directly in the women’s heads by the neck devices. The first features thirty seconds of flashing imagery such as Hitler, Count Orlok from Nosferatu, fire, skulls, explosions, insects, as well as depictions of Africans and Chinamen that could be considered racist. The second features different people of every race, age, and gender doing random things, spazzing out, saying that you have the right to do what you want with your own body, and that if you don’t want the baby, then abort it. They say this in multiple languages and in multiple emotions, such as humor, creepiness, anger, annoyance. The sounds coming out of their mouths then are dubbed with babies crying. These dream sequences are so disjointed, so random, and so meaningless that I’m genuinely wondering why these were even here. To pad the runtime?
  • A pointless flashback of Dr. Wise losing her husband because he’s adamant about wanting a family, as Dr. Wise is barren. Also, because of her barrenness, part of this flashback features her parents disowning her. That’s pleasant.
  • Just random crap. For example, Staci wakes up to hear a growl and a shadow pass by her bed. Nothing of the sort ever happens again. A random scene of Staci slowly, dramatically walking up to a door, the music building, and it opening by itself to reveal Dr. Wise. Was that supposed to be scary? A scene of Dr. Wise weighing Staci, who is now 140 pounds. Staci remarks that she used to be thirty pounds lighter. I highly doubt that Staci used to be 110 pounds.

And throughout all of these scenes, the dialogue is written and acted out to take as long as possible. No, the actresses aren’t speaking very slowly, but they speak slowly enough and insert long enough pauses between sentences to make what should take thirty seconds take five or more minutes. It doesn’t help that the acting in this movie is worse than Barack Obama reading off his teleprompter. And when this movie is as short as it is, it feels like the writer and director were padding out the runtime as long as possible. If you take out every pointless scene, the movie would be about twenty to thirty minutes long. It’s so poorly written and painfully tedious to sit through that it really feels like Ken del Vecchio has no idea how to write a script.

And the passage of time in this movie is totally out of whack. The way this movie conveys the passage of time makes it feel like this movie takes place over a few days, a week at the most, not seven months.

And even the cinematography is so flat and boring and colorless. Every shot is composed in such a basic way. The only lighting is the not-too-bright lights in the hospital room. And there is absolutely no color except in the videos shown on the TV or the dream sequences. And the sheer amount of color in these videos and dream sequences is in such conflict with the drab environment of the hospital room that it takes me out of the movie.

If you’ve thought that The Life Zone was bad enough thus far, you haven’t seen anything yet. The ending of this film is so out-there, so insane, so unbelievably intelligence-insulting that it will put you in a funk for days like it did me.

The last five minutes of this movie begins with the women playing Trivial Pursuit. Staci’s actually pretty good at it. Yes, movie, I already knew that Charles Durning was a two-time Oscar nominee that also won the Silver Star medal in World War II. I’m sure that had nothing to do with the fact that Charles Durning has a cameo in this movie as Dr. Wise’s father. And then literally out of nowhere, Lara goes into labor. All three women go into labor, surprisingly enough.

As the soundtrack that’s an obvious ripoff of Clint Mansell’s “Lux Aeterna” from Requiem for a Dream and was obviously played via music notation program blares, the women begin giving birth to their children. All this over-the-top screaming, so realistic. Wow, these women totally sound like they’re in pain. (I haven’t been present for a birth, so I wouldn’t know.) Lara gives birth first, then Natalie. Staci, however is having trouble birthing her child, so Dr. Wise reaches in there to pull it out. I have no idea if this is medically safe, and I’ve found mixed opinions on the Internet. Staci gives birth, but Dr. Wise realizes that Staci is actually giving birth to twins. How ironic – the woman most in favor of abortion is giving birth to twins. The final twin is born, and Staci refuses to hold them or even see them. The scene cuts to black for several seconds.

Fade in from black. Natalie and Lara are in their beds, happily holding their babies, which I presume are fakes like the ones in American Sniper. But Staci’s lying on her side, holding her stomach and in pain. She calls Dr. Wise over, who takes over a minute to finally reveal to Staci that she’s still pregnant. Despite both saying that it’s impossible, we see the Old Man on the TV say to them that nothing’s impossible when they’re in Hell.

That’s the twist ending that would make even M. Night Shyamalan recoil and hold his nose: Staci and Dr. Wise are in Hell – Staci died on the operating table in the abortion clinic, and Dr. Wise committed suicide after she learned that her husband was having children with another woman, and that this is their punishment: an endless cycle of Staci getting pregnant and giving birth over and over again, and Dr. Wise always being there to take care of her and help her deliver her babies. And the Old Man is the Devil himself.

As for Lara and Natalie? They’ve inexplicably vanished, leaving Staci and Dr. Wise alone in the room. The Jesus and Virgin Mary pictures, tables, Bibles, and rosaries have disappeared, and the crosses are now upside-down.

The last shot is of Staci and Dr. Wise looking at each other, both realizing the magnitude of their eternal punishment.

My interpretation: the realm they were in was actually purgatory or limbo or something. All three women died on the operating table when they went to have their abortions, and were sent here in order to either atone for their heinous sins or further damn their souls. Natalie and Lara atoned for their sins by accepting their babies and loving them unconditionally when the crucial time came, so they were forgiven and went to heaven, but Staci refused to accept her children even after they were born, so she further damned her own soul and went to Hell. As for Dr. Wise, apparently suicide is a sin worthy of damnation in Ken del Vecchio’s particular sect of Christianity.

The movie began as one of the most inept uncomfortably radical pro-choice and anti-Christian screeds I’ve ever seen, and then slowly morphed into the most insulting Chick tract I’ve ever read. That is just pathetic.

And with the just over five minutes of credits as well as the three-minute opening credits, the movie’s length is actually less than seventy-two minutes.

The Life Zone is not a horror movie. Nothing happens at all. There is no tension. There is no dread. There is no threat. Nothing is developed. There is no buildup to a climax. And the twist ending is more facepalm-worthy than horror-worthy.

This movie was entirely crafted (in the loosest definition) around the argument that abortion is evil and anyone who aborts their baby will have their soul damned to Hell, but the message falls flat and even has the opposite effect on the movie and those who made it, making pro-lifers look like insane criminals practicing blind faith and committing horrible acts in the name of their God. I guess I wasn’t expecting much else out of such a premise, but I was still holding out hope that the overall moral would be less crazy and wouldn’t look at the world in terms of black and white. Because newsflash, the world isn’t like that. There’s a tiny bit of white and a good amount of black, but there’s also a ton of every single shade of gray. That’s just what the world is, and God will judge all of us according to our faith and works in the end (yes, I said works, not just faith). If you want to make the pro-life stance seem reasonable, taking such an extreme stance is not how to win anyone to your side. Making the characters with the moral high ground radical pro-lifers with such insane and misguided views that even Dr. Josef Mengele would call them extreme is not the way to go about it.

And instead of trying to make an entertaining movie with a bit of a message, Ken del Vecchio was so focused on making a radical pro-life argument and silencing any pro-choice responses that he forgot to make a film. The centerpiece of this movie is the women engaging in arguments that sound like they’re reading off a bunch of bullet points. It’s like Ken del Vecchio forgot to tell a story, develop some characters, or make the movie even slightly entertaining, scary, or even morally sound.

And like the vast majority of faith-based movies that come out even nowadays, The Life Zone is not a movie. It’s nothing more than a poorly thought out and crafted political argument masquerading as a movie. It features three women who, rather than being actual characters, are nothing more than talking heads serving as representations of women who are so cliché and stereotypical and caricaturish that it’s actually pretty damn sexist. And I’m not just using that as a throwaway term or a straw man. According to The Life Zone, women are either sinful yet repentant, duplicitous, or deliberately unpleasant. And the characters do pretty much nothing but sit around for just shy of an hour discussing abortion through cringey, unnatural dialogue and watch one-sided filmed arguments about abortion. They do not grow as characters, they have no arcs, and if their opinions change, they change as quickly as though they’ve had their minds physically changed in an instant by holy power. This entire movie is nothing more than the logical fallacy known as the straw woman. Even on a technical level, this movie is bad, with the acting and dialogue being painful, the story being basically nonexistent, the cinematography being flat, lifeless, and ugly, and the political commentary being dollar-store quality. There are several sideplots and character backstories introduced, and they all lead nowhere. Yeah, they’ve got a basic idea, a beginning, and a twist ending, but there’s nothing in between. It was just so focused on presenting motherhood as good and abortion as evil that it forgot to be a movie. It was basically just Saw with a terrible pro-life bent.

And even the message is pretty disgusting: the only good way for a woman to live is to bear children. If you abort the baby or even if you simply choose not to be a mother, you’re basically screwed. And even if you have a barren womb, your life is basically worthless, as no one will love you, your husband will leave you to have children with another woman, and your parents will reject you. And why is constant pregnancy and delivery being used as a punishment in Hell? As jumbled as Ken del Vecchio’s attempts at getting his message across may be, his intentions and his understanding of women’s actual issues is pretty damn clear: The Gospel According to Ken states that women are as important and as complex as the fact that women can have babies. Has Ken ever met a woman, let alone have one in his life at all?

Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, abortion will always be a very delicate subject that can bring a lot of pain to women who have gone through with it. The intent of this movie should have been to help the audience get a grasp of the issues and follow the characters on their voyage through varying levels of regret and uncertainty. Unfortunately, the story, characters, dialogue, acting, and message were so awful that it felt like I was watching a Chick tract. I half expected the Old Man to rip off his face at the end to reveal his true demonic visage. The way they act and express themselves feels like this was ghostwritten by Jack Chick. Instead of getting to know the characters, evolving with them, and learning a moral lesson through them, I felt like I was having propaganda shoved in my face in the most typical way possible. I already know abortion is wrong, so freaking stop it. Regardless of which side you take in the abortion debate, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find even a shred of quality in this trash.

The Life Zone is a thoroughly miserable experience that I can only ever describe as self-fellatio. It is an insult to both the abortion debate and not just the technical craft of storytelling and character development, but the art of cinema itself. It is not only not a good movie, but it is also a wasted opportunity. The premise is actually a pretty fascinating one. It’s an interesting twist on the formula of modern horror. Instead of going the Saw route and making the villain[s] kidnap the heroes and making them hurt themselves or kill each other, these women are being held against their will but are being kept in good health until the occurrence of something that happens naturally: birth. Jigsaw could never come up with something as ingenious and scary as subverting these women’s free will in such a way. But of course, Ken del Vecchio was so blind to this premise’s potential that he didn’t even stop to consider just how scary of a movie this could have been. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime in the near future, some radical pro-choice filmmaker comes along and actually decides to use this premise to its fullest extent.  This would be a fantastic opportunity to not only create an original horror movie, but also insert some blistering sociopolitical commentary about abortion. I sure wouldn’t like the movie, and the commentary would make it a very uncomfortable watch, but this premise could be the next Get Out. This premise has the opportunity to do for the abortion debate what Get Out did for race relations.

I am steadfastly pro-life, and I’m never not going to be pro-life. But even someone as pro-life as I can recognize a very badly crafted argument. The Life Zone is a terribly crafted argument, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a bunch of people all over the Internet have written long-winded rebuttals to it.

And the scariest part of The Life Zone is that there really exists a blessedly rare breed of Christian that actually believes that lessons like the ones in The Life Zone must be taught this way, that fellow Christians need to scare people into believing like they do by fearmongering and screaming blood and damnation and hellfire. And we wonder why the radical Left lumps us together with the Westboro Baptists and the FLDS church and the religious Right of the ‘80s and ‘90s that believed that violent video games could make you the next school shooter and that playing Dungeons and Dragons was consorting with the Devil and playing Pokemon was practicing witchcraft and that horror movies could make you into the next serial killer. It’s because people like Ken del Vecchio keep coming out with crap like this. An adequate hellish punishment would be for them to be forced to watch this movie over and over and over again for eternity.

Yes, I know. Abortion is one of the greatest evils ever devised. But putting out crap like this isn’t changing anyone’s viewpoints anytime soon. There’s a right way and a wrong way to convince people of their wrongdoing. But The Life Zone is most certainly the exact wrong way.

Oh, and by the way, there actually is a sort-of sequel.

I’ll be looking at that one next.

Final Verdict: 0 out of 5 stars.


