“Overlord” Review

After having been beaten over the head with the absurdity of Nazi zombies in the likes of Wolfenstein and Dead Snow, along comes Overlord as the boldly brutal and earnest take on this odd little subgenre. It’s a bloody romp of bullets and monsters, yet never feels the need to come loaded with winks for the action. There’s enough trust that you’ll have fun with a half-faced Nazi villain and a kick-butt French villager brandishing a flamethrower.
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“Halloween” (2018) Review

Similar to the Godzilla saga, Halloween has gone through a number of different sequels and remakes over the decades. David Gordon Green’s Halloween, however, feels like the true sequel worthy of following the footsteps of the near-flawless slasher classic that started it all. Also like Godzilla, his version wipes the slate clean of every other sequel and remake. And while there’s still a fond place in my heart for Halloween II and the much-divergent Halloween III: Season of the Witch, there’s a pleasing charm to see a slasher revival get back to the basics while still reinventing itself.
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“The Predator” Review

There’s something so unbelievably bonkers about Shane Black’s take on Predator that make it narrowly fun amid its messy hit-or-miss method. Rather than go for a more modern and serious retread of the classic action tale of gun-toting soldiers versus high-tech alien hunter, Black throws his picture so far deep into the pool of zany it should come labeled as a comedy, decked out with much winking in its silly banter and over-the-top gore. And sometimes, amid the massive mess of this nutty production, it works.
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“The Meg” Review

The Meg is a B-movie creature feature that seems to be trying so hard to be average, never favoring a tone too serious or silly. It struggles to play it straight with its exposition of underwater research and horrific with the titular shark, but still wants to wink at the camera and have a laugh with a quip or two. A PG-13 rating for a bigger summer box office gross prevents any memorable kills or bloody terror. It’s this assembly that makes the movie more of a dry, by-the-numbers monster movie than a more campier version that pays homage to its lesser and goofier counterparts.
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“Psychopaths” Review

Psychopaths is a pointless display of cruelty and violence that cakes on artful cinematography and relentless savagery in place of plot and purpose. But it’s a script that seems somewhat aware of its toxic nihilism, where a death-row killer admits in an interview that evil is evil, not needing a purpose to exist. The same sentiments can be applied to this film. Writer/director Mickey Keating perhaps wasn’t seeking to make a film that had some theme or characterization to a series of serial killer murders. He probably just wanted to film very vile acts for the sheer pleasure of watching people suffer. Evil is evil after all.
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“A Quiet Place” Review

There are some horror movies where I enjoy watching the audience reactions more than the movie itself. And then there are ones like John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, where I turn into the reactive horror movie viewer I usually smirk at for being won over by jump-scares. I found myself doing things I don’t normally do while watching horror films; edging on my seat, my mouth agape, and my finger lodged between my teeth with intensity. It’s a rare exception of a film that manages to merge the artfulness of a slow-building dread with the rollercoaster effect of grinding anticipation.
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“The Shape of Water” Review

The Shape of Water presents the argument of why director Guillermo del Toro should be directing the new crop of Universal monster movies and why he will never be chosen for such an honor. He should be directing those films because he has a playful and experimental vision in both direction and tone for crafting an unorthodox creature feature. He won’t be selected because his ideas are just too out there if Universal wants their monster properties to nab some of that blockbuster cash. I can’t imagine general summer audiences would dig a film where a woman has sex with an amphibian creature in a romantic manner.
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“The Babysitter” Review

McG’s wild stab at a dark horror comedy continuously misses the mark, struggling to land a laugh like a lousy comedian flopping about a stage slippery with blood. Not only does it fail to garner a giggle, but also becomes embarrassing for how hip this script tries to be, slinging out geeky and topical talk like a grandpa drawing inspiration from a few threads he read online. This is almost like McG’s midlife crisis of a horror film, trying to prove that he’s still the fun director with his fingers on the pulse of today’s youth. His attempt comes off with more cringe than cool, akin to your dad dusting off his bellbottoms and throwing on some Ray Jay Johnson to impress your friends.
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“Wicked City” Review

