31 Days to Scare ~ The Woods

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Set in 1965 New England, a troubled girl encounters mysterious happenings in the woods surrounding an isolated girls school that she was sent to by her estranged parents.

Stars: Agnes Bruckner, Patricia Clarkson, Rachel Nichols, Bruce Campbell, Marcia Bennett, Emma Campbell

Director: Lucky McKee

Rated: R

Running Length: 91 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review: The Woods didn’t get much attention when it was released back in 2006, bypassing a wide release and arriving for home consumption with little fanfare. Pity. It’s quite a good little scare show with some nicely creepy moments. The performances are on target (notably Patricia Clarkson, an expert at mellow menace) and I loved how the forest elements made their way into the school corridors and even the wardrobe of the increasingly tightly wired staff. Though it gets a tad overstuffed toward the end and betrays a bit of its ‘girl power’ intentions, it’s an overall taut watch.

31 Days to Scare – Last Minute Ideas

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Boy, where did the time go?  October just flew by and, though I went a bit AWOL toward the end, I hope you’ve found your way to one or two new movies to add to your horror watchlist.  Until next year, I leave you with some last minute ideas if you’re looking for something different.

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The Woods

The Facts:

Synopsis: Set in 1965 New England, a troubled girl encounters mysterious happenings in the woods surrounding an isolated girls school that she was sent to by her estranged parents.

Stars: Agnes Bruckner, Patricia Clarkson, Rachel Nichols, Bruce Campbell, Marcia Bennett, Emma Campbell

Director: Lucky McKee

Rated: R

Running Length: 91 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review: The Woods didn’t get much attention when it was released back in 2006, bypassing a wide release and arriving for home consumption with little fanfare. Pity. It’s quite a good little scare show with some nicely creepy moments. The performances are on target (notably Patricia Clarkson, an expert at mellow menace) and I loved how the forest elements made their way into the school corridors and even the wardrobe of the increasingly tightly wired staff. Though it gets a tad overstuffed toward the end and betrays a bit of its ‘girl power’ intentions, it’s an overall taut watch.

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Killer Party

The Facts:

Synopsis: A group of friends get trapped at a baby shower when a mysterious outbreak starts turning people into homicidal maniacs.

Stars: Drew Benda, Stephanie Beran, John Brody

Director: Alex Drummond

Rated: NR

Running Length: 80 minutes

TMMM Score: (6/10)

Review: I’m not too keen on films that deal with mass hysteria surrounding the population turning into raging monsters but there’s something fun just on the edges of Killer Party that keeps things interesting. This low-budget effort earns high marks for its appealing cast and its attempts to both poke fun at the genre while making a not totally unsuccessful attempt at breaking some new ground. There’s a bevy of uber fake blood and guts and at 80 minutes feels too long, but the unexpected moments of humor and the feeling that everyone in front of behind the scenes are pals makes me look forward to the next film from these guys.

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 The Conspiracy

The Facts:

Synopsis: A documentary about conspiracy theories takes a horrific turn after the filmmakers uncover an ancient and dangerous secret society.

Stars: Aaron Poole, James Gilbert, Ian Anderson, Alan C. Peterson, Julian Richings

Director: Christopher MacBride

Rated: NR

Running Length: 84 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review: Please don’t run away when you hear the word found footage, ok? If you pass up The Conspiracy you’re missing a golden opportunity to take in a most surprising descent into the secret society the filmmakers discover. Most effective in its final act, the buildup may feel like it’s taking too long but the ultimate pay-off is worth the wait. This one gave me some good chills!

 

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Clown

The Facts:

Synopsis: A loving father finds a clown suit for his son’s birthday party, only to realize the suit is part of an evil curse that turns its wearer into a killer.

Stars: Andy Powers, Laura Allen, Peter Stormare, Elizabeth Whitmere, Christian Distefano

Director: Jon Watts

Rated: R

Running Length: 100 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review: Those with even the slightest fear of clowns likely recoiled at the above poster so let me make this clear…if the sight of Bozo or Ronald McDonald gives you the slightest bit of the heebie jeebies, steer clear of Clown. Though it feels like it should have been shorter and part of an anthology package, Clown gets it right most of the time by not being afraid to go to some dark places. Well designed with solid gore and splatter effects, this one sat on the shelf for a bit before being released but it’s well worth a watch. Just make sure anyone with coulrophobia isn’t anywhere near the vicinity.

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Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil

The Facts:

Synopsis: Tucker & Dale are on vacation at their dilapidated mountain cabin when they are attacked by a group of preppy college kids.

Stars: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss, Philip Granger, Brandon Jay McLaren

Director: Eli Craig

Rated: R

Running Length: 89 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review: Check out the list of any of the “best of” horror films in the last five years and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil will likely be on all of them…with good reason. Effectively lampooning every aspect of the slasher film genre of the last 40 years, this is awesomely funny in addition to being rapturously gory. It’s perfectly cast and earns every laugh and groan along the way. So if you’re looking to go light on the scares but not venture into stupid or too family-friendly territory, fire up Tucker and Dale vs. Evil for an assured good time.