For an example of content from the opposite end of the political spectrum, there’s this eight-minute Planned Parenthood propaganda cartoon that came out eleven years ago titled “A Superhero for Choice” that you can find on YouTube. Its animation is garish and horrible and was obviously made in Microsoft Paint. It features a black superheroine named Dianysus (it’s a pun of the name of the Greek god Dionysus, as the chick’s secret identity is a woman named Diane) going around “educating” people about safe sex while demonizing and punishing her opponents. For example, there’s a sleazy-looking guy talking to some kids, saying that in order to not get pregnant, you need to practice abstinence. You know, something rational and realistic and moral. When the kids bring up safe sex via condoms and birth control pills, the guy says that those are instruments of the Devil. Dianysus shows up, fills a trash can with water, throws the guy in, and puts the lid on and holds it down. She seriously drowns him. Later, there is a group of pro-lifers protesting outside of an abortion clinic. Want to know how “A Superhero for Choice” represents them? Zombies and a few old farts carrying signs calling for them to repent of their sins. They get a little unruly, so Dianysus pulls some sort of gun from out of her utility belt and shoots them with something that envelopes them in giant condoms that explode, making them disappear. Good lord. After that, Dianysus flies to Washington, DC, and after seeing a helicopter drop a massive condom over the Washington Monument, she comes across an old guy in a blue suit she calls “The Senator”. He’s got a big cauldron of boiling green liquid, which he has dropped the Bill of Rights and Constitution into. She confronts him, and after he shows behavior much like a lawless, narcissistic mobster and drops Roe v Wade into the pot, Dianysus picks up the Senator, shoves him into the pot, and stirs him around. She pulls the now-naked Senator out of the pot, where he says he has been cleansed of his conservatism. She literally just forcibly changed his mind. After stopping in Ethiopia, where apparently Planned Parenthood has set up shop, and doing some more posturing, the cartoon ends on a cliffhanger as she heads off to go beat up Jerry Falwell. And they have the gall to claim that they’re tolerant. The video is so focused on making Planned Parenthood’s opponents look like horrible people that they forgot to give us a reason to support Planned Parenthood. I actually discovered this video about a year or two after it came out. I showed it to my brother, and we thought it was freaking ridiculous. We even showed my dad, and he hated it even more than I did. I even heard him talking about it on the phone with my mom later that evening. That little cartoon was posted on the Planned Parenthood Golden Gate website, but it was so hated that they took it down. But once something’s on the Internet, it’s there FOREVER. Check it out for the ultimate “WTF?” experience.


The Strangers: Prey at Night (2.5/5)

So I just got home from seeing The Strangers: Prey at Night, and it was actually pretty okay. I’m not kidding; it was actually almost good. Yeah, it’s not great, and it’s downright kind of stupid in some areas, but it blows the original out of the water in nearly every possible way.

Most notably, the titular strangers themselves. Just a nitpick, but in the original Strangers, the strangers left their masks at the house. When did they get them back? First, in the original Strangers, they were constantly playing the “now I’m here, now I’m not” game with the cameraman. There were many, many, many instances in which the strangers would sneak up behind the characters only for the camera to cut away, and then when it would cut back, the stranger would be gone. In Prey at Night, the one instance of it occurs in a plausible, non-supernatural way. Other than that, the ridiculous “I totally moved when I was off-camera” game is completely gone, and I f*cking applaud that. Second, in the original, the strangers clearly had the upper hand throughout the entire movie and could have killed Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman off in the first ten minutes. They also had some seemingly supernatural ability to always know exactly where the main characters were, what they were doing, and exactly where to come at them from. This combined with the “look, I disappeared, that means I could be anywhere” game completely destroys any fear that could have been felt, because there’s no threat of death or even bodily harm until the last ten minutes of the movie. In Prey at Night, while the strangers do have an advantage and even clearly have the upper hand in some parts of the movie, there are rare points where the strangers do not know where the main characters are. And they blessedly hold back on their taunting, saving it for either really dramatic moments or when they’ve got a main character exactly where they want them and they’re not able to go anywhere. Yeah, there are times where the strangers seemed to have some supernatural hunting abilities, but those are pretty few and far between. It was really refreshing to see that though the strangers are not only holding back on their heretofore-incessant taunting, but that they are actively trying to hunt down and kill the main characters. For example, in the prologue scene, the strangers not only engage in their now-well-known practices, but actually kill this middle-aged couple within a few minutes.

Unfortunately, though it was also really refreshing to see the characters actually fighting back, it serves as a detriment to the strangers themselves. For example, I actually totally predicted this: in the scenes in which the blonde and brunette are actively trying to kill a main character and the main character is actually fighting back, the two female strangers crumple like tissue paper. Spoilers: 1) when Luke is by the pool and the brunette stranger starts running up behind him, he hears her, spins around, and whacks her upside the head with his golf club, and she collapses. Luke takes the knife out of her hand and slowly, dramatically reaches for her mask. As soon as he touches it, the brunette wakes up and tries to grab her knife, but Luke pins her to the ground and stabs her to death. Unfortunately, this was a bit to the movie’s detriment, as the brunette stranger was barely in the movie. 2) after Kinsey waves down a police car, the policeman gets out and tries to calm her down, only to get killed by the blonde. Kinsey gets into the car and locks the doors, but the blonde has the keys. The blonde unlocks the door and climbs into the car, slashing Kinsey’s hands and arms a few times, but there’s a convenient shotgun in the car, which Kinsey uses to blast the blonde in the chest. Somehow having been blown to the other side of the road, Kinsey walks over to the mortally-wounded blonde, takes off her mask, asks the blonde why the strangers are doing what they’re doing to them, is told, “Why not?”, and shoots the blonde again, killing her.

See, in the original Strangers, each stranger got about equal screentime, but in Prey at Night, we see a lot of the blonde and a lot of the guy, and about a minute at most of screentime is given to the brunette. I would consider this a legitimate complaint, but because the original Strangers was totally worthless, I downgraded this complaint to a nitpick.

Unlike the original Strangers, Prey at Night actually has characters that are developed and likable. They have backstories. They each have strong points and flaws. They have conversations with each other about each other. They actually do kind of feel like a family rather than random actors. And their acting is actually pretty decent as well. And it is so freaking refreshing to see them fighting back. Unfortunately, they do have their flaws. For example, some of the decisions they make are really dumb. Like, really dumb. I lost count of how many times the characters split up and one of them was met with some sort of injury. Okay, I’m not going to act like I would make every right decision if I was in a horror movie, and I can easily understand why these characters made such decisions, but still, these decisions are dumb. I would be willing to accept that this was an attempt at satire, but if it was, its success was negligible at best. At a few moments, the acting wasn’t very good. And there are multiple moments in the movie where the actions of and dialogue spoken by some of the characters could only ever be described as cheesy. Also, though the actors did do all right, I can’t say that the casting was good. Luke is supposed to be seventeen or eighteen, but he looks like he’s in his late twenties. Kinsey is supposed to be in early high school, but she’s clearly already eighteen.

Unlike the original Strangers, Prey at Night‘s story, while still predictable, is much less predictable and cliche than the original’s. Though it still features stock characters making stock decisions and you can predict what events will happen, but how they will happen is another story.

For example, Johannes Roberts’s approach to horror. While the scare sequences end how you’d expect, how they’d get to that ending was another thing entirely. Yeah, there are some jumpscares, but the way the scare sequence misleads you through the character’s actions and the movie’s camerawork only to unexpectedly blindside you with a jumpscare that came from a place that was entirely unexpected is very welcome. Better yet, sometimes the jumpscare doesn’t happen at all. For example, there’s one scene where Kinsey is running toward something in the background, and the camera passes by the blonde stranger in the foreground hiding behind a tree. And another way Johannes Roberts attempts to scare you is to have something out of focus far in the background only to have that thing in the background be moving toward the foreground, and as that thing moves closer and comes more into focus, you can tell that it is either one of the strangers walking toward a character or, on multiple occasions, it will be one of the strangers driving their truck toward said character. Throughout the first half of the movie, there are some scenes of genuine tension. And the camerawork really helps. Gone is the shaky-cam. Gone is the constant eyesore of over-saturated urine yellow. Here, Johannes Roberts keeps the camera pretty still, and in some shots, he impressively can have the camera dozens of feet away as it executes a slow zoom-in on a character and get right up close to the character without the character going out of frame. His camerawork makes the original’s cameraman look like a first-year film student. Is it great horror? No, but it’s leagues better than the original.

Though the fear pretty much died once we got into maybe the last thirty minutes, it at least made up for it by being fast-paced, intense, and actually pretty fun. Yeah, we had to sacrifice the horror, but at least it was replaced with something.

I actually really liked the ’80s-style synth soundtrack. It’s only fitting that after the original tried and failed to create a ’70s style atmosphere that the sequel do the ’80s. I’ve always loved the electronic soundtracks to various ’80s horror movies. It’s even nice to hear a small selection of ’80s songs, including the always weirdly enjoyable “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. Unfortunately, the soundtrack got a little too intrusive at times, and even killed some of the tension in two or three scenes. Also, I really don’t get this whole “’80s nostalgia” wave of films and TV we’ve been getting recently, with movies like IT and TV shows like Stranger Things. Why are we doing this? I get that the ’80s is a cool setting for horror movies and we’ve gotten a lot of good horror movies from the ’80s, but why are we doing this now?

Oh, and I’m not going to spoil the very end, but it is absolute bullcrap and makes absolutely no sense.

I should probably talk a little about the people in the theater with me. I was one of maybe five out of thirty or so people that was over the age of eighteen (I’ll be twenty-one in a month). These freaking teenagers got so ridiculously worked up over this movie’s attempts to scare and they screamed / got tense over everything from one of the strangers appearing in the background to the jumpscares. They were so scared of this freaking movie that when (spoilers) each of the strangers got their comeuppance, they literally cheered. And they also thought that the ending was bullcrap.

The Strangers: Prey at Night is basically an average, stock B-horror movie. I’m admittedly giving it a little extra credit because the original was so awful and to see basically the same movie done better (but not anything more than good-ish) is so refreshing. Unfortunately, Prey at Night seemed to be more focused on fixing the original’s problems than being its own thing and actually being a great movie. It could have been better, but I’m pretty much satisfied with what I got. You don’t even have to watch the original to understand what’s going on here. I went in with no expectations, and those expectations were mostly met. And I’m giving The Strangers: Prey at Night a 2.5 out of 5.

And if you think I’m being extremely forgiving toward The Strangers: Prey at Night just because I hate the original so much and was just desperate to see its belated sequel be better, you’re probably right.


Review 94: The Devil Inside (.5/5)

Image result for the devil inside

The Devil Inside

Directed by William Brent Bell

Starring Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quaterman, Evan Helmuth, Ionut Grama, Suzan Crowley

Released on January 6, 2012

Running time: 1h 23m

Rated R

Genre: Horror, Thriller


This is going to be a shorter review than normal, because I really only have one major reason for reviewing The Devil Inside. You already know what it is, but I’m going to save talking about that for later.

It’s no secret that January and now February are dumping grounds for crappy horror movies that studios have no faith in. They just stick them in a hole in January’s or February’s release schedule and hope that it makes a little money. They usually do – they typically are pretty successful on their opening weekend. But once that opening weekend passes, people generally forget about them, and they are pretty much destined for obscurity. Though the concept of the “January horror movie curse” was popularized with the release of The Devil Inside, it actually started much earlier, but it officially became constant in 2008 with the release of the remake of One Missed Call. Ever since then, we’ve been treated to a crappy horror movie every January. In 2009, it was The Unborn. In 2010, it was Legion. In 2011, it was The Rite, though I actually like that one. In 2012, it was The Devil Inside. In 2013, it was Texas Chainsaw 3D. In 2014, we got a twofer with Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and Devil’s Due. In 2015, we got The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death. We got another twofer in 2016 with The Forest and The Boy. In 2017, it was The Bye Bye Man. And this year, in 2018, we got Insidious: The Last Key. While not all of these are totally awful, they are all, at the very least, subpar, with only The Rite being actually decent. I use the term “subpar” with utmost generosity.

I’ll be looking at The Devil Inside today.

We of course start off with some text, saying that the Vatican doesn’t authorize the recording of exorcisms by priests endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church. It also says that the Vatican did not endorse this movie or help make it. Gee, I wonder why. Probably because this movie is terrible.

At least the actual movie starts off strong-ish. Back in late 1989, we hear a 911 call from Maria Rossi, who says that she killed three people. We then see a policeman leading a crime scene film crew through Maria Rossi’s house. They find a very, very messy house and go into the basement. They find three bloodied corpses as well as three separate murder weapons. They also find a broken chair that Maria was apparently tied to, but they are JUMPSCARED twice by sounds over in the crawlspace. Maria is hiding there, and she is arrested. The situation is that during an attempted exorcism performed on Maria Rossi, she broke free of the chair she was tied to and killed the three clergy members that were performing the exorcism. I highly doubt that this scene was set in the eighties, as this camera clearly is not one that would be used in the eighties, and the police officer talks like someone in the 2000s. There’s even a news report that was clearly not done in the eighties. And the stupidest thing is that this scene in 1989 sounds like a better story than the one we’re about to get.

I should probably mention that this movie is found-footage. At least much of the movie is shot in documentary format.

Cut to the present day – or, well, what is allegedly 2009. Isabella Rossi explains that Maria was her mother. She talks a little about her mother, and says that she’s doing this documentary to understand what happened to her. She thinks that whatever is wrong with Maria might be genetic. Apparently she’s only just recently learned what really happened that night. I call BS. Also, this actress playing Isabella is really bad. I have a very hard time believing that she is the daughter of a possessed woman when this actress’s performance is so wooden and unmotivated. I know she’s been on a lot of TV stuff, but she feels like just a pretty face that the casting department picked up off the street.

