haunting

The Disappointments Room

I was less than impressed with this film. Not that the acting was bad or that it wasn’t a decently made film. I just didn’t care much for it. It feels like ghosts are hit and miss. Most often misses and while I won’t go as far as to call The Disappointments Room as miss, it’s certainly not a hit. My main issue is that the film comes off as bland, where it shouldn’t be. As they could have played on the idea that Dana might be crazy and not actually haunted. But the film never explores that territory instead choosing to stay in the safe zone of formulaic ghost horror.

Dana (Kate Beckinsale) a successful architect moves from the city to an old country manor with her husband David (Mel Raido) and their son Lucus (Duncan Joiner). The move was prompted by the recent death of their daughter and Dana’s accompanying mental breakdown and suicide attempt. But not everything is roses at the new manor, which is bad need of some repairs. While outside Dana notices a light turn on and off on the top floor and goes to investigate and finds a small room that locks only from the outside that’s not on the floor plans. She visits with the town librarian Ms. Judith (Marcia DeRousse) and learns that the room in question is a disappointments room. A room that disfigured children would be forced to live, to hide them away so that their appearance wouldn’t bring shame on their family. As Dana repairs and renovates the house and she delves more and more into the mystery of the disappointments room, she becomes more and more haunted by the ghosts of the manor. A little girl in a yellow dress (Ella Jones) along with her father, Judge Baker (Gerald McRaney) and Judge Baker doesn’t like Dana in his home…

What really dragged down this film was that so little happens. The pacing is great, which masks just how little is happening. It often felt like the film didn’t know where it was going, just meandering again and again. This made the film feel longer than it is, but not by a truly unbearable margin.

The acting, when it’s allowed to happen is pretty great. Kate Beckinsale and Mel Raido do a wonderful job and the two’s chemistry really worked for me. I loved Gerald McRaney as the spirit of the Judge. But I’ve loved him since I first became aware of him from his work on Jericho. Duncan Joiner did a good job for a child actor as did Ella Jones, but nothing noteworthy from either. The supporting cast, what there is, also did great jobs. Overall a very well cast and performed.

I loved the house. I love old houses as dread locations. To the point I wish I could have seen more of it. As most of what happens is only in a handful of rooms. The manor has a bit of a Rose Red vibe to me and I wish that the hauntings would have played off the house more.

Final thoughts, Good, but crippling generic. The pacing, acting, set and technical are all on point here. It’s just the boring story, where so little happens that drags down it down. Now I’m not talking about more scares, just more anything. I would only suggest this if you’re a fan of slow horror. But I don’t see myself revisiting this film. 5/10

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

i_am_the_pretty_thing_that_lives_in_the_house_posterI wasn’t really sure what to expect when I went into this film. I Am the Pretty Thing That Live in the House hits the main points for a normally good ghost story, but takes its time getting to them. Pretty Thing has a meandering pace that makes the film feel longer than it actually is. Though I don’t feel that earns it the one star it has (at the time of writing this review) as it is better than that. I enjoy horror films with a faster pace, though it is nice from time to time to sit down to one film that isn’t in a rush and lets you enjoy your beer.

Lily Saylor (Ruth Wilson) is a live-in hospice nurse hired by Mr. Waxcap (Bob Balaban), the manger of the estate Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss) to care for her. Iris is an elderly writer suffering from dementia, who has lived in the same home for years and made it her wish to be cared for until her death in her home. After moving into the house Lily begins to experience unearthly events, such as having the phone torn from her hands on the first night by an unseen force and catching images of a woman in the reflection of the television. Over the next year Lily grows increasingly uneasy in the house as a dark mold starts growing along the wall near the kitchen. Also unnerving her is that Iris never calls her by her name, instead referring to her as Polly. The character in her best known novel, The Lady in the Walls. After finding Iris’s handwritten notes on the novel, leading her to believe that Polly (Lucy Boynton) is a real ghost that haunts the home…

As I said the pacing is a problem as the film meanders for the first half of the film and when it does go for the scares it mostly just hits the expected notes. Fostering a generic feeling that is hard to ignore. Though this feeling dissipates towards the end of the second act.

