Review 84: Smiley (0/5)

Smiley Movie Poster.png

Smiley

Directed by Michael Gallagher

Starring Caitlin Gerard, Melanie Papalia, Shane Dawson, Andrew James Allen, Liza Weil, Toby “Tobuscus” Turner, Roger Bart, Keith David

Released on October 12, 2012

Running time: 1h 35m

Rated R

Genre: Horror

Internet-inspired horror movies. I’ve tackled one of these before with Feardotcom.com.

You go on an anonymous chat network that just does video rather than both video and audio (apparently that’s the case with this movie released in 2012). You type “I did it for the lulz” three times into the chat box. And then a guy named Smiley appears behind the person you’re talking to and kills them. Who is Smiley? He’s a serial killer who can be summoned through the Internet. He stitched his eyes shut and carved his mouth into a giant Glasgow smile. He’s essentially a living, breathing emoticon. I’m not surprised that you haven’t heard the urban legend. It’s too unrealistic and silly to be true.

Our story begins with a young woman texting her boyfriend. The first shot is clearly focused on how good her ass looks. Which it does. Exactly one minute and thirteen seconds into the movie, we get our first jumpscare as the young girl that the young woman is babysitting startles her. And the jumpscare is almost exactly as loud as the ones that I panned when I reviewed The Forest. Damn. The young girl goes up to the computer in the same room to get on a chat room. It’s not Chatroulette or Omegle. It’s a fake site created specifically for the movie called HideandGoChat. And HideandGoChat allows video but no audio. Come on, Smiley; you were not only released in 2012, but you were all about being trendy; get with the times. This movie is already so effing dated! Remember Cyberbully, that terrible movie that everyone had to have smoked something to have liked? It made the same mistake by creating its own tacky-looking website called Clicksters. Anyway, after a brief conversation between the babysitter and the girl which reaffirmed why I’m not stupid enough to go on sites like these, the girl mentions Smiley, which the babysitter has somehow not heard of. The girl asks,

GIRL: You haven’t heard the urban legend?

Actually, no. We haven’t heard the urban legend of Smiley. And I’m pretty sure that in the real world there is no such urban legend. And as the girl told the babysitter about the urban legend (I’m amazed it’s not the other way round), I found myself asking, “Why would anyone with even the slightest notion of logic, reason, or morality do this? Curiosity? Malice? Who knows? And why is this opening clearly ripping off the openings of The Ring and Candyman?” Seriously, the whole “Smiley” business sounds so silly and awkward and stupid, yet the movie plays it completely seriously! Why would Smiley have carved a smiley emoticon into his face? I don’t know; he was bored, I guess. Maybe he wanted attention. How does he show up behind people and kill them at a moment’s notice? I don’t know!

After a jumpscare with the babysitter’s father startling the babysitter, the father takes the little girl home. The babysitter is in her room on her computer, chatting with a random person, who, in several different shots, does the same eyebrow raise because this stupid movie just replays the same second or two of footage over and over. Wow. The person, seemingly at random, types in “Too bad I have to kill you”. Briefly freaked out, the babysitter looks around her house (why? Is the chat coming from inside the house?), only to be faked out by an open door. Without calling the freaking cops, she returns to the computer. For some reason, she doesn’t immediately X out of the chat room. We get a look at the chat log, and we see that she’s instead going to get the jump on him by typing in “I did it for the lulz” three times. I need to emphasize that it’s showing her typing this in, but the movie is trying to say that it’s the other person typing this in. The next shot shows the computer screen from over the babysitter’s shoulder, and it clearly shows that the person on the other end typed the phrases in. This is a really rookie mistake that the filmmakers expect us as an audience to ignore. I don’t know what Michael Gallagher (the director) was thinking when this scene was edited, but he must have gone with the “Ehh, let’s just hope that the audience doesn’t notice” excuse. You know, like a moron. After about ten seconds, Smiley appears behind the babysitter and kills her, much to the surprise and enjoyment of her chat partner, but not the audience. The chat log inexplicably disappears. By the way, why is Smiley wearing a mask with the smiley on it under a pantyhose stocking? I thought he carved a smile into his face?

Transition to a young woman named Ashley (Gerard) moving into a house with a roommate while going to college at Generic University. She and her dad say a happy goodbye, and Ashley moves in. She meets her roommate, Proxy (Papalia). Who on earth named their daughter Proxy? Oh, I know! Becus ths s a movie abot th INTRWEBZ! Melanie Papalia, you’d better thank your lucky stars that your character in The Den is better written than your aggravatingly annoying little bimbo in Smiley.

By now, you will have probably noticed that every scene features awkwardly composed shots, poor lighting, and sets that are either really basic or completely overdone. This is because Michael Gallagher makes sketch comedies on YouTube. There’s a reason he never made it past that. The crappy shots, poor lighting, bad sets, and amateur editing become incredibly distracting as the move goes on. Regardless of the quality of his Youtube videos, shart-for-brains shots, shoddy lighting, and poorly designed sets are never okay in a movie. Smiley is a movie. An actual movie. And when Mister Gallagher is using the same effects one would use in a Youtube video in not just a legitimate movie but a legitimate movie that’s being released in theaters, I have to judge it just like I would any other movie. And the verdict is that Gallagher’s movie looks inexcusably aesthetically amateur and unprofessional. It looks like he’s shooting another YouTube sketch video.

Despite just meeting her, Proxy invites Ashley to a party that night which is hosted by – and I’m not joking here – fellow students that she has only ever met online. Come on. If you don’t know the people at the party, then why would you go? Though the party is happening on a school night, Ashley reassures herself that she’s in college, and can do whatever she wants to. Clearly, she doesn’t live in the real world, and is going to regret getting drunk off her ass on a school night. Both Proxy and Ashley look way too old to just be starting college. On the way, Proxy drops oh-so-hip-and-trendy references to sites like /b/ and 4chan and some ugly business going on there because this is an Entarnart movie. Ashley somehow doesn’t even know what 4chan is. Bullcrap; she’s a privileged, entitled millennial that’s grown up with the Inturnetz; how does she not know what 4chan is? Ashley and Proxy decide to get high before going, and they smoke some pot. Yes, Ashley, exhale before the smoke gets anywhere near your lungs. “I think I’m high on your marijuana,” Ashley says. That’s not only a terrible line, but it is precisely why I don’t smoke it. This sequence is allegedly character development, but all that happens is that Ashley and Proxy further cement themselves as insufferably effervescent, obnoxious airheads, with Ashley being incomprehensibly naïve. The two finally go to the party, and they meet Zane (Allen) and his two or three goons. I forget their names (did they even have any?). Zane comes on way too strong to them, but Ashley and Proxy brush it off and continue to talk with him, with Proxy dropping a Days of Our Lives reference. Zane spends the next few minutes establishing his character as an annoying, atheistic windbag, who loves talking about the “strange and retarded”. It’s interesting that Zane is discussing the strange and retarded when he himself is strange and retarded. He’s an annoying little pink pincushion in my underpants.

Ashley, through odd, unrealistic circumstances, introduces herself to a young man whose name is – I kid you not – Binder (Dawson). However, it’s not pronounced “bine-der”, as in a binder that you use in school, but “bin-der”. Who on earth names their son Binder? And why is Shane Dawson’s Creek here? Oh yeah, I forgot – this entire movie is basically a collaboration of Youtubers. Goddammit. Binder establishes his character as the stereotypical bullied kid who has no idea how to act, as Zane and his goons verbally assault Binder with poorly written insults. Why? Because Binder reported some pedophile activity on 4chan to the police, and has now received the nickname of Pedobear. Another Inturnurt reference! You know, I could have sworn that anyone with two brain cells to rub together believes that pedophilia is disgusting and evil and that pedophiles should die slow and painful deaths. Oh wait, I forgot the times we’re living in, when a site like Salon actually gives a self-proclaimed pedophile a platform. The guy tries to tell us that pedophilia is just another sexual orientation on the same level as being gay, bi, or trans, and has the gall to address normal, rational people who think pedophilia is disgusting as “right-wing bigots”. No, really, go check out Todd Nickerson on Salon. You’ll be pleasantly repulsed and insulted.

I’m getting really sidetracked today. Sorry.

Zane kicks Binder out, and Ashley, like a moron, forgets about it. Later, she sees Zane and his goons over at a computer. After she wonders what they’re doing, Ashley is told by Proxy about the Smiley urban legends. Apparently, going online and doing this Bloody Mary wannabe is pretty popular and is oh-so-trendy. Ashley watches over Zane’s goon’s shoulder as he gets on HideandGoChat, meets with a random person, and types in “I did it for the lulz” three times – all without a webcam, yet the screen clearly shows a video feed of his face. Wow. Smiley suddenly appears behind the goon’s chat partner and kills her. Ashley screams, but Zane and his goons laugh, both at her and at the kill. Yes. Because apparently going online and apparently killing people is…funny? Murder! Yay! Though Ashley’s husky but babyish scream did make me chuckle. Either that, or it was the silly, unrealistic situation. I find it strange that the chat room has a window showing this guy’s face, but his inexplicable webcam feed is clearly off. On. Off. I also love how Zane’s goon’s chat room window can show him looking at the screen even when he’s turned away. I’ve already mentioned how ungodly obvious it is that he doesn’t even have a webcam.

Proxy tells Ashley that no one knows if the Smiley business is actually real. Yeah, because you can’t tell if anything’s real if it’s on the Intermanet! Hell, I watched Chaos online without paying for it; maybe it wasn’t real and I can be happy again! Hell, maybe I’m not real! Aaaaaaaaah! After Proxy gives an overlong explanation of what “I did it for the lulz” means, Ashley and Proxy forget rather quickly that not only did Zane and his goons heckle Binder and kick him out of the party, but they just saw someone literally die at the hands of one of the goons. They stay at Zane’s and party all ding dong damn night, getting seriously drunk.

Can I complain about Caitlin Gerard’s acting now? Her performance is bad enough, but it’s bad on the same level as Harmon Stevens as Dr. Masterson in Mesa of Lost Women, Jan Claire as Ellie in Madman, and Amber Perkins in Megan is Missing. By this, I mean that it’s easy to tell that Caitlin Gerard simply is unable to overcome her excitement at being in a movie. She smiles way too often and seems like she’s always about to boil over with giddy exhilaration. Whenever that’s not happening, she’s clearly having a bad day, as she forgets to act and simply announces her lines. Le sigh.

Ashley wakes up after noon with a hell of a hangover. She looks at her alarm clock and realizes that she’s late for class. That is precisely why you do not go to a college party and get amazingly drunk on a school night. Way to freaking go. After running to class accompanied by a crappy pop song and getting there late, we meet Professor Clayton (Bart), who teaches some required class that deals with reason and ethics. Professor Clayton is particularly full of himself. Today’s class – what the hell is Tobuscus doing here? Come on. Nobody even knows who he is anymore. I barely knew who he was; he was a Youtuber. I only ever watched one of his videos; it was the one in which he played Slender. These classroom scenes in which the class talks about such subjects as the scientific method and Occam’s Razor serve no point; they’re clearly there to make the movie seem deeper than it actually is. All that happens is that Clayton keeps blabbering on and on about stuff that has nothing to do with the movie in a really dull monotone. He’ll occasionally go really quiet and then suddenly get really loud and then quiet again. Not only are these subjects and lectures too blunt to fit in with the rest of the movie, but they’re little more than dollar-store philosophy. Yeah, he took a philosophy class. Great. Move on.

After class, Ashley asks Clayton for all her assignments early. Clayton makes a joke about her cumming on to him. Oops, did I say “cumming”? That was an unintentional typo, but I left it there because it felt needed. Was Clayton actually joking or was he being serious about possibly having a hardon for Caitlin Gerard? I don’t care, because this effing character goes nowhere and does little else other than bore the hell out of the audience.

