It Comes At Night (2017) Review

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A man tries to keep his family safe from the horrors that now plague the world they live in. He keeps a strict set of rules to abide by in order to achieve this, but one night someone breaks into their house begging for help. This encounter brings forth a series of events that shows the dark side of humanity.

First and foremost, I must warn you that this is not the movie A24 is marketing as. There’s no monster or villain lurking in the woods that they’re trying to keep out, or anything you may suspect it of being. Instead this movie is a “human horror” film. We don’t have a big evil villain. Instead it shows the villainy of humanity. When we first meet Paul (Joel Edgerton), along with his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and their son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.), they’ve just lost a love one to the deadly virus that is corrupting the world. They live in a boarded up house and trust no one who may come around. When the stranger named Will (Christopher Abbott) arrives he begs them to take in him, his wife Kim (Riley Keough), and young son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) and they oblige. As the two families reside together, things seem civil and fine, but paranoia and fear soon sets in unleashing the monster that lives inside ourselves. This movie is so extremely well-written to make these characters come off as real, and it succeeds at it, the actors add to this as well. Being a virus film, the virus is merely a plot device, and while it’s not a pleasant sight, it refrains from being unnecessarily gory and becoming a body horror film. In true form we have these set of characters that are so extremely likable and relatable and you care for them all. Granted I didn’t much care for the teenage son because he was a little too weird, but that’s just me. But these characters are genuinely good people, and when fear and paranoia sets in, these darker sides of themselves come out. And the way Trey Edward Shults captures this so brilliantly. His previous film Krisha (which I will now put at the top of my watchlist), is said to also brilliantly capture and portray real people. If those are characters are anything like the ones in this film, I’m sure it’s great. But as mentioned, this is a human horror film, humans are the monsters of this movie, and the true villain of this film are fear and paranoia that creates them. I will say that I wish the paranoia and fear was a bit more intensified prior to the film’s climax, but it’s not a huge deal breaker. As for the climax, it goes into really dark and bleak territory. And it’s so hard to hate these characters for their actions because of the fact that you understand them and their motives. In turn it really makes you question humanity and what can set you over. All of this mentioned is where the real horror is at. There are sequences (and by sequences I mean an abundance of nightmares that the teen son has) that are used mostly for jump scares but that’s about it in terms of “gotcha” horror. This is purely psychological horror at its finest.  As mentioned, the cast is great. Joel Edgerton can’t ever seem to do wrong. He plays Paul so well in how much he cares for his family, but also how much the fear and paranoia affects him, and how he’s balancing this line of what’s right and wrong and how that affects him. Christopher Abbott also turns in a strong performance as the father of the other family. Like Edgerton we see how protective and how much he cares about his family and will do anything to protect them. I wish Carmen Ejogo had a bit more to do than she had. She still does a fun job though. Riley Keough would have fallen the same fate if it wasn’t for one scene in the climax where she just sells her character in that moment. While there is much to love with this movie, it’s not without its issues. There are some plot holes/inconsistencies that are present, but they’re not gaping. We do get a decent feel of the development between the two families, but they could have done more, and while the fear and paranoia is present, these two presences could have been amped and built up more, especially right before the climax.

It Comes At Night won’t win over modern audiences who love in your face horror (though sadly they are treated to that with the dream sequences), or open-ended horror. But for those who REALLY appreciate horror, you will appreciate or love what Shults did with this movie and the statement he was trying to make, as well as the kind of horror he is bringing us that we don’t see a whole lot of. Add on the solid performances by the cast and you do have one of the best horror movies you’ll see this year.

4/5

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47 Meters Down (2017) Review

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After being dumped by her boyfriend claiming she’s too “boring”, Lisa (Mandy Moore) invites her sister Kate (Claire Holt) along with her, hoping to prove to him that she can be fun. The two are then invited to go cage diving with some very large sharks. Upon descent, their cage drops to the ocean floor. Eventually the sisters find they’re not safe inside the cage as their oxygen runs low, and they aren’t safe outside because of the sharks. It’s a race against time as the sisters fight to survive.

