Is the Shudder App Right For You?


Are you a horror movie buff who has watched everything on Netflix and Hulu and is craving a new horror movie-only streaming service?  Have you hear of Shudder?  Shudder is exactly that, a horror movie-only streaming service.  For $5 a month, you can watch as many horror movies you want.

On its face, Shudder is a horror buff’s paradise. Unless you have seen every horror movie in existance (at which point you are the luckiest human alive and could you trade places wth me?) there’s a good chance there will be something new and exciting for you to discover.  I personally discovered Home Video (an evil kid found footage movie) and Shock (a ghost- possessed evil kid Italian/English language movie) thanks to Shudder.  With other streaming options such as Amazon Digital and production company websites, is Shudder really right for you?

At $5 a month for membership, downloading the “free” Shudder seems like a steal.  The catch? You have little control over the streaming movies.  If the sound or visuals are sketchy, you’ll have to accept it or drop your membership because as of this point, the Shudder team hasn’t been working on quality control.  Oh, and if you have to pause your movie for an extended period of time (five minutes+), good luck coming back to the same scene!  Sometimes you’ll even have to start the movie over and use the scrolling option to get back to sort-of where you were.  Shudder is definitely not “smart” about holding your place like Netflix.

The movie selection on Shudder is hit or miss.  Props to the app creators for dividing the movies into categories (sometimes multiple categories) based on the creature and on the subgenre(s).  If you know what you’re interested in watching, Shudder points you in the right direction.  Other digital services do this to a point, but Shudder is more specific than Netflix.  The movies themselves are…Well, if you don’t like change then you’ll love Shudder.  There’s occasionally new movies added to the collections, but more often than not the movies are what you saw the last few weeks.  On the plus side, you can debate about movies that sound interesting but you aren’t entirely sure about for weeks and it’ll probably be there when you decide “Yes!  I’m going for it!”

Far be it from me to push you completely away from Shudder when it does have good movies.  I sincerely recommend Home Video, Shock, and Carved: The Slit Mouth Woman.  Even movies that I personally wouldn’t consider good (ex: Body Melt and Bad Biology) are there and serve a purpose for someone.  If you don’t like one movie, it’s relatively easy to stop it and move on to a new movie.  For some of Shudder’s amature mistakes (not dealing with quality complaints), it was at least designed to be user-friendly. Once you figure out Shudder’s layout, it’s easy enough to navigate.

As long as Shudder is only $5 I wouldn’t disrecommend it, but it is flawed and I think every horror buff needs to know that before going in.  If you can handle these not-so-good points, have at it.



High School Exorcism *Spoilers*

High School Exorcism would probably be more enjoyable to the 13-16 crowd than to adults. We need to keep this in mind throughout the rest of this review. You see, this is the type of movie that is not entirely terrible if you are a young teenager who is just getting into the horror genre and don’t know that there are much stronger psychological horror movies but would not work for more experienced horror movie buffs.

A good chunk of the movie is high school/teenage drama. Imagine the Lifetime channel movies about teenagers and you can get a good feel for what this one is like. Coincidentally, this is a Lifetime channel movie but without the identifying Lifetime logo.  We first meet Chloe, a star soccer player who is cut from the team for repeatedly punching an opposing player. There are flashback bursts in which Chloe is reliving the night her mother and father split, which is vital to her seemingly sudden aggression. While Chloe’s life spirals downwards, we meet Lauren, a student newspaper writer and the most loyal person in Chloe’s life. Lauren is torn among being Chloe’s rock, forming a new friendship with ultra-religious Olivia (who we learn was a close friend of Lauren as children until Lauren stopped going to church), being a successful newspaper writer, and, oh yeah, getting an exorcism for Chloe. Near the middle of the movie, Chloe’s behavior changed from aggression to hearing evil, taunting voices, self-harming, and distancing herself from family and Lauren. Lauren thought Olivia and the other youth group members could perform an exorcism on Chloe and save her like they had done for many other people. As it turns out, Olivia’s style of exorcism is much worse than anything Chloe had been doing (even at her lowest).