That night, back home, Proxy shows Ashley a “new” video (there was an old video?) of one of Zane’s goons getting killed by Smiley via infuriatingly loud jumpscare. Seriously, this is The Forest levels of badly designed jumpscares. I love how it was video taken from HideandGoChat, but it has sound. I particularly love how the timer suddenly jumps back to one second from twenty seconds when the Smiley jumpscare happens. Also, Smiley is also wearing a smiley mask with a pantyhose stocking over it. Come on, movie. You could clearly afford to show an actual face with a smiley carved into it on the effing cover. And apparently this video has gotten a ton of views in just twenty-four hours. Why in the hell is making Smiley kill someone so trendy? Obviously, the Internet’s a messed up place, but come on. Surely the Inteeneet has better things to do than focus on what are arguably snuff films. Ashley suggests calling the police, but Proxy condescendingly says that the police will think it’s dumb. Proxy, there is actual video evidence of a young man being murdered. Of course the police will take it seriously. It’s called video evidence. If there is actual suspicion of murder, the police can track down the IP address of the person who uploaded the video. Proxy mockingly and cartoonishly mimics what Ashley might say to the police, unintentionally pointing out just how moronic the basic premise of the film sounds when you read it out loud. Seriously, wow. Regardless, this is not an excuse to not report a murder or a suspected murder to the police. Mentioning that someone might be trying to recreate an urban legend could only ever help the situation. Ashley’s still wondering whether or not Smiley is actually real, and is way too easily comforted by Proxy’s insistence that Smiley isn’t. Despite Proxy’s skepticism, the two of them decide to try it out. Idiots. Why is Ashley at all willing to summon Smiley when there’s even the slightest risk that Smiley could actually be real? The two get on HideandGoChat. During this call, we as an audience learn that apparently Ashley and Proxy can throw their voices, because when the camera is pointed at the computer screen, more than once, we can hear them talking but not actually see their mouths moving on the video feed. Also, more than once, we can clearly see the entire chat log on the screen. The two choose an obvious pervert that 1) shows them (but not us) his penis, 2) asks them to show him their boobs, and 3) asks them to make out with each other. Of course. Proxy tells Ashley that apparently, you need to really want Smiley to kill the guy; you need to picture it in your head. After Proxy says that Ashley has to really want this to happen, Ashley does so, and types in “I did it for the lulz” three times. Because the best way to determine if Smiley is real is to try to summon him to kill someone. Seriously, movie, do you really expect the audience to give two sharts about your characters if you show them intentionally committing murder by proxy and actually wanting this to happen? Hell, they even explain to the poor lamb that this is the case. “Someone is suposed [sic] to come and kill you.” After a few seconds of confusion, Smiley appears via jumpcut with the knife already in the guy’s chest! Jumpscare! Screaming! I love how Proxy laughed at the killing at Zane’s party, but is screaming and freaking out when faced with this particular killing! Ashley starts freaking out, thinking she just killed someone. Yes, you did, Ashley. Whether or not you wanted the guy to die, it’s still at least manslaughter. Manslaughter is a serious crime. Ashley continues to freak out, saying that Smiley could know where they are. Ashley, Smiley has only seen you via video chat. Unless he can somehow figure out your IP address from this, which is unlikely, he’s not going to be able to find you. Proxy even say that finding their IP address via HideandGoChat is impossible, as the servers are anonymized. Ashley says that they should go to the police. Proxy claims that if they go to the police that there will be press, and that it will lead him straight to them. First off, if you report a murder, the police will have to keep you anonymous.  Second, Smiley can only be summoned through the Intraknot by typing “I did it for the lulz” three times. If you stay off of chat rooms forever, you will be okay. Ashley’s dad calls and they talk. Smiley is not mentioned. I’m amazed that Ashley lives in 2012 and doesn’t own an iPhone yet. She and her dad are still using flip phones. And I love how they can suddenly segue into a sentimental conversation where Ashley displays that she can’t cry on cue. Then Proxy appears as a jumpscare, and Ashley hangs up. The two decide to act like the incident never happened.

The next day, Ashley’s one college class (wow) talks about the scientific method. Ashley’s been drawing an exceptionally detailed picture of Smiley in her notebook that has obviously been pre-drawn by a better artist. I’m amazed that no one, not even her teacher, is noticing it. More BS about the scientific method versus ideology in general is heard before class ends. Ideology is the end of critical thinking? Which ideologies specifically? I love how this movie’s trying to use various scientific things that have little to nothing to do with what’s going on to attempt to make this movie seem deeper than it really is. And this scene is so boring. I particularly love how learning what a hypothesis is is college material.

Ashley goes to the library and searches for some certain books and is jumpscared by Binder. Stop trying to jumpscare us with stuff that isn’t even supposed to be scary! Ashley has the most aggravating grin ever. Ashley and Binder have a supposed-to-be deep conversation about Smiley, how he’s only real because people make him real, and that he’s all the evil on the Antarnat manifested into one being. Uh, if all the evil on the Intahnett manifested itself into one being, I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t be Smiley. Want proof? Go check out the Deep Web – actually, don’t check out the Deep Web. Seriously, don’t. Don’t do it. Just do some research about it. Don’t actually go on it. In the name of God or whatever deity(ies) you may or may not believe in and all that is holy and just and good and fair in this world, do not go on the Deep Web. It’s dangerous. Ashley seems really happy for having just killed someone last night. As Ashley and Binder talk, the more I realize that these two are going to hook up, the more I realize that they have zero chemistry, and the more I realize that Shane Dawson cannot act. They exchange numbers.

Ashley and Proxy go to another party that night. Ashley talks to Zane, whose goons do not understand the difference between obnoxious and drunk. The goon with the glasses makes a Truman Show reference, breaking the unspoken rule about not referring to a better movie in your crappy one. Zane pulls Ashley off to the side and acts like the video of his goon getting killed was totally serious because he summoned Smiley too and somehow knows that Ashley did it as well. Ashley vomits and decides to go home. Zane inexplicably not-so-subtly suggests sex, and Ashley leaves, but not before Zane suggests that Smiley comes for the people who call him.

As she drunkenly walks home, a guy standing creepily a ways off jumpscares her before revealing that he’s just some drunk partier and not Smiley. She continues walking before Smiley jumpscares her. She runs off and Smiley chases her. Her jeans change from light blue to dark blue to light blue in different shots. I found myself wishing that Smiley would just kill her so that the movie could be over. She gets back home, but JUMPSCARE, Smiley’s already there! He rips her shirt. He corners her in a hallway before grabbing her face, but she wakes up in her bed, realizing that it was all a … dream? All the while, she has the most babyish scream ever. Caitlin Gerard is terrible at being scared. Proxy comes in and mocks Ashley when she tells her about her nightmare, referencing Nightmare on Elm Street. Eff. Ashley’s shirt is still ripped, and Proxy mocks her for thinking that Smiley did it. Wait, Smiley comes for the people who call him? That’s not part of the urban legend!

The next day, Ashley goes to the college psychiatrist. She says that her mom committed suicide and that she was on lithium for a while afterward. And she lies about what’s really going on. The psychiatrist prescribes her Ativan. That’s all.

As she leaves the office, Proxy comes out and jumpscares her! Eff off, Smiley! Proxy tells her that there’s another dead person, and that they have to go to Zane’s because the dead person was another of his goons.

Zane is freaking out, waving around a gun with his finger on the trigger. PRACTICE PROPER GUN SAFETY. He might want to actually load his gun, because when he cocked the slide back, it locked before the film cut away, showing that the gun is unloaded. Zane reveals that he is a super hacker, because of course. Why would he tell them that? I don’t know. Zane tells them that his other goon is dead. The three talk about how Smiley is evil and that he’s hunting them. Gee, what if he’s just a Candyman wannabe?

Ashley goes home only to see that another her is already there, sitting at her computer. She walks up to it and turns it around, showing that the other her has a Smiley face. She wakes up in her bed, revealing that this was a nightmare. If you found that to be legitimately scary, then go jump off a freaking cliff.

The next day, the class talks about Occam’s Razor and the anthropic principle and that humanity is only another step towards creationary perfection – the Imtarmet. Comparisons to Skynet from Terminator and The Matrix are made. This is where the camerawork gets really awful, being ungodly shaky and failing at its closeups. Do they want us to focus on shoulders rather than faces? I know that this movie was low budget, but tripods are not expensive. More BS trying to make this movie seem deeper than it really is happens, and belief in God is mocked.

Ashley is in the library researching Smiley. She comes across a video of the girl from the beginning telling the Onturnut that she hasn’t heard from her babysitter in a while. Smiley sneaks up behind her, but changes into Binder when she turns around. Wow. Ashley tells Binder that she summoned Smiley and he killed someone. Binder implies that Smiley’s this amazing and powerful evil force and acts eerily apathetic to Ashley’s plight. This freaks Ashley out and she leaves. Binder looks as bored as he always does, and Shane Dawson looks so much like just another dude that hasn’t quite left the “angsty teenager” phase.

Ashley goes on HideandGoChat at home. She looks over her shoulders to make sure it’s safe to go on. Wow. And she just sifts through people until she finds Smiley. Which she does, conveniently enough for the film’s running time. Smiley taunts her, which is when I realized that he’d be pretty funny if he was a frowny emoticon instead of a smiley emoticon. Proxy jumpscares her by standing behind her and yelling at her.

PROXY: What are you doing?!

ME: What are you doing in her room? This is the third time you’ve been a jumpscare in this movie! Eff off!

Proxy leaves for another party. Ashley tries to call her dad. I’m not sure what happens, but a jumpscare happens and she drops her phone out the window.

The next day, Ashley goes back to see the psychiatrist. She fails at making herself cry. She admits that she lied about something, but she doesn’t specify what. She says that she doesn’t want to go crazy like her mom. Ashley, those who are actually going crazy insist that they’re not. The psychiatrist prescribes her a tranquilizer and schedules a psychiatric evaluation for the next day.

Ashley visits Clayton, who displays his nihilism and hatred of humanity. Yes, we get it. Evil is a byproduct of humanity. There’s nothing better you can do to accelerate planetary extinction than to start a family. Destroying ourselves is what we do. We’re just along for the ride. Everything’s going to end, but will it be with a bang or a whimper? Nothing really matters to meeeee. So why is he teaching a reason and ethics class? He even mentions that he’s fully aware of the phrase “I did it for the lulz”. And with that camera angle, I’m more than certain that this was intended to make us think that Clayton is Smiley. That still explains nothing of how Smiley works. This scene consists entirely of a pointless, allegedly deep conversation. Whereas Backgammon’s conversations were ungodly vague, Smiley’s conversations are the exact opposite. And that’s easily almost as bad.

Ashley is in the library typing up a paper when Smiley appears on her laptop. Well, looks like it’s time to get a damn good anti-malware program – smashing the laptop works too. She looks up to see a few students filming her. Ha. I can’t wait for Ashley smashing her laptop to go viral on YouTube. I actually made that same joke when I first watched this movie more than two years ago, but I was beyond shocked that it actually happens later.

Ashley goes home and washes her face in the bathroom, only to get jumpscared by Smiley being in the mirror but not actually being in the bathroom. I love how I can’t tell if Ashley’s screaming or about to laugh. Wow. She goes to sleep later, but she’s jumpscared by Smiley, who stabs her! Multiple Smileys come into her room and they rush her. She wakes up; it was all a dream. She sees her mom come in and comfort her, but it’s actually Smiley! She wakes up from her double nightmare and slams into Proxy’s face, giving Proxy a bloody nose. After a brief conversation, Ashley calls 911 about Smiley. Clearly she doesn’t know about the non-emergency line.