After the success of The Shallows, 47 Meters Down was pulled from it’s straight to DVD and digital release (it was very close to its release date), and the new plan was to release it in theaters. I’m really happy about this move, because this is one shark movie that deserves to be seen in a theatrical setting. At the same time however, while the sharks are a huge threat, even more so, the ocean itself is a threat. The film is so well-done and suspenseful with how it’s directed and filmed. It also uses the setting to its advantage. The film succeeds at making us feel trapped with these characters in this small space, and we feel our breaths growing as short as theirs because of how much we’re holding it. This occurs as the intensity builds. The intensity in question all starts and can be felt right when we see the girls climbing into the cage. Most of the film is completely underwater and it brilliantly makes us feel like we are there. The way cinematography captures the surroundings and as well as what could be hiding in the dark waters is nerve-wracking and really makes you hold your breath. This is only worse when the shark scenes come about. The sharks are used the perfect amount without using the same tropes and tricks over and over. This only further causes you to be on edge, and it contains some extremely well-done jump scares. In terms of characters, they feel pretty genuine, smart, and relatable. Lisa is the more reserved character and the first to really panic, but she also has a solid character arc watching her having to get over her fears and panic in order to survive. Kate is the more adventurous and brave one trying to be there for her sister. But what’s interesting is how at certain points, their roles seem to flip and they equally need to help each other. Some of the actions they commit may not be the smartest from an outer perspective, but situation-wise, these decisions come off as necessary because of the dire circumstances. Mandy Moore does really well with her performance and really sells her character’s fear and gradual changes, but there are times it appears a little strained. Of the two though Claire Holt turns in the strongest as we see her balancing bravery and fear along with her strength and concern for Moore’s character. The pair however are very believable as sisters and have strong chemistry to really help you care for and root for them.

47 Meters Down is a hard-core heart-pounding thriller that really does have you gasping for breath. This is more than a shark film, it is a hardcore survival film where the stakes are off the charts. Thanks to brilliant direction and cinematography, you are trapped with these two characters and really feel the terror and tension rising.

4/5

XX (2017) Review

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XX is a horror anthology film featuring four stories written and directed by four different women. In the first story “The Box” it tells the story of a young boy who meets an elderly man on a train with a box, the old man shows the boy what’s inside and afterwards the boy begins to starve himself, leaving his parents worried about what happened that day. “The Birthday Party” is about a mother who is trying to throw her daughter the best costume birthday party ever, however she finds her husband dead and now has to try dispose of the body before the guests arrive. “Don’t Fall” follows four friends who go camping in the desert, but after coming across weird rock paintings the friends find themselves dealing with demonic forces. “Her Only Living Son” involves a woman who discovers her son is developing odd and disturbing behavior as he’s about to turn eighteen.

The latest anthology horror film is particularly special because it proves that women are just as capable of directing horror films as men are. The talented women at hand do just that. Each story is really well-directed, even if some of the stories aren’t exactly the best written, but they do an excellent job of bringing their vision of the story to life and how it’s presented. Like most anthology horror films, this one is a mixed bag. “The Box” (written and directed by Jovanka Vuckovic) has an extremely interesting premise and I was invested the whole time, sadly it ends with a pretty unsatisfying ending where nothing is really revealed. “The Birthday Party” (written and directed by Annie Clark)  was hands-down my favorite entry. This one is definitely the least horror-filled and is instead more of a creepy black comedy. Melanie Lynskey plays the lead and she’s no stranger to playing odd characters, but Lynksey is excellent here and provides very great comedic moments with pretty minimal dialogue. The story in general is one of the better dark humor stories I’ve seen and it made me almost want to rewind this segment and watch it again. “Don’t Fall”  (written and directed by Roxanne Benjamin) was the strongest of the stories in terms of being an actual horror film and really made wish it was a little longer. It offers a very creepy setting in the nighttime desert setting, and the imagery of the demon released is super well-done and creepy. The friends are pretty likable and come off as realistic in how they joke around with each other and the overall interactions. So you do care for them. Angela Trimbur proves in this segment that she is totally capable of being the main girl as opposed to always playing the slutty party animal best friend, so here’s to hoping other horror directors see what she’s capable of doing. Sadly the weakest story was Karyn Kusama’s “Her Only Living Son”. I was really looking forward to Kusama’s because I absolutely loved her previous horror films Jennifer’s Body and The Invitation. But this one just came off a very basic, predictable, and pretty boring. You can see where Kusama’s vision is at, but it just needed a stronger script, and truthfully the acting wasn’t that great. Between each story are weird stop-motion-animated segments. In general they’re really well-done and set the odd and weird mood for the film, but in all honesty, they weren’t particularly necessary other than to be fillers to extend the runtime.

