The Silver Bullet ~ Happy Death Day

 

Synopsis: Teen must relive the same day over and over again until she figures out who is trying to kill her and why.

Release Date:  October 13, 2017

Thoughts: As the old saying goes: Into every theater, a little cheese must fall (or something like that).  Look, I have no aspirations that Happy Death Day is going to be a top-tier horror entry or even a mediocre curiosity either…but is it too wrong to hope this provides some silly diversion entertainment this fall?  Given a prime release date of Friday the 13th in October, this is another low-budget entry from Blumhouse Pictures (The Visit, The Purge, Split, Insidious) who has shown a knack for raking in some serious dough with their features.  Directed by Christopher Landon  (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse & Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) and with visions of Groundhog Day dancing in my head, this trailer for Happy Death Day gave me a good chuckle…but can it prove to be more original than it looks?

Movie Review ~ Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

scouts_guide_to_the_zombie_apocalypse_ver3

The Facts:

Synopsis: Three scouts, on the eve of their last camp-out, discover the true meaning of friendship when they attempt to save their town from a zombie outbreak.

Stars: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont, Cloris Leachman, David Koechner, Halston Sage, Patrick Schwarzenegger

Director: Christopher Landon

Rated: R

Running Length: 93 minutes

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Review: Before the screening I attended of Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse there was a more than five minute headache of a tie-in music video from DJ Dillon Francis.  Like a bad acid trip brought to life as a Nickelodeon cartoon in order to punish the wicked, the nonsensical bit of dead brain cell material had me eyeing the exit with a longing to run.  At its conclusion, I braced myself for impact for the feature presentation I assumed would be more of the same bizarre antics.

The good news is that the movie was better than I expected it to be, the great news is that you won’t have to sit through the heinous pre-show nuisance I was subjected to.  Make no mistake that Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse breaks zero new ground and comes off as a Frankenstein monster, a movie cobbled together from random bits and pieces of other films that no doubt had a great influence on the filmmakers.

Equal parts Superbad and Shaun of the Dead, the movie strikes while the zombie iron is hot with its tale of three scouts and an Amazonian stripper, ahem, cocktail waitress that battle an outbreak of the walking dead in their small California town.  It’s that rare movie that actually gets better as it lumbers onward, with each new bit of blood and gore introduced providing repulsion and metered hilarity.

It’s fitting the humor is so sophomoric seeing that our three scouts are nearing the end of their sophomore year of high school.  Ben (Tye Sheridan, Mud) and Carter (Logan Miller, The Bling Ring) have outgrown their scout days, preferring to focus on surviving high school instead of surviving in the wild. They’ve made a pact to tell their buddy Augie (Joey Morgan) and Scout Leader Rogers (David Koechner, Krampus) that their next campout will be their last, but any plans for a kumbaya send-off are interrupted when flesh eating fiends start to chase them down.

The old archetypes are present from top to bottom.  Ben is a the good kid, Carter is the horny kid, Augie is the roly poly kid that his friends are secretly embarrassed of, there’s also a slutty girl, a girl people think it slutty but really has a heart of gold (Sarah Dumont, Don Jon), a virginal beauty (Halston Sage, Goosebumps), a mean jock (Patrick Schwarzenegger), a cranky old lady (Cloris Leachman, The Wedding Ringer, chewing the scenery as if it were her last meal), and a Britney Spears loving derelict (oh, if only more movies featured this stock character, right?).

Under the serviceable direction of Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones), the movie hums along at a decent pace, and at 93 minutes it takes it’s time to introduce the characters more than adequately before the bloodshed starts.  The special effects are appropriately gory with slow-mo shots of zombie heads exploding and, in one case, a zombie phallus being stretched like a rubber band. Throw in a few shots of zombie boobs and you’ve completed the cinematic dreams of every randy teenage boy that finds their way into the R-rated film.

While it doesn’t attempt to reinvent the genre, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse just wants to have a little fun and I think it gets the job done without hurting anyone.  Your tolerance for crude humor and zombie mayhem may be tested at times but taken for what it is, the film works almost in spite of itself.

Movie Review ~ Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

paranormal_activity_the_marked_ones
The Facts
:

Synopsis: After being “marked,” Jesse begins to be pursued by mysterious forces while his family and friends try to save him.