Cut to Ashley at the police station. What is Keith David doing here? Wasn’t Chain Letter bad enough? I really pity this guy, as he’s easily the best actor in the movie, and he’s really trying to make the most of his two scenes. Keith unintentionally points out how stupid this movie’s premise is. (That’s twice, Mister Gallagher. That takes a special level of incompetence.) But Keith David doesn’t believe Ashley! Oh no! But here’s the problem, Keith: you still have to investigate if someone reports a murder! A silly story doesn’t rule out there actually being a murderer! It’s illegal to report fake crimes because the police have to check into them! Not doing so is gross negligence! Keith points out that though there may be victims, there are no bodies. True, but that doesn’t discredit a murder report! There are still missing people! Keith says that Ashley doesn’t know who the missing people are. This is a murder report, goddammit. Someone who reports a murder does not have to know the victim’s name. Keith claims that it looks like there hasn’t even been a crime committed. Yes, but you still have to investigate. That’s why it’s illegal to report fake crimes! Keith says that Ashley’s Smiley report is the first one they’ve taken seriously enough to have their talk. Yeah, because Keith’s totes taking it seriously, like 4 real, even though they’ve had multiple Smiley murder reports. But still, Keith doesn’t care. This is beyond gross negligence. But Keith takes it up a notch: he shows Ashley the video taken of her smashing her laptop. And judging by the editing options above the video, it was the cops that uploaded the video in the first place. It’s gotten more than five million views since yesterday. WOW. Wait, how exactly did the filmer film that video in that short amount of time? It takes five to ten seconds to get your phone out of your pocket, another five to get the camera app up, and another five to switch to video mode and hit record. Ashley smashing her laptop would have been over by then.

In the car after leaving the police station, Ashley and Proxy mention that all the videos of Smiley have somehow been erased from the Entirnit. How? I don’t know!

Ashley somehow shapes up and is super happy when she goes to her psychiatric evaluation. Ashley’s wearing a top that shows that her breasts sag more than those of an old lady.

At home, Ashley has Binder over, having forgotten about how weird he was the other night. Binder gives Ashley his old laptop. It is “fully equipped” with a firewall, a 128-bit encryption and a 256-bit key. Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooookay. And then Ashley and Binder start making out, Ashley addressing Binder as “dungeon master” and Binder addressing Ashley as “princess”. Eww. One of the worst romances I’ve ever seen, and one that had advanced from acquaintances to borderline BDSM sex in four scenes. Is Ashley a closet freak? Just as making with the sexies enters their minds, Proxy comes in and tells the two that she’s going to her parents’ house for the weekend. Binder leaves. Proxy mentions Ashley addressing Binder as “dungeon master”, and mentions that she has a pair of handcuffs in her underwear drawer if she needs them. Eww.

That night, Proxy video chats with Ashley, who says that she can’t find Zane. At her parents’ place? Duh. Oh, so Proxy and Zane were going to blueball each other on video chat. Ashley suggests Smiley is responsible. Proxy offers to call the cops, but Ashley says that she’ll go over to Zane’s place herself. Because that’s smart. She goes over to Zane’s place. She finds an inexplicably placed flashlight and looks for Zane. But she finds “I did it for the lulz :)” written in blood on the wall. It’s as silly as it sounds. If you can take that seriously in the slightest, please check yourself in to the nearest insane asylum. She even finds Zane’s corpse and his gun. Smiley appears on Zane’s computer and waves to Ashley. She grabs the gun and runs off. She calls the cops, but it’s Keith David! And the call inexplicably disconnects!

KEITH: F-cking crackpots.

ME: Tell me about it, brutha.

Ashley gets back home. Proxy is still video chatting, and she tells Ashley to call 911. But Ashley refuses, telling Proxy to summon Smiley so she can kill him. And Proxy does so! Wow. Someone comes up to the door and opens it. Ashley fires off a shot and hits the person in the chest. She investigates and finds out that she accidentally shot Binder! Mmm, what’d you saaaayyy, mmm, that you only meant wellll, well of course you diiid… Ha! And Shane Dawson’s acting is terrible. I love how he’s not even trying to act like he’s struggling to breathe but is choking on blood, and none of it comes anywhere near convincing. Ha. I’m glad he’s dead. Ashley tries to comfort him, but Smiley appears and slices his throat! She runs up to her room and points the gun at the door. But Smiley’s already there! She tries to shoot him, but it turns out that the bullet that killed Binder was the only bullet in the gun! Why didn’t Ashley make sure it was loaded? Her bedroom door bursts in, revealing multiple Smileys! Oh no! Wait, what? She says “eff that noise” and jumps out her window! CGI glass flies everywhere without slicing Ashley up!! She slow-mo-falls to the ground and … dies? Uh, you jumped from a second story window. It’s easily possible to survive that! But all the blood says no. It’s so silly! Insert brief pretentious sequence of Clayton in his classroom talking about why humans commit evil acts.

Cut back to the night. The Smileys laugh over what happened to Ashley. One even says that he’s going to take a picture of himself with the corpse and post it on Instagram. Murder! Yay! The Smileys unmask to reveal themselves as Zane and his goons, and even the babysitter. It turns out that it was all a massive prank that even Proxy and Binder (who is alive somehow despite getting shot and his throat cut) were in on because they’re all disgusting crapheads. Yes – it was all a setup to get her to die. WHAT? Gee, I wonder if that’s going to go over well without negative consequence. Wait: the babysitter wandered around scared in the opening and heard about the urban legend from the girl she was babysitting. By the way, this little girl even posted a video about how she hadn’t heard from her babysitter since that night, meaning that these stupid pranksters abandoned not only their jobs, but their lives for this effing prank. They’re all ridiculous shartheads with the most amount of time for a prank ever, but to go out of their way to disappear off the map just in case someone might say something about it is beyond astounding. What about the whole HideandGoChat thing? It’s random who you talk to. There is no way that these stupid people could have effectively made this a part of the prank because they could never have known just what people would have been chosen to be subjected to the summoning of Smiley! Ashley even chose the person she killed and these moronic pranksters had no way of knowing who to kill! They even had no idea when exactly she would even be on HideandGoChat when she was searching for Smiley! That means that one of the pranksters had to be sitting there for days just in case Ashley might randomly get on HideandGoChat! And the fact that she did is even nonsensical! If the YouTube-video-uploading police were actually doing their jobs, the pranksters would all be getting arrested by now! Their stupid, ungodly convenient plan had to count on not only ungodly convenient circumstances, but they had to count on them happening in a nonsensical way, and somehow be able to predict Ashley’s every action, especially Binder’s “death”! He was rigged with a fake blood squib because the gun at Zane’s was loaded with a blank? What if Ashley hadn’t taken the gun? What if Ashley had gotten her hands on a real gun? What if she had used a knife? What if she had just let Binder walk right in? It would have been all that effing effort for nothing! What was their point? What were they even trying to do in the first place? What was their motivation? In what world would this prank go off without a hitch in? IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE! And the group is all happy and excited about having just caused a chick to kill herself. Wow. Murder! Yay!

And they call it – I kid you not – a win for Anonymous. Wait, WHAT? Because that’s totally what Anonymous does. Zane even says that Anonymous might not condone their actions, but Binder responds with

BINDER: F-ck those guys. They don’t get to say who’s Anonymous and who’s not. The troll army? They don’t have any command or control. They say we’re off message? No. F-ck them. They’re off message.

Oh, so they aren’t Anonymous, but they’re going to say they are for BS reasons? Because Anonymous would totally come up with a convoluted plan to prank a random chick into killing herself.

BINDER: Because there’s only one reason to troll. … For the lulz.

ALL: For the lulz!

It’s a battle cry. Wow.

Binder further explains the plan to the audience: because they pulled off this ungodly elaborate and unwieldy prank, they’ve immortalized Smiley as not just an urban legend, but similar to the Egyptian pyramids or the works of Shakespeare. Smiley’s the next “Chocolate Rain” (I’m not sure Tay Zonday’s a fan of referencing his video in a bottom-of-the-barrel horror movie.). Smiley will inspire a legion of copycats. He will be anyone, anywhere, at anytime. The first viral serial killer. He’ll be really popular this Halloween (needless to say, he wasn’t. Smiley was barely noticed when it came out).

The pranksters leave, and Zane video chats with Proxy, explaining that he has a boner right now. Huh. Proxy starts questioning why they did this prank to begin with. For the lulz? That’d be a great question to ask before you pull off this prank that you will undoubtedly end up in prison for. She asks if they’re bad people. Well, after devoting all this time to screwing with Ashley until she jumped out a window to her death, yes, you are a bad person. A really, really, really effing bad person. Go kill yourself. Well, Zane types in “I did it for the lulz” three times as a joke. But the real Smiley appears behind Proxy and kills her. Take notice, this is the real Smiley. I love how Zane covers his mouth in shock when the camera is on him, but still finds the situation funny when the camera is on the computer. Smiley waves to Zane and shuts the laptop. I didn’t know it was possible to drop the bar even lower than it already has been with a desperate, foolish double twist. And for those who are wondering: post-plot-twist, Smiley’s total body count is one. Ashley doesn’t count – she killed herself. For wanting to be the next slasher villain, Smiley (or the Smiley killers) is a pathetic villain.

Credits. And in a two-second after-credits sequence, Ashley wakes up, still alive. Ooooooooookay?

This is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. There’s a reason Michael Gallagher never made it past YouTube. Making the movie basically a collaboration of YouTubers that I’m not even subscribed to was a terrible idea. YouTube sketch videos are one thing, but movies are another. Thankfully, Smiley was barely noticed upon release. Though its viral YouTube trailer was viewed tens of millions of times, this was not reflected in its sales. I can’t even find out what its total box office intake was compared to its budget. I can’t even find what its budget was. My guess: the budget was a few hundred thousand bucks, a million at the most, with another few hundred thousand bucks spent on its viral marketing campaign. And it couldn’t even break even.

The movie started out with a mishmash of elements from Candyman and The Ring, and finished off, unfinished, with no loose ends wrapped up.

I’ve ripped plenty of movies apart for relying solely on cheap jumpscares rather than actual fear, so I’m not going to go into too much detail. But in the case of movies like The Haunting in Connecticut, which has plenty of cheap jumpscares, I can look past them if the movie still has a good story, likable characters, and still manages to elicit that sense of fear despite the jumpscares.  However, in the case of Smiley, not only is the story nonsensical and the characters unlikable, but any sense of fear is replaced by anticipation of the next jumpscare, all of which feel like getting jabbed with a stun gun.

I hated the poorly handled subplot of Ashley being mentally unstable, and that her runins with Smiley might just be her going crazy. It’s completely uninteresting, pointless, forced, and stupid. Here’s a few good horror movies that involve one or more characters going insane in a good way: Eraserhead. The Haunting. Repulsion. Last Shift. Oculus. The Babadook. Grave Encounters. The VVitch. Goodnight Mommy. Even non-horror movies handle mental instability well: Perfect Blue. Requiem for a Dream. A Scanner Darkly. Take Shelter.

The story itself is poor, even by YouTube sketch video standards. It’s nothing more than yet another teen horror flick that has flooded the market post-Scream. It’s an uninteresting, nonsensical script with forced tension shoehorned in at awkward moments, obvious twists, copious amounts of talk about chat rooms, hackers, and Occam’s Razor, and a sequel bait ending. There are no character arcs; the characters do not evolve. Ashley remains emotionally uneven and unstable. Proxy remains effervescent and annoying. Smiley, who gets so little screen time, is a blatant ripoff of Candyman. Though cyberspace is a spawning ground for depression and manic nihilism, the reason that Smiley is the manifestation of that and executes that attitude in such a silly, gimmicky way is never explained. The rest of the characters just sort of happen. The acting is worthless. The gore effects are awful. The characters’ actions were unrealistic. It wanted so desperately to be trendy. The dialogue is only negligibly better than Ashley saying, “I think I’m high on your marijuana”. Nothing in this movie stands the test of time when it was already ungodly dated well before it even came out. It wants to be a slasher, but it’s way too lightweight; the body count is minimal, and the scary sequences are few, far between, and ineptly handled. Most importantly, it wasn’t just not scary, but it was effing boring.

A horror movie should be made out of inspiration and a love of the genre, not out of a desperate, greedy attempt to capitalize on Internet memes. What Smiley has shown is that these moronic YouTubers have no grasp on what horror is, and have a serious lack of knowledge of how to movie.