The Silver Bullet ~ Raze

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Synopsis: Focuses on two abducted women & 48 others who are forced to fight each other using their bare hands.

Release Date:  January 10, 2014 (limited)

Thoughts: Stunt woman Zoë Bell (Oblivion, Django Unchained, Iron Man 3) leads a cast of buffed up broads in Raze, a grindhouse-style film that looks to be a slice of retro heaven.  The women behind bars exploitation film fell out of fashion in the early 90’s once the “there’s just no good parts for women” quote became the standard response from many of the Hollywood elite who crooked their noses up at these low budget efforts.  Turns out that all the genre needed for a revival was a game group of women that could believably kick ass and take names of their male counterparts.  I’ll expect some hard-wired groups will be aghast at the film’s extreme violence and women battling women for survival but the filmmakers behind Raze seem to have made their intentions clear that they aren’t remaking the wheel…they’re just redefining it.

Down From the Shelf ~ Alex Cross

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A homicide detective is pushed to the brink of his moral and physical limits as he tangles with a ferociously skilled serial killer who specializes in torture and pain.

Stars: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Ed Burns, Cicely Tyson, Rachel Nichols

Director: Rob Cohen

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 101 minutes

TMMM Score: (1/10)

Review:   When I heard that there were plans to reboot the Alex Cross films as a star vehicle for Perry, I shook my head ‘no’.  After I saw the preview for the film, I shook my head ‘no’.  Sitting down and readying myself to write this review, I can only shake my head with a mixture of incredulity and anger that a series with so much potential has yet again been squandered.  You see, while the first two stabs at bringing James Patterson’s famous detective to life were noble attempts that had their moments, this film is a piece of garbage not worthy of being mentioned in the same breath.

Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001) both featured Morgan Freeman as a wise detective up against various devious killers.  Freeman may have been a tad too old for the character but he added a grace and gusto that was needed as the transition from page to screen was made.  In reality, the novels have such a wealth of stories that a television series really should have been explored; it’s a format that would have served Alex Cross and his fans well.

When Freeman was done after two entries the character seemed kaput, until some genius thought that Perry would be the right guy to take another whack at it.  Wrong choice.  Perry has made a fortune off of his Madea films and other productions that are marketed one way but in truth are preachy messes that test the will to live of many audiences and critics.  As bad of a director as Perry certainly is, his acting is worse.  He’s so laughably out of his league here that one wonders if he thought he was in a comedy.  His unmotivated line readings and phony attempts at sounding concerned are just the tip of the iceberg of the problems Perry presents taking on this leading role.

To be fair, Perry isn’t the only offender in the acting category.  Pretty much everyone else in the movie sleepwalks through their roles – from Burns as Perry’s partner to lean and mean Fox as the killer that is seeking vengeance on Perry and his team for getting in the way of his work.  The only thing really scary about Fox is how much weight he lost for the role – his commitment is admirable but wasted in a film that offers no support for him.  Only Tyson, valued pro that she is, seems invested in what she’s doing and saying…but at times even she looks pained to say some of the incredibly adrift dialogue from Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson.

There’s so much wrong with the film, not the least of which is basic logic, timelines, and continuity.  Nothing makes much sense so if you must watch this try to appreciate it for Cohen’s direction which at least keeps things moving in an efficient way.  Cohen knows his way around an actor with limited range (he directed Vin Diesel in xXx and The Fast and The Furious) so the conclusion must be that Perry is beyond saving.

You know a film is bad when the best thing about it is the song played over the closing credits…and certainly “All Our Secrets Are the Same” penned by Jackie DeShannon, Randy Edelman, and Cohen is far and away the only redeeming point of the film.  I place the blame solely on Perry at the end of the day…his atrociously inept acting drags the film down at every turn…though Alex Cross lives on in novels it’s Perry that has put him in a cinematic grave.

The Silver Bullet ~ “Alex Cross” Trailer

Synopsis: After Washington DC detective Alex Cross is told that a family member has been murdered, he vows to track down the killer. He soon discovers that she was not his first victim and that things are not what they seem.

Release Date:  October 19, 2012

Thoughts: Based on one of the 18 (and counting!) novels in a popular series by James Patterson, Alex Cross sees Tyler Perry stepping into the role created by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider.  Nothing against Perry, who is a fine actor when he wants to be, but taking over for Freeman is no small task.  As a fan of the Alex Cross novels (though I admittedly haven’t read one since #10) I always considered this a series better suited for television than the big screen.  It doesn’t help that the films continue to be made out of order which means the Cross character will forever be scattered amongst movies.  The trailer doesn’t do a lot for me, looking to be more of a by-the-numbers police mystery.  Also, is Matthew Fox sick or something?  Rather than looking super ripped in his villain role he looks malnourished which maybe just adds to his creep factor.  In any event, I’m a proven sucker for a thriller so all gripes aside there’s no doubt I’ll be catching this one in October.