XX doesn’t follow full-on horror anthology tropes, but it does a fine job of mixing it up with weird, creepy, and humorous ones. Some are better than others or end up being missed opportunities, but they’re all wonderfully directed and fit well together. Not only does it show the abilities of its female directors, but it shows the potential of under-looked actresses like Melanie Lynskey and Angela Trimbur and what they can bring to the table.

3.5/5

5 Good Movies To Watch On Valentine’s Day

That “romantic” day of the year is tomorrow. Some of you may be going out for a romantic dinner and maybe a movie (more than likely guys will be dragged to Fifty Shades Darker), and some may just have a nice night at home with dinner and could watch some better (or at least slightly better) movies.

Valentine’s Day

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First there’s the obvious choice, Valentine’s Day. A whole bunch of romantic-comedy storylines combined into one. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s not my personal favorite rom-com. It had some good stories like Julia Roberts’ and the funny one of them all featuring Anne Hathaway and Topher Grace. Even if I’m not crazy about it, it is the obvious choice and pretty perfect watch for Valentine’s Day.

How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days

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Another rom-com that is perfect for the romantic holiday is How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days. To me this is the ultimate romantic comedy (along with The Proposal) because it really has something for both male and females. It has the romance for the women and the good comedy for the men. Then of course you have the eye candy. But what really sets it apart from most rom-coms is that it focuses on both sides of the spectrum and captures both males and female in a relationship in this battle of the sexes film. Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey both have really strong chemistry and do really well with the comedy.

A Walk to Remember

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If you’re looking for a straight-forward romance to cuddle up with to your loved one, you can’t go wrong with A Walk to Remember (unless you’re a die hard Notebook person). It has a very endearing love story between two young people from different worlds. It’s cheesy, but it’s a very cute cheese, and it thankfully came out before all of the tragic romances (aka Nicholas Sparks films) became old and tired. As far as tear-jerkers go, it’s one of the best. And Mandy Moore and Shane West are terrific.

Valentine

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Or maybe you’re like me and would prefer to watch a horror movie involving this holiday. Valentine is a pretty fun slasher film, especially if you’re a man who has bitter feelings on Valentine’s Day or if you’re vindictive woman against sexy and snobby women, then this one may be for you. It’s about a group of friends who begin receiving threatening Valentine’s Day cards from a masked killer whom they start to think was a classmate they humiliated at a Valentine’s Day dance in high school. Sounds fun right?

My Bloody Valentine

Whether you choose the traditional slasher original film, or the trashy and gory remake, you can’t go wrong with either for a fun time. They’re both about a killer dressed in a mining outfit who terrorizes a small town on Valentine’s Day, killing anyone who celebrates it. As I said, the original is pretty straightforward with just a mild amount of blood, but still good fun. The remake follows the same story but has some changes to it, and has plenty of nudity and gore added to this version.

