Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

ScaryStories01

Directed By: André Øvredal
Starring: Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Abrams, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, Austin Zajur, Natalie Ganzhorn, Lorraine Toussaint, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: A-

On Halloween in 1968, friends Stella, Chuck, and Auggie meet mysterious drifter Ramón Morales while attempting to escape local bully, Tommy Milner. In an attempt to wait out his ire, Stella suggests they go to a local abandon home that is rumored to be haunted. There, Stella tells Ramón the local legend of Sarah Bellows, a rumored witch who would tell scary stories to local children, who would then go missing. Upon investigating the house, they find a secret room believed to be the one that Sarah’s family locked her away in. After Tommy finds the four, and locks them in the room along with Chuck’s sister, Ruth, Stella asks Sarah to tell her a story, unleashing a sinister force that takes its revenge on everyone in the house.

Like most people my age, I owned a copy of the book this movie is based on when I was younger. It freaked me out, and may possibly still be buried in the spot I put it all those years ago. This movie is surprisingly well-made, and has a decent amount of suspense for a teen horror/thriller. They do well in incorporating several of the short stories into the plot, and managed to make a cohesive storyline out of it all, which is no easy feat to do without an “episodic” storytelling format. They could very easily have had a group of kids sitting around a campfire or post-trick-or-treating candy pile telling stories to try and scare each other. The young actors playing the teens all do well with their roles and they all work well together. The older actors all do well in their roles as well, though they’re all secondary to Stella and her friends.

The special effects are all well done, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Horror fans and those who owned and/or loved the book growing up will likely enjoy this movie. There’s not a lot of gore, but the suspense is decent, which is something a lot of PG-13 movies forego in favor of jump scares and copious amounts of blood. The movie is incredibly rewatchable, and the storyline is easy enough to follow that, after the first watch, you don’t need to pay too much attention, and can use it as background noise if you so choose. Parents may want to watch it before letting young children see the movie.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is currently only available free to stream if you have Showtime, but it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.
I’m always looking for new things to watch/read, so if you have a suggestion for me, just let me know!

What We Do in the Shadows

WhatWeDo

Directed By: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Starring: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonny Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stu Rutherford, Rhys Darby, Benjamin Fransham, Jackie van Beek, Elena Stejko, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: B+

A documentary crew follows a group of vampires as they live their daily lives, and attempt to navigate modern life. As they deal with tasks like paying their rent and divvying up chores, they also try to inconspicuous ways to locate victims, and also dispose of them after they’ve been killed, as well as their occasional run-ins with other creatures of the night, like werewolves, witches, and zombies. When one of their victims is accidentally turned into a vampire, they take him in, and are introduced to modern conveniences like wi-fi, dating sites, and Facebook. Their newcomer also brings in new dangers, as he enjoys going around telling people that he’s a vampire.

This movie is honestly more comedy than horror. The documentary/reality-style story telling is a somewhat refreshing take. Each character represents a different iteration of Hollywood vampire, from Nosferatu to Edward Cullen, and you can tell that the various actors are having fun with the material, and they all seem to have decent chemistry with each other. There also seems to be a more realistic take on the way various “mythical” creatures would interact with each other that provides a few of the comedic moments, as does seeing vampires use their “powers” to perform household chores, etc.

The few, if any, special effects used seem to be well done. As the movie takes place almost entirely at night, there is little to no background filler used.

Anyone tired of “serious” creature features and the YA take on them will probably like this movie. There really aren’t any scary moments, and the rating is mostly for blood and language, as well as a couple of scenes with sexual content. It’s an easy enough watch that you don’t necessarily need to pay full attention, though you may miss a visual gag or two. Parents may want to watch this before letting young children see it.

What We Do in the Shadows is currently only available free to stream if you have Hulu+, but it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.
I’m always looking for new things to watch/read, so if you have a suggestion for me, just let me know!

Ready or Not

ReadyorNot

Directed By: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Elyse Levesque, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: A

On her wedding night, new bride Grace is informed by her husband, Alex, that, per family tradition, she must a game at midnight. Amused, she joins Alex’s family in their game room, where she is informed that gaming ritual is to appease “Mr. Le Bail,” who helped their family gain the fortune they currently enjoy. After pulling a card reading Hide and Seek from a box, she goes off in search of a place to conceal herself, unaware that her new in-laws are arming themselves with deadly weapons in order to sacrifice her to their mysterious benefactor. Upon learning the grisly truth, she finds herself in a life-or-death fight where she must try and live until sunrise.