The list of problems with this movie is extensive. The teenagers and their parents are more like friends than mothers and daughters. Very few characters are mature enough to be helpful in guiding Chloe through her rough patch. The most “adult” character was the priest and his best contribution to helping Chloe was to advocate that she see a mental health professional. He was rarely present and had no idea that Olivia attempted an exorcism without him until after the fact two or so months later. By the end of the movie I was surprised that Lauren managed to hold herself together while Chloe was self-destructing in front of her and ultimately come out as the hero. If Lauren was the strongest character mentally, there wasn’t a lot of evidence to justify how it happened. Other than being a good friend and knowing that Chloe was a good person in spite of her problem, Lauren seemed like the kind of character who would break down by the end. It’s hard to explain this other than saying that it would’ve made more sense for Lauren to have the mental distress than for it to be Chloe’s problem.

The thing I disliked most about High School Exorcism is that it is psychological rather than supernatural. Don’t be fooled by the cover art; There is no demon and no possession. Chloe is simply a young woman trying to handle personal and family trauma and she feels so isolated she breaks down and turns against the world. The voices she hears and the warped faces she sees are how she perceives her situation as hopeless, not anything paranormal. Olivia, the villain, is a manipulative mean girl obsessed with Chloe (as seen by the writings in her notebook at the end of the movie) and has rigged certain events to look supernatural so that she can push Chloe over the edge. There are no demons, only humans at their worst. I don’t like being misled and I feel like High School Exorcism was intentionally misleading. Whether it was to create a plot twist or because the writer didn’t think things through, the end result was a disappointing movie.

The 13-16 crowd may enjoy the movie because it’s dark and the characters are about their age. I don’t want to write it off for them. I just wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who is more familiar with the horror genre and/or wants sense and maturity in their media.

Zoombies *Spoilers*

Sometimes when you’re in a low place, you want a bad B-horror movie to cheer you up.  Zoombies is really bad in its special effects and loss of plot, but it was one of the more engaging and fun horror movies I’ve seen in quite some time.  I’m going to criticize it left and right and then tell you why you should spend an hour and a half (give or take of course) watching it anyway.

Zoombies is a creature feature/zombie movie in the vein of Jurassic Park, except that the setting is at a brand new zoo (Eden Wildlife Park, which is a hilarious name for this zoo) instead of a brand new dinosaur theme park.  Dr. Ellen Rogers is the owner and head scientist of Eden Wildlife Zoo.  We’re never sure how much of her heart is truly in rehabilitation of wild animals versus carrying out her grandfather’s dream of owning and operating a zoo partially for the good of the animals and partially for the income.  There are arguments for both.  Anyway, a key feature of Eden Wildlife Zoo is the aviary for exotic wild birds.  Why?  According to Dr. Rogers, it has the largest collection of rare birds and must be kept safe no matter what.  This becomes important in the end because the birds (all of them when the zombie virus spreads to them) could be the biggest carrier of the zombie virus if they ever got out.  It is a plot point, so keep that in mind when the otherwise pointless aviary is always mentioned. Rewinding back once again, the movie begins with the start of the zombie virus spreading from one monkey to three monkeys.  It had the potential to be contained in the operation room except the veterinarians (?) were attacked by the zombie monkeys and after a series of convoluted events, the monkeys escaped the operation room and spread the virus to the other animals.  Cue mass slaughter.  This chaos happens the exact day that a group of college interns are going on their orientation visit.

If you watch Zoombies, you’ll notice that I left out many details.  Some are more important than others.  For a bad B- horror movie, Zoombies has many subplots.  This review will focus on the main plot of humans versus zombie animals.