The visuals are actually pretty great, easily my favorite part of the film. Julie Kirkwood does a great job as cinematographer and her talent really shows through. Each shot is well executed and beautiful to look at. Her attention to detail and lighting is, simply wonderful and creates a lasting air of dread.

The acting is unbalanced. With each actor having noticeable highs and lows with inconstant performances. This is most problematic with Ruth Wilson. Who at times comes off as tender and real, only for a few moments later to read as cold and uninteresting. Even Bob Balaban, who I normally love is low energy and feels uninterested.

Final thoughts, the visuals combined with the atmosphere is what sells this movie for me. The pacing and inconstant acting is problematic but not a deal breaker. I wish that Pretty Thing had focused more on the haunting, which is strange given is a ghost story. But it feels like it’s trying to dance around the subject at times and be more than the basic ghost story it is. 6/10

Adaline (2015)

ADALINEI signed up for a ghost story and got more a psychological thriller. Not that I’m complaining too much, as there was more than enough horror elements to still qualify as horror. Adaline has a good sense of dread that permeates the film, though it does get uneven and unfocused at times. Adaline’s main issue is it tries to many things at once, is a ghost story, a murder mystery and has a large dose of thriller. But never manages to nail down any one aspect enough to stay interesting and unfortunately spends a sizable portion of its time just meandering, never really advancing the story.

Adaline opens with a woman tied to an inverted pentagram being sacrificed by a cloaked figure. The film then switches gears to  follow floundering artist Daniela (Jill Evyn), who has recently gotten out of a longer term relationship that ended poorly and lives with her close friend Megan (Emily Claeys). Things are going rough for her with her saving have run out and unable to find a studio to showcase her art, when she opens a letter informing her that she has just inherited a house in the small town of San Andreas along with a small sum of money from an aunt she never knew she had. Hoping that the change of scenery will be just the thing she needs, she packs up and moves there. After arriving she makes friends with a local man, Marvin (Jeremy Walker) who’s slightly mentally disabled. They become friends forming a big sister, little brother relationship. Besides Marvin, Daniela also meets her hunky neighbor John (Lane Townsend), who she also forms a relationship. Though this one far more romantic and intimate. While this is happening, Daniela starts receiving visions from a long dead retaliative Adaline. Which lead her to Adaline’s diary, which further exacerbate the visions along with her lifelong nightmares. Which worsens after someone breaks into her house, to draw an inverted pentagram in blood. Scared by the events unfolding in her home, she turns to Megan. Who directs her to Winter (Anne Hallinan) a psychic. Though Winter isn’t much help, but neither is Daniela’s therapist Dr. Gibson (C.S. Boris). But with conditions around her home, worsening and her relationship with John heating up, can she uncover Adaline’s secrets in time to save her own life?

My main issue with Adaline is how off-balance it is. It will go from having a really good moment of tension or shots of Daniela being followed or watched by Adaline, to fifteen minutes of her just putting around. Which wouldn’t be so bad if there was a pay off in some way. Which there really isn’t. The film builds to a conclusion that any seasoned horror fan will see coming, with only a few red herrings that will leave you scratching your head.

One of these red herrings is another big issue for me. Though not as bad as the off-balance tone, so spoiler. Dr. Gibson’s character feels completely out-of-place in this film. The perverted creepy therapist role is a common character, but here it’s completely miss used. He’s made the red herring and it wouldn’t be so bad if he had a purpose other than sucking up screen time. He’s shown to be drawing pictures of Daniela tied up with the final one of her tied to the inverted pentagram we see the woman killed on in the beginning of the film and the words happy death written along the bottom. Then, nothing. He’s just gone from the film and in no way affects the outcome. It would make sense if he was one of the killers or was in some way involved. But no, nothing. He’s just a big waste of screen time.

The best parts is the horror aspects. When the film decides to try and go for the dread. Adaline can really hit the mark. But it’s done so infrequently that it gets incredibly frustrating as you find yourself waiting and waiting for the film to just move along. Though the spacing of these parts are just close enough to keep the film watchable.

The last thing I want to talk about is the character of Marvin. Who felt out-of-place as well and honestly, I didn’t think was acted the best. That said, he was by far the most likable character and for a number of good reasons. Making the character mental slow was a nice touch and gives the character a sweetness the film benefits from. I just wish he had been better written and included more heavily. This could have been easily done cutting out Winter and Dr. Gibson, who are throw away characters at best.