Havenhurst (2017) Review

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Jackie (Julie Benz) is a recovering alcoholic who loses her daughter in an accident due to her drinking. In an attempt to start over, as well as figure out what happened to her missing friend Danielle (Danielle Harris), she moves in to the large Havenhurst gothic apartment building under the management of the rule-oriented Eleanor (Fionnula Flanagan). As Jackie lives there, she begins to uncover dark secrets about the buildings history and what happens to the tenants when they don’t live up to building’s rules.

The film starts out with the most disappointing cameo since Katherine Isabelle in The Girl in the Photographs. And this is quite probably worse. It’s worse due to the fact that this is Danielle Harris we’re fricken talking about, and she gets a measly 3 minutes or so of screen time before she dies, and the scene itself could have been really good had it been longer, but even worse, much of those 3 minutes are shown in the trailer. Mini rant done. Havenhurst actually as a really good set-up for itself. We have a very nicely constructed and creepy setting with some good set pieces, along with a good mystery to it. The lead character is likable, even though she has the most overdone backstory ever and clearly she has to do something to redeem herself for her past. But despite that you do care for her. The supporting characters aren’t really well-developed, but they’re painted as naturally shitty people, so it’s not exactly a big loss. The history revealed about the building is actually fricken cool. I admit I knew nothing much about the real history that was borrowed to use towards the story of this movie, but upon some google searching it’s very interesting. So unless certain elements leading up to the reveal stand out to you that you may know where it’s going, it’ll be a nice treat for you. But sadly once this is revealed, it doesn’t go much further with it. Which really is a huge shame, because for such a big reveal you really want it to go into that area more. This goes hand-in-hand with the overall motive. There’s not much connection between the reveal and the motive behind that disappearances that I could tell. Unless I missed something in my googling, then my bad. The death scene do have some pretty nice blood and gore images though  but doesn’t get too carried away with them.

Julie Benz turns in a well-done performance as per usual as the lead, which in turn does help in making the character likable and sympathetic, because I feel that given to the wrong actress, she could have half-assed it and made you not give two shits about Jackie. Fionnula Flanagan does a fine job as well, but I wish she could have been given more eerie moments involving her character than we got, because as she she displayed in The Others, she sure as hell can be creepy. And then in her minuscule role, Danielle does as well as she possibly can and at least we get her scream we all know and love.

Havenhurst has a great setting and set pieces and good performances, and is given a solid reveal, but it’s a huge victim to not reaching the potential it could by going further with this reveal.

2.5/5

Don’t Hang Up (2017) Review

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Sam (Gregg Sulkin) and his best friend Brady (Garrett Clayton) get their kicks out of prank phone calls and recording them and are put on their blog. But these are typical prank calls. They’re actually very menacing and dark prank calls. The first scene depicts them pranking a mom (Sienna Guillory) home alone with her daughter, and the two boys convince her there is a mad man in the house and that her young daughter is in danger. When Sam’s parents are out of town, Brady comes over and the two commence with their pranks as well as drinks. However, they get a call of their own from a madman who knows what they’ve been up to and decides to have some fun with them. The two then find themselves as well as those they care about in danger.

Don’t Hang Up is actually a pretty fun teen slasher film. It’s has elements of Black Christmas and When a Stranger Calls, but with a modern and tech savvy twist. The whole is set inside the one house and it does a great job of putting you inside of it with the characters with their sense of paranoia. Now it sure as hell doesn’t match up to the scares of the aforementioned films, but for what it is, it does a hell of a job of keeping your attention waiting to see what will happen next, and some generally well-constructed suspenseful moments. The cinematography is often really well-done too with some of the camera techniques reminding me of how Panic Room was filmed. The two leads aren’t exactly the most likable because of how really mean-spirited the pranks are, but as the film does progress, you do develop some attachment to them and their bond. There are some inconsistencies in the script like how the killer tells them they are to not hang up, but there are many times where they do hang up and the killer doesn’t pay much mind to this like he does when they do it the first few times he calls. Like I mentioned, the movie is really engaging from beginning to end, and besides the prank calls, it does a good job of making these two come off as real teen boys in their behavior and dialogue. Unfortunately what hurts the movie is the extremely predictable ending. I was honestly really disappointed that it went that route.