The biggest problem I had with Zoombies was that in spite of the ever-present threat of zombie animals and the virus spreading until it couldn’t be contained, the zombie virus was never explained. It was a virus that could warp its hosts’ brains, making them senselessly vicious and blood-thirsty beyond what the animals would normally be.  Dr. Rogers took a look at a blood smear under her microscope and said she could not identify it.  Okay, all that is understandable.  Why would that be the end of learning more about the virus?  Yes, I know that Eden Wildlife Zoo was under attack by the zombie animals, but if the surviving employees couldn’t figure it out, why not a few scenes during the credits with the CDC doing research on it?  There was enough animal blood for collecting samples and presumably the CDC eventually showed up (hours too late, but still). You would think that a zombie virus movie would have a stronger emphasis on the virus.

Other things that I found cringeworthy:

  • The special effects for zombie animals on the attack were blurry, probably so that viewers wouldn’t see just how bad they were.
  • All the good characters (minus Dr. Rogers’ daughter Thea) died in the first twenty minutes.
  • Why didn’t horrible Amber not die first?
  • Some of the subplots were completely unnecessary.  If the Gage/Amber relationship wasn’t there, the movie would be just as good.

In spite of this, Zoombies was a fun movie.  How can I say that without sounding hypocritical?  Well, “fun” and “high quality” don’t always go hand-in-hand.  I cringed, I moaned, I groaned, I wanted to hit the screenwriters so many times I lost count, but in the end Zoombies held my attention; most horror movie do not.  You won’t like this one if you’re looking for a horror movie of quality and/or logic, but if you can ignore all of its problems I promise it’s worth your time.

Apartment 143/Emergo *Spoilers*

I rarely do this as a movie review, but I’m trying to come to terms with what Apartment 143/Emergo was actually about and therefore need to write this like everyone has already seen the movie as well.  That’s why I labeled this review as containing spoilers.  If you haven’t seen Apartment 143/Emergo and want to be surprised when you do, this is an appropriate place to stop reading.  You have been warned!

Apartment 143/Emergo is a Spanish movie (hence Emergo) but everyone speaks English.  For that reason, it will be referred to as Apartment 143 from this point on. The subgenre is thoroughly confusing because what the psychologist investigator says is happening would make this a psychological thriller but what viewers see would make this a supernatural demonic possession movie. This is the key reason I didn’t understand this movie, and I will explain in depth on that later.

Apartment 143 begins with a team of parapsychology investigators driving to their assignment.  The team banters/insults each other, which is not at all important except that viewers learn that Paul is the technology expert, Ellen is the “telephone girl”/secretary, and Dr. Helzer is the parapsychologist (more of a true psychologist, but with some knowledge of the supernatural).  The team meets the family, a recently-widowed father of a young boy named Benjamin and a thirteen-year-old girl named Caitlin.  The father, Mr. White, thinks they are being followed by a destructive, angry ghost, possibly his dead wife Cynthia.  The team sets up all sorts of neat environment monitoring equipment and for the weekend the family is under video surveillance.  All of that is straightforward, but then explanations of the psychological or supernatural phenomenon get confusing.

From the beginning there is evidence of a supernatural entity in the apartment. There is unexplainable tapping, phone calls with nobody on the other end, items being rearranged/destroyed, changes in characters (especially teenage Caitlin), physical attacks, video footage being deleted without any of the team members touching the computers or equipment, actual sightings of an entity, possession of Caitlin, and near the end, massive poltergeist activity and Caitlin levitating at the same time.

Dr. Helzer attempts to explain it away with the poltergeist activity being connected to a living person in the apartment turning their pent-up rage into physical, violent actions against themselves and others. He decides that Caitlin is the source because a) she was so resentful of her father killing her mother and b) she was showing symptoms of schizophrenia.  About thirty minutes before the end of the movie, viewers learn that the White family had a police file on them the night Cynthia White was beat up by her husband and died chasing after them in her car.  Her death was presumably accidental but Dr. Helzer (after accessing the file) believed Mr. White was not blameless and Cynthia had the same disorder as Caitlin was exhibiting.  Viewers are thus expected to believe that the “haunting” and the poltergeist activity was not at all supernatural.