One of the few movies that manages to find the balance between horror/thriller and comedy, this is a highly enjoyable watch. It takes on the absurdity of family tradition, particularly the amongst well-off, as well as what makes a person “fit” to join a family, and what some people are willing to sacrifice for money and power. Nearly all of the movie takes place in the Le Domas family mansion, and uses tendency of the rich to build “servant’s corridors” in their homes to its full advantage. Alex’s inner conflict between the family traditions he grew up with, and wanting to find his own happiness is shown to evolve throughout the movie. As for the actors, they all have decent chemistry and work well together.

What few special effects used are well done, and any background filler is unnoticeable.

This movie should appeal to anyone liking atypical horror/thrillers. While not terribly scary, there is quite a bit of blood, and there are one or two jump scares that work well. Anyone with young children may want to watch it first, as there is quite a bit of blood/gore, and the liberal use of adult language. The movie itself is incredibly rewatchable, and after the first viewing, doesn’t require too much attention.

Ready or Not is currently only available free to stream if you have HBO, but it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.
I’m always looking for new things to watch/read, so if you have a suggestion for me, just let me know!

Countdown

Countdown

Directed By: Justin Dec
Starring: Elizabeth Lail, Jordan Calloway, Talitha Bateman, Peter Facinelli, Dillon Lane, Tichina Arnold, Matt Letscher, PJ Byrne, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: C+

After a patient tries canceling a necessary surgery, nurse Quinn Harris and her colleagues download an app that the patient had been talking about, which is supposed to predict the exact time a person is supposed to die. Learning she only has a few days left to live, Quinn initially tries to brush off the app as a hoax, but upon learning of the patient’s death, Quinn cancels plans she had with her sister and father, and is informed that she has broken the user agreement attached to the app. Shortly thereafter, she begins being haunted by demonic visions, and tries her best to find out what the notification means. Her search brings her into contact with Matt, another person who received the user agreement notice and is similarly haunted by demonic visions. Together, they try to find the cause of their visions, and, if possible, a way to defeat the evil they’ve been plagued by.

This movie is a fairly cookie-cutter teen horror/thriller, right down to the pseudo-romance between Quinn and Matt. Honestly, most of these PG-13 horror movies almost seem like they would be better suited as a television show instead of a slightly-rushed movie. It would definitely give more time to get to know (and subsequently care about) the characters before they get picked off. It also doesn’t help that it appears as though a decent amount of material was cut for time (or just completely reworked/reshot), including a classroom scene with Dr. Sullivan where he talks with his students about the app. As for the actors, they all do well with their roles, including Peter Facinelli, who plays the aforementioned Dr. Sullivan, though he’s not a teacher, he’s a lecherous surgeon who tries to assault Quinn.

The special effects are okay, though some of the demon rending is a little off. The background filler isn’t noticeable.

Anyone who likes jump scares with probably enjoy this movie, as that’s about all the horror it has. The ticking clock timeline adds some tension and helps the movie some, though not much. As for hardcore horror fans, it’s a coin toss. It can definitely be easily rewatched, and doesn’t need one’s full attention to follow.

Countdown is currently not available free to stream anywhere, but it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.
I’m always looking for new things to watch/read, so if you have a suggestion for me, just let me know!

Overlord

Overlord

Directed By: Julius Avery
Starring: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Olivier, Pilou Asbæk, John Magaro, Iain de Caestecker, Bokeem Woodbine, Jacob Anderson, Dominic Applewhite, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: B-

Shortly before D-Day in World War II, a group of American soldiers are sent on a mission in German-occupied France to destroy a Nazi radio tower set up in small town church. When their unit is ambushed and their captain is killed, the rest of the unit attempts to complete the mission. After convincing Chloe, a local French woman, to shelter them while they figure out how to access the radio tower. During a recon mission to figure out the best way to approach the destruction of the tower, Boyce, one of the soldiers, finds his way into the tower, where he discovers that the Germans have been experimenting on the locals. Freeing one of his captured unit members and stealing a vial of the serum being used, Boyce returns to Chloe’s house, where he’s forced to use the serum on one of his fellow soldiers, and sees firsthand the terrifying truth behind the Nazi occupation of the village. Realizing there’s more at stake then a simple radio tower, the remaining soldiers try to formulate a plan to destroy the lab, and everyone involved with it.

A good two-thirds of this movie plays out like a fairly standard war movie, to the point where the monster-movie plot almost seems like an afterthought. Once they reach that point, they seem to rush through the rest of the movie, relying mostly on jump scares and very little suspense. At certain times, it’s more suspenseful wondering if the soldiers will be found out by the Nazis than what’s going to happen with the zombie/vampire/super soldiers. In a way, the movie sort of works as an arthouse-ish thriller, however, the trailers wouldn’t have helped with the casual viewer looking for a standard horror film, as most of the footage was taken from the back third of the movie. So far as the acting is concerned, all of the actors do well with their roles, and anyone using an accent other than their own manages to do well with it.

