Author: Ryan

The Awakening

Year: 2011
Directed By: Nick Murphy
Written By: Stephen Volk and Nick Murphy

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie caught me by surprise a couple of years ago when it was streaming on Netflix or some other streaming site. It was this time of the year and we were looking for something spooky to watch. I had never heard of this movie but gave it a shot and was thoroughly surprised.

It has an interesting setting in post WWI England that I like. The aftermath of WWI is important in this movie as more spirits than ever would be haunting the world. WWI is an era that doesn’t see a lot of screen time and I think that is because it was such a nasty war. WWII gets all the glory and Vietnam all the controversy but WWI was probably the most devastating conflict in history. War tactics had not changed but weapons had. With no strategy to account for the difference millions were lost in the fight against weapons that were more powerful and wicked than ever before.

I really like Rebecca Hall as the lead in this movie. She doesn’t get many opportunities but I think she thrives in the role. I fear she probably gets passed over too often because she looks like other actresses. In this movie I thought she played a strong minded and determined character who is both right and wrong about the world.

The movie immediately sucked me in with her aggressively debunking some frauds. From there you can trust that she will get to the bottom of the new ghost mystery at hand. The fact that she does get to the bottom of the mystery is interesting because it is only half way through the movie when she does. It keeps you sucked in because where will it go from there? It’s clever in that it hits you with a twist that isn’t easy to see coming. Not only is there a real ghost but there’s history for our main character as well.

This is a spooky movie that can make you jump now and again. It was a pleasant surprise when I sat down expecting little from a movie I had never heard of. One click on the computer later and it was part of the collection via Amazon. I think if you’re looking for a good movie to watch this Halloween you can’t go wrong with this one that flies under the radar. I really enjoyed it and I think it is worth your time.

 

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Get Out

Year: 2017
Directed By: Jordan Peele
Written By: Jordan Peele

RYAN’S REVIEW

Here we have another movie featuring the nefarious and spooky element of hypnosis. This time around that hypnosis is simply a precursor for the real horror to come. In this thrilling horror film from the mind of Jordan Peele you’ll first find yourself sucked in, then the intrigue takes hold before the horror reaches out and grabs you.

I really enjoy this movie but there is a message I read loud and clear from it. Black people really are terrified of white people, who woulda thought right? They’re not afraid in the sense that they’re intimidated or scared. Just terrified on the deep seeded level of fear. Like, I finish this movie and I think “damn, they must really think we are crazy.” African American gentlemen beware the white woman and her iniquitous motives.

The cultural differences that remain in this country are truly unfortunate and nothing to joke about really. Xenophobia and misunderstanding are the root of a problem this country has yet to overcome.  I don’t think anybody side is truly to blame but neither knows how to relent and start the healing. Hopefully one day things will be different, but in the meantime this movie highlights a perception that white people aren’t intimidating, but scary on a high level of crazy. I think the sad truth is that people of all races can be crazy, there are always bad apples that make an entire demographic look bad.

I am a big fan of funny man Jordan Peele and I like him even more after getting behind camera for a movie like this. I like how he infused his comedic elements into the film with the delightful TSA agent but beyond that I found his work to be so impressive. In a time when I feel like all the horror films coming out are shit I see this and it gives me hope. It’s ironic that hope comes from the most unlikeliest of places. I like Key and Peele but Dave Chappelle said it best when he made the joke that he had to watch them do his show every night.

I think the fact that Peele made this movie on such a tight budget made it all the better. The best horror films are made on the cheap, even IT only cost 35 million to make. I think Peele had a good cast to work with for this film. I have always been a big fan of Katherine Keener and like her as the hypnotizing mother with her lethal tea cup. The TSA agent was awesome and brought light into this dark film every time it was needed. If I am discussing the cast I must mention one of my favorite actors of all time. Stephen Root plays the blind art dealer bidding on Chris’s body. Root is a terrific and prolific actor that can do anything; a true unsung hero in the acting world.

I really enjoy this movie because it is so subtle. You can rack your brain trying to figure out what is actually going on all throughout but clarity won’t come until Peele puts it together for you. Peele actually shot two endings to the film and I like them both. One being what ended up in the film which is where the TSA buddy comes to Chris’s rescue and throws in a quick joke before the movie ends. I like that ending but I have to admit I found the alternate ending a bit more horrific. In the Alternate ending the lights flashing across Chris’s face aren’t that of his TSA buddy’s vehicle but that of a real cop car.