Taki meets a woman at a bar and takes her back to his place. They start having sex and Taki notices something strange going on with the woman’s legs and arms. Her limbs grow longer and pointier as she tries to ensnare Taki into her vagina that has now bore teeth. Luckily for Taki, he’s accustomed to dealing with monsters such as this, grabbing his gun and forcing her out the window. Now in a more spider-like form, she scurries out the window and down the building. Just another dangerous day in Wicked City.
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“The Gallows” Review

High school students go into the school at night. High school students don’t come out. It’s the simple formula for yet another found-footage horror that proceeds through the motions more than it should. Here we have a high school that is a truly spooky building with its mysterious hidden hallways and secret crawl  spaces. But to get to these scary scenes of dark corridors to the unknown, we have to spend some time with some bland characters and put up with their meager excuses to go into the haunted school. And, of course, we’re stuck with following them in the found-footage format of camera phones and camcorders.

I’ll reiterate what I’ve stated many times already for this format – just give the characters camera glasses. They can put them on and forget about them just as easily as the audience rather than wondering why these terrified kids are still filming themselves being trapped. They even use the light on the camera to keep up some visibility in the darkness and still don’t turn off the recording. If this format really wants to continue, it would do well to adhere to a modicum of logic.

As unlikable as this teenage foursome appear in the picture, I must admit there is a believable dynamic to their characters. A jock desperately tries to impress a girl by attempting to act in the high school play. His dorky A/V buddy constantly shoves the camera in the jock’s face and anywhere where he can find a juvenile laugh. Convinced that the jock will fail miserably on opening night, the two of them decide to break into the school the night before the play and bust up the stage. And if that plan wasn’t crazy enough, they invite along their insane female friend and document the ordeal with a camera.

After some expected teen drama when the jock finds his crush followed him inside, the doors are locked and frights begin. The killer of the evening is the ghost of a student who died during a play of The Gallows, the very same play that was to take place the next day. Accidentally hung by faulty equipment, the angry soul tortures the kids with his haunted school antics. When he’s not pulling the usual ghost pranks of locking doors and replacing items behind their back. The teenagers wreck the stage, look away, look back and the stage is perfectly reassembled. The teenagers then start freaking out and blubbering with questions about how that happened. The prank is continuous throughout the picture that you’d figure the characters would catch on to the repetitive nature by the third act.

When the ghost isn’t pulling these goofy attempts at scaring teens, there is actually some scary imagery mixed in to this standard found-footage horror. Delving deeper into the mysteriously dark hallways and crawl spaces, the teens discover everything from creepy televisions that operate without power and a swinging corpse dangled high above a dark shaft. But to get to this point, you have to be with the characters in their journey. And when their excuse for going into the creepy, dark crawl space is “ah, screw it”, it’s hard to be with a horror experience that is clearly strung along without real progression. Characters run off, some get lost, some get locked behind doors and the deaths and panic set in with amateur horror logic 101.

The ghost of deceased student Charlie appears briefly here and there with the standard hangman bag over his head. His weapon of choice, obviously, is the noose. But how many ways can you kill somebody with a noose? You could grab the teens by different body parts and rip off limbs, I guess. But, no, Charlie really has a thing for the neck seeing as how his was snapped. Unless the rope itself is made of some impenetrable ghost material, I question why the teenagers don’t pack some scissors or a knife to simply cut the rope.

While there are some proper ingredients for an effective found footage horror, The Gallows just never takes off as it meanders around its spooky premise. Two of the teens find themselves walking along a catwalk. They turn around as they think they hear something. They turn back and the catwalk is littered with nooses. It’s a scene that perfectly sums up the laziness of the experience. We’re waiting for a scare and get served up the same old frights drooped about.