The special effects are fairly decent in quality, though it looks like they tried to use practical effects for most of the monsters, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Diehard fans of JJ Abrams brand of monster movies (he’s a producer) should enjoy this, as well as anyone who doesn’t mind a slower burn to their horror/thrillers. Anyone else should keep in mind that it takes a little time to get past the war movie aspect to the action. Those considering showing this to someone on the younger side might want to watch it first to see if it’s going to alright for them.

Overlord is currently available free to stream through Amazon Prime and Hulu, and it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line/digital retailer.

I’m always looking for new things to watch/read, so if you have a suggestion for me, just let me know!

Child’s Play (2019)

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Directed By: Lars Klevberg
Starring: Tim Matheson, Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, Mark Hamill, David Lewis, Brian Tyree Henry, Carlease Burke, Beatrice Kitsos, Ty Consiglio, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: B-

When a customer returns a defective Buddi doll, struggling single mom Karen begs her boss to let her take it home for her lonely son, Andy. Shortly after the doll is activated by Andy and named Chucky, it begins to display strange, even violent behavior toward the people and things Andy dislikes, including the family cat and his mom’s boyfriend, Shane. When Shane is mysteriously murdered, Andy becomes suspicious of Chucky, and attempts to dispose of the doll. However, Chucky is determined to remain with his best friend, and goes on a violent rampage in an attempt to keep Andy as his, and only his, friend.

A remake of the 1988 movie of the same name, this version updates the plot for the modern era, and takes away the supernatural component of the original. Instead of a doll possessed by the soul of a killer, it’s manufactured with the safety protocols removed by a disgruntled employee of the factory where the dolls are made. The actors all do well with their roles, and Plaza and Bateman are believable as mother and son. Aside from some obvious jokes from Henry’s character about being a black person in a horror movie situation, the writing is decent, and Hammill had proven in the past to have the capability to sound menacing.

The special effects appear to be decent in quality, and any background filler isn’t noticeable.

Die-hard fans of the original may not like this version, but casual horror fans will probably enjoy it, though the scene involving implied violence toward the family cat may turn off animal lovers. The story is simple enough that you don’t need to play close attention, and interesting enough that it shouldn’t become too much of a bore if watched more than once.

Child’s Play (2019) is not currently available free to stream through providers, but it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

 

I’m always looking for new things to watch/read, so if you have a suggestion for me, just let me know!

Us

Us

Directed By: Jordan Peele
Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Yahya Abul-Mateen II, Anna Diop, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: B

While on a family vacation to Santa Cruz with their friends, Adelaide Wilson can’t shake a sense of foreboding stemming from an incident in her past when she wandered off while at the pier carnival with her parents. After spending some time catching up with their friends the Tylers, Adelaide loses sight of her son at the beach, and then urges her family to return to their vacation home. Shortly after they return, they lose power and soon find a group of people standing on their driveway. The Wilsons quickly learn that the people are their ‘tethered’ doubles, a handful of remnants from a long-abandon attempt to control humanity by using clones of people. After outwitting their doubles, the Wilsons attempt to find help, and also try to learn why people’s doubles have surfaced after so many years.

This movie, a second outing for writer-director Jordan Peele, is a better-than-average horror movie, though the ending lacks the shock that accompanied the first one. Though it’s possible I feel that way since the twist ending was spoiled for me long before I ever saw the movie. It’s still a well-told story, and the idea of there being millions, or even billions of doubles tied to people is unsettling, but it’s just not quite the stellar outing that many were hoping it would be. That said, the actors all have decent chemistry and work well together.

There doesn’t appear to many special effects used, and any background filler isn’t noticeable.

Fans of horror/thriller movies, including Peele’s first movie, Get Out, should enjoy this movie. There is a bit of an unsettling aura in the film that makes it interesting, and the movie itself is good enough that anyone who likes it will likely enjoy watching it more than once without it getting annoying.

Us is currently available free to stream if you have HBO, and it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.
I’m always looking for new things to watch/read, so if you have a suggestion for me, just let me know!

My Soul To Take

MySoulToTake

Directed By: Wes Craven
Starring: Max Thieriot, John Magaro, Denzel Whitaker, Zena Grey, Nick Lashaway, Paulina Olsynski, Jeremy Chu, Emily Meage, Frank Grillo, Danai Gurira, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: D+

Sixteen years ago in the town of Riverton, on the same night a local serial killer called the Riverton Ripper died, seven children were born, several of who weren’t due for weeks or even months. Years later, those children have been raised with the rumors that they are the reincarnations of the various personalities the killer had. However, as teens are killed one by one, people begin to believe that the Ripper didn’t actually die, and that he’s attempting to seek vengeance by killing the children born the night he supposedly died.