You know what’s scarier than Smiley coming to get you?

Your wife/girlfriend or daughter discovering your porn addiction through your search engine history.

Final verdict: 0 out of 5 stars.

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Review 83: Hellraiser: Revelations (0/5)

Hellraiser – Revelations DVD Cover.jpg

Hellraiser: We Couldn’t Think of a Title so We Just Called It Revelations

Directed by Victor Garcia

Starring Steven Brand, Nick Eversman, Tracey Fairaway, Sebastien Roberts, Devon Sorvari, Sanny Van Heteren, Daniel Buran, Jay Gillespie, Stephan Smith Collins / Fred Tatasciore

Released on March 18, 2011

Running time: 1h 15m

Rated R

Genre: Horror

 

The original Hellraiser is one of the greatest horror movies ever made. You’ve already seen me gush about it in an earlier review. I gave it a perfect 5 out of 5.

But the franchise as a whole leaves a lot to be desired.

However, the second movie, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, was pretty good. It’s one of the rare horror sequels that has any thought to it whatsoever. It was great to see Kirsty’s story continue. It was great to see more of the Cenobites, learn more about them, and even spend much of the movie in their Hell. It was great to meet new and interesting characters, and even see a few faces from the first one. And for the most part, it matches the original’s mythology, though it was markedly different in tone and scope. Though it wasn’t quite as amazing as the first, it was still damn good, and I’d give it either a 4 or a 4.5 out of 5.

Unfortunately, the third one, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, is where the franchise starts to suck. This is where the character of Pinhead the Hell Priest became radically different, becoming a slasher villain. He loses his morals (if you could call them that). Gone is everything that made him an interesting and legitimately scary character. And get a load of Camera-Head Cenobite, CD-Head Cenobite, Fire-Breathing Cenobite, Smoker Cenobite That Has the Ability to Dream, and their puns. Screw that noise. I’d give Hellraiser III a 1 out of 5, because it’s not entirely awful.

Hellraiser IV: Bloodline gives us the Hell Priest iiiiiiiiin spaaaaaaaaaaaace! This one is too short for its own good, and is extremely light on character and plot as it tries to tell three stories in eighty-five minutes. The only pro of this one is that we get to go back into the past and see the origins of the Lament Configuration, and its creation by Philip Lemarchand. But even that story doesn’t work, and the film overall is a total mess. I’d give it a .5 or a 1 out of 5.

Starting with Hellraiser: Inferno, the rest of the franchise’s installments were all released direct-to-video. I’m amazed that Hellraiser III and IV were actual theatrical releases. Well, so was Norm of the North. I’ll get to that garbage in December or January. I should also say that the scripts of Hellraiser V-VIII were not originally intended to be Hellraiser movies, but the studios demanded that they be the next installments in the franchise.

At least they started off well, because Hellraiser: Inferno is freaking fantastic. While it was never intended to be a Hellraiser movie, it actually works very well as one. While Hellraiser and Hellbound focused mostly on the physical and sexual torture that the Cenobites would inflict, Inferno focused on an entirely new aspect: psychological torture. Add to that an increasingly disturbing story, an ever-evolving main character, pretty good acting, and you have yourself a damn good movie. I’d give this one a 4.5 if not a perfect 5 out of 5. This was the directorial debut of Scott Derrickson, who would go on to direct the decent The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the underwhelming and needlessly environmentalist remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, the fantastic and terrifying Sinister, and the underrated Deliver Us from Evil, and he’s even directing the upcoming Doctor Strange.

The next sequel was Hellraiser: Hellseeker. This is the first of three Hellraiser movies to be directed by Rick Bota. And this one really wants to be Inferno, but doesn’t exactly understand what made Inferno so good. It really does not work, and is really forgettable. I’d give it a 1.5 out of 5.

The next of Rick Bota’s films was Hellraiser: Deader. Now that Bota wasn’t trying to redo Inferno, he had free reign with Deader. And this one’s pretty okay. The ideas are interesting and the story is decently told, but it really should not have been a Hellraiser movie. I’d give this one a 2.5 out of 5.

The last of Bota’s films was Hellraiser: Hellworld. I don’t know what Bota was thinking with this one’s idea: making an online game based on the Hellraiser series (even though barely any gameplay is shown), throwing a party among the players, and summoning the Hell Priest (his name is not Pinhead, Clive Barker said so) through the game to kill the partiers. LAME. This is one of the earliest roles of Henry Cavill, making his death in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that much sweeter. Hellworld gets a .5 out of 5. It is the worst of the series.

At least, I thought it was.

Then came Hellraiser: Revelations. Upon its release in 2011, there were three major things that made me think, This has bad written all over it. First, it was made solely so that Dimension Films and the Weinstein Company could keep the rights to the franchise from reverting back to Clive Barker because a Hellraiser remake was in development hell. Second, upon learning of the ungodly short turnaround time and his miniscule paycheck, Doug Bradley, who has played the Hell Priest (not Pinhead) since the franchise’s beginning, declined to reprise his iconic role. Third, and most important, Clive Barker hated the film. He condemned it, saying, “I want to put on the record that the flic [sic] out there using the word Hellraiser IS NO F-CKIN’ CHILD OF MINE! I have NOTHING to do with the f-ckin’ thing. If they claim its [sic] from the mind of Clive Barker, it’s a lie. It’s not even from my butt-hole.” That’s bad press if ever I saw it. Wow. So obviously, I had to see it. I found it on Netflix. And I watched it.

And it was a slap in the face to me as a Hellraiser fanboy, because I love the original Hellraiser. And even if you didn’t see the original, you cannot deny that Revelations is a terrible effing movie. And those who actually saw the original will realize that this is a slapped-together, slipshod retread of the original.

The film begins with two guys named Nico Bradley and Steven Craven (GET IT?!) filming themselves as they drive to Tijuana to get away from their families. Get used to found-footage BS on a crappy camera – it takes up about thirty percent of the movie. Well, we only get five minutes of it at the beginning, but we get more sections of it later in the movie. But seriously, is this found-footage, or just awful camerawork? What’s even the difference? And these first five minutes are filled with cringey dialogue, cringey acting, and vomit-inducing camerawork. DO THESE FILMMAKERS EVEN KNOW HOW TO MOVIE?! Insert a ten-second shot of Nico and Steven freaking out after their car gets jacked. Then cut to Steven filming Nico, who is surrounded by candles and trying to open the Lament Configuration. WHERE THE EFF DID THEY GET THAT? Worse, this time around, the box looks more like a prop than the actual puzzle box. Even the original Hellraiser got that right. From here on out, I will call it the Prop Box. Nico opens the Prop Box, which emits a terribly CGId blue glow. Rather than show a creepy shot of blue light coming through the walls, just show a blue glow because the movie’s budget was only three hundred grand. Steven turns the camera and suddenly sees – THAT’S NOT THE HELL PRIEST! Seriously, who the hell are these filmmakers trying to fool? That is not the Hell Priest! Also, YOU ACTUALLY CAUGHT HIM ON CAMERA?! This Hell Priest is awful. The makeup is all wrong, and the costume has clearly been bought from a Halloween store, both contributing to making the goofy-looking Hell Priest look like he’s been eating way too many human steaks. Steven and Nico freak out as the actual moviemaking camera pulls back from the viewscreen on a camcorder.

The camcorder is being held by Steven’s mother, who is sitting in Steven’s room watching the footage sometime after Steven and Nico’s disappearance. HOW WAS THAT CAMERA RECOVERED? HOW WAS THE FOOTAGE NOT DELETED OR CORRUPTED? But now, as I moved into the actual movie, I found myself unable to tell the difference between the found-footage and the actual professional camerawork, because it is awful. I’ve seen student films shot on standard-def camcorders that look better than this and are significantly less shaky. Seriously, when your camerawork is as bad as a really bad found-footage movie, you need to get a better cameraman. Tripods are not expensive. You can get one for as cheap as fifteen bucks.

The families of Steven and Nico meet every year after the two’s disappearance. They engage in unnatural exchanges, bad acting that mistakes awkward yelling for showing emotion, and letting the teenage boys in the audience ogle over Steven’s sister Emma’s body in a revealing top that shows a crap ton of cleavage. Oh, and toss in the occasional brief shot of the Hell Priest grimacing and looking around while standing in his domain. Oh, and the Chatterer is female this time.

About five minutes after the change into the actual movie, Emma takes the camcorder into Steven’s room and watches the footage for herself. The footage we see is of Steven and Nico getting blasted drunk and attempting to pick up a chick who doesn’t speak English. AND THIS SCENE IS SO AGGRAVATING! Convincingly obnoxious does not equal convincingly drunk. I mean, wow. The acting in this scene is so freaking bad. Plus, I have no idea why this chick doesn’t run off at the sign of two dumbass American boys who oh so obviously want to screw her to their hearts’ content. In fact, they do. Yes; Nico somehow convinces the Mexican puta to have sex with him in a dirty, empty restroom. I’m amazed that none of caught an STD from screwing in that dirty of a bathroom. In the real world, Emma is unconvincingly shocked at this. Apparently Nico was her boyfriend, and it hurts Emma to see him being unfaithful. I put that in italics because it wasn’t exactly conveyed very well through acting. Ha – she can’t make herself cry on cue. Come on; even I can do that (kind of – it takes me a minute). Emma reaches into the bag in which Steven’s camera was recovered in, and pulls out the Prop Box. WHAT?! WHERE THE EFF DID THE AUTHORITIES GET THAT?! Though in the original Hellraiser, how Frank got the box when he escaped the Cenobites was never explained either.

Insert a random shot of the Hell Priest standing in his domain, grimacing. Gotta give him screentime somehow; dis is uh Helrayzurr moovee!

Out in the living room, the two families discuss the circumstances of the disappearances of Steven and Nico. These four adults are easily the best actors in the movie, though that’s not saying much.

Emma goes outside and solves the Prop Box. WHAT?! DID SHE SEE THE FOOTAGE OF NICO SOLVING THE PROP BOX AND SUMMONING THE HELL PRIEST?! YOU MORON! And then Steven appears out of nowhere. WHAT?! WHERE DID HE COME FROM?! Emma brings Steven inside, where both families are happy to see him but are horrified at his mental instability. Emma goes to dial 911, but when she dials, she only presses a single digit. MORON. But the phones don’t work. How convenient. There’s no cell signal. How convenient. And when Nico’s dad goes outside to bring his car to the entrance to take Steven to the hospital, he discovers that all of the cars are gone. How effing convenient. Steven’s dad goes to get his gun, and apparently Steven’s mom is initially shocked that Steven’s dad would dare to have a gun. Well, as far as I can tell, this movie is set in southern California, which is little more than a liberal hellhole, so I am also surprised that Steven’s dad owns a gun. Seriously, the inordinate number of legal hoops you have to jump through to get a gun in California is ridiculous. But seriously, regardless of where you live in the United States, I urge you to buy at least one gun.

Insert another shot of the Hell Priest in his domain. But this time, he’s putting nails into another Cenobite’s head. Wait, so there are TWO HELL PRIESTS NOW?! Fine – I’ll call the new Hell Priest Pinhead.

The family begins thinking that they are under siege. Emma has no idea what’s happening, even though she’s seen the footage of Nico opening the Prop Box and summoning the Hell Priest. She should know that opening the Prop Box summons the Cenobites. Steven disappears, but the group finds him outside, where he attemptedly ominously tells the families that the Cenobites are coming. I love how the acting from everyone else doesn’t deviate from “slightly concerned” or “bored”.

