The Little Stranger

LittleStranger

Directed By: Lenny Abrahamson
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Will Poulter, Charlotte Rampling, Liv Hill, Oliver Zetterström, Kathryn O’Reilly, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: C+

In 1948, country doctor Faraday is called to a crumbling manor named Hundreds Hall, owned by the once prominent Ayers family, where his mother worked as a maid during his childhood. After the visit, strange occurrences start happening at the home, and Faraday finds himself visiting the manor to tend to deal with the family’s various ailments, including the war-injured Roderick and the slightly agoraphobic Caroline, with whom Faraday strikes up a romance. As time progresses, it seems the strange occurrences, as well as Faraday himself, are not as simple as they first seemed, and that some far stranger, and more sinister is taking place.

On the surface, this movie seems to be a cut-and-dried haunted house thriller, but as the movie progresses, it doesn’t seem to be quite that simple, and while I was a little disappointed in the ending, the rest of the movie is an interesting watch. At its heart, the movie is a story of obsession, and how far one is willing to go to obtain that obsession. I haven’t read the book this movie is based on, but the pacing seems to be okay, though it does get a bit rushed towards the end. The ending itself, I thought, was a little disappointing, and almost seemed to come out of left field, though, looking back, there are hints towards it sprinkled throughout the movie. The acting is well done, and Domhnall Gleeson seems to have perfected keeping characters one the line between well-meaning and slightly menacing.

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

Despite the somewhat disappointing ending, this movie should appeal to anyone who enjoys mystery/thrillers and doesn’t mind period pieces. It could almost be used as a character study in watching someone unravel. Parents may want to watch the movie before letting small children watch, as there are quite a few violent and intense scenes. While you should pay close attention on the first watch, anyone wanting to watch it again should be able to do so without needing to.

The Little Stranger is currently only available free to stream if you have HBO, but it can be rented through Redbox and 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!

Heatstroke

Heatstroke

Directed By: Evelyn Purcell
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Svetlana Metinka, Maisie Williams, Peter Stormare, Warrick Grier, Calvin Hayward, Jeanne Neilson, et.al.
Rating: TV-14
Grade: C

Troubled teen Jo, having one too many run-ins with the police, is sent to Africa to help her estranged father Paul, and his girlfriend Tally, document hyenas in the wild for his work. Jo, unhappy with being dumped in the middle of nowhere, causes as much discord as she can until her father agrees to send her home. However, when they happen upon poachers, Jo’s world is turned upside down, and she and Tally must come to a truce as they fight for their lives in a harsh environment.

This is a serviceable thriller, adapted from the novel Leave No Trace, that does as well as a made-for-TV movie can with a limited budget. The plot is a little choppy and rushed, and while I haven’t read the book, I wonder if it might have been better used as a limited/miniseries. That said, the actors all seem to work well together, and Maisie Williams does well with an American accent, though her character does tend to come off as a whiny brat for the first part of the movie. Filmed on location in South Africa, the scenery is beautiful to look at, and almost makes up for the slim storytelling.

From what I could tell, there were little to no special effects or background filler used.

Anyone who likes mild intensity without really being scared, or hardcore fans of one of the actors, will likely enjoy this movie. There’s no real language or nudity to speak of (there is a relatively tame sex scene between Paul and Tally), so it should be safe for just about anyone to watch. The movie does pick up after the encounter with the poachers, but the story is easy enough to follow that you don’t necessarily need to pay close attention to it.

Heatstroke is currently available free to stream through TubiTV, Vudu, and Amazon Prime, and it can be rented through 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!

The Shallows

TheShallows

Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Angelo Josue Lozano Corzo, Joseph Sallas, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge, Pablo Calva, Diego Espejel, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: A-

Struggling med student Nancy goes on a surf trip to Mexico to find a beach her mother also surfed on. While there, she surfs a few waves with some locals, but wanting to catch more waves, stays after they leave for the day. After swimming further out to open water, she stumbles upon a shark feeding off a whale carcass and finds herself being targeted by it. After tending to her injuries, Nancy finds herself running out of time as she desperately tries to alert anyone she can to her presence, and also keep them from being attacked by the increasingly aggressive shark stalking her.

As far as ticking-clock thrillers go, this is one of the better ones made in recent years. The plot is well-paced, and Blake Lively, who is on screen for pretty much the entire movie, does well with the material. Shark attack movies are usually a dime a dozen, so finding one that stands out is a rare occurrence. The limited number of people in danger likely helps with this, as the survival of the main character is what makes the movie one of either tragic loss or triumphant survival. It’s also not entirely outside possibility that a shark would target a single wounded person who encroached on their territory, and ultimately the most unrealistic plot point is that Nancy doesn’t lose her leg.

The special effects are fairly well done, with the shark looking mostly realistic, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Action/thriller fans should enjoy this movie, though those with a fear of sharks probably won’t. With a decent script and real consequences, this is one of the better shark attack movies that have been made somewhat recently, and it’s even worth spending the money on a purchase for future watching, as it seems like a good movie to rewatch when you’re bored.

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

Beyond Skyline

BeyondSkyline

Directed By: Liam O’Donnell
Starring: Frank Grillo, Bojana Novakovic, Jonny Weston, Callan Mulvaney, Antonio Fargas, Pamelyn Chee, Yayan Ruhian, Jacob Vargas, Iko Uwais, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: B-

After bailing his son out of jail, police officer Mark Corley must lead a group of people to safety after an alien invasion begins. After Mark, his son Trent, subway conductor Audrey, and blind, homeless veteran Sarge are captured by the aliens, Mark looks for a way to free his new friends and finds a young pregnant woman named Elaine, who tells him that one of the soldiers has the mind of her boyfriend, Jarrod, and that he is different than the other soldiers. When she dies after Mark helps her give birth to her daughter, he takes the child and he and Jarrod find a way to bring down the alien ship. After the crash, Mark and his friends take the child off the ship and find out that they crashed in Indonesia, where they attempt to find a way to fight back against the alien invaders who have come looking for Elaine’s child.

A sequel to the 2010 movie Skyline, this movie is as surprisingly enjoyable as that one was. In fact, knowing this movie exists might make the original slightly more enjoyable, as that one had a strange ending that, at the time, I felt was odd and slightly out of tune with the rest of an otherwise decent movie. This sequel doesn’t suffer from the same off-step ending its predecessor did. The storyline as whole was slightly more interesting, and is a decent sci-fi/alien invasion movie. The actors all work well together and the locations in Indonesia are beautiful.

The special effects are fairly well done, especially given the smaller budget, and any background filler isn’t noticeable.

Anyone who enjoyed the original, or is just looking for a decent alien invasion movie should enjoy this. The movie is good enough that it shouldn’t start to grate after only one or two views, and it’s easy enough to follow that you don’t need to devote all of your attention to it while it’s on.

Beyond Skyline is currently available free to stream through Netflix, 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!

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.