We get a few interview clips with a neurologist and an ordained exorcist who talk a little about how Maria is just mentally ill and that they need to figure out a reasonable, plausible explanation, but that science can’t explain everything. Which makes me think: did the clergy murdered by Maria rule out all other possibilities before deciding to exorcise? Isabella even says that her mother’s attempted exorcism was never authorized.

It turns out that in between 1989 and 2009, Maria was found not guilty of the murders by reason of insanity, was committed to an asylum, and later that year was transferred to a mental hospital in Rome. I have no idea why Rome. Even Isabella doesn’t know.

So Isabella and her documentarian, Michael, are on their way to Italy to see Maria. But first, they’re going to stop by the Vatican school for exorcism. They land in Rome and drive into Vatican City. This is where some of the aesthetics of this movie come into play. It’s nice to see some of these sights. If only it wasn’t filmed in shaky-cam.

The two enter the Apostolic Academy of Rome, and go into a room where a priest is teaching his students. He’s specifically teaching about multiple demon possession. Pay attention to this clumsy foreshadowing, because it will all come into play later in really silly ways. Those most in danger are family members and the priest. Cases of multiple demon possession are extremely dangerous, and can sometimes lead to transference, which is when the demon jumps from one person to the other. Insert brief clip of the teacher being interviewed. The teacher then shows some footage of what is supposedly a possessed woman. Thankfully, this is not footage of actual demon possession. The woman is incredibly gaunt and exhibits incoherent babbling and speaking in different voices and tongues. Of course, the footage played for the class ends in a really loud JUMPSCARE. The footage leads to a slightly feisty debate between a priest who accepts the footage at face value, and another student who’s more skeptical. But then they start talking about stuff that wasn’t even on the footage, like the subject displaying abnormal strength when confronted with holy water and while sedated. She even supposedly fractured her own femur. These other things are treated with either skepticism or belief based on who’s talking about it. I don’t know about you, but I would be genuinely interested in taking classes at this exorcism school.

Isabella has dinner with some of the students, determining why some of them chose to attend this school, and the responses range from the combination of science and religion to a greater sense of purpose to nepotism to, of course, skepticism. She learns that the class deals not in the practical usage of exorcism, but rather in theory. When asked how one would know if a person is possessed, the two students who are actually priests tell Isabella that “[she would just] know”. I’m not surprised – if you were actually in the presence of the Devil or one of his minions, you would know. At least Isabella is being honest with the students about why she’s making this documentary.

Isabella and Michael visit the mental hospital where Maria is held. But why, in this supposed documentary, has the footage of Isabella pointing out the cameras in her car not been edited out? I’m also surprised that security allowed them to bring in their cameras. They go in and meet Maria’s doctor, who details that Maria has not had a violent outburst in a long time and that she’s extremely anti-religious. The doctor, of course, is skeptical of possession. While walking to Maria’s room, Isabella stops by a window, but the doctor doesn’t notice, and he keeps walking. Isabella stands there looking out for the better part of a minute before the doctor unrealistically silently steps up to her and directs her to Maria’s room. Throughout much of this movie, you will be subjected to slightly less obvious padding.

Isabella and Michael enter Maria’s room and begin the visit. Maria, however, starts off listless, and does not recognize her daughter. She also hasn’t aged a day since 1989. Maria starts mumbling. Isabella shows Maria a picture of her and her parents, but Maria pulls up her sleeve, showing that she’s carved many crosses into her right arm. She also pulls down her lower lip, showing that she’s also carved a cross into the inside of it. Isabella starts trembling her voice as if she’s about to cry. Maria then shows Isabella her painting, which is a pretty detailed recreation of the picture Isabella just showed her. Isabella starts trying to explain what the painting depicts, but Maria is certain that she never had a daughter. She insists, inexplicably shifting into a Brooklyn accent. Finally, the camera shows Isabella’s face, which shows that despite all her attempts to tremble her voice, she cannot summon a single tear. Come on. I can do that (it takes a minute). Isabella is about to leave, but Maria then says that Isabella shouldn’t have killed her baby. Oh great. Isabella had an abortion some time ago, and Maria somehow knows because possession. Maria then lets out a loud scream. The doctors come in to restrain Maria, and the visit is over. The unfortunate thing is that though the actress playing Maria is doing a pretty okay job, the script is not doing her any favors. The scriptwriters simply do not realize that being eccentric and random does not equal being convincingly possessed.

Outside the hospital, Isabella tries to act shaken, but this actress is so bad at her job that she can’t do it to save her life. We get a few-second shot of that blind nun on the cover. No, this blind nun that made the cover look spoopy has nothing to do with anything.

Isabella contacts the two friendly priests from the exorcism class and arranges to show the footage of the visit to them. Their names are Ben and David. David’s not only a priest, but a licensed physician. He went into becoming a priest because he believes that where science is limited, faith has to take over. Ben, however is an ordained exorcist. His dad was an exorcist that had him assist in an exorcism, so he took up the calling. The group takes a look at the footage. David points out that the crosses cut into Maria’s arm and lip are inverted from her perspective because Satan, as well as Maria speaking in different accents being like the possessed speaking in different tongues.

Ben brings up the four main ways that it can be proven that one is possessed: unnatural strength, aversion to holy objects, knowledge of languages or events that they could not have known, and preternatural movement. He and David determine that Maria might be possessed.

Ben and David reveal that they perform exorcisms themselves, without the permission of the Holy See. They use medical equipment to monitor vital signs. They even take a shot at the Vatican for being not nearly liberal enough when it comes to allowing an exorcism to be performed. They decide to bring Isabella and Michael along to witness an exorcism firsthand. They even say the name of the demon: Berith, whose name is derived from Baal-Berith, a deity worshiped by the Canaanites at Shechem before the arrival of the Israelites in the book of Judges in the Bible. Berith is the demon who notarizes pacts with the Devil, was important to some alchemists who believed he could transmute metals to gold, and is known for making great promises but also being a big liar. Some have claimed him to be identical to Beelzebub himself.

After a dog barking JUMPSCARE, the group enters the house where the girl to be exorcised lives. The parents have moved the girl down to the basement. …‘kay. I should mention that this is the same girl from the possession video in the exorcism class. The group enters the basement.

We finally get a good look at the possessed girl, who is actually played by a professional contortionist. And while it is freaky that she can dislocate her shoulder at will, I’ve seen bodily contortion in exorcism movies before.

The exorcism begins after the priests tie the girl down. So how did this movie achieve the super-dilated pupils effect? Did they have the cast members who were to act possessed get hopped up on drugs? So while the exorcism goes on, a lot of the things I’ve seen before in exorcism movies take place. Taunting the priest, playing on the weaknesses of those in the room, wanting to hate-screw Isabella, speaking in tongues, violent reaction to a crucifix, the priests engaging in call and response lines, the possessed girl pretending to be free of the demon, hemorrhaging from the vagina, foul language, insulting the priest’s mother, levitation, offering sexual favors, cursing the priest’s ancestors, the priests invoking Saint Barnabas (one of the apostle Paul’s companions), the possessed girl breaking loose from her bonds, the power going out, a JUMPSCARE, the possessed girl walking on the wall, specific threats to body and soul, animalistic screeching, and, apparently, offscreen success.

Of course, Ben and David cannot tell the Church of their successful exorcism out of fear of arrest and deportation.

Isabella gets a call from the Diocese of Rome, saying that they cannot authorize an exorcism of her mother. Apparently Isabella asked them to do so offscreen. She takes a few shots at the Church. Isabella suggests that the four of them head back to the mental hospital to try exorcising Maria. After much deliberation, they decide to go forward with it despite David’s hesitation.

David talks to the camera and conforms that though he is hesitant to do this because it could put him out of a job, he knows that he has to.

I should probably mention that sans credits, we’re in the last thirty minutes of this movie. We’re supposed to be building up to the climax now. WHAT? Apart from the incident in ’89, Isabella and Michael’s travel to Italy, the visit with Maria, and to a much lesser extent, the previous exorcism, we’ve had maybe fifteen minutes at the most of actual plot happen. And that’s being extremely generous, especially since the prologue with the incident in ’89 could have been cut out entirely and nothing would have been lost. This movie is so bad at pacing and plotting that it literally feels like almost nothing has happened in these forty-five minutes. Even the events that are supposedly driving the plot forward just feel so lifeless, and the movie as a whole just feels so stagnant.

And in between these precious few pathetically short events that don’t even try to drive the plot forward, we have these swathes of meaningless dialogue about exorcisms and how to prove that someone is possessed. This dialogue might actually have had meaning if we hadn’t heard it all before and in better-written dialogue in, for example, The Exorcist. The Exorcist easily has an advantage over The Devil Inside because it’s based on a book. An amazing book, by the way. In a book, the story, characters, writing, and dialogue have to be absolutely spot-on because unlike a movie, a book does not have acting, camerawork, visuals, sound design, and music to fall back on if the story, characters, and dialogue aren’t up to par. But in The Devil Inside, all this dialogue feels so meaningless, and it’s made even worse because it’s being spouted by subpar actors having to work with such a crappy script and playing characters I know nothing about.

Oh yeah, there’s that too. The movie is so bad at doing its job that it doesn’t even bother developing its characters. Out of the entire movie, maybe twenty minutes or less of actual plot happens, and the rest is filled with boring, worthless, meaningless dialogue that adds absolutely nothing to the movie or the characters that inhabit it. We could have used this time to develop the characters, help us get to know them, make them likable, and actually give us a reason to care. This movie is so bad at doing its job, because not only is the movie pathetically short, but the amount of actual plot there is is so scanty. It’s like being served an overcooked, flavorless ham that’s three-quarters fat. Gordon Ramsay would be screaming up a storm at this movie if it was represented as a dish.

GORDON RAMSAY: F*ck off, you fat, useless sack of Yankee-dankee-Doodle-shite.

Anyway, the group talks to the doctors, sets up cameras, and preps Maria for the exorcism, tying her to a table and hooking her up to medical equipment. Intercut with this, Ben talks to the camera some more, doing some more Church-bashing. Keep in mind, I’m not a huge fan of the Vatican either (especially now), but the copious amounts of Catholic-bashing is almost funny.

The priests decide to see if they can get a reaction out of her. So more crap that I’ve seen before in better movies shows up here. The revelation of there being multiple demons, the demon faking sleep for the sake of a JUMPSCARE, some reddish makeup around the eyes, frenzied chanting, violent reaction when presented with a crucifix, the demon singling out the main character for taunts, speaking in tongues, dissing the priests with profanity, evil laughter, adverse reaction to holy water, the possessed breaking free of her bonds and getting tied back down, supernatural activity in the form of a light swinging to hit one of the priests in the head, multiple voices speaking from the same mouth, the demon knowing one of the priest’s sins, camera interference, the possessed flying off the bed, the demon revealing its name – wait, the demon revealed its name? It just revealed its name: Asbeel! The evil angel of ruin! You have its name! When the demon gives you its name, you have power over it! You have an opportunity to cast it out! Oh, wait, the priest is of course just too stupid to know the name of the evil angel of ruin! More stuff I’ve seen before, like the possessed smacking one of the priests and throwing him across the room, more profane threats, manipulating the main character by singing a childhood song, the main character being fooled and being brought back to reality by the priest, badmouthing God, the priests invoking saints, and then the medical staff coming in and ending everything.

The group goes over the footage and determines that they have everything they need to send the footage to the Vatican and to the medical staff at the mental hospital for approval. But the other characters have other priorities, like telling the press or getting Maria back to the United States. I get that you’d want to bring in the press to use as sociopolitical clout, but why on Earth would you consider getting her back to the States? You’d think it would be best to get the demons out of her first, right?

Ben goes over the footage and determines that there are four demons in Maria. The lead one, presumably Asbeel, is a particularly powerful one. Also, the earliest that the Holy See can see the group to go over the footage is late the next week. Is that seriously the soonest time that they can see you?

We now have less than twenty minutes left in this movie, and again, nearly nothing has happened to advance the plot. Look, I don’t mind slow-burn thrillers at all. In fact, they’re one of the best story structures to follow. But you not only have to be actually building up to something, you have to at least hint that there’s even the slightest amount of buildup at all. And for the love of God and all that is holy, the last thing you should be doing is being stagnant. And by stagnant, I mean doing nothing. Not advancing the plot, not developing the characters, not hinting that something big is coming. For example, I watched Ti West’s The House of the Devil a few nights ago, and while the same applies to that movie, it at least does it much better than The Devil Inside. The House of the Devil is ninety minutes long sans credits. It takes thirty minutes to get to the house, which is followed by forty-five minutes of alleged buildup, followed by fifteen minutes of chaos before the movie ends. Unfortunately, In The House of the Devil, when the final fifteen minutes comes out of nowhere, it doesn’t feel nearly warranted enough, and it can’t come close to making up for seventy-five minutes of basically nothing. It’s not that bad of a movie, but it totally failed at the one thing it absolutely needed to nail.