In the alternate ending Chris is caught red handed trying to strangle his girlfriend to death and sent to jail. Once he is locked up he is just a black guy with a wild story. He is visited in prison by his TSA buddy and seems disinterested with getting out of jail and instead content that he brought an end to something so horrible. I think that ending is a bit of a more punch in the gut and a better way to end a horror film, but I do like what they actually went with because I loved the TSA buddy.

This was a huge hit for good reason, it’s a fresh and entertaining horror film that nobody expected to be so good. It goes to show that this day in age when something is good word will still get around. This movie was a financial success without even the presence of a superhero! It makes me respect it all the more and really look forward to what Jordan Peele might do next.

I don’t know that this movie really sets the mood for Halloween because despite being a horror film it somehow doesn’t seem right for the season. I don’t think you should watch this movie to get you in the mood for Halloween. I think you should watch this movie because it’s awesome. This movie is worth your time, your money, and your attention.

 

 

 

 

Stir of Echoes

Year: 1999
Directed By: David Koepp
Written By: David Koepp (screenplay) Richard Matheson (novel)

RYAN’S REVIEW

Back in the fall of 1999 everyone was still “seeing dead people” while I was hearing echoes. The Sixth Sense had come out in August and it was still all the rave by the time this film was released only a month later. I had heard all about The Sixth Sense but it was rated PG-13 and I didn’t think a horror movie with such a rating could be so good. Come September I found myself immediately engrossed in this R rated movie that was also about a kid who sees dead people. By that time nobody had any interest in another ghost story after they had seen that shocker at the end of The Sixth Sense.

It would go on to be years before I actually saw The Sixth Sense because somehow by not watching it I was being loyal to the film that had actually caught my eye. It wasn’t the first time two films of a similar premise have come out, in fact it seemingly happens all the time. Immediate examples that come to mind are Antz and A Bug’s Life in 1998, Volcano and Dante’s Peak in 1997, Tombstone and Wyatt Earp released in 1993 and 1994 but only six months apart, Armageddon and Deep Impact in 1998, and the list goes on and on. It still happens as I remember in 2013 White House Down and Olympus has Fallen both came out in the same year. By rule I only watch one of these movies when they come out, if either, and in the case of this film I watched Stir of Echoes over The Sixth Sense. I would eventually become a big M. Night Shyamalan fan but not because of his breakthrough film but rather Unbreakable and his work that followed.

This movie may have gotten lumped into this anomaly of films with similar premises coming out in the same year but they are much different actually. They weren’t featuring the same natural disaster or different biographies of the same men, but there are similarities that can’t be overlooked. Even after seeing The Sixth Sense I still prefer this movie. Yeah, Haley Joel Osment made for a cute as shit kid that could really act, but what does this kid have over Kevin freaking Bacon? In fact I think it is Bacon’s performance in this movie that gives it the edge in my opinion. I have always been a fan of Bacon and he even retweeted me once, which was pretty cool, pretty pretty pretty cool. Sorry, bingeing Curb Your Enthusiasm came to a halt swiftly at the turn of the month

Where this movie wins is that it is actually scary. The opening shot alone is spooky and it leads right into the kid talking to a ghost. Hypnosis is always fun to play with too, as a beginning to the horror to come. Hypnosis is one of those fake gimmicks that everybody wants to believe in and it is sort of real to a certain degree, but nothing like what we see in the movies. It’s ironic that Kevin bacon develops a “sixth sense” of his own after the hypnosis. Another place it wins is simply all the advantages that come with an R rating. I just think that as far as places where fuck is appropriate go, horror films are one of those places.

Now that my memory is thoroughly jogged I think these movies are far too similar. It seems as if this movie is a rip off of the one that came before but actually it could be the other way around. This movie was loosely based on a novel by Richard Matheson, who is one of Stephen King’s favorite authors incidentally. The movies are fundamentally different but when two movies about a kid seeing dead people come out within a month of each other something is wrong. This anomaly I discuss is odd and if anybody out there can explain it I would love to know your thoughts on the matter. I may be alone but I think this is a better movie and it was overshadowed and fell victim to the said anomaly.

It’s a shame because Kevin Bacon does give quite an exceptional performance. He isn’t alone either, being surrounded by a supporting case that I really like. I am a big fan of Kevin Dunn and like him in many roles he has played, including this one. Zachary David Cole wasn’t the actor that Haley Joel Osment was but he holds his own. I also like Kathryn Erbe and Illeana Douglas who play the two female leads. I don’t know who plays Neil the cop but he really reminds me of Halloran from The ShiningI wonder if that is a coincidence or an influence King got from Matheson.