Stars: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Gabrielle Walsh, Renee Victor, Noemi Gonzalez, Richard Cabral, Carlos Pratts, Eddie J. Fernandez, David Fernandez Jr., Kimberly Ables Jindra, Tonja Kahlens, Frank Salinas, Molly Ephraim

Director: Christopher Landon

Rated: R

Running Length: 84 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Review: By the time you get to the fifth entry in any series a routine fatigue sets in.  One need only look at Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, Saw V, or the fifth James Bond film You Only Live Twice to see that if the keeper of the keys to an established franchise isn’t on top of things, you’ll be lucky if you’ll see the green light of #6.

Though it didn’t quite make the 2013 cutoff to keep up with the established release schedule of one per year like the previous three Paranormal Activity installments, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones earns an ever-so-slight passing grade due to it being an improvement over Paranormal Activity 4 and for confidently taking the series into new territory.

Never fear, however, because the series formula remains intact with a bunch of unknown actors going up against dark forces – all captured on handheld cameras that seem to always be looking at the right  place at the right time.  The previous movies have mostly been shot with stationary cameras that pick up the ghostly hauntings of various California families that all seem to be part of a larger story of evil demons, crafty cults, and sneaky witches.

The first three Paranormal Activity films did a nice job of weaving their overlapping characters together and moving the mythology forward in admirable ways and if 4 didn’t do much in the way of advancement of character or overall plot it still had its moments.  So hearing that the series was shifting things out of the suburban valley and into an urban community in Oxnard, CA where the cameras would move with the actors I was curious to see what writer/director Christopher Landon (who wrote the last three entries) had up his sleeve.

Turns out that what Landon had prepped was a needed shot in the arm for the series, providing several interesting turns that shows there could be several chapters left in this formulaic novel.  Found footage movies can be rough to watch but Landon and cinematographer Gonzalo Amat (The Devil Inside) keep the action framed well without a lot of shaky shots and skewed angles that can cross your eyes and turn your stomach.

The problem I consistently have with movies shot in this way (like Chronicle) is that you have to suspend more than a little disbelief that during some of the more terrifying moments the person filming wouldn’t have dropped their camcorder and ran for the hills.  After all, if you’re trying to escape a coven of witches, wouldn’t you want both hands free to claw your way out of a boarded up room?

Another aspect of the film I took issue with was an increased level of violence, profanity and nudity, something noticeably absent from the franchise until now.  With one shot of full female nudity, more blood than before, and a colorful vocabulary from our better than average newcomer leads, the series feels like it gave in to peer pressure in trying to stay current.  What made these films so refreshing initially was the feeling the filmmakers were charting their own course with each new entry and not running alongside what their contemporaries were doing.

The film doesn’t skimp on frights and happily doesn’t save them all for the traditional final freaky act.  Landon makes nice use of a modern oujia board in the form of a popular 80’s game and ratchets up the tension as the movie moves toward its twist of a climax that winds up being not so much a game changer but one that hits the soft reset button for future entries.

Neither a home run nor a strike out, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones comfortably rides that mediocre fence with one foot firmly planted on the what-the-hell-I-liked-it side.  If you’re a fan of these types of fright films or the series as a whole you’ll want to check this one out to get your first scares of 2014 taken care of.

The Silver Bullet ~ Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

paranormal_activity_the_marked_ones

Synopsis: After being “marked,” Jesse begins to be pursued by mysterious forces while his family and friends try to save him.

Release Date:  January 3, 2014

Thoughts: For this fifth entry in the cash-cow franchise for Paramount Pictures, the producers of Paranormal Activity have changed things up a bit.  Straying from its usual October release schedule, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones arrives in January and eschews the series previous use of security camera footage and night vision views in favor of a handheld approach on the streets of California.  What’s a tad distressing is that this first trailer seemingly gives away everything about the movie, even its climax.  I’m hoping I’m wrong but if you know the Paranormal Activity formula of a slow build up to a nerve jangling finale, you can’t help but notice a few shots that look awfully familiar.  I didn’t hate Paranormal Activity 4 as much as most but felt like that installment didn’t move the story ahead like the other sequels did.  Will this new setting and new focus help the film maintain its audience hungry for scares?