Cut back to Steven and Nico pre-disappearance, though thankfully we are not dealing with any found footage. The Mexican puta is dead, having hit her head on the toilet hard enough to kill her, according to Nico. Steven is troubled over the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the puta, though Nico keeps attempting to defuse Steven’s attitude. Some vagrant comes up to them, looking suspiciously like the vagrant from the original Hellraiser, and offers them the Prop Box, telling them of the pleasures within. How did this vagrant come across the Prop Box, let alone learn all about what’s inside? The vagrant starts rambling, and within a few seconds, he’s not even talking about the Prop Box anymore. Nico asks how much the vagrant wants for the Prop Box, but the vagrant says

VAGRANT: It’s yours, Nico. It always was.

ME: AAAAAAGGGGGGHHH! *slams keyboard on desk*

This vagrant’s performance is terrible. He speaks in a fake gravelly voice, trying to use his presence and demeanor to disturb, but comes across as silly and almost funny.

Cut to Nico and Steven in the scene in which Nico opens the Prop Box. But this time, the footage (it constantly cuts between camcorder and professional footage) is extended. Nico tells Steven to film him opening the Prop Box, but Steven refuses. After a bit of pushing, Steven agrees. Jeez, you could tell him he was a grilled cheese sandwich and he’d probably believe it. Anyway, hooked chains reach out and snag Nico. And the movie sees fit to cut away as the chains whoosh through the air, and cut back once the chains are already hooked into flesh. Oh my gosh, could this movie not figure out how to do the “chains whooshing through the air effect”? Clive Barker did that in the original Hellraiser…in 1987!

After the Hell Priest takes Nico, Steven is spared. Depressed, he walks down an alley that’s an obvious set and picks up an inexplicably Asian puta. While they make with the sexies in a hotel room, Steven hears Nico’s voice in his head, telling him to kill the puta. Steven does so, using the Prop Box (HOW DOES HE STILL HAVE THAT) as a bludgeoning implement. Out of the pool of blood climbs a skinless Nico, whose skinless effects cannot hope to match the ones in the original Hellraiser.

NICO: Steven! The blood brought me back! Bring me more.

ME: AAAAAAAGGGGGGGHH! *slams head against wall*

First, that’s not where Nico was taken. You can’t just spill blood anywhere and expect someone held captive by the Cenobites to just show up. The reason that Larry’s spilt blood brought Frank back in the original Hellraiser is because that’s where Frank was taken.

Second, the return of Frank was accompanied by one of the best displays of practical effects in history. In Revelations, the skinless Nico rises out of the pool of blood. To be fair, Julia’s return in Hellbound was the same.

Third, Nico’s explanation for his return is the most blunt, banal thing ever.

Fourth, Nico telling Steven to bring him more blood is again like the original Hellraiser, with Steven now killing people for Nico like Julia did for Frank, albeit without any of the emotional reasons and without Clare Higgins’s brilliant acting.

It’s as if the only research on Hellraiser was the plot on its Wikipedia page.

Cut back to the two families, where Steven again tells them that the Cenobites are coming. Steven is taken to his bedroom to rest. In the kitchen, Emma talks to Nico’s dad. But then this happens: Emma bites her lip in a sexual manner. She starts breathing heavily and speaking in a sultry manner. She also starts rubbing the circle on the Prop Box in a sexual manner (she’s fingering its circle!). Uh, Emma? What are you doing? Uh, are you secretly sexually attracted to Nico’s dad? This is incredibly awkward, considering that Nico is Emma’s boyfriend. This continues for about a minute before Emma’s mother asks her to carry a bowl of soup to Steven. Emma takes the soup and walks away, touching Nico’s dad’s shoulder as she goes. Dude, I’ve seen the scene in Sleepaway Camp in which Meg (a teen) seduces Mel (a man in his fifties), and yet this scene in Revelations made me go “EEEEWWW!” And then the movie sees fit to top that scene! Emma goes into Steven’s room and sits down on his bed. She gives Steven his soup, which he is unable to finish. He offers the rest to Emma. She takes a few sips and puts the bowl down. Steven notices that she has a bit of soup still on her lip, wipes it away with his finger, puts his finger in his mouth, and sucks off the drop of soup. And then, as if the scene couldn’t get any more uncomfortable, Steven and Emma start making out. Full-on making out, tonguing included. Steven even slips his hand under Emma’s dress and cups her boob. Oh! Oh, ew ew ew ew ew! No! No! No no no no no! Stop it! That’s disgusting! You two are siblings! That’s so effing gross! Stop! EWW! Dude, I’ve seen the bj scene in The Human Centipede 3, and yet this scene in Revelations made me go “EEEEEEWWWW!” Seriously, WHAT THE EFF IS GOING ON?! Just as incestuous making with the sexies might actually become a possibility, Emma stops herself and awkwardly leaves the room. Thank God.

The affair between Frank and Julia was not only important to the plot, but was handled in a tasteful manner. Plus, they were two actual thirtysomething adults. Steven and Emma are probably in their late teens, considering that Steven is older than Emma and he still lives with his family. Worse, this incestuous scene has no bearing on the plot whatsoever, making this scene…entirely pointless.

The vagrant shows up skulking around the outside of the house. Steven and Nico’s dads go outside with the gun to confront him. Nico’s dad takes the gun from Steven’s dad and blows the vagrant away, much to Steven’s dad’s protest. But the vagrant gets up and, with a knife that looks like it came out of the Hell Priest’s domain, cuts off a big chunk of Nico’s dad’s face. I don’t remember if Nico’s dad dies or not, as I can’t be bothered to do so. Back inside, Steven inexplicably goes ballistic, taking the gun and waving it around, threatening his family, SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF HIS LUUUUUUUUNGS! His attempts at “showing emotion” by screaming are the exact opposite of intimidating, and are either slightly funny or painfully dull. This actor is trying so hard to evoke trigger-happy psychosis, waving around the gun in his hand as the women of the family weep uncontrollably, but he’s about as threatening as a slice of plain, unbuttered wheat toast. It is one of the most embarrassing showcases of crappy acting I have ever seen, and it goes on for minutes. He starts being a whiny baby about how he hated his home life and hated his parents and hated living in a prosperous family that he refers to as hicks, gloating about how Nico took Emma’s virginity (as if she ever actually had any to begin with), and even pointing out that his dad and Nico’s mom had an affair. Oh, a subplot about cheating amongst the parents. Oooooooooh. Steven even shoots his dad in the stomach. And his dad somehow manages to remain coherent, despite the fact that he should be choking on blood right now. But hey, The Matrix Revolutions did the same thing with the death of Trinity, except with impalement instead of a gunshot.

Steven explains more of what happened in Tijuana. He killed two more putas for Nico to regenerate. The next time he’s ready to kill another puta, he chickens out when he learns that this puta has a baby. After Steven puts on the Chicken Hat from Metal Gear Solid V, Nico does the killing himself, choking the puta to death. But this choking is not realistic – when you’re getting choked, you cannot breathe or make any guttural sounds, you stupid puta. And oh, how edgy – Nico even kills the baby. Back at Steven’s hotel room, Steven refuses to continue helping Nico. Nico responds by saying that he only needs a skin, and takes out his switchblade (like Frank. *slams head against wall*). After skinning Steven, he leaves, leaving the Prop Box for a still-alive Steven. THEN HOW DID THE PROPER AUTHORITIES FIND THE BOX AND RETURN IT TO STEVEN’S FAMILY ALONG WITH THE CAMCORDER?!

So, if you didn’t catch on to the twist, Steven in the present is actually Nico wearing Steven’s skin. It was about now that I noticed that I was starting to nod off. This movie is so lethargic. So Nico forces Emma to open the Prop Box at gunpoint. She does so, summoning the Cenobites, which includes the female Chatterer (eff) and Steven, who was the guy that the Hell Priest was making into a Pinhead. Nico is restrained by the hooked chains. The Hell Priest, seeing that Emma opened the box, prepares to take her, taunting her with innuendo. Nico’s mom says that Nico forced Emma to open the box, but the Hell Priest, completely breaking his own rules, kills Nico’s mom outright with two hooks that rip the skin off her trachea. Steven’s dad, still somehow coherent, grabs the gun and shoots Nico. Nico thanks Steven’s dad as he dies. The Hell Priest berates Steven’s dad, telling him that Nico suffering in the Cenobites’ realm would have been revenge enough, and that he now owes them a soul. The Cenobites take Steven’s mom and leave, leaving Emma alone with her dad, who dies. Emma, seeing the Prop Box still there, reaches toward it. Oh, so she’s going for the Prop Box now? What exactly do you think you can do with it, Emma? It’s not as if you will be able to rescue your mother. In fact, the most likely outcome will be you at the mercy of the Cenobites and being forced to endure an eternity of torture. Emma takes the box and – DON’T LOOK AT THE CAMERA!

And then, credits. Uh … is that supposed to be a cliffhanger? And the movie ends at a criminally short seventy-five minutes. Wow.

Let’s face it – even Clive Barker has produced some stinkers. Transmutations, RawHead Rex, The Plague, and Saint Sinner come to mind, and, personally, Candyman wasn’t my thing. But when even Clive Barker condemns a Hellraiser movie, you know it sucks.

This film is dead on arrival.

It’s one thing if a filmmaker makes a bad film with honest intentions. Tommy Wiseau made The Room out of his passion to tell his story about the consequences of infidelity. Ed Wood himself made Glen or Glenda to plead for the acceptance of transvestites in the 1950s, and later made Plan 9 from Outer Space to urge the people of Earth to stop the nuclear arms race before we ended up without a planet to live on. The fact that these messages in all three of these movies were lost in the unintentional comedy and sheer ineptitude is beside the point, because we know that Wiseau and Wood had more in mind than money, and I respect them for that. However, in the case of the makers of Hellraiser: Revelations, the polar opposite was the case. This film was made purely and completely out of greed, and it shows.

To cut this movie slack because of its low budget does not work. Clive Barker directed the original Hellraiser having only a one million dollar budget, and he made a goddamn masterpiece that is to this day considered an essential staple in the horror genre. It comes down to talent, both in front of and behind the camera.

When the first draft of a screenplay is written, its author will read through it and see a ton of mistakes that need to be corrected. Characters and their actions may need to be modified. Sequences of events may not make sense. Yet none of this seemed to occur to the screenwriters of Revelations; one of the co-writers was the director.

I haven’t seen any of these actors before; the low budget keeps this film from hiring any actors with actual talent. And all of them suck. Every emotion is forced, and the results are either unintentionally comedic or obnoxious and aggravating. Steven and Nico’s performances are as believable as me trying to pass myself off as a Mormon (even though I actually am). Emma was entirely there to pout her lips and show her cleavage. They cannot act. I have no idea how they passed any sort of audition process.

Victor Garcia directed this movie. His shot choices are so bland and so boring that the film looks worse than a student film. I’ve seen plenty of student films that were shot on student-issue camcorders that look not only better than this, but actually look damn impressive for student films. And any film, whether theatrical, direct-to-video, or made-for-TV, should at least look better than a student film. There are too many facial closeups. I already mentioned the shaky cam, but I did not scream about I nearly enough, because there’s shaky cam here, shaky cam there, shaky cam everyeffingwhere! The cinematographer for this was David Armstrong, who recently proved himself a decent director of photography on almost every Saw film, as well as plenty of other films. But here, the shots are poorly lit and look very slapdash and clumsy. It’s almost as if Armstrong either didn’t have time to strategically set up each shot because of the ungodly short shooting schedule, or he really didn’t feel motivated to do his job and just wanted his paycheck. I completely understand.

I can only describe the special effects as penny-pinching. The gore is all phoned in, and the prosthetics are made obvious whenever flesh is ripped away. Considering just how grisly the first film was, Revelations is outdone by a mile by Saw, which isn’t anywhere near as violent as the first Hellraiser. The few CGI effects in the film look facepalmingly cheap.

Revelations can even warp time and space. Though it’s only a criminally short seventy-five minutes, it feels like five hours. It can also serve as a sedative, as I almost fell asleep while watching.