See, one of my favorite slow-burn thrillers is the original The Wicker Man. That movie is just shy of a hundred minutes in the extended version, and eighty-seven minutes in the original theatrical cut. But even in that movie’s slowest scenes when neither the story is unfolding nor are the characters being developed, we’re learning about the culture of Summerisle and seeing how the islanders’ beliefs and practices differ from or straight-up fly in the face of Sergeant Howie’s strictly Christian ones. And even these scenes are extremely interesting to watch, as the culture on that island is so rich and so detailed and so much fun to learn about that I don’t even mind. It’s adding to the strange and uncomfortable atmosphere and ultimately is so key to the buildup to the insanity of the final minutes. It’s incredible, and I highly suggest you check it out. Preferably the extended version, as that one has its scenes in the right order.

The next day, they learn that the hospital won’t release Maria because reasons.

Ben talks to the camera and does more Vatican-bashing. David talks to the camera, feeling that he’s going to be excommunicated for what they did.

The next day, David breaks the news that the Holy See refused to see them. Gee, I wonder why. It’s not like people died during the last attempt to exorcise Maria. Oh, wait, yes they did. In fact, David brought it up earlier. How does he not remember this? Apparently the peaceful relations between the four main characters have disappeared, as they spend the next little while arguing. I have no idea why. Yeah, the Vatican didn’t authorize the exorcism, but what’s stopping the group from just busting into the hospital, barricading the door, and exorcising Maria? You know, kind of what you did to the possessed girl earlier? Yes, yes, I get it. Drama for the sake of drama because this movie’s painfully boring without it.

Michael tags along with David to some baby’s baptism at David’s church. David officiates at said baptism, but as he takes the baby to dunk it, he holds it under the water in the basin, apparently trying to drown it. I have absolutely no idea why or what has influenced this action on David’s part. They manage to save the baby at the last second offscreen.

When David and Michael get home, David goes straight to his room while Michael breaks the news, even saying that the police have been called. A big crash is heard upstairs and the power goes out. David is throwing stuff around upstairs, and he’s even pasted Bible pages all over the place. They find him with his arms bloody and his eyes rolled upward. He supernaturally disappears and reappears behind them with a JUMPSCARE. The group runs downstairs, but the police bust in. One of them goes upstairs, where after a struggle, David takes his gun. The group of main characters and police run upstairs to David, who sticks the gun in his mouth, says that he can’t stop “it”, tries to say the Lord’s Prayer, forgets the words, says that “he” says to say thank you, and pulls the trigger. There’s a blood splatter on the wall, but I can’t for the life of me find an exit wound. Why did David do this? Whatever happened to infer that David was supposedly possessed? Isabella then drops to the ground and has a seizure. Apparently she’s possessed…? I have no idea how. They call for an ambulance, which arrives offscreen and loads Isabella into it.

Ben and Michael argue about demonic transference in the car on the way to the hospital. ALL THIS YELLING, SO REALISTIC! SUCH ACTING!

So has this movie just totally forgotten about Maria?

I should probably mention that we have a little over five minutes left in this movie. How the hell is it going to end? Oh boy – brace yourself, it’s gonna be a doozy. But first:

They arrive at the hospital, where Isabella is rushed to a hospital room. Ben calls another priest for assistance on an exorcism. Specifically, the guy who was teaching the exorcism class. Ben agrees to bring Isabella to the priest as soon as they can. After a brief argument with the nurse about taking Isabella out of the hospital, commotion erupts in the hospital room. Offscreen, Isabella tore some lady’s throat open and was restrained by some doctors. Sorry, but this actress writhing around, screaming, and attacking people does not sell her performance, especially when this actress has absolutely no middle ground between painfully bored and screaming at the top of her lungs. Convincingly obnoxious does not equal convincingly possessed. Ben, Michael, and the doctors get Isabella out of the hospital room, but Isabella decides to do some contortions. Specifically, she bends her back backward in an inhuman way. Ben pulls back her lower lip, where it is shown that Isabella carved/bit an inverted cross into her lip. A nurse injects Isabella with sedative, and Ben and Michael get Isabella into the car to get her to the priest’s house.

As they drive, Isabella wakes up and starts taunting Ben and speaking in different voices. She attacks Ben, but he holds her down. She breaks free and grabs Michael, but Ben gets her off of him.

So now, the movie could end in one of three ways.

  1. The three arrive at the priest’s house, where the exorcism is performed and completed and all ends well (if the movie can’t be bothered to remember Maria, neither can I).
  2. The three arrive at the priest’s house, where the exorcism is performed but is unsuccessful and the movie ends with a repeat of the events that happened in 1989 and Isabella being placed in the same mental hospital.
  3. On the way to the priest’s house, Isabella will overpower Ben and Michael and kill them both, with the car crash either killing them or happening after their deaths.

If you picked any of the above, then your expectations for this freaking movie are still too goddamn high!

What actually happens is that Michael, somehow having been possessed, takes off his seatbelt, speeds up, and drives into traffic. The cameras cut in and out as the violent crash kills all three. But somehow, none of the windows are broken at all. That’s just stupid.

The movie ends with more text, saying that the facts surrounding this case are still not resolved.

And then the movie ends with perhaps the biggest “f*ck you” since the ending of Chaos:

“For more information about the ongoing investigation visit:”

And then credits.

That’s the reason I picked this movie to review – the ending.

I am not joking – that is how the movie ends. Just as things were finally starting to happen, the movie sees fit to cut off just before the climax at a criminally short seventy-five minutes and say, “Hey, go to this website now.”

This isn’t an ending. This isn’t the movie having its climax and then just stopping. This is the movie just cutting off seemingly at random because its writers were too stupid to think of an ending.

Yeah, I can totally tell that the studio wanted to replicate the success of Paranormal Inactivity, but neither they nor the actual filmmakers even bothered to put in any effort whatsoever. Paramount spat out a no-budget, no-effort con job to trick people into coming to the theater and then ran off with a hundred million bucks. I’m sure that Paramount loved the idea of media spanning multiple platforms, but that ending just felt like a huge middle finger to the audience.

Well, The Devil Inside really isn’t any worse than the bajillion other dime-a-dozen direct-to-bargain-bin exorcism and found-footage horror movies being spat out what feels like every stinking day, and the ending really wouldn’t have been all that insulting without that website title card, as it’s basically a copy of the ending of, like, 99.9 percent of all found-footage horror movies. Almost every found-footage horror movie ends abruptly with everyone dying and the ending being left open. Even the ones that most people love. But that title card telling us to go to a freaking website pissed off everybody except the uncultured swine that think that endings like this are cool.

See, normally, with such a now-terribly-uninventive marketing gimmick, the studio typically directs audiences to go to this website to read a bunch of info before the movie, not after.

The problem with media spanning multiple platforms is that most people, including me, don’t want to have to go to some website to get the rest of the story. On a more personal note, it’s kind of like the situation with, of course, the new Star Wars movies, where there’s a massive gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It has never been filled in even slightly by these movies. All the info about what happened in those thirty years can only be learned by reading a truckload of books and playing multiple video games which don’t even look that good. I shouldn’t have to read a bunch of freaking books and play a bunch of freaking video games to understand what exactly happened in between those two movies. I’m going to stop myself before this turns into a rant about how disgustingly Disney is handling Star Wars.

Most people want to get all the story in one sitting, as our acceptance of lack of explanation of certain events can only go so far. We can accept open-endedness when we know that there’s going to be a sequel, but when I as well as most audiences have just paid ten bucks to go see a movie only to be told that the last chunk of the story must be purchased elsewhere, we get pretty pissed off. It’s like if the new Avengers: Infinity War movie played out like a normal Avengers movie, but then just ended before the big climax and said, “Hey, you want to see the big final fight between the Avengers and Thanos? Well, joke’s on you! You’ll have to go to this website to see it.” And then the ending that we were promised wasn’t even there. That’s the case with The Devil Inside. Just as the movie’s starting to get interesting, it cuts off just before the climax, tells us to go to the freaking website, and then when we get to the website, it doesn’t even have the end of the movie there. It’s not as if there was even going to be an ending there, as all of the main characters are dead. Call me idiotic if you wish, but THAT’S F*CKING CHEATING.

Oh, and that site? It doesn’t even work anymore. It stopped working mere months after the movie came out. But from what I’ve heard and read, there was nothing worth finding on that site in the first place. This terrible movie is all we got.

And the stupidest part is that after the first weekend after The Devil Inside came out, critics and audiences totally forgot about the existence of the Streisand effect, because all their complaining about how horrible the ending was resulted in The Devil Inside being a pretty big hit, earning a hundred and one million dollars on a one million dollar budget. Being a big hit is not normal for a January horror movie. In comparison, last year, The Bye Bye Man made a paltry twenty-six million dollars on a seven million dollar budget.

Actually, this is the stupidest part – there are still some people to this day that still try and defend the ending.

I highly doubt that people would have even come close to liking the movie if the website title card hadn’t been there, but it wouldn’t have received anything nearly as bad as an F from Cinemascore, a six percent on Rotten Tomatoes, an eighteen on Metacritic, and a 4.2 on IMDb.

But even as just a movie without the website title card, The Devil Inside is really bad.

THE GOOD STUFF: The actress playing Maria Rossi does pretty okay, and I would genuinely want to see her in other movies. This movie certainly made me want to take exorcism classes. And I guess it’s nice that the movie was shot mostly in documentary format, but even that has its flaws, and it really adds nothing. And I guess if the movie was cut down to a fifteen- to twenty-minute short film, it certainly wouldn’t have been good, but it would have definitely been better than what we got.

That’s it.

THE BAD STUFF: Everything else. Literally.

First off, you’ve probably noticed that I complain a lot about movies that lie about their runtime by tacking on enough credits to pad the movie out to feature length. Some of you may think that this has resulted in a bias against movies that are shorter than ninety minutes. I am here to tell you that this is not a bias against all movies that are shorter than ninety minutes. There are many movies that I enjoy immensely that are shorter than ninety minutes. For example, my favorite horror movie of all time, the original The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, is only seventy-one minutes. I don’t count short length as a mark against a great movie, because the movie is great as it is. But when it comes to bad movies, and specifically, bad horror movies, I do count it as a mark against it. Because in movies in which the makers were so bad at their jobs that the actual movie is not even feature-length when plenty more time could have been used telling the story, developing the characters, building atmosphere, or even just more time in general, I get mad. The Devil Inside is no different. Though it is marketed with an eighty-three minute length, the actual length of the movie is seventy-five minutes. That’s not even a feature-length movie. It pisses me off when crappy movies that aren’t feature length tack on a crapload of credits at the end to lie about their runtime so they can be shown in theaters.

As I’ve said earlier, basically nothing even mildly diverting happens until the final few minutes of the movie. But as empty as those first sixty-five to seventy minutes are, they still contain some really stupid stuff. For example, at the exorcism school, literally everything the teacher said came into play later. That’s just really poorly done foreshadowing. I’ve seen literally everything this movie tries to do regarding possession before and in better movies, and even ones that came out after The Devil Inside. I’ve seen the bodily contortions. I’ve seen the supernatural happenings. I’ve heard the brutal profanity. I’ve seen and heard it all, so unless you’re going to bring something new to the table, just don’t bother making your plot all about demons and possession. And worse yet, nearly everything here is directly copied from other movies. At least they try to at least talk about some of the things that prove that a person is possessed, but it never goes any deeper than the stuff that anyone who has seen any possession movie ever doesn’t already know. And there’s even painfully forced drama for the sake of drama. And I’ve already mentioned this before, but the repeated scenes of the characters bashing the Roman Catholic Church get really repetitive and really annoying. These assholes are just a couple of rungs below a freaking Chick tract when it comes to badmouthing Catholics.

And what even are these demons trying to do? Yes, I get it, they wish to cause pain to others. Yes. That was cliché even when Insidious came out, but at least the fact that it was cliché was rendered moot by the fact that the characters were interesting and sympathetic and likable and we genuinely wanted them to win. But when the movie is as bad and stupid and vacuous as The Devil Inside, it just feels like the demons really have no reason to even possess Maria and David and Isabella and Michael. It feels like they have no end goal. The end goal of the red-faced demon from Insidious was to possess Dalton and rip apart his family. The end goal of Bathsheba Sherman from The Conjuring was to possess Carolyn to kill April, make Carolyn kill herself, and rip apart the Perron family. The end goal of Pazuzu from The Exorcist was to stay in Regan and rip apart her family. This end goal of Abyzou from The Possession was to stay in Em and rip apart her family. The end goal of Bughuul from Sinister was to make Ashley kill her family and then bring her into his surreal limbo.  The end goal of the son of the Anti-God in Prince of Darkness was to bring the Anti-God into the corporeal plane. The main goal of the demon from The Entity was to beat up and brutally rape Carla whenever it wanted. The main goal of the evil spirits in the Overlook Hotel in The Shining was to use Jack to kill Danny so the hotel could feed off his shine. But the end goal of the demons, specifically Asbeel, seemed really vague, and I’m pretty sure that the writers didn’t even think about it.