This movie doesn’t end with the same kind of shocker as its anomaly but it keeps the mystery and excitement through to the end. I don’t think I’ll ever win over a fan of The Sixth Sense in the personal argument I have but I will always be on the side of Echoes. I think this is a cool movie and I’ve enjoyed watching it again. I think this movie is easily worth your time and it works for the Halloween season.

 

Halloween Season 2017

It’s that time of year again! We haven’t made the most significant progress through our collection in the past year, moving only one letter in the alphabet, but we keep moving along albeit at a snails pace. Right now I find myself having trouble remembering how many Halloweens we have spent reviewing horror films and can’t even recall. Time flies and life stays busy but there is always time to get into the spirit of the year’s scary season.

This year we have five films we definitely want to fit in for the season. Having skipped it a couple months ago we’ll be reviewing Stir of Echoes this month. We will also be jumping ahead in the alphabet a bit to review both the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the 2003 remake of the film. At some point too we will be reviewing newcomers to the collection The Awakening and Get Out –  really looking forward to the latter there.

Who knows what else the month holds as we watch movies to get into the mood. I may finally publish that Psycho review that has been in draft for over two years now. Maybe I will make another trip to the theater and see IT again; it’s definitely worth a second trip to the theater and it’s in season now.

In closing I simply want to remind people to have fun this year. This holiday that pulls the strings of our most relevant emotions is one that we can all enjoy. It’s a fun month before we are overloaded with holiday season marketing and excessive power bills. It’s a time to relish in the dark and indulge on candy. The wind blows a little colder and the ghouls come out. We have some scary movies to check out this year and I can’t wait to get started.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III

Year: 1993
Directed By: Stuart Gillard
Written By: Stuart Gillard, based of characters created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird

RYAN’S REVIEW

Let’s be honest here, if twice within a year was too much time to invest in Secret of the Ooze then twice in a lifetime is too much for this movie. I haven’t watched it and even skimming over the synopsis of the film seemed like I was over doing it.

Who thought this was a good idea? Even as a little kid I thought this was just ridiculous when it came out and I’m not going to venture into it again to get an adult impression. I remember it from when I was a kid. I’d moved on to X-Men by then and too cool for the Turtles but I still secretly looked forward to it. I didn’t expect much as the movie was obviously full blown shenanigans and I could recognize that even at 9 years old. It was a disappointing experience and probably my first in a derailed franchise that killed itself.

I would go on in time to see many franchises self destruct, some even rise from the ashes like a phoenix to get back on top, but this was definitely the first franchise I saw cave in on itself. Immediate examples that come to mind are Aliens, X-Men, Indiana Jones, Die Hard, Terminator, ya know I didn’t think the list would just keep going like that but there have been so many I had to stop myself. X-men would be the phoenix that rose from the ashes of The Last Stand and into the glory that was Days of Future Past. Most franchises fail over time and it’s usually the third movie that takes the nose dive. This movie took a nose dive and hit the ground with a splat.

I’m sure I could watch this movie and come out of it with many interesting thoughts and points of view but I’m eager to start Halloween season. If there exists a time for time traveling turtles then I might find it one day but it isn’t now and and isn’t anytime soon. It’s time for ghosts and ghouls and I’ll close this out simply by saying it probably isn’t worth your time under any circumstance. I didn’t deem it worth mine even for a review.

NEXT MOVIE: TMNT (2007)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

Year: 1991
Directed By: Michael Pressman
Written By: Todd W. Langen, based on characters created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird

 

RYAN’S REVIEW

OK full disclosure here, I haven’t watched this movie in order to review it. Oddly enough I found myself watching it with my kids sometime within the last six months and I think that gave me a good enough impression to go with. I’m like a freaking adult now, can’t be having two sittings of this movie within six months of one another. That would just be silly.

I distinctly remember this film coming to theaters, I was 7 at the time. There was a contest for coloring a picture of the turtles to get free tickets to the film. I specifically remember how much effort I put into it, not only the easy part of getting all the colors correct but also shading with crayons in a way that could rival my abilities as an adult. I put all the effort capable of a seven year old into that drawing and I was so proud to turn it in. When I got the call that my coloring had been selected I lost my shit. I felt like I had won because I was somehow a superior Turtles fan. I had poured my heart into something, probably for the first time in my life, and I had succeeded at it. Low and behold I realized years later that my dad was the manager of the theater that promoted the competition. A coincidence that can’t be overlooked as one reflects on life experiences.