Even the set design is ungodly bland. The sets in the Cenobite realm haven’t been updated since the original. It’s still just swinging chains and swiveling pillars lit with blue light. It worked in the original film due to the fact that we hadn’t seen anything like it before, and the fact that Clive Barker’s cameraman shot the scenes in the Cenobite realm brilliantly. But that was done in 1987 on a one million dollar budget. That is tiny; and for Revelations to not even try to update the look is just silly and cheap. Worse, the Cenobite realm in Revelations looks like a tiny, cramped studio apartment rather than what would eventually become a labyrinthine Hell limited only by imagination in Hellbound.

The plot overall is a lazy, slapped-together retread of the original film disguised as just another sloppily made insta-sequel. It’s different enough so as to fall under fair use, but that does not make it any less ridiculous. It took the basic plot of the original film and shoehorned it into a drama about two dysfunctional families. It’s as if the only research done on the original’s plot was on the Wikipedia page. Revelations is a slap in the face to fans of the franchise, who have remained by its side as the sequels continued to get worse following Hellbound. Beginning with the third film, the franchise plummeted toward rock bottom quickly, though Inferno was damn good. Revelations, however, is not only the worst of the bunch, but it clearly fails miserably at replicating the formula of the original. Gone is the legitimately unique experience. Gone is its intelligent take on moral and emotional complexities. Gone are its themes of treachery, deception, blind love, situations better left alone, the darkest parts of the human psyche, and pure, reckless desire. Gone is the sick and remorseless attitude and its refusal to pander. Gone is the purely character-focused story. Gone are the expertly crafted characters. Gone are the Cenobites’ cryptic nature, the rules that they live by, and their metaphorical representation as the end result of blind desire and ambition gone wrong. Gone is the structured, reasonable, and restrained violence and gore. Gone are some of the greatest practical effects I’ve ever seen. Gone are the creative, inspired costumes and makeup. Gone is the well-written dialogue and its convincing delivery by fantastic actors. Gone is the outstanding, eerily beautiful, atmospheric cinematography and sound, its dark feel, soft focus, slightly washed out look, and its use of sensual and nightmarish imagery. Gone is Christopher Young’s fantastic soundtrack. Everything that made the original a goddamn masterpiece is gone. Even Lemarchand’s iconic Lament Configuration.

Even the Hell Priest himself. Doug Bradley was right to bail while he still could. His replacement is Stephan Smith Collins, with voicework by Fred Tatasciore. And I honestly feel sorry for these two. Tatasciore is a pretty talented voice actor. I’ve seen him in a lot of stuff. But regardless of his acting ability, he does unbelievably poorly in this movie. He is so dull and lifeless. Gone is Doug Bradley’s booming voice that has been in the franchise since the beginning. Now, he sounds the European-accented love child of Don LaFontaine and Raiden from Mortal Kombat. It hurts to listen to. But I can’t blame Tatasciore – the script gives him nothing to work with. It doesn’t help that the Hell Priest is barely in the film, his screentime amounting to two or three minutes. Tatasciore was brought in to give the Hell Priest an intensity that Collins clearly lacked. Though hearing Tatasciore’s voice rather than Collins’s voice is arguably a plus, just how much of a consolation it is is negligible. It’s not like he could have made the film palatable singlehandedly anyway. But Collins is awful too. This poor bastard is in over his head trying to live up to Doug Bradley’s gravitas as the Hell Priest in every possible way. He’s clearly trying, but he’s fighting a losing battle. Much like Jackie Earle Haley replacing Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street and Andrew Bryniarski replacing Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface in the remake of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the viewers will inevitably compare and contrast the new with the old. The producers sneakily tried to reduce Collins’s role in the film to prevent these comparisons, but they failed miserably. They even put black contacts in his eyes to try to make him look more threatening. He clearly doesn’t look the part. With his head shape, he looks like a professional wrestler. His body language cannot hope to mimic any of Doug Bradley’s. He lacks everything that made Bradley so iconic. He clearly looks like he had no rehearsal or prep time, and is being quietly, timidly told what to do by the director offscreen. The new makeup for Collins’s head doesn’t work at all. There’s too much shadow work around his nails and his cut-grid on his head, making him look ungodly goofy when compared to the stark white makeup of the past films. I could forgive that if Collins’s and Tatasciore’s performances were good, but they aren’t. The Cenobites in general are poorly designed, as their makeup is awful and their costumes look like they were bought at a Halloween store.

The Hell Priest was once one of the most feared villains of the horror genre. He took the ultimate pleasure in torturing others and making people’s lives hell. But he now stands there in his poorly constructed realm making duck-faced looks. I’m so sorry that this happened to him.

The inevitable remake is still going to happen eventually, but after this abomination, continuing with the remake is not a wise choice. Lay the Hell Priest to rest, and let the franchise die quietly.

But the remake is taking too long to be made, and Dimension Films and the Weinstein Company are almost out of time. The rights to the Hellraiser franchise will soon be reverting back to Clive Barker.

And because of this, believe it or not, next year, there’s going to be another sequel. And Hellraiser: Judgement is being made for the same reasons that Revelations was.

MOTHERFU-

Final verdict: 0 out of 5 stars.

Some Underrated Horror Gems to Check Out this Halloween

Eraserhead

David Lynch is one of my personal favorite directors, and this is his directorial debut. It is one of the most frightening and disturbing films I have ever seen. Surrealism is his forte, and that is the most prominent feature of this film. It is a steady increase in ever more creepy imagery. It takes elements such as black humor, erotic imagery, filming in black and white that actually looks and sounds like a black and white movie from the fifties, and oddly convincing acting and presents them in such an unprecedented way. The film as a whole is a genuinely unique experience. It’s only fitting that both Eraserhead and Lynch’s next film, The Elephant Man, would be near the top of my top ten favorite movies. (5/5)

HellraiserHellbound: Hellraiser 2, and Hellraiser: Inferno

Yes, yes, you’ve already seen me gush about how amazing the original Hellraiser is, and how much of a visionary Clive Barker is. And the second one is pretty good too. It’s great to see Kirsty’s story continue, we get to see the Cenobites again and learn more about who they are, we get introduced to new and interesting characters, we even get a look at the Hell the Cenobites come from, and Christopher Young ups the ante on the soundtrack. But Hellraiser: Inferno is not only either as good or almost as good as the original, but it explores an entirely new set of themes that the original didn’t. Its director, Scott Derrickson, went on to direct the decent The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the fantastic and terrifying Sinister, and the underrated Deliver Us from Evil, and he’s even going to be directing Doctor Strange. Check out only these three Hellraiser movies though, as the rest suck. (5/5, 4.5/5, 4.5 or 5/5)

Bug

From William Friedkin, who directed The Exorcist, comes one of the most unbearably intense films I have ever seen. Seriously, I was almost shaking as I sat on my bed and watched this. This film is one of the best showcases of schizophrenia and paranoia I have ever seen. I love how Ashley Judd’s instability and need for something to believe is so swiftly dominated by Michael Shannon’s talk of governmental conspiracies and experimentation. The way Shannon talks makes it sound almost legitimate. He is just so convincing when he talks about being experimented on by the government and having had bugs implanted under his skin. I scared myself when I realized I was almost believing him. I scared myself even more when I realized that the movie wasn’t going to tell me whether or not he was actually correct. And what makes Shannon such a creepy character is that he believes wholeheartedly that he is the picture of sanity. To see him dominate Judd’s fragile mindset and bring her down to his level is terrifying. The last twenty minutes of this movie is palpably intense, and by the time the movie is over, you are not only exhausted, but feeling a little less sane. This movie not only gets under your skin, but you only realize it when it’s finally brought to your attention. This is one of the darkest and bleakest movies I have ever seen, but it’s absolutely fascinating. Judd and Shannon act so beautifully that they achieve this maniacal intensity as they work off each other, and you believe that these two are absolutely insane. Oh, and there’s that one scene; you can shoot people, decapitate them, dismember them, or disembowel them, but when you start messing with their teeth, audiences scream and squirm. This movie is absolutely fantastic. If I had to point out a flaw, it’s that I wish that the movie had gone a little farther into the truly depraved depths of insanity in its purest form, and that the camerawork was a little better in the first act. Other than that, I cannot recommend this movie enough. You will be shaking in your seat by the time this movie is over. Not “you might” but “you will“. (5/5)

Sinister

Back to Scott Derrickson. I may as well mention Sinister. This movie breathed new life into the boogeyman in one of his most terrifying incarnations ever. The character of Bagul/Bughuul (I’ve seen it spelled both ways) is absolutely terrifying. I love that even when he’s not onscreen, you feel his presence. I love just how evil he is in manipulating children to kill their families. This is who I look to as a fantastic example of a truly evil supernatural being as a horror villain. I love how the film relied almost entirely on atmosphere and was absolutely dripping with it. I love how it let the suspense build itself. I loved how the few jumpscares were not only not fake, but they were deliberately placed, added to the tension, and, above all, they were earned. The lawnmower scene is one of the best executed and most shocking jumpscares in horror history, being up there with the nurse station head chopper from Exorcist 3. I love how the characters felt like a real family that I could actually care about and feel genuine fear for. I love that Deputy So-and-So was not comic relief like I was expecting him to be; rather, he was smart but starstruck, and even outsmarted the main character. I love how the majority of decisions in he movie were not the typical stupid ones you see in everyday horror flicks. I love how much of the film focuses on darkness and black space, and the actual lighting is impeccable. I love its refusal to use CGI. I love the claustrophobic feel. I love how it starts out as a crime drama and transitions beautifully into a supernatural horror film. I love all the hints the movie drops that you’ll only pick up on if you watch the movie more than once. I love how they constructed the scene in which the ghost kids chase the main character through the house. Christopher Young strikes again with his fantastic and terrifying soundtrack. No cheap jumpscares. No comic relief. No stupid decisions. No happy ending. It’s easily one of the best and most terrifying films in recent years. I’m just sad that it ends on a jumpscare. Go see it. (5/5)

Perfect Blue

This is one of my personal favorite animated films. Rarely have I ever seen loss of innocence and a descent into madness portrayed as well as in Perfect Blue. Our main character is likable and interesting, the story is engaging and intense, and the animation is fantastic. Suspense of disbelief is nowhere to be found here. It’s confusing, but the confusion actually makes the film better. It shares similarities with Italian giallo films, in particular having a very Dario Argento feel. The similarities to Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal PlumageSuspiriaDeep Red, and Opera are prevalent. This movie inspired such films as Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan. Check it out. (5/5)

The Woman in Black (2012)

When it comes to Daniel Radcliffe, comparing Harry Potter to Arthur Kipps is like comparing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to The Exorcist. The guy has some serious acting chops. He does splendidly playing a single father going through hard times. And the movie relies so heavily on Radcliffe’s performance. It’s great to see him, as well as the great Ciaran Hinds, in a horror movie, and a damn good horror movie at that. This movie is scary. Actually scary. Yes, there are jumpscares, but the movie earns every one of them. The movie is dripping with atmosphere. This is one of few movies that can combine a mostly gray color scheme with a dark, gloomy, dreary atmosphere and make it work. The slow reveal of what has caused the haunting is wonderfully done. I would say that it looks inspired by the Japanese horror mythology from movies like Ju-on and Ringu, but this was based on a book. The Woman in Black herself is a legitimately scary villain, and even when she’s not onscreen, you can definitely feel her presence. This is definitely a refreshing break from bloody chaos, choosing to rely more on slowly-building dread and its use of deafening silence and blinding darkness. It’s a scary freaking movie, and it is severely underappreciated. (3.5/5)

Repulsion

Okay, I’m not going to mention Roman Polanski’s child rape controversy. This is Roman Polanski before he did Rosemary’s Baby. This is another fantastically done descent into madness, though this one has much more prevalent sexual themes of frustration and repulsion. The fear here is subtle, and it perfectly executes the Slow Build. The rape scenes that the main character hallucinates show no nudity, but are absolutely terrifying. The convincing acting adds to the oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere. For it only being Polanski’s second movie, this one truly showed that he had a firm grasp on filmmaking as an art. This is a great film, and it deserves to be remembered. Seriously, it’s in danger of being forgotten. Go see it. (5/5)