The characters are unbelievable, undeveloped, and unlikable. I have no idea who they are, and therefore I have no reason to care what happens to them. Yes, I get that this movie is shot in documentary format and therefore we don’t have time to see the characters just being themselves, but even the impenetrable swathes of dialogue later in the film add nothing to the characters except to make them really unsympathetic. It doesn’t help that the characters, and especially the main character, are played by crappy actors and forced to spout crappy dialogue.

After the opening scene, we get a seemingly endless barrage of scenes featuring nothing but mundane dialogue about religion, the Vatican, possession, and exorcism. These scenes are so tedious, bland, and lethargic. I don’t mind drawn-out sequences of dialogue at all, but the dialogue has to be deep and mean something and have something to say about the characters and/or plot. It all just feels like a pathetic excuse to stretch the runtime.

If Paramount really wanted to make The Devil Inside the next The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Inactivity, then they really needed to understand why that movie was so popular: though I think Paranormal Inactivity and Blair Witch Project failed in this regard, at least there was an attempt to create a creepy, threatening atmosphere and at least have the dialogue mean something. And The Devil Inside and Paranormal Inactivity, and to a lesser extent, The Blair Witch Project, need to learn this: if you don’t have enough story and character to keep your audience interested, don’t overinflate what would have been so much better as a fifteen- to thirty-minute movie into a seventy-five- to eighty-minute bloat.

Watching The Devil Inside felt like watching a really bad student film that was trying so hard to look and sound real that it just ended up being pathetic. And it’s barely even worth the R rating. Just censor the few f-bombs and one c-word as well as the two instances of violence toward the end, and this could easily be PG-13.

I’ve definitely seen worse movies than The Devil Inside. MUCH, MUCH WORSE.

But that ending is one of the worst in cinema history.

Final Verdict: .5 out of 5 stars.


Review 93: Friend Request (.5/5)

Image result for friend request movie

Friend Request

Directed by Simon Verhoeven

Starring Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Moseley, Conner Paolo, Brit Morgan, Brooke Markham, Sean Marquette, Liesl Ahlers

Released on September 22, 2017

Running time: 1h 32m

Rated R

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Friend Request is so out-of-touch and outdated and misguided, and has absolutely no idea what it’s trying to do. Does it want to update The Ring for the digital age or rip off Unfriended? I hope to God that it’s the former, because Unfriended is so bad that it’s first in line for the chopping block should I ever decide to re-review some of the movies I reviewed years ago. The fact that anyone would consider ripping off the horrible Unfriended is beyond me.

So let’s review this stinker.

So right as I get to the main DVD menu, my ears are assaulted by a horrible dubstep remix of the movie’s theme music.

Awwwww, it even tries to do the whole glitching effect with the many, many, many production companies that backed this. Sorry, but that’s not funny anymore. It was absolutely hilarious when Unfriended did it, but it’s aggravating now.

At Vague College, the main characters sit down in class as the professor walks in. He delivers the news that a student, Marina Mills, has committed suicide. Marina’s death is super cereal because she apparently filmed it on her webcam and the video was posted to the university website. How she stopped the webcam recording after being dead let alone uploading the video to the university website will be explained later. The reasons how will shock you in all the wrong ways.

But this professor reacts in the absolute wrong way: he says that the suicide video was uploaded to the university website and that some students were able to grab the video before the university could take it down, and he urges them not to watch it. You know, the best way to divert people from seeing it would be to deny that there was ever a video at all, and that the video that a few students possess is a fake.

Title sequence. The words “Friend Request” briefly glitch into some unintelligible symbols that are eerily similar to Unown Pokemon before glitching back to English.

So the entire first act of this terrible movie is shown in a flashback to two weeks earlier.

I should mention that the ripping off of Unfriended goes beyond a few simplified plot points and being a horror movie trying to be hip with the youth because its horrors have access to social media. It even names a major character Laura; only this time, she’s not the eeeeeeeevil ghost haunting the main characters’ Skype – she’s the main character who’s the victim of the various supernatural happenings.

And, chronologically, the very first thing Laura Barnes – I mean, Woodson – does in this movie is watch a cat video. Scratch that – a cat video that is actually an Internet screamer! She gets JUMPSCARED in front of her roommates! And the reason she’s watching this video in the first place is because it was shared on NotFacebook!

If you’re going to make a horror movie that makes social media such a huge part of its plot, you need to use actual websites, not just create a fake one that’s just barely noticeably different from the real thing. Even Unfriended knew that. At least Friend Request does it a little better than Cyberbully, which straight-up made up a fake social media site called Clicksters. At least Friend Request got kind of close to imitating Facebook. But it’s one of the most painful clichés in pretty much any movie that uses social media or an imitation of Google. If you look closely, you can totally tell. The URL clearly doesn’t say “Facebook”, the “Messages” and “Friend Requests” buttons have switched locations, and the “Like” and “Share” options have been replaced with “Thumbs Up” and “Spread”

And as Laura goes for a morning jog, we see a montage of various videos she’s posted on NotFacebook. See, look at how popular she is. Look at how her friends all comment on her videos, photos, and posts in SMS speak. Look, she’s texting her boyfriend. Look at how she’s pointing out that her dead dad would have been however old today. Gotta have a tragic past for the sake of a tragic past. Look, she even spends time working for a charity organization. Look at how awesome of a person Laura is. Oh, and she’s also confirming a bunch of friend requests from random people. That’s smart.

Oh, and as she runs, we see one of the most unintentionally hilarious things ever: occasionally throughout the movie, a “friend counter” will show up, showing how many friends Laura has on NotFacebook. Believe it or not, when the horrors start, this friend counter is supposed to be scary. Remember this friend counter, because it pops up multiple times, and it’s freaking funny when it does.

But then it cuts to Laura waking up in Tyler, her boyfriend’s, bed. Wait, wasn’t it morning just a while ago? And I just now realized this: her boyfriend is Peter Pevensie from the Chronicles of Narnia movies. I can see that William Moseley is making only good choices for his career.

As Laura walks to school that morning, she talks with her two friends, Olivia and Isabel. And this dialogue was clearly written by someone who has no idea how college students talk. I should probably point out that the only college students cast that even look like college students are Laura and Isabel and maybe Marina. The rest of the cast looks like they’re in their thirties.

The three girls, as well as Isabel’s boyfriend Gustavo and Laura’s suitor, Kobe, sit down to eat. Is it lunchtime already? And Kobe is suuuuuper jealous that Laura went for Tyler instead of him. You can even see that he’s a little pissed. I wonder if he’s going to become an antagonist later on. Spoilers – yes he is.

Laura looks off to the side to see the stereotypical Goth-ish loner, Marina, staring creepily at her. But Laura thinks nothing of it. I should mention that Marina always has her laptop out.

At class, the same professor from earlier gives a lecture about how people are getting addicted to the Internet and that it can cause depression, anxiety, and trauma. Yes, yes, we get it. The Internet is evil, and it’s the digital equivalent of a drug addiction. Laura responds to a text from her boyfriend and gets called out by Professor I-Hate-the-Internet as an example of Internet Addiction Disorder. Though for some reason, despite being on her laptop, Marina gets a pass. Speaking of Marina, she is still staring at Laura. But Laura still thinks nothing of it.

Back at home, because apparently Laura only has one class, she’s waist-deep in a conversation with her roommates about what filter she should use on a photo she’s about to post to NotFacebook. But then she gets a Friend Request from Marina. Laura and her roommates go to Marina’s profile to see that she has zero friends. Yeah, uh-huh. Right. I’m pretty sure you have to work to maintain zero friends on NotFacebook. They scroll through Marina’s timeline and find a bunch of dark, surreal, haunting images and animations that Marina has created. Uh, is this why Marina is so unpopular? This girl clearly has talent that could be very well utilized on places like DeviantArt or YouTube. She could post videos of her weird animations or of her drawing her pictures, and with that much talent, she could get a lot of fans, set up a Patreon, and make a living that way. At least, in the real world. But not in this movie’s world, as apparently people are scared of this stuff.

But this also begs the question: how is she able to create these surprisingly detailed animations? This type of stuff would take days or even weeks of work, but she’s able to put them out in a few hours. For example, she puts one out with the caption, “My dream last night…”

Also, I should probably mention that a lot of the stuff in these videos will be important later because worthless reincorporation. And some of the stuff that happens in them will happen later in exactly the same way.

So who actually did create these animations for this movie? These are seriously good. Of course, anyone who’s ever visited DeviantArt, any scary story forum, or the darker corners of Tumblr will know what type of stuff I’m talking about.

Oh, okay, there’s another reason for Marina being unpopular – she has trichotillomania – a hair-pulling disorder. Okay, is she seeking help for that? Has no one else suggested that she do so?

The roommates engage in more conversation that is desperately trying to sound like how young people talk. And because Laura is just so nice, she accepts Marina’s Friend Request.

Cut to Marina having plastered a goofy grin on her face as she sits at her computer and visits Laura’s NotFacebook page.

But when you become friends on NotFacebook, you totes become friends in real life, like 4 reals.

Seriously, Laura and Marina even hang out for a bit the next day. Again, they try to have a normal conversation, but clearly the writer has never been around college kids in his life. And this scene is actually pretty uncomfortable.

Later, Marina’s giving off all sorts of red flags. She’s constantly messaging Laura, she’s tagging Laura in everything she posts, and she’s even gone back and “thumbs upped” every one of Laura’s posts going all the way back to the beginning of Laura’s days on NotFacebook. Hey, you can even kind of see the URL. It says something along the lines of http://laura.woodson/messages. Are you kidding me? And yet, for some reason, Laura and Tyler are making out with that being shown on Laura’s laptop in front of them. ‘kay. I love how easily Laura brushes everything off. That, and of course Tyler is a med student.

Cut briefly to Marina in front of the computer. I have no idea why creepy music is playing. Nothing creepy has happened yet.

Laura wakes up in the middle of the night and inexplicably walks over to the window. She sees a wasp on the window and reaches out for some reason, even though wasp stings hurt. She slowly, dramatically reaches toward the window but JUMPSCARE – it’s Marina with a few handfuls of wasps on her. And then Laura wakes up. It was all a dream. Why did this even happen? Marina’s not supposed to be creepy yet.

The next morning on Laura’s run, it’s revealed that it’s her birthday tomorrow. I love how she never gets actual texts – only NotFacebook messages. A bunch come from Marina. It’s been thirty-six hours since they became NotFacebook friends.

Laura then shows her friends Marina’s new profile pic: an image of Laura and Marina photoshopped together. Oooooooookay. They even scroll through to earlier in Marina’s timeline (which Laura had never once thought to check), which shows a random few-second-long staticky flash of two dead young boys with bloated, rotting faces. It disappears, and various other random pictures and videos show up on Marina’s timeline, including a gif of a bunch of Unown Pokemon flying past the screen. They finally stumble across a gif of a horribly burned woman writhing in pain and a woman’s pregnant belly with Unown Pokemon cut into it before shutting the laptop. All of these various random things will come into play later in a really stupid update of The Ring. More dialogue that makes me want to die. NEXT SCENE.

As Laura dolls herself up for her birthday party that night, she gets a NotSkype call from Marina. Say no. Say no. SAY N – oh, eff me, she answers it. This reminds me – how are these college kids able to afford all this Apple technology? Laptops, phones, you name it, it’s there in the possession of these college students. Laura seems to be really unwilling to say that what Marina is doing is not okay, that she needs to back off, and that she really needs to get help. She also neglects to ask what those videos were from earlier on her timeline. Also, I love how Marina’s NotSkype feed gets slightly glitchy whenever her feelings are hurt, like when Laura says that she’s just celebrating her birthday with her boyfriend. Seriously, she looks unreasonably hurt over a turned-down birthday invitation.

So Laura lied to Marina – the party is with her, Tyler, her roommates, Gustavo, Kobe, and even Laura’s mom at some restaurant. But who the hell applauds as the birthday girl comes in? What has she done to deserve this? Did she somehow singlehandedly cause Kim Jong-un to step down and North Korea to disarm? Did she singlehandedly broker peace between Israel and Hamas? Did she cure cancer? Did she invent a new pencil entirely out of leaves? And what type of birthday party even is this? This feels like a going-away party where Laura is about to head off to Africa for a decade to serve with Doctors Without Borders or something. How popular and beloved is this chick? They even go around the table and give one reason they love Laura. Gustavo even proposes a toast! Oh, and I just noticed this now: when Kobe hugged Laura, I spotted that he had something tattooed on his arm. I looked closer, and I realized with a mixture of shock and laughter that it was binary code. WHAT?! WHY?!

And of course the group posts a crapload of photos on NotFacebook, which makes Marina SAD. She even stands about a hundred yards away from the restaurant, staring at the celebration! How does this woman live?