That charming memory aside I loved this movie through and through when it came out and I saw it in the theater. I thought it far exceeded the original film and captured the humor that the turtles were capable of. Plus there were other mutants in this one! I have always been a fan of Toka and Raza, the capabilities of Jim Henson Creature Shop can never easily be overlooked. These guys were no Bebop and Rocksteady but they upped the ante for the turtles nonetheless.

Yet as I have gotten older I find myself revisiting this film now and again. I find that with each viewing I see more and more childish shenanigans. Things I started out blind to because of my childhood love suddenly started to come into focus. The ninja turtles don’t even really fight in this one. In fact they’re the motherfucking Harlem Globetrotters of combat! How can I knock this guy down without using any actual violence? Hmmmm we’re gonna need more props and gags.

The thing is I no longer know what to think about this movie. I watch this movie now and I want to sit here and tell you it’s garbage. Nothing but juvenile nonsense and it isn’t worth your time. However I have to consider the memories that come flooding back. I absolutely loved this movie when it came out and ignored all flaws for years following. Maybe this is a great movie because it captured me as part of the obvious target audience. Maybe what I think about it now fails in comparison to the magic I saw as a seven year old.

If nothing else this movie continued the turtle story line and deepened their characters. That can’t be said for the third in the franchise. I don’t think this movie was worth my time to sit down and watch again within a certain time frame. Upon deep consideration I would say that it is most definitely worth the time of your preteen child. Even though it is silly I think there is still plenty to like about the film for any Ninja Turtles fan.

NEXT MOVIE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Year: 1990
Directed By: Michael Pressman
Written By: Todd W Langen, based on characters created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird

RYAN’S REVIEW

Like any normal boy in the late 80’s and early 90’s I was a huge Ninja Turtles fan. Those adolescent adjective experimenters were what I lived for. I spent my mornings watching the cartoons and my afternoons reenacting what I saw with my action figures. So in my youth and as a budding movie fan this was a movie I spent a lot of time with. I think it holds up well too after so many other attempts to capitalize on the property. I was raised on this movie and that makes me biased but I would stand by the statement that they have’t been able to match this in 27 years.

This movie is dark and gritty whereas all of the other incarnations are more light hearted and family friendly. In this movie you see the turtles face real danger, there are consequences to their actions, and occasionally they’re going to use mild colorful language. I love that it features kids turning to crime and smoking and stuff. Not because any of that is cool, it isn’t, but simply because it isn’t the kind of thing you would see done so casually in a movie these days.

The tone set by this film didn’t carry on to the sequels and that’s a shame. I think this was a success but the studios wanted something more family friendly thus we ended up with the silly sequels featuring Vanilla Ice and time travel. For this to be the starting point of the franchise I think the execs making the decisions should have considered that their audience was getting older as opposed to younger. When you go from gritty to silly you are only going to disappoint your audience.

I have become a grown up myself in the 27 years since this movie came out and I find that not only do I still enjoy it, but I’m still a sucker for anything Turtles. I have coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets, and even a Leonardo action figure sitting on my desk at work. It’s Leo because he was the leader and all the figures that adorn my desk represent some form of leadership. He stands in attack mode next to a Negan sitting on a replica Iron Throne and holding Lucille. They sit below a large picture of Tony Soprano. In that I have Leo as a leader, Negan as a tyrant, and Tony as a boss. Nobody ever puts two and two together or even recognizes that it’s Negan (because it’s a comic toy, not a Jeffrey Dean Morgan PG version of the character) but that’s not the point. They stand in representation for me and I enjoy them.

Leonardo isn’t just any leader but an honorable and just one. He is the one his other brothers look to not only for leadership but for guidance and counsel. When my daughter brought me the action figure as a present one day I couldn’t help but make him a place on my desk where he fit right in with the theme of what was already established.

Despite all the snazzy things they are able to do in the newer films I still hold this one up as the best the any Ninja Turtle movie has to offer. It’s a raw and real movie about the Turtles that utilized animatronics rather than CGI. In this movie they did it the old fashion way, with the legendary Jim Henson company providing the special effects. I actually like the new films but these simpler turtles are still the ones that hold my heart.

I think this movie is worth the time of any Ninja Turtles fan but I think it can reach a wider audience than that. I can’t say this is a movie I have been asked about or spoken to anyone about in more than 20 years but I loved it as a kid and I still enjoy it today. I can’t say they were able to keep my support over the years with subpar sequels but this movie stands on its own two feet.

NEXT MOVIE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)