Final thoughts, meh. Adaline isn’t the worst film I’ve seen. But could have benefited from some minor alterations. The acting while cheesy at times and straight poor at others still manages to hold together enough to deliver an entertaining enough ghost story. Most of Adaline’s issues have to deal with the poor pacing and off-balance tone. Well that and the predictable ending. 5/10

Apartment 143

apartment-143-movie-poster-ghostsI’m going to have a hard time talking about this film without spoiling it. Which I will endeavor not to do so. Though it won’t leave much to talk about, as the Apartment 143 was basically a giant groan fest for me. Though I did like a handful of aspects of this film, but mostly it feels like a film that’s cobbled together with elements that the filmmakers saw work in other films and said “lets just do that, that and lets throw this in for good measure”. Honestly. maybe something was just lost on me as this is a Spanish horror film. Though my gut tells me it’s just a bad movie.

Apartment 143 opens with the arrival of a team of paranormal researchers lead by Dr. Helzer (Michael O’Keefe), his assistant Ellen Keegan (Fiona Glascott) and their lead technician Paul Ortega (Rick Gonzalez) arriving at the residence of the White family. The White’s, headed by Alan (Kai Lennox) a recent widower who as moved to small, dingy apartment with teenage daughter Caitlin (Gia Mantegna) and young son Benny (Damian Roman). The White’s have recently relocated to the apartment after the death of Alan’s wife and the strange occurrences that started taking place in their home. After the disturbances started getting violent, Alan moved his family. But after about a week they started back up and not knowing what to do turned to Dr. Helzer. Dr. Helzer and his crew rig the apartment with cameras, motion sensors and other devices to try to find the cause of the families supernatural disturbance. But as the experiments go on, it becomes clear that they’re not dealing with a haunting at all…

First off, Apartment 143 is short. Incredibly so in fact, with a meager 80 minute run time. Which would be fine if the script was tight and well written but it’s not. So the little time we get in the film, is often wasted. Being used on jump scares and weak explanations.

Now, on the subject of the script. It’s not that good. It’s not awful, as I’ve seen some films with far worse scripts. It’s sad that more care wasn’t taken as there was promise here. But for every good moment of dialogue that makes you feel for character’s you get fifteen of he-hawing and weak exposition and remember the run time is only 80 minutes.

But Apartment 143 isn’t all downside. I really liked the pseudo found footage feel. Apartment 143 defiantly took it notes here and uses the techniques of the sub-genre to their best. The grainy footage, black and white shots and awkward angles all do great jobs heightening the atmosphere.

I also like that the film’s premise and the setting in the old near empty apartment complex. As once again, these elements really add to the film’s over all appeal. But the lack of neighbors, friends or outside characters does feel a bit off.

Final thoughts, it’s ok at best. Which is sad because it does really try to be a decent to good film and at times it does manage to do so. But those times are sparse and spread too far out. The characters lack dimension and like ability, which is always an issue for me. That coupled with the final shot of the film, that I assume was supposed to leave me questioning the validity of what came before. Just left me feeling more underwhelmed and uninterested. 4/10

Visions

b590331ea22725d78a3f7931c05bd76f (1)I want to like Visions. I really do. It has some fairly good acting, along with some recognizable faces. It has a creepy backdrop with some great atmosphere at times. I like that it plays like a haunting, but manages to keep you guessing. The ending though forces an existential problem with me that exonerates the villains for me. I’ll get into that later. The other is the ending overall falls flat for me. Which is even more upsetting because I just about loved everything up until that point.