The acting is pretty decent. Gregg Sulkin does really well and probably gives more than he really needed to in the role. He shows the side of his character that gets kicks out of the pranks, but knows when enough is enough. But more than anything he does an excellent job of showing the fear and terror his character feeling. Unfortunately Garrett Clayton turns in a less than good performance (in terms of emotions). In all actuality it’s his character should be having the biggest emotional reaction (as his parents are being held hostage by the madman) but instead he fails to really deliver any genuine reaction. Emotional-wise Clayton lacks, but he does well with his comedic moments of being the typical teenage douchebag. In her smaller role, Sienna Guillory (known for being Jill Valentine in the Resident Evil films) makes her small screen time worthwhile.

Don’t Hang Up is a fun often thrilling movie that does really well with it’s one location and developing the two leads as well some fine performances, but the predictable ending unfortunately hurts it from being the solid horror film I wanted it to end up being.

3.5/5

Don’t Knock Twice (2017) Review

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There’s an urban legend that tells of an elderly woman that’s said to be a witch and does the bidding for a demon who feasts off of young children. You go to the witch’s house, one knock wakes her spirit, the second knock opens the door to unleash her. A young girl named Chloe whom she and her friend believe the witch took someone they knew go to the witch’s home and knock twice. Chloe has been in the foster care system since her mother gave her up due to addiction and Chloe feels bitter against her for this. Feeling she might be safe in her care she goes to live with her mother Jess. As the mother and daughter work to rebuild their relationship, the evil that Chloe has unleashed threaten to tear them apart.

It’s a shame that this movie didn’t get a wide theatrical release. Instead it got stamped with the limited and digital release format. Don’t Knock Twice is actually a very well-done film and provides an engaging story with some pretty great thrills. On one hand we have a very solid mother/daughter storyline involving Jess and Chloe. Katee Sackhoff provides an extremely strong performance as an ex-addict who is only trying to make things right with her daughter. Sackhoff really does a fine job of showing the struggle she’s going through of trying to put the past behind her, win her daughters’ affections, and ultimately fight for Chloe’s life. Chloe is played by Lucy Bonyton and provides a well-done performance as well. She captures the bitter and cold attitude of Chloe towards her mother well, but then does an even better job of showing the gradual emotional attachment she begins to feel. Putting the two together is even better because they play off of each other so well and really capture the mother/daughter aspects of the story and you really care for them and hope they both come out of this alive. The horror aspect is super well-done here as well. It features a lot of creepy imagery involving the demon, and even just capturing it’s shadow is enough to bring on the chills. It’s also worth mentioning that this is excellently filmed too and provides a great helping hand into making the horror work, as mentioned the way the camera captures the demon is great, and even the way it captures the characters moving around the house (inside or out) can make it creepy. It keeps the jump scares to a minimum and purely relies on the build up of scenes, the imagery, and the creepy atmosphere to make the horror work. The script does a good job of covering important aspects pertaining to the folklore of the witch and the demon that makes everything in the ending work. It features some nice plot twists as well that keep it from being too basic. I have no doubt that some people will be able to predict what happens, and that may ruin it for them, so be it. Some will even point out some of the movies it reminds them of, which may be off-putting. The latter is a little unavoidable, but it didn’t ruin the experience for me. I do however wish that the final act that takes place in a particular setting had been more eventful than it was because I really loved what they gave, and I wanted more from it.

Don’t Knock Twice, despite some familiarity of other films, really presents itself as a fresh story and does so with great confidence. It has a perfect blend of familial drama and horror, both are giving a great amount to shine, but I do feel the horror gets more of the pull in the end. Which doesn’t bother me in the slightest. With a solid script, being really well-filmed, and the great performances by the two leads, I highly recommend this movie. It’s available on iTunes right now, but if you happen to have it playing in a theater near you, definitely check it out there.

4/5