And the next morning, Marina, who has clearly been crying, even confronts Laura in the cafeteria, saying that she thought they were friends, that she’d had a present for her that she’d been working on for two weeks (LAURA: You’ve barely known me for two weeks. ME: Even though it’s literally been three days unless this movie’s conveyance of the passage of time is literally that bad.), that she’s a liar like everyone else, that she didn’t have to accept her friend request, and that she has no idea how it feels to be alone! She even accosts her! Laura shoves her away, which knocks her beanie off, revealing her swollen scalp that she’s been pulling hair out of. Realizing that everyone can see her partially bald head, she runs off. How the hell is this bitch still alive if she gets that incensed over not being invited to a freaking birthday party? How has she never once thought that maybe her actions are not okay and that she needs serious help? Also, how are the bald spots on her head that swollen?

This isn’t how NotFacebook works, Marina! Just because you’re friends on NotFacebook, it doesn’t mean that you’re friends in real life!

Laura calls Tyler (who’s in the middle of class) about the situation, but Marina tries to NotSkype Laura. She declines the call. Great. She logs into NotFacebook, where she receives a barrage of messages from Marina. She promptly unfriends her.

And apparently, if you have zero friends on NotFacebook, your life is basically over. Seriously, Marina gets seriously broken up over her own mistakes. She commits suicide offscreen.

So is Marina just this sexually frustrated girl who has no idea how to express herself, attract a lover, or exercise proper Internet etiquette, and so just comes off as creepy, and so has no idea how to take rejection? Because her attempts to be friendly coming off as creepy feel really unintentional on her part. To me, Marina comes off as this sad, lonely little girl who was not taught proper morals growing up and who just needs a friend. And the best part about all that is that I KNOW THAT THIS WAS CLEARLY NOT THE WRITERS’ INTENT.

Laura, who’s typing up an essay or something, hears something elsewhere in the apartment. She walks around, decides that that’s too boring, and gets a drink out of the fridge. She starts walking back to her room, inexplicably turns around, and sees the mirror from one of Marina’s videos. She walks super slowly toward the mirror and begins to see the woods from that same video in the reflection. And we all know what’s going to happen. Yes, yes, yes, you’re going super slow, movie. Come on, we know that you’re just a worthless bargain-bin horror flick. We all know how this scene is going to end. Laura leans a little closer to the mirror and starts seeing a dark figure in the mirror walking toward the foreground. Movie, I know what you’re about to do. It’s not going to be scary. Just get the jumpscare over with and move on. And as Laura slowly, dramatically leans farther toward the mirror, a monstrous version of Marina appears behind Laura in the real world. JUMPSCARE! Oh my gosh, so scary! Plus, it didn’t even jumpscare Laura. If the main character wasn’t even jumpscared here, then why was said jumpscare even there? Who is it supposed to scare? The audience? Also, these jumpscares are LOUD. They were even louder than the ones in Smiley or The Forest to such an extent that when I went to see Friend Request in the theater, I had to plug my ears whenever a jumpscare would come around to avoid permanent damage. And no, it’s not caused by the theater just playing the movie too loud – the rest of the movie was played at a normal theater volume.

And what exactly does this scary sequence mean? Is Marina some sort of ghost with the ability to upload her dreams to someone else’s head?

The next morning, the opening scene of the movie is replayed. That means that the first twenty-odd minutes of this ninety-two-minute movie are told in flashback.

And Laura actually seems to feel pretty crappy about it. Her friends tell her not to be, and Gustavo says that they might be able to get out of class for the funeral. Asshole. But then Kobe says that there’s not going to be a funeral, as there’s no body. Yeah, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be a funeral. That’d be kind if disrespectful to most of the victims of 9/11. And best of all, the police have no idea who Marina even was. Her contact info and Social Security number have been deleted from the school database. They don’t even think that Marina Mills was even her real name.

That night, Laura is woken up by the “ding” of her ringtone. But this ringtone has been electronically distorted because spooky. Also, I love this “signal-interference”-inspired soundtrack. It really makes this scene soooooo much more effective. Laura picks up her phone to see that Marina sent her a message. She checks her laptop to find that Marina has sent her a video. It’s a video in black and white (because reasons) of a clearly off-her-rocker and disheveled Marina showing a surprisingly detailed picture of Laura to the camera, yanking it back ridiculously fast with a ridiculously loud JUMPSCARE, lighting it on fire, dropping the flaming picture onto a pile of burning stuff under a chair, getting onto a chair, and hanging herself while immolating herself. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that just the hanging would have sufficed. Laura reacts loudly enough to wake Tyler, who tries to shut it off, but Marina the Internet Ghost won’t let him! Every time he tries to X out of NotFacebook, a dialog box pops up, saying “Unknown Error”.

So how did this video get posted to Marina’s NotFacebook? There was no one there to stop the recording, let alone hack into Marina’s account to send Laura the video. Oh wait, I forgot – Internet ghost logic.

You heard that right – Internet ghost.

Internet ghost (in-tǝr-net gōst), noun: An all-powerful entity that has really no moral reasons for haunting the main characters. Can manipulate anything on the Internet or technology in general at will at any time. Much like the strangers from The Strangers, it always has the upper hand unless the plot says so, and could easily inflict its revenge immediately, however and whenever it wants, but isn’t allowed to because plot.

Also, why can’t Laura just send the video to the police?

The next morning, as Laura walks to school, everyone there looks at her like she’s a criminal. The friend counter even pops up, showing that Laura’s friend count is 847 and dropping! OH NO!

And in class, she gets a message from her boyfriend asking why she posted the suicide video. She pulls out her laptop (even though the class is having a test), logs onto NotFacebook, and sees that the suicide video has been posted on her account and all 836 of her friends have been tagged in it. And they’re PISSED. And when she tries to delete it, she gets the “Unknown Error” dialog box. Nooooooo.

Maybe Laura did post it and she’s just crazy. Did she ever stop to think that?

Jeez, people’s accounts occasionally get hacked (because I couldn’t think of a better term). That happens sometimes. If somebody posted that video under her name, wouldn’t there be a crapload of people reporting it? Wouldn’t NotFacebook take the video down for violating Community Standards? Can’t NotFacebook and the police determine the IP address of where the video was posted from? Oh, wait – Internet ghost logic.

Okay, so Laura has tried changing her password. Okay, then contact NotFacebook Tech Support for help. Then if all else fails, delete your account. If that doesn’t work, contact NotFacebook Tech Support and have them delete it for you citing technical difficulties. No social media presence at all is better than an Internet ghost posting a suicide video on your account.

Oh, and Marina is back in Laura’s friend list.

OLIVIA: Unfriend that dead bitch.

That seemed kind of insensitive.

And of course, because Internet ghost logic, she again gets the “Unknown Error” dialog box.

So she does something at least a little smart and goes to the campus authorities, including a police officer who is there because reasons. But of course, despite Laura’s protestation, the officer’s all like, “This video just magically appeared on your timeline? YOU MUST HAVE DONE IT!” And whichever campus authority this is even says that multiple students reported Laura harassing Marina. WHAT?! How the hell did those students misinterpret that altercation between Laura and Marina in such a boneheadedly misguided way? Were they even paying attention? I thought Laura was supposed to be that popular girl that everyone loves and thinks is awesome. Why did they all of a sudden take Marina’s side? Did Marina use her Internet ghost powers to manipulate the students’ statements? What the crap is happening? And when Laura tries to say that no, it was the other way round, and that Marina was obsessed with her, the dean or whatever doesn’t believe her. The dean literally has the most condescending expression on her face that I’ve seen in a very long time. The cop says that if she can’t delete the video, she’ll have to delete her account. Deleting my NotFacebook account? That’s too HARD.

Also, why are the cops freaking out so much over the Marina Suicide video posted on Laura’s NotFacebook that they seem to have completely forgotten that Marina’s public records have been totally wiped? Why are they even asking if Laura knows where Marina committed suicide? The police must have found the body judging by how super cereal they’re acting about this, right? How do they know that it’s Marina that committed suicide? Her public records are completely gone! How did they ID Marina? She set herself on fire; therefore, the only way of identifying the body would be through dental records, but as I said, Marina’s records are basically nonexistent! How do they even know that Marina committed suicide, anyway? The only evidence that such a thing even happened was the fact that Marina herself posted her suicide video on the university website. Who would have posted the video there if not Marina? Considering how painfully nonsensical the situation is, are the police not even thinking that maybe the video was faked, because the only person who could have possibly posted the video was Marina herself? THIS IS STUPID!

At least Laura tries deleting her account. Of course, we never see this, so for all we know, she could be lying. But of course, Marina the meanie-meanie-poop-head Internet ghost won’t let her. Laura even calls NotFacebook tech support to determine why she can’t delete the video or her account and why she can’t unfriend Marina. Well, NotFacebook tech support is pretty uncooperative, even saying that they can’t even view Marina’s profile, and not even suggesting that they remotely delete Laura’s account. Laura doesn’t even bother suggesting that herself, and she hangs up, having had enough. How more people didn’t cringe at the miserably bad acting here is beyond me.

Okay, now text everyone you know that you’re NotFacebook friends with and tell them that you’re not the one posting it and that your account got hacked, and tell them to text everyone who saw the video that Laura didn’t post it.

I should probably mention that the actress playing Laura is Australian, and that her faked American accent isn’t very good. There are multiple times in every line where this becomes obvious, usually when she really overexaggerates every vowel and consonant that would be pronounced differently with an Australian accent. Even William Moseley is better at doing an American accent.

So Laura decides to go talk to Kobe the creepy suitor, who, as it turns out, is a SUPER HACKER, because why not. Oh, and of course he plays violent video games with a lot of shooting and explosions. They sit down at his computer and scroll through Marina’s timeline. I thought this was supposed to be about getting the video off of Laura’s account. And yet, at a seemingly random video of Marina’s eyes, he recoils slightly and is all,

KOBE: That – that’s intense.

So Super Hacker decides to “peek behind the curtain” at the site’s coding. And of course, it’s covered in constantly changing Unown Pokemon. He goes over to his other monitor and shows her what code is “actually” supposed to look like. Yeah. Uh-huh. Right. That’s totally NotFacebook’s coding. They go back to looking at Marina’s account, and conveniently, the next clue to solving the mystery is just conveniently sitting there on Marina’s timeline. It’s an old-timey woodcut-printed picture of a woman hanging herself while setting herself on fire, all in front of a mirror. Also, why is the camera shaking so much?

And then jarringly cut back to Laura at Tyler’s apartment, still scrolling through Marina’s timeline. Why? And then Tyler starts passive-aggressively implying that Laura is cheating on him with Super Hacker. Because this is totally the time for trivial insecurities. Laura gets up from the computer, which goes to a black-and-white photo of Gustavo, which distorts. Kind of like The Ring!

Speaking of Gustavo, over at his place, which is apparently the same dorm that Super Hacker lives in, his call with Isabel is lost among Internet Ghost Static. The “signal-interference”-inspired soundtrack returns. His NotFacebook feed devolves into INTERNET GLITCHING before making his laptop screen into what is essentially a mirror. And as he gets up to investigate a door creaking elsewhere, his reflection on the laptop screen, now a still image, keeps staring back at him. He investigates his dark, surprisingly person-free dorm. I have no idea when the power inexplicably went out. And we all know what’s coming. He sees the demon clown picture on a door, enters the room, and sees some sort of mutant cyclops baby doll on a bunk bed. There’s a dismembered doll on the floor, and a wasp nest in the corner of the room. He slowly, dramatically looks at the awful CGI wasps buzzing on the nest, then looks down and is JUMPSCARED by the two dead boys with rotting, bloated faces. These jumpscares are so loud, so sudden, and so out of context that they’re genuinely jarring, and not in a good way. Oh, and whenever Gustavo’s phone’s flashlight shines in the direction of the camera, expect a really immersion-destroying lens flare.

So Gustavo runs out of the room and down the hall to the elevator and gets in, despite the power being out. Seriously, do elevators work in power outages? But as expected, the elevator stops between floors and the light shuts off. Oh, NOW the elevator doesn’t work. He gets his phone back out, slowly, dramatically shining the light around. He hears more wasps and sees the CGI wasps flying toward a wasp nest in the corner of the room. There’s a bunch of Unown Pokemon on the wall. And then he looks to the left and JUMPSCARE, a hand reaches out and swats the phone away.

Isabel gets to Gustavo’s dorm building, the first floor of which still has the power working, and hits the elevator button. The elevator opens to reveal blood everywhere. Isabel slowly, dramatically gawks at the scene. Gustavo JUMPSCARES Isabel by running from one side of the elevator to the other and repeatedly bashing his head into the elevator wall until he…uh, dies, I guess. And Isabel’s screams sound like screams of frustration, not terror/sadness. And of course her screams have the echo sound effect put on them as we transition to the next scene.

Gustavo’s death is super cereal, as not only Laura, but Olivia, Tyler, and even Super Hacker are at the hospital and sitting outside Isabel’s room. Tyler pulls Laura aside, asking if Gustavo was on something, citing his “insane” medical report. And then they just forget about the whole thing and walk into Isabel’s hospital room. But Isabel just tells her to leave, and says that it’s all Laura’s fault, that Gustavo wasn’t himself, and that Gustavo was having nightmares despite nothing ever having remotely shown me this, and that she’s having them too.