The Burning

Yeah, this is what Madman ripped its idea from. This is definitely my favorite of the post-Halloween and pre-Scream barrage of slashers. Seriously. Its characters are actually likable. They feel real. The killer actually has a legitimately good motive, even though his method of disfigurement is a little convenient. The gore is fantastic; it was done by Tom Savini, how could it not be? Even though the killings don’t really start until the last half hour of the movie, the characters are still interesting and engaging enough to keep you interested in what’s happening. Give this one a shot. (3.5/5)

Sleepaway Camp

I have to give this one a shoutout because of just how much love, effort, blood, sweat, and tears went into the making of this movie. This is definitely my second favorite of the post-Halloween and pre- Scream slashers. Much of what I said for The Burning also applies to Sleepaway Camp. Though the characters feel genuine and are engaging enough to keep you interested, this movie also features two of the most intentionally hateable characters ever. The child acting is really good. And everyone knows about that ending. But seriously, wow. Those who haven’t seen the movie will not only not see it coming, but will find it legitimately shocking. Check it out. But don’t check out the sequels. (3.5/5)

El Orfanato (The Orphanage)

I don’t so much consider this a horror film, rather than a supernatural drama. This film got to me on a personal level with just how personal and character-driven the story was. The camerawork is simple and elegant, and the world the characters live in is unforgiving. Its scary sequences are expertly subtle. It creates atmosphere rather than relying on cheap thrills. When it keeps its sound effects and music to a minimum, you don’t realize just how suspenseful the movie has become until the suspense has risen to such undeniably high levels. And when the scares themselves are executed, without any typical cues, mind you, they are damn effective. Combine it all with amazing, sympathetic characters, fantastic acting, a disturbing backstory slowly revealed to you over the course of the film, and a final act that tugs at your heartstrings, this film is one of the most beautifully bittersweet ghost stories in recent years. It has become one of my personal favorites. El Orfanato was produced by Guillermo del Toro, and much like his legendary El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth), it’s an astoundingly brilliant story about children but for adults. If you want a del-Toro-style movie in the same vein as El Laberinto del Fauno and have a decently large attention span, you will absolutely adore it. I’m still cursing myself for putting off watching this one for so long. Oh, and the R rating? No. Not even close. (5/5)

Crimson Peak

Again, not one I would consider a horror movie. Rather, a love story with supernatural elements. Guillermo del Toro is freaking amazing. He’s very much a visual director, as the movie as a whole looks damn near perfect; camerawork, sets, lighting, costumes, props, CGI, and everything visual. It’s a slow-burner, and it’s a fantastic throwback to Victorian-era gothic novels. Jessica Chastain was born to play the role of Lucille Sharpe, and Mia Wasikowska and Tom Hiddleston also do remarkably well. It’s nice to see Tom Hiddleston play something different from Loki. Though Crimson Peak is a ghost story, the ghosts are not only not the main focus, but the scariest scenes on the movie involve interactions between our three main characters. Though the CGI is absolutely excellent, the film still feels very much like a period piece. Though it’s arguably one of del Toro’s weaker films, it is still a damn good movie. Go see it. (4/5)

The Neon Demon

Again, not exactly a horror film, but definitely a disturbing one. This is very much a “love it or hate it” film. Definitely one of the most visually striking films I’ve seen all year. Visuals are clearly Nicolas Winding Refn’s forte. I’m serious, the movie looks gorgeous. I admire Refn’s control over color. This is yet another “loss of innocence” story; I love seeing the lovely Elle Fanning’s character evolve from soft-spoken new contestant in the fashion industry to success-induced full-blown narcissist. The film as a whole has a very creepy mood, and the third act becomes ungodly disturbing. To say anything more would spoil the movie. Go see it. (4.5/5)

1408

More of a supernatural and psychological thriller than a horror film. This is one of the strongest adaptations of a Stephen King story to date, featuring great performances from John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. It’s fun and simple, but dripping with dread, paranoia, and even claustrophobia. It’s another film in which the creepy crap can’t be explicitly attributed to Cusack either going bonkers or actually being trapped in an “evil f-cking room”, though the question is answered in the final few seconds of the movie. The room as a whole holds a decently evil vibe. It is PG-13, so rather than rely on gore for shock value, it relies on helpless situations, personal drama, and actually spooky stuff to elicit fear. Check it out. (4/5)

The VVitch

For some reason, despite the critical acclaim, audience reception was generally negative…for all the wrong reasons. And that’s not okay, America! For shame! Complaints that the characters speak Old English in a film set in the 1600s are not legitimate in the slightest! I have never seen a film so perfectly replicate the style, tone, and constantly nagging sense of dread of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. It’s a perfect balance of terror as you realize you can’t explicitly say whether the events in the film can be attributed to an evil supernatural force from the woods or the hysteria of isolation and the fear of God’s wrath. This film made me think. It even made me think about my religious beliefs: do I believe in a loving, kind, and forgiving God and worship and obey Him because I want to, or do I believe in an angry, strict, and vengeful God and worship and obey Him because I have to? And what are the psychological ramifications of the former and the latter? This is practically a love letter to fans of Kubrick. Check it out! (5/5)

 

Spring

Again, not one I would explicitly call a horror film. But this is one of the most beautifully shot films I have ever seen. The soft focus and slightly-washed-out look only adds to the overall gorgeousness of these shots. But beyond the amazing camerawork, this is also one of the most passionate love stories of the decade. Imagine Linklater’s Before Sunrise but with a surreal feel, deeper and more contemplative dialogue, better camerawork, and a monstrous twist. The acting is fantastic, the characters are endearing, and the story is wonderfully told. (5/5)
Last Shift

Easily one of the best horror movies of the past few years. I have referred to this as the example of how to do jumpscares correctly, but it’s much more than that. This movie depended almost entirely on the performance of Juliana Harkavy, and she did damn good. To say the least of how scary this movie is, about two-thirds of the way into the movie, the suspense and terror had become so palpable that I had to pause the movie. And as I took a breather, I actually thought, Oh my gosh, do I really want to watch this? Yes, that’s right; this movie was so scary that I almost stopped watching. That’s good press enough to go see it. (5/5)

 

Ginger Snaps

This movie puts a nice little twist on the werewolf genre. When Ginger is bitten by a werewolf, she slowly starts to transform into one over the course of the movie. But her oncoming lycanthropy is also a metaphor for puberty. As she’s slowly transforming into a werewolf, she’s also undergoing the bodily changes that happen in the teenage years. She’s becoming a woman; a sexy, sultry woman that all the guys drool over. Puberty is a scary time. All the changes in her body confuse her, and she doesn’t know if her hunger, desire, and ravenous instincts are for sex or blood. The movie is bloody and violent enough as it is, but it threw puberty into the mix. Do the math. Men who watch this will balk at the blood, but the women will understand that the movie is, for example, about having your first period. But on top of all the metaphors, when the lycanthropy finally takes hold, we have a terrifying and ungodly brutal final act. I love the scene in which Bridget is in the food storage closet with the door shut; Ginger is in werewolf form and is brutalizing Sam on the other side; we only see it from Bridget’s perspective as she sees that something is slamming into the door from the other side, almost breaking it, and Sam is screaming in agony as Ginger tears him apart; then all goes quiet and Bridget sees the blood slowly flow under the door and into the room. And as the rest of the climax progresses, we realize in horror what Ginger has become. It’s as crazy as it sounds. It’s one of the best werewolf movies period. It’s as good as if not better than An American Werewolf in London. Check it out! (4.5/5)

Frailty

Again, more of a thriller than a straightforward horror movie, though this is pretty scary. This is an interesting little gem that came out of nowhere, bombed at the box office, and is seriously underappreciated. Bill Paxton shows that he can direct as well as act. Though this is a movie about a serial killer, the majority of the story is told through flashback. The hidden genius of this story is that you never truly know what’s going on until the very end. The plot never stops twisting, and the final few twists at the end are masterfully crafted and devastating. I think the reason nobody was interested in seeing it was that the flashbacks involve these two young boys dealing with their serial killer father, who has been given a vision from God, who has given him the power to see people who are actually demons and told him to kill these people. I love the dynamics between the father and his sons; the father, who is killing people who he thinks are demons in the name of God, the older son who thinks his dad has gone crazy, and the younger son who thinks his dad is a hero joyfully buys into his dad’s delusions. But are they actually delusions? Bill Paxton plays this father, and he does a damn good job playing both a kind, loving, gentle father and a ruthless, merciless killer. The child actors playing the two boys are also damn good. But the best part of the movie is that the real villains of the movie are not who you think they are. Though you may be thinking that Bill Paxton and eventually one of his sons are the villains and that they are suffering from manic delusions that originate from blind faith, that thought will be turned on its head as you learn more and more about this story. This film handles the themes of faith, family, and the death of innocence in such a unique way. The film’s R rating is questionable; though it is undoubtedly a very mature film, the majority of the film’s violence is offscreen or obscured. This film, rather than rely on blood, gore, and shock value, chooses a more subtle and slow-burn approach as it gradually explores the relationships between our three main characters, and in the present day, you begin to ask yourself just how Matthew McConaughey’s character knows as much as he does. It’s one of the most expertly crafted thrillers in recent years. (5/5)

Late Phases

Another werewolf movie, though I would not consider it a horror movie. It’s very much about a blind, old, gruff Vietnam vet spending the next month after witnessing a werewolf attack preparing for it to strike again. How often do you see a blind, old, gruff Vietnam vet as the main character, and have the majority of the movie be set in a retirement community? It’s nice not to have to deal with yet another social everyman living in the suburbs of Vancouver or whatever major city. The movie depended so much on Nick Damici’s performance, especially his ability to act out blindness, and he did pretty good. Though the actual werewolf effects look more like bipedal monsters than werewolves, they are pretty well done and are definitely threatening. The movie has a lot of heart, and I’m glad it’s more character-driven than most movies I normally see. Give it a shot! (4/5)

Oculus

Mike Flanagan is a rising star in the horror movie business. After striking gold with Absentia, he adapted his short film Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man With the Plan into a feature-length movie. And it is great. It’s yet another application of the idea that none of the scary stuff in the film can be explicitly attributed to real life, hallucinations in the minds of our mentally unstable protagonists, or hallucinations induced by the allegedly evil mirror. The movie is brilliant at screwing with your head. And the ending is absolutely devastating. That this is not recognized as a great film is insane. Check it out! Also, I need to personally thank him for saving the Ouija franchise. (4.5/5)

Evil Dead (it’s not a remake, it’s another sequel)

This was the ninth film I reviewed on this blog. This isn’t exactly a remake, so much as a pseudo-sequel. This movie knows exactly how to use a crap ton of blood to accentuate a film that is already scary and great without it. There is almost zero CGI. And those effing scary faces. This is the film that introduced me to the gorgeous Jane Levy, director Fede Alvarez (who now is affirmedly fantastic with the recent Don’t Breathe), and the masterful composer Roque Banos. Even those who don’t like this film can’t deny that the soundtrack is effing fantastic. The movie is actually more character-driven than the original The Evil Dead. And I’m so effing sad that there will be no sequel. (4.5/5)

The Hills Have Eyes (remake)

I have praised this movie time and time again as one of the scariest and most disturbing movies I have seen thus far. Though I like the original, I still think that the remake actually improves upon it. It’s significantly grittier and more brutal. I have praised the villains time and time again as terrifying and threatening. I literally breathed a sigh of relief when they blessedly died. The attack scene is one of the most shocking and hard-to-watch scenes I have ever had the opportunity to watch. The characters are well-acted and interesting, and it is devastating when some die. This is one of few horror movies that isn’t filled with characters making stupid decisions. This is also a movie in which the abundant gore accentuates a movie that is still scary without it. It is one of the best damn remakes I have seen. And the sequel isn’t half bad, either. (4.5/5)