Visions opens with a Eveleigh (Isla Fisher) regaining consciousness a hospital with her husband David (Anson Mount) over her. She quickly recalls a car accident she was just in that resulted in the death of a child in the other vehicle.  A year later, Eveleigh and David have just bought a small vineyard in California and are expecting their first child. Eveleigh starts to experience nightmares and visions, she also starts attending a prenatal yoga class where she meets Sadie (Gillian Jacobs). The two become fast friends and bond over shared pregnancy. Eveleigh’s visions intensify to the point of becoming hallucinations, eventually in an ultimatum from David that she go see a doctor. Which she does, Dr. Mathison (Jim Parsons) who thinks she may be suffering from lingering effects of PTSD from the accident and tries to get her back onto medication. Which she won’t due to the effects it could have on the baby. After the visions intensify again, causing Eveleigh to relent and go on to medication. After which the visions abate. A few months later she reconnects with Sadie, who convinces her to stop her medication. Which causes the visions to return in full force. After reaching out to the vineyards previous owners which leads her to Helena (Joanna Cassidy), who also sensitive to supernatural stuff. She tells Eveleigh that some actions committed are so evil they stain the land and ripple through time. The two women then share a vision that leads to Helena having a heart attack. As she passes she tells Eveleigh that it’s not what she thinks…

I really enjoy the build up. It’s probably the best thing about this film and there’s a lot about this film I like. The acting like I stated is top-notch. Isla Fisher does a pretty solid job and sells me on her being an expectant mother. I also really like Jim Parsons and Eva Longoria, whose characters are used so seldom they’re basically cameos.

But I have issues with this film and air them, I need to warn of SPOILERS. An act so evil that it stains the land. I can really get behind that idea for a horror film. But the act needs to be heinous. Had the bad guys won, now that would have stained some land. But the level of heinous this film delivers is actually very mild. Six deaths? Two being the “Bad guys” doesn’t come across that heinous. Even if they’re trying to steal a baby. Not in a world where mass shootings are so common that they’re no longer being covered.

My other issue is that the characters in the films ancestors experienced visions. So the evil isn’t bound by time. I buy that. But my issue is since people were experiencing the visions a hundred years ago. Did Sadie and her husband really have a choice? Because from the outside you claim they had no free will. So lacking the will to choose their actions are they even responsible for them?

Anyway end of Spoilers.

Final thoughts, Overall I really like Visions. But the ending doesn’t feel like it committed. That somewhere it lost its drive and became just more standard fare. The performances are enjoyable and more often than not believable. Lastly I do like how it plays like a standard haunting, but shifts in such a way to shuck the bounds of the sub-genre, mostly. 7/10

DeathBed

imge8d66338While I was originally planning on reviewing Gingerdeadman Vs. Evil Bong, but I can’t I just can’t. I’m over that particular horror comedy blend and feel the need for a film with a much more prominent horror atmosphere. I’m not sure what drew me to Death Bed out of all Full Moon Entertainment’s online catalog… OK, that’s a lie. I know the reason I chose this film and that reason is Joe Estevez. His films are always so delightfully bad. My personal favorite of his is undoubtedly Axe Giant, but that’s a review for another time. Other than Joe Estevez, I chose this film because it’s a ghost story and it feels like it’s been a while since I had reviewed one of those. Also it’s just a horror film. No blending here.

Death Bed opens with a flapper (Meagan Mangum) in the 1920’s being tied to a bed and murdered by the serial killer The Choker (Adam Russell Stuart). We then jump ahead to couple Karen (Tanua Dempsey) and Jerry (Brave Matthews) buying their own apartment. The apartment is part of a building that once used the be a warehouse back in the 1920’s.  The building owner Art (Joe Estevez), maybe maintenance… his role isn’t defined the best, shows them the apartment along with a door up a set of stairs to a locked door with no key. Shortly after moving in Karen hears seeking followed by screaming and fetches Art. Using a pry-bar he opens the room, finding a small bedroom. The room is the same as the opening sequence and contains the same iron bed. Fascinated with the bed, Karen moves it down stairs and makes it the centerpiece of the apartment. With the bed come a new adventurous attitude and a job offer that the bed makes the perfect inspiration for. But things quickly turn dark with ghostly sightings of the dead flapper begging for help…

I really liked the concept. But the awkward chemistry between Karen and Jerry is what kills this movie for me.  While Joe Estevez is the best part of this film, Tanua Dempsey being a close second. Brave Matthews is definitely the odd man out and found his character kinda bland honestly.

But the actors are all strong enough to carry the film. Not well mind you, and barley to the end credits. That said when the film goes for horror it hits the mark. The atmosphere can get charged and a few of the shots are incredibly well done. Most certainly a step above the bar in regards to Full Moon’s other films.