Jarringly cut to Laura, Olivia, and Super Hacker putting some flowers on an actual on-campus shrine for Gustavo.

Cut to Laura and Tyler looking super broken up about Gustavo’s death. Laura gets another message with that distorted “ding” ringtone. The signal interference soundtrack returns. The message is from Super Hacker, telling Laura to check her NotFacebook timeline ASAP. It turns out that the elevator security cam footage of Gustavo killing himself has been posted on Laura’s account and has all her 512 friends tagged in it. And of course, not only are the comments filled with hatred, but Laura can’t delete the video. Olivia barges in demanding that Laura delete her account despite having been told earlier that Laura has no ability to do so. After Olivia leaves, Laura tries to post something saying that she’s not the one posting the videos, but Marina the Internet ghost INTERNET GLITCHES the text with Unown Pokemon and replaces it with “u will know how it feels to be lonely (smiley face emoji)”. And she can’t backspace. Oh, and her friend count magically jumps back up to 601.

But then in the next scene, the friend counter shows back up showing that her friend count is at 494 and dropping. She talks with the dean, who says that even though they can’t prove that it’s her posting the videos, (oh yes they can), they have no choice but to suspend her for the rest of the semester. And Laura’s acting like the dean is being super unreasonable. You know, Laura, for all anyone knows, it could be you posting the videos. All the evidence very clearly points to you. And as far as even I know, it could just be her having been driven to madness by her guilt over Marina’s suicide, inexplicably gaining super hacker powers to hack into Gustavo’s dorm’s security camera feeds.

Laura’s mom FaceTimes her in the middle of her walking back to her dorm. That sequence was completely pointless.

And then, because this is totes smrt, Laura and Super Hacker are in the computer lab at the college scrolling through Marina’s timeline, seeing that Gustavo was friended by Marina right before he died. And despite this clearly not being shown from Gustavo’s point of view, Marina friending her next victims is a thing now. Super Hacker then shows the footage of Gustavo’s death, pointing out the obvious wasp-buzzing sound in the background. Super Hacker says that he did some research and determined that black wasps are associated with evil, that they appear wherever witches live, and that they follow witches around and protect them. So Marina’s not just an Internet ghost, but an Internet witch that has free reign to do and manipulate whatever she wants online, has a swarm of eeeeeeevil wasps at her command, and can even make people kill themselves. How does this have a 5.4/10 on IMDB again?

Super Hacker uses his super hacking skills to get him and Laura into Marina’s room. Surprisingly enough, there’s no one else around. They search the place, find some weird pictures and eventually a group photo from some orphanage with a younger Marina in it, just…sitting there in some random folder. Oh, and in the picture, there are two boys’ faces scratched out. Let me guess – those are the two dead boys with the bloated faces? Laura asks Super Hacker to find whichever orphanage it was, and Super Hacker says that if it was ever on the Internet, he’ll find it. Apparently Super Hacker does not know how to reverse image search.

And so they…just find the orphanage. It literally just cuts to Laura going there herself. Which orphanage is it? How far from her college is this orphanage? How did she get here? She goes inside and is met by the orphanage’s matriarch. Laura learns that Marina’s real last name was Nedifar. The instant I heard that name, I immediately thought “anagram”. So I go to Google, go to the first anagram descrambler I can find, and type in “nedifar”. And it shows me that the word “nedifar” is literally an anagram for “a friend”. I facepalmed. I am not freaking joking. That is painfully dumb.


I told you.

So, Marina’s history: she came to the orphanage as a ward of the state. She had a really rough time there. She was routinely bullied and even raped by those two boys. Okay, that’s unnecessary. She was always alone. She would continually draw the weird pictures. And then she found some bad places online. Sometimes, she would just stare at the blank computer screen for hours. Why anyone would let her is beyond me. The other kids became terrified of her, saying that she gave them nightmares. This isn’t going to mean anything in the end, is it? Spoilers – no it doesn’t.

Meanwhile, Super Hacker’s still in the computer lab doing research. He determines that Marina used her laptop as a black mirror, and committed her particular method of suicide in front of it in order to transfer a demonic version of her soul onto the Internet. Okay, that’s more than enough backstory, movie. The whole “spirit of suicided girl seeks revenge” idea was all that was needed. Also, Super Hacker’s gotta highlight the super-important bits because this movie’s creators think of their audience as illiterate chimps. As Super Hacker finds the same picture that was on Marina’s timeline, the screen does some INTERNET GLITCHING and cuts to showing a close-up of Marina’s eyes. JUMPSCARE, by the way. The lights in the computer lab go out, every computer starts playing the same video of Marina’s eyes, and when Super Hacker tries to escape, he sees a demonic version of Marina at the door. But when it cuts back to the door, it’s just the janitor, the lights have turned back on, and the computers are back to normal. The janitor is rather confused at Super Hacker’s terrified expression.

Tyler’s at his apartment on NotFacebook, typing up something saying that Laura oh-so-obviously isn’t posting the two suicide videos. But because Marina the Internet witch wouldn’t like that, the text INTERNET GLITCHES into Unown Pokemon, and Tyler all of a sudden hears a loud ringing and then wasp buzzing in his ear that was obviously added in post-production. He takes a pair of tweezers to his ear and pulls out a wasp. Are we ripping off Case 39 now?

Oh that’s how Laura got to the orphanage – she took a bus. She’s on her way back now, doing more research. She finds an article about two boys who were found stung to death by wasps. Yeah, it’s the rapist kids. Oh my gosh, this is more than enough. This is silly now. She calls Tyler and asks him to access Marina’s medical records. Wouldn’t those have been deleted too?

Oh, here comes another spoopy sequence. Olivia finishes showering (but it’s the middle of the day), dries off, hears some sounds in the dorm room, sees the patio door slam shut (JUMPSCARE), and leans down toward her laptop. It’s doing things by itself because Internet witch logic. She sees that Isabel is now NotFacebook friends with Marina. Oh NO!

Isabel is at the hospital flipping through photos of her and Gustavo on her phone when her phone does INTERNET GLITCHING and becomes essentially a mirror, freezing on a still image of Isabel. The signal interference soundtrack is back. She looks outside the window to see some burning building: an obvious hallucination that will mean something later. Oh, remember how the rest of this movie’s jumpscares up to this point have been at least a little out of the norm by being the second thing you’d expect rather than the first? Yeah, well, that’s all about to end. She slowly, dramatically looks onto the other hospital bed to see a horribly burned pregnant woman. And then said woman JUMPSCARES her by sitting up really fast, because of course. She runs out of the room into the dark hospital hall. Why are there no doctors or nurses anywhere on this floor? She runs off down the hall and sees the two dead boys walking toward her. She runs into the bathroom and locks the door, but a large puddle of blood spreads across the floor. She sees a hallucination of herself lying dead in a bathtub, having slit her throat. Yeah, nice sky-blue contacts. I totally believe you’re possessed. She slowly, dramatically walks up to the corpse. And then the corpse JUMPSCARES her by having her eye move to look at her, because of course. Despite telling herself that it’s not real, she looks to the left and sees the demonic Marina, who kills her offscreen via really awful editing.

Isabel’s death is super cereal, as Laura’s back at the hospital again, and she’s obviously not been crying. She’s just rubbed her eyes until they’re a little red. The police talk to her and show her the security footage, which shows Isabel wandering through a populated hospital, but not one doctor or nurse is doing their job. Apparently, Isabel doing this as well as ripping out her hair and slitting her throat is a first for this cop. He even makes another accusation that Laura posted the death videos on her NotFacebook, though he admits that they can’t prove it, because they can’t determine the IP address from which the videos were posted. THEN WHY ARE YOU MAKING SUCH ACCUSATIONS AT ALL?! You’re freaking out so much about these suicide videos getting posted on Laura’s timeline that you’re not even thinking about why Laura’s friends are killing themselves in strange ways or how Laura could possibly access CCTV footage! Also, could Marina the Internet witch not have manipulated things to make it look like the videos were being posted from Laura’s IP address?

And of course, Isabel’s death video is posted on Laura’s NotFacebook, and all 209 of Laura’s friends are tagged in it. And of course the comments are filled with derision.

Cut to Peter in the middle of dissecting a corpse in class. Cut to Olivia, who tries to delete her NotFacebook account, but Marina the Internet witch won’t let her. “Unknown error” dialog box. Tyler tries the same thing with the same results. Wait, I thought Tyler was in the middle of a dissection; why is he on his phone off to the side? And of course, when Super Hacker tries the same thing, he also gets the same results. He then tries to unfriend Laura, but to no avail. That’s what’s so scary about Internet witches – the inconveniences they cause. Honestly, it’s more funny than scary.

Tyler somehow knows the code to the door for his supervisor’s office. He goes in, sits at the computer, and looks up Marina’s medical files which Marina has not deleted with her Internet witch powers for some reason. I’m also pretty surprised that Marina’s files have her actual last name on them rather than her fake one, because she was attending this college with the last name Mills and her records should show that. Where’d she get the money to attend this college, anyway? Did she magically increase the funds in her bank account? Did she ever have any money to her name at any point in her life? Apparently Marina’s had a few runins with the medical staff at this college, as she’s been diagnosed with psychosis and reactive attachment disorder as well as trichotillomania. He even determines that her mother was in some sort of evil witch coven at some random building in the middle of nowhere. The building caught fire, Marina’s mother was the only survivor, and the hospital kept her just alive enough to carry Marina to term. Heavens above, stop. You’ve long since crossed the line. Marina’s backstory is now overstuffed and unwieldy. I love how Marina the Internet Ghost decides to not make the medical files start INTERNET GLITCHING.

Super Hacker tells Laura about the black mirror stuff and the repercussions of Marina’s suicide as Laura just looks super bored. Apparently the only way to stop Marina is to find her laptop and destroy it.

Olivia packs up her technology and other stuff, intending to go home. But she hears her printer printing out a bunch of stuff. It’s printing out a bunch of paragraphs of glitchy Unown Pokemon, but the entire paper is covered in ink save for the white Unown Pokemon. That’s a huge waste of ink. She slowly, dramatically looks over the sheets of paper, and then gets JUMPSCARED by a hallucination of Isabel cutting her throat. Laura’s off in the other room printing out every last picture on Marina’s NotFacebook timeline. Olivia bids goodbye to her.

The next day, Laura shows up super late to the triple funeral of Gustavo, Isabel, and Marina. She couldn’t even make it to the funeral on time? Wow, you’re a bitch, Laura. Also, a triple funeral? I’m pretty sure the families of Gustavo and Isabel wouldn’t want that. Also, I would be able to take this scene much more seriously if the friend counter didn’t show up, showing that Laura’s friend count is at 79 and dropping. Oh, and her mom’s there, and she wants Laura to come home. Screw solving the mystery – just go home. Or at least explain the situation to your mom.

Tyler tells Laura about the coven and the fire and the birth, and how she was “alone in the womb for months”. You’re alone in the womb for the entirety of the time your mom is pregnant with you, you dumbass. But then on a different laptop, Marina’s NotFacebook page starts posting a bunch of Laura’s photos, including the group one from her birthday. And Olivia’s face starts distorting like in The Ring. Ur nur.

Olivia’s phone goes off because Marina can power up her cell phone even though she powered it down. She hears some whispering elsewhere in the dorm and goes to investigate. The computer in…somebody else’s room starts INTERNET GLITCHING and does the mirror-to-still-image thing. She slowly, dramatically leans closer to it and is instead JUMPSCARED by the doorbell. She slowly, dramatically goes to answer it, slowly, dramatically gets up to the peephole, and looks through. She sees the silhouettes of the two dead boys off in the distance, but then one of the most cliché JUMPSCARES happens: the demonic version of Marina sticks her face right outside the peephole. Of course. Olivia backs away from the door, but because she sucks so bad, she trips over her own two feet and lands on her ass. A bunch of awful CGI wasps fly in through the peephole. Olivia starts scooching backwards, but she looks behind her to see a demonic version of Marina with a wasp nest growing in her head. That is freaking disgusting.

Laura and Tyler are driving super fast to get to Olivia. I can’t help but notice that they’re driving on the left side of the road, despite using an American car. This wasn’t all filmed in America, was it? In fact, the whole movie was filmed in Cape Town, South Africa. They pull up to the dorm only to have Olivia slam down onto the hood of the car. And I found myself thinking, How did Olivia fly that far from her dorm window? The only way that works (because physics) is if someone threw her from that window. Like a football lineman. Olivia is still alive, and she’s even wearing those sky-blue contacts. HOW IS SHE STILL ALIVE?! How far above ground is her dorm room?