There’s really no use in trying to mince words. This movie is not good. The characters are underdeveloped, the plot moves too quickly, there are characters and bits of plot that aren’t fully explored, and side stories that are entirely unnecessary, which considering the nearly 2-hour run time, is somewhat surprising. It honestly would have benefitted from the extra 15 or 20 minutes in order to make a more coherent movie. One of the few bright spots of the movie is Max Thieriot, who plays one of the only characters to get some kind of development.

What few special effects used appear to be decent, and the background filler isn’t really noticeable.

While I wouldn’t recommend the movie, anyone wanting a lesson in how not to make a horror/thriller should use this as their prime example. If you’re a desperate fan of Wes Craven or one of the actors involved, proceed at your own risk. This is one of the few instances in which I felt like my time had been wasted by the movie I was watching, and it’s ridiculous how easily entertained I am.

My Soul to Take is currently only available free to stream if you have HBO, but it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Escape Room

EscapeRoom

Directed By: Adam Robitel
Starring: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis, Tyler Labine, Deborah Ann Woll, Nick Dodani, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: A-

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, student Zoey, grocery store stocker Ben, and stockbroker Jason are mysteriously presented with a gift of a black puzzle box from someone they know. After solving the puzzle, they find an invitation to an escape room challenge, which holds a prize of $10,000 to anyone who can escape it. After their arrival at the company site for the room, they meet three others who also received the puzzle boxes, war vet Amanda, trucker Mike, and gaming enthusiast Danny. When the escape room mechanisms are triggered, they group quickly learn that the game isn’t what they first thought, and they all fight to stay alive against a system designed to kill them.

This movie was surprisingly good. I was entirely unaware of the escape room phenomenon before seeing this, so the concept seemed to be a fairly original take on a locked room mystery. Though only three of the characters get proper introductions before the action starts, they, for the most part, get some decent background instead of just being used as blank cannon fodder to increase tensions. The actors all do well with their characters, and they all have a fair amount of chemistry with each other. The puzzles themselves are all interesting, and aren’t obvious about the solutions or the potential dangers.

The special effects are fairly well done, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Fans of the horror/thriller genre should enjoy this movie. While there’s very little gore, it’s actually a pretty good thriller, and while it does open with a bit of a spoiler as to who survives, there are a few decent twists along the way. Anyone wanting to watch this shouldn’t be disappointed if they have to spend money on a rental, and it’s something that can be viewed multiple times without getting too boring.

Escape Room is currently only available free to stream if you have Starz, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Happy Death Day 2U

HappyDeathDay2U

Directed By: Christopher Landon
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Rachel Matthews, Ruby Modine, Steve Zissis, Charles Aitken, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B+

After surviving the events of a time loop which made her repeat her birthday over and over again until she’s murdered by a mysterious figure in a baby mask, Tree Gelbman is ready to start living her best life with her boyfriend, Carter. However, her happiness is short-lived when Carter’s dorm mate, Ryan, shows up in their shared room freaking out and talking about how he thinks he may have already lived through the day. Intrigued, Tree asks Ryan to walk her and Carter through the events that happened the previous ‘day,’ and discovers not only why Ryan reset, but why she was affected in a similar manner the day before, however, when a school official interrupts a test of the machine responsible for the time loops, Tree is thrown into a parallel universe where most things are the same, but a few, small, important details have changed. Tasked with trying to figure out what went wrong, Tree soon has to decide whether she wants to go back to her own universe, or stay in the one she landed in.

While marketed as a horror movie, this sequel to 2017’s surprisingly enjoyable slasher flick is more science fiction than horror. While there are still people being murdered, it’s no longer Tree’s life that’s in constant danger, though she does go through a sequence of increasingly outlandish ways to commit suicide, and the main plot is trying to fix the device that sent her into a parallel universe. That aside, this movie is also quite enjoyable. The small changes between the two universes Tree experiences helps her gain further closure with plot points from the first movie, and lets her have experiences she wouldn’t have been able to have.

A couple of the effects used are noticeable, but most aren’t, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

If you enjoyed the first movie, then you’ll probably like this one as well, and with the lack of gore, anyone who’s not a fan of horror movies should also like it. There’s a small recap at the beginning of the movie, which means people new to the franchise don’t necessarily need to watch the first installment. It’s also enjoyable enough that one should be able to rewatch it without getting bored too easily.

Happy Death Day 2U is currently unavailable free to stream anywhere at the moment, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.