Maggie

Again, not one I would consider a straightforward horror movie. Featuring what is easily Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best performance (he actually does pretty okay in his role) comes a twist on the zombie genre that forces you to think, “What would I do in this situation?” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s daughter, Abigail Breslin, has become infected by the zombie virus, which slowly zombifies you while you’re still alive. It is heartbreaking to see Breslin go through so much pain as she begins to decay. It is even more heartbreaking that she knows what’s coming. And it is even more heartbreaking when this movie shows the situation for the most part through Schwarzenegger’s eyes. Move over, The Walking Dead. This is how you tell this type of story. (4/5)

Lake Mungo

Again, not one I would consider a horror film; rather, a supernatural drama. This film is unique – with its documentary style (actual documentary, not pseudo-documentary that every main character in a found footage movie ever believes s/he is making), it takes elements that would normally find their place in any generic found-footage movie and humanizes them. It also mixes its documentary style with the mystery solving of a crime thriller, the character development of a typical drama, and even horror-movie-style suspense. Writer/director Joel Anderson is very matter-of-fact with his storytelling, having the characters talk directly to the camera. Rather than use typical scare sequences, he relies on the emotions put forth by the actors. Rather than create a story in the same vein as Paranormal Inactivity, he creates a ghost story that mostly focuses on a family’s grief after their daughter drowns, and how they react as they slowly learn who this daughter really was. The supernatural elements are not particularly heavy-handed, but have just enough of a presence to warrant my curiosity. The overall filmmaking is very authentic. The acting is great. You feel like you’re watching this very real family cope with their loss. It’s a surprisingly effective little gem that warrants more than one viewing. (4.5/5)

Grave Encounters

This was my favorite found-footage movie until I saw REC. It is easily one of the scariest of its genre. The first half of the movie is pretty creepy, but once the characters realize that the asylum is inescapable, start going insane, and start dropping like flies, the movie becomes terrifying and even disturbing. Though they are jerks and you may not care for them at first, when they start to break down, they do so in such a convincing way that you feel for them, and therefore fear for them. There are jumpscares, but none are fake. The movie is best when it relies entirely on atmosphere, ambience, and subtlety, and lets the suspense build itself. And when the handful of jumpscares show up, they are damn effective. For those of you tired of your Blair Witch Projects and Paranormal Inactivities, this is one you should really check out. Don’t bother with the sequel, though. (4/5)

The Haunting in Connecticut

This is an example of a movie being good despite having a ton of jumpscares, plenty of which are fake and loud. But the movie overcomes these, as the story and characters are still interesting, and the movie is still kind of scary, backing it up with some really freaky imagery. This movie is also how I got introduced to Kyle Gallner, who I find to be really underrated. And hey, the sequel’s pretty good too. (3.5/5)

The Possession

If you think your kids aren’t quite ready for The Exorcist, this is a pretty good choice to get them ready. Though being a watered-down version of The Exorcist is definitely a problem, the film as a whole is pretty good in its own right. It’s nice to see pre-Negan Jeffrey Dean Morgan play a divorced father, and you feel for him as he deals with his youngest daughter becoming possessed by a dybbuk from Jewish demonology. The movie as a whole isn’t particularly scary, but there are some creepy moments, and the story and characters keep you interested. Give it a shot. (3.5/5)

Contracted

My female readers will find this one really freaky. While this one is only good rather than great, it’s still an interesting story with a main character that you sympathize with. While it’s pretty lean at only seventy-eight minutes and the ending is rather abrupt, it’s a decent slow-burning thriller with good practical effects and some pretty shocking and disgusting moments. Seriously, worst STD ever, save for the Follower from It Follows, which would be on here if it had lower audience appraisal. Check out Contracted on Netflix. (3/5)

Splinter

Definitely one of the oddest and most small-scale zombie movies I have ever seen. Rather than a virus that spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids, it’s a parasite with insect-like behavior that spreads by growing spindly splinters all over its host; should any splinter pierce your skin, it infects you and begins to spread rather quickly over the course of less than an hour; eventually, it hijacks your body and you will attack any major source of heat to spread the infection. Rather than show a worldwide catastrophe, Splinter features a few people holding up in a gas station under siege by a few pseudo-zombies. I was initially expecting a CGI-heavy creature feature, I got a legitimately tense siege movie with legitimately good effects. That disembodied, splintery hand crawling about on its own is legitimately creepy. Take that, The Crawling Hand. Though the movie is unfortunately much too short at only eighty-two minutes, the story and characters are still interesting enough that you leave satisfied. This movie is very much an indie flick. For example, the film has no known actors, and the actors they do have aren’t particularly good. And, unfortunately, the action scenes are very prone to shaky-cam. But you can tell that the script was well-written with a good amount of nuance. And overall, it’s actually kind of a fun ride. The movie as a whole doesn’t take itself too seriously, and manages to pull itself back almost every time it teeters on the edge of the cliche abyss. It’s a decent and decently original little zombie flick. I just wish it was longer, and had a much more prevalent feeling of isolation, claustrophobia, and hopelessness. Give it a shot. (3.5/5)

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

This movie is so stupid. But that’s part of the charm. Speaking of charm, get a load of these two goofs. Most of this movie is a slasher film focused not on the twentysomething college students, but on who the college students think are the killers. It’s hilarious just how different the situation seems from a different perspective. The college students think they’re being hunted by a duo of merciless killer hillbillies, and Tucker and Dale think that the college kids have some sort of suicide pact. To truly explain just how stupid but almost brilliant this movie is, just imagine any of the Friday the 13th sequels, but Jason is like Tucker and Dale. Imagine Wrong Turn, but Three Finger, Saw Tooth, and One Eye are like Tucker and Dale. Imagine The Burning, but Cropsey is like Tucker and Dale. Imagine Just Before Dawn, but the mountain twins are like Tucker and Dale. It’s as silly as it sounds. (4/5)

V/H/S

No, no, no, not the entire thing; just one segment: “Amateur Night”. This one is freaking creepy and has perhaps one of the freakiest-looking creatures I have ever seen. The camera being on the dude’s glasses makes this segment that much more immersive. The question of “Why the hell are they still carrying the camera?” actually has an answer now. This segment is from David Bruckner, who, unfortunately, has only directed segments in The Signal and Southbound. I haven’t seen The Signal, but Southbound was okay. “Amateur Night” is only twenty minutes. Just skip the first ten minutes of V/H/S, watch “Amateur Night”, and then turn the movie off and watch something else. (It’s only a segment; I can’t give it a rating)

Green Room

The latest film from Jeremy Saulnier, who directed the darkly funny Murder Party and the fantastic Blue Ruin. This movie is intense, the violence is done very well and the story is very believable. I know I’d be terrified if I was trapped in a dressing room with a group of Neo-Nazi skinheads who want to get in and kill me. It’s one of the last roles of the late Anton Yelchin, and features the amazing Patrick Stewart giving one of his best performances. Go see it. (4/5)

Hush

Mike Flanagan does it again in one of the better takes on the home invasion genre. The twist here is that the heroine is deaf. This is also matched by the lone invader being rather skinny and not particularly good at home invading. The plot is simple and efficient, and doesn’t waste time on unnecessary BS, hence the eighty-minute running time. The film as a whole is amazingly tense. While I wouldn’t say it’s as good as everyone else says it is, and I personally think that the invader would have been scarier had he kept his mask on and remained silent, but the film is still damn good. (4.5/5)

Zodiac

Again, not a horror film, but definitely a decently scary one. Based on Robert Graysmith’s book about his experiences and his attempts to solve the Zodiac killer case, and how he just might have found the guy. This movie was directed by David Fincher, who directed such movies as Fight ClubSe7en, and Panic Room. Though much of Zodiac is extremely dialogue-heavy, Fincher does well at creating this gloomy, dark, tense mood, and keeps you interested. Zodiac was a personal project, having been told abut the Zodiac killer by his father and grown up obsessed with him. Zodiac is a very matter-of fact film, and it treats these actual events with as much respect as possible. It has such an unvarnished presentation. It definitely has this nagging sense of tension and fear. And when you get to the point in which the police are investigating this one possible suspect who seems like he might actually be the Zodiac killer, we’ve been through so much that we hope to God that he is. Because the alternative is that we still don’t know. The dude was clever. He was never caught. And that’s scary. (5/5)

Found

An excellent look at a young middle school student who learns that his older brother is a serial killer. Unfortunately, the film’s shoestring budget couldn’t afford better actors, but it’s a small price to pay. No killing actually happens until the end (and even then, it’s only heard (but that makes it better)), so it’s very much character driven. I love seeing this boy interact with his brother and even have his brother influence his actions. I love how this family’s facade of normalcy unravels. Though I would have liked to have seen the brother have a better motivation for killing besides having watched That One Horror Movie and being really really racist, but it’s an effective character study overall, and the ending is shocking. This is a great example of how a movie can overcome a tiny budget with a good story and interesting characters. It’s a great movie. Go see it. (4/5)

Men Behind the Sun

This one is also not exactly a horror film. Rather, it’s a dramatization of events that took place during World War II with Japanese human experimentation in Unit 731. This film will eff you up. There’s a reason why it’s called one of the most disturbing films ever made. I won’t describe why here. Running alongside the human experimentation is a story of a few young Japanese soldier recruits staying at Unit 731, and they gradually lose their innocence as they are indoctrinated with the beliefs of the Japanese Empire, and bear witness to the atrocities committed at Unit 731. It’s a harrowing, but powerful experience, to say the least. Check it out. (4.5/5)

Hausu (House)

This is the trippiest movie I have ever seen. It’s almost funny in how it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Audiovisual style and stimulation is all this movie needs to keep you entertained. It’s a bizarre, surreal fairy tale with a grotesque, ingenious, often macabre, but always unique sense of humor. It’s a warped, supernatural take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. It’s a total wild card. No explanation can do it justice. Go see it. (5/5)

Escape from Tomorrow

This is an incredibly weird, trippy, surreal film noir filmed almost entirely in Disneyland and Disney World without their permission on the best cameras they could smuggle into the park, which were two types of Canon EOS cameras. Though some of the shots are really damn unprofessional, the fact that they filmed the entire thing without being caught is incredible, eliminating any potential camerawork-related annoyance. I have no idea how they pulled off some of these shots. It easily avoided any sort of copyright issues by making sure to use only original music, making the film arguably fall under fair use. Unfortunately, when it was released in theaters (the fact that it actually got a theatrical release is incredible), Disney, aware of the Streisand effect, essentially ignored it (much to the film’s detriment). The acting in this movie would be bad in something else, but it absolutely worked phenomenally here. Though the characters don’t exactly feel particularly real, they are reminiscent of the stereotypical families seen in Disney movies. Regardless of intentions, this adds to just how self-aware the film is. When silly and stupid sequences happen, the film acknowledges this. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously. The film as a whole has a sick, effed up sense of humor that I definitely enjoyed and/or thought added to the mounting dread. I love the contrast with a terrifying film noir happening in The Happiest Place on Earth. I love that they filmed in black and white. How clever is it to suck all the color out of the Happiest Place on Earth. It makes it look that much more shifty and even sinister. The soundtrack was brilliantly composed by Abel Korzeniowski, effectively using the Disney formula of the soundtrack being light and airy, and ending the film with one of the most horrifying themes I have ever heard. The soundtrack’s on YouTube; give it a listen. This is Randy Moore’s only film, so it’s rather hard to judge; I expected the movie to be interesting, effed up, scary, and even darkly funny, and I got all of that. Those who hate it think of it as sleazy, poorly acted and filmed smut, but those of us who love it think of it as a genuinely unique and even terrifying experience. There was one particular aspect for me that made the film both the most unique and uniquely terrifying film I have ever seen, but I’ll explain that in detail when I come around to reviewing it eventually. (4.5/5)

Get some friends, go out to the store, buy some candy, buy some beers, buy some weed, go back home, turn off the lights, watch these movies, eat your candy, drink your beers, smoke some weed, and have yourselves a very merry Chri – I mean, happy Halloween.