Olivia is taken to the hospital. Laura is there. The friend counter appears again, showing that Laura’s friend count is at 21 and dropping. Laura pulls out her phone to see a notification that Olivia is now NotFacebook friends with Marina. Wait, can you actually get those notifications saying that two of your NotFacebook friends are now NotFacebook friends? Tyler comes up to Laura and says that Olivia might actually pull through. You know, I can’t help but notice that Tyler has not once shown fear for his life given the circumstances. Is he just that noble? Is he just too manly to show fear? I’m not talking about not showing mortal fear around Laura – I’m talking about not feeling any mortal fear ever. Laura sees the cops and quickly leaves. I guess we needed a reason for Laura and Tyler to not be together in these next few scenes.

She heads out to the burned building with Super Hacker. The soundtrack decides to be really freaking annoying. Tyler calls Laura, but the cops interrupt them and Tyler scrambles to cover for himself. I should mention that the tree shown in one of the videos on Marina’s NotFacebook shows up. What terrible reincorporation. And of course there’s no cell service out there. Kobe mentions that Laura shouldn’t be fearing for her life, as Marina’s Internet-witch-ly goal is to make her lonely.

Back at the hospital, the possessed Olivia wakes up in the ICU after her heart rate monitor glitches out. She pulls out the various medical equipment with hilarious stock squishing sounds and gets up inhumanly quick.

Capture 2

What the hell type of face is that supposed to be?

The police officer outside turns around to see that she is missing. Olivia JUMPSCARES him from the side, slamming him into a shelf of stuff. She takes his gun despite the cop being a grown-ass hunkin’ MAN, drops him on the floor, makes like she’s going to shoot the cop gangsta style, then turns the gun on herself. The other cop and Tyler rush into the room and behold the scene.

BLACK COP: Really?

Okay, that’s the funniest part of the movie.

Laura and Kobe arrive at the burned-out shell and go in. As to why they waited until sunset to do this, I will never know. Drama, I guess. Super Hacker gets that distorted ding ringtone, telling him that he’s now NotFacebook friends with Marina. His phone glitches out and does the whole mirror-to-still-image thing. The signal interference soundtrack comes back. He tosses the phone away.

Laura has somehow left Super Hacker behind. She’s still searching the place. Super Hacker is trying to find her. He sees some random woman walking out of some hatch that must lead to a basement, and she starts slowly, dramatically walking toward him. But then he gets JUMPSCARED by backing into Laura. Well, that’s both cliché and convenient. Super Hacker and Laura go into the basement. I had no idea Laura brought a flashlight with her. They scour the place, finding a bunch of big wasp nests and the ruins of Alph. That’s a Pokemon reference. And again, Laura and Super Hacker get separated. Laura looks for him and finds him down a corridor, standing in the corner, facing a mirror. Laura slowly, dramatically moves closer to Super Hacker. Are we ripping off Blair Witch Project now? I guess not, because when Laura turns Super Hacker around, he’s all

SUPER HACKER: She can’t make you lonely when you’re dead.

And JUMPSCARE, Super Hacker stabs Laura. In a nonfatal place because we still have ten more minutes of movie. I freaking predicted this from the beginning. Laura smacks Super Hacker upside the head with her flashlight and runs off. And surprisingly, getting stabbed gives Laura super endurance powers, because she somehow actually manages to OUTRUN Super Hacker. She makes it to some construction site, completely neglects to ask for help, and just gets a taxi to some other random building that she recognizes from Marina’s NotFacebook page.

Super Hacker runs into Tyler, who drove there in record time. How the crap did he get away from the cops?

Laura’s taking a taxi to the Random Building. The taxi driver offers to take her to a hospital, which he should have done despite Laura telling him no. The fact that she’s not even thinking of seeking medical attention is ridiculous. But he just drops her off at the Random Building. Laura goes in.

Tyler takes Super Hacker to the Random Building, despite having no idea that Laura is there. I have no idea why Super Hacker doesn’t bother to explain the situation to Tyler. Tyler goes in.

Laura comes across a bunch of nothing and is feeling remarkably little pain for having just been stabbed in the left middle side of the abdomen. She’s FaceTimed by her mom, who says that she’s been seeing things and having nightmares. After some INTERNET GLITCHING, she all of a sudden gets those sky-blue contacts in her eyes, which disappear for some reason. Laura’s mom walks away from the camera with a knife before the call ends. Oh nooooo, not…Laura’s mom. Tyler finds Laura, but Super Hacker shanks him in the neck. Noooooo, not…Laura’s boyfriend. He was the best actor in the movie.

Super Hacker chases Laura in a surprisingly tensionless and short chase sequence. Super Hacker catches up, but a crapload of CGI wasps swarm him and sting him to death. How are they stinging him through his clothes? Surprisingly, his skin is not even slightly bloated. We never see his body again.

Laura demands to know what Marina wants of her. She tearlessly cries, because she’s a terrible actress. She looks really broken up for having just watched her boyfriend get murdered. The child version of Marina (who is clearly not the same child actress from earlier in the movie) approaches Laura and says that she just wants them to be friends. Best friends. Forever. Marina, if you wanted to be friends with Laura, there were so many other better ways to go about doing so. And now, why do you expect Laura to acquiesce?

Kid Marina walks away into a passageway leading to a secret room. Laura follows, finds Marina’s fried corpse, and even finds the laptop. And she doesn’t even think to do the thing she came here to do: break the laptop. She walks up to the laptop, which is doing the whole mirror thing again, except this time, the area around Laura morphs into the forest from Marina’s video. Laura’s standing there in the forest, slowly, dramatically looking into the mirror from that same video. She hears whispers coming up behind her, and she turns around. Ooh, now that we’ve had the bullcrap twist like in Unfriended, are we now going to have a giant jumpscare? Yes. Yes we are. In a massively horrible JUMPSCARE, the demonic version of Marina lunges at the camera.

But unlike Unfriended, Friend Request doesn’t end in a pathetic jumpscare. It ends with Laura having taken Marina’s place as the loner who’s always on her laptop, creepily eyeing some other girl at school, and having zero friends on NotFacebook. Though I should point out that her NotFacebook account’s profile picture is the photo from earlier with Laura and Marina photoshopped together. Oh, and one of her eye irises is blue, even though they were already blue before. The way we can tell this is because Laura looks into the camera at the end, sending the cheesy teen drama factor through the roof. Is that supposed to signify possession? If there was a sequel to this (there won’t be, because nobody went to see this), an exorcism performed on Laura presumably wouldn’t work because Internet witch logic.

And what did all of that crap overstuffing Marina’s backstory lead up to?


Five minutes of credits, cutting the length of this movie down to eighty-seven minutes. I complain about this a lot, but this is a big pet peeve of mine when it comes to movies. It just really pisses me off when bad movies lie about their runtime by slapping several minutes of credits onto the end to increase the runtime to feature-length.

The instant I saw the name Simon Verhoeven being credited as the director, I immediately thought, He can’t be related to Paul Verhoeven, can he? The director of Robocop and Total Recall? As a matter of fact, he is! He’s Paul Verhoeven’s grandson! Well, I can clearly say that nepotism in the film industry is rarely a thing. Yeah, we’ve got directors like Sofia Coppola, daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, and, more recently, Oz Perkins, son of Anthony Perkins, but they are the exception, not the norm.

Friend Request is such a chore to sit through. I thought that this was going to be one of those funny-bad movies that would be perfect to watch with drunk friends, but no – it’s just dull and painful and puts me in a foul mood.

This is obviously a movie made for my fellow millennials and is meant to highlight our potentially dangerous obsession with social media, but Friend Request treats its main characters, and by extension its audience, in such a condescending and lazy way. It doesn’t give us a reason to root for the main characters, there are no character arcs, and every one of them is nothing more than a stereotype. Even the college professor is the typical “old fart who hates the Internet” and the cops are laughably inept. I feel nothing for these snobbish rich kids going to college all the way over in Cape Town. Of course, they all wear the best clothes and have all the best Apple technology, which is pretty condescending in and of itself, because most college students can’t afford Apple products. I sure can’t – I’m typing this review up on my crappy $600 Toshiba laptop that I’ve had since the end of 2015 that had a fatal hard drive crash the next June. And speaking of Apple products, why is it that every teen movie features their characters using all this super-expensive technology? This is extremely annoying. It’s just another one of those garbage horror films that’s trying to be hip with the youth because the plot involves social media.

The movie rocketed right out of the gate with its plot and refused to give us any character development whatsoever. I had no reason to care about the main characters, and therefore had no reason to fear for them when they were in scary situations. I didn’t give a crap whether they lived or died. In fact, the only emotion I really felt toward any of the character’s deaths was relief that at least the movie would be over soon. And the motivation of the antagonist was really silly and childish, and her super-overstuffed backstory led to absolutely nothing. And it didn’t help that the characters were played by terrible actors (okay, William Moseley and even Liesl Ahlers as Marina do fine) and had to spout such cringey dialogue that was clearly written by someone who’s never been around millennial college students ever in their life.

It doesn’t help that the plot is so predictable and formulaic. As soon as I got introduced to Marina and her emotional issues, I knew exactly how her character would act over the course of the movie. As soon as it was revealed that Marina turned into an Internet witch, I knew exactly how the rest of the plot would play out. It became nothing more than a supernatural social-media-related slasher with a really dumb mystery and pointless backstory tacked on to pad the runtime. Without the mystery or backstory, the movie would only be about forty minutes long. Or less. And to make things worse, it even steals elements from The Ring and Unfriended. Speaking of Unfriended, literally the only thing that Friend Request does better than Unfriended is that it’s not as painfully boring.

And even the approach to horror here is pretty damn basic, as every scare sequence gets super quiet, has everyone do everything slowly and dramatically, waits ten to twenty seconds, and then inserts a deafening jumpscare. Yeah, the jumpscare sometimes doesn’t happen in the first or even second way you’d expect, but you will definitely guess right by the third time. Every time a scare sequence comes along, we know exactly what to expect because of what type of horror flick this is, and we just grow super impatient waiting for the inevitable. It’s crap like this that pisses me off about studio-produced, factory horror.

It’s yet another out-of-touch bargain bin horror flick whose only marketing scheme is pandering to the youth because soshal mdeias r kewl. But even I have to give millennials credit sometimes – they knew pandering when they saw it, and the only people who went to see this crap were schmucks like me who watch movies like this ironically.

And for all I know, it could have just been Laura being crazy.

How does this have a 5.4/10 on IMDb again?

Final Verdict: .5 out of 5 stars.


Still/Born (1/5)

So I just saw the new movie Still/Born, and while it started off pretty mediocre, it completely fell apart by the end.

The premise is strikingly unoriginal: after losing one of her twin babies at their birth, a woman discovers that an evil supernatural entity wants her baby. It’s basically Insidious meets Grace, but not only does Still/Born have no idea what made Insidious so good, but it has many of the elements that made Grace into a pile of garbage.

Namely, the protagonist. For about the first half, the movie plays itself as a supernatural horror movie with an evil entity from Mesopotamian lore trolling the mother nearly every night. But about a third of the way through the movie, the mother is established as mentally unstable. She keeps seeing this evil entity, of course investigates it, and learns that she has to sacrifice another baby to save hers. Of course. And about two-thirds of the way into the movie, the movie decides that no, the mother is actually insane, and, over the course of the movie, has endangered her baby multiple times. And then at the end, after she’s been shot after trying to sacrifice her neighbor’s baby, it’s revealed that though she was crazy, she was also correct. Still/Born, you can’t do this to your main character and expect that we’ll still give a crap about them. Seriously, the mother’s insanity was reaching such a point where I was genuinely hoping for the husband to leave with the baby.

The plot only ever moves forward when 1) the other characters have to conveniently be absent, 2) the mother or father make a stupid decision (and they make a lot of them), namely unintentionally endangering their baby multiple times over the course of the movie, 3) the mother has some sort of hallucination, and/or 4) something effs up. And there is not a single element to this plot that you cannot predict if you have ever seen a horror movie in your life.

And one thing I noticed that made the plot super convenient was the very lacking communication between the mother and father. Had the mother or father only explained the various situations to each other when they damn well needed to, things almost certainly would have ended up better than they did.

I’m not exactly scared while this stuff is happening. While a massive detriment to any fear in this movie is because the characters are pretty unlikable and annoying, its very standard approach to horror really takes the cake, because this is another movie where every scary sequence is the same. It quiets down, the characters only ever make ridiculously slow movements, the camera starts doing that slow zoom toward something, the camera gets up close and personal with the source of what’s inevitably going to happen, and eventually, after maybe fifteen to twenty seconds, a wild jumpscare appears. Every time.

It doesn’t help that not only is the acting not very good, but the mother’s acting gets really obnoxious toward the end. Also, is it me, or does the actor portraying the dad look a little like Justin Trudeau?

At least the movie looks and sounds professional. It actually looks pretty good. I did enjoy the camerawork when it wasn’t making the scary scenes so obvious. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is either half-decent or really bad.

At best, Still/Born is painfully mediocre. At worst, it’s thoroughly miserable, and personally, it left me in a foul mood. It’s the equivalent of really nice-looking tofu. It looks nice, but it’s still just really bland tofu. Oh, and it has a couple of dead cockroaches in it. And I’m giving Still/Born a 1 out of 5.