My main critique of this film is that the history of the bed/murders and by extension, The Choker. Who should have been explored in more depth. Though there is always something to be said about the unknown and leaving questions unanswered. But without any mythos to back up the murders I was left asking the wrong questions. Why is The Choker there? Did he also die there? Where are the other victims?

Final thoughts, overall I liked it. It might not be a masterpiece, but there are far worse examples of the genre. Sure Joe Estevez might be the best actor in the film, but all of them are at least trying and for me that makes for quality entertainment. 6/10

The Vault

img2ff385c6I was actually starting to really get into the idea of spending a month reviewing exclusively films from Full Moon Entertainment, then The Vault came down like a hammer smashing that cozy idea. I don’t know why I was expecting more out of The Vault than what got delivered. It’s not that I set my standards all the high, I think the issue is that the Vault is a genuine bad movie. Possibly the worst I’ve seen to date and that’s including Bitten. At least I can say with Bitten that it was at least able to keep me engaged enough that I didn’t fall asleep, forcing me to re-watch it later to properly review it (I nearly fell asleep during the second viewing as well). Which is something that The Vault did do.

The Vault opens with a teenage hooligan breaking into a derelict high school to vandalize it a month before the bulldozers show up to tear it down. He’s found and warned by a security guard (Leopoldo Mandeville) to leave. Which of course he doesn’t, but instead finds his way to the basement. Where he finds a door poorly hidden behind some very fake looking walling. The door starts to shake, the guard appears again, warns again, the hooligan comes to the conclusion someone is trapped inside and he’s going to save them. But the security guard stops that plan right quick by bludgeoning the hooligan to death. The Vault then leaps ahead a couple of weeks to high school teacher Mr. B (Ted Lyde) taking out a group of misfits to look for anything related to the abandoned school’s history that can be salvaged before it’s demolished in a couple of weeks. This group of youths are cardboard cutouts in the worst sense, Desaray (Shani Pride) the hot one, Zachary “Zipper” (Kyle Walker) the nerd, Willy (Austin Priester) the jock and Kyle (Micheal Cory Davis) the tough guy. Also in tow is the bus driver (James Black), who chooses to not go inside the creepy abandoned school and stay with the bus. Which in the end doesn’t work out for him as he becomes the fist of the ghosts victims, which creates a couple of plot holes. The Vault spends its sweet time meandering around and trying to pass off exposition dumps as character development before Desarey and Willie open up the titular Vault and releasing an evil spirit. The spirit then goes about killing the students now trapped inside the school (for some reason the ghost can’t leave the school unless it’s to kill bus drivers I guess). As the students numbers begin to dwindle, Mr. B encounters the security guard and recognizes him as the janitor from when he went to school there… and he hasn’t aged a day! Turns out he’s a ghost, well a collection of ghosts, who are working to ensure the spirit in the vault (belonging to a Shaman that killed them to escape or something) stays trapped. Oops. The school also has a history centered around the building being used for the slave trade… in LA. As the ghost keeps claiming victims can those surviving stop him before they become his next victim?

I could harp on the acting, which is awful. I could also harp on the bad effects, like why do film makers think tinting something blue makes it night or dark? I could even harp about the shoddy characters. But no, these are thing I expect from Full Moon.

What I do want to gripe about is just how bad this film is as far as pacing goes. Little happens beyond the students wandering the halls and dropping large chunks of exposition in the first half of the movie. Which wouldn’t be bad if it picked up more in the latter half. Which I will admit that it does, mostly because the characters start dying and I can see that the film is almost over.

All of the deaths are crazy anti-climactic. To the point where I started to feel cheated. The effects were well done enough, but most of the deaths feel like they come out of nowhere and with no build up, the deaths all feel trivial.

Final thoughts, I cannot in good conscience recommend this film. I will hand off a bad film to a friend or a stranger on the internet no problem, as long as it still has some sort of redeeming quality. Which is the rub, as The Vault doesn’t have any. Ok, that’s a lie, because the music is pretty rocking. But I’m not here for the music, I’m here for the scares and The Vault doesn’t have any. 1/10