But wait, what’s the final scene before the credits?  Why, it’s a camera the parapsychologist team chooses to leave behind that captures a ceiling-crawling demonic entity!  It’s the same entity that was shown on film earlier in the movie when the team thought there may have been paranormal activity and again when it possessed Caitlin, warping her body to look evil and wrong.

I am as confused as ever by the ending and how it blows the accepted psychological explanation to pieces.  I checked IMDB’s Apartment 143 page to see if anyone else was confused as well.  In the forums, many people created more plausible explanations for the supernatural/psychological aspects of the movie than what the movie itself did. The consensus is that it was a haunting after all and the demonic entity was the cause for Cynthia and Caitlin’s changes.  I like this explanation; It proves that science doesn’t solve every problem and we need to be more open to possibilities.  I’m no less confused by how these very obvious paranormal situations were written off as mental illness and anger issues.  If anyone can explain how the psychological theory posed by Dr. Helzer makes sense (in context of the movie), I would love to hear it.

Cabin Fever *Spoilers*

Have you ever seen a horror movie that was so bizarre you aren’t sure what you thought about it? That was Cabin Fever for me. The overarching idea that being deathly sick with a flesh-eating virus is bad enough but being deathly sick with a flesh-eating virus and no friends is worse made sense. This is the ultimate camping trip gone wrong movie. The movie’s twists and turns…Well, “bizarre” is putting it kindly.

Cabin Fever begins with a compelling and stomach-turning scene in which the flesh-eating virus is first spread. I won’t spoil it because it’s worth watching for yourself. The “How?” of the virus contraction is not fully explained, but that’s one of the few excusable points. The scene then changes to a group of college students hopping in a pick-up truck and heading to a cabin in an unfamiliar forest area for a week of partying. As soon as they stop at a run-down convenience storeand meet the family that runs it, the trip spirals down steadily.

I had so many questions about this movie that somewhere along the line it was no longer fun. They all seem to boil down to “Who knew what when?” Sadly, this is not a typo.

  • The first human that is infected is Henry, a man who seems cursed right from the start.  He contacts the virus from either a pig or a dog (both are mentioned in the movie).  He doesn’t know it’s a flesh-eating virus when he first comes up to Burt (one of the college kids) and then to the group of college kids but he is already being eaten away.
  • Later we learn that Henry’s wife knows about a type of virus that infects the pigs they raise.  She complains that the family has to eat the pigs even though they “run around infecting everything!” We don’t know if it’s the flesh-eating virus for sure, but that’s what the college students think.
  • When Karen (one of the four college students) gets infected by the flesh-eating virus, she’s the first one so nobody knows how to help her.  She dies within two days.
  • Marcie and Burt get infected.  Burt gets infected by either touching Karen’s blood and getting it in his body somehow or by drinking the cabin water.  Marcie gets infected by…something we aren’t entirely sure about.  It’s probably that Henry’s body in the river contaminated the river and drinking supply and all five college students were using the water, but we aren’t 100% sure.
  • Burt leaves the forest area to get help from the family who owns the convenience store.  The father (?) tells him to get gone so he doesn’t spead the flesh-eating virus further.  This leads to the family members going to the forest to shoot any of the college students that are still alive.
  • At the end of the movie, a group of people who know the family that run the convenience store get infected through drinking contaminated water. Two young children who are grandchildren (?) of the main store owner used a cooler of containated water in making lemonade.

Cabin Fever relied on getting the full story through various characters’ accounts of the events.  This style of storytelling could work well if all the characters’ accounts do in fact lead to a complete explanation. Unfortunately, Cabin Fever failed to wrap up the story it was telling. The sequel, Cabin Fever: Spring Fever, did not get a positive review from me but at least it concluded the story Cabin Fever tried to tell. Just watch Cabin Fever: Spring Fever and skip the frustration.

FYI, there is a remake of Cabin Fever that came out on February 12th 2016. The IMDB reviews for it are extremely negative; as of this writing it has a 3.6 out of ten star rating. I wouldn’t recommend checking it out even out of curiosity.

Contracted: Phase Two *Spoilers*

While Contracted gets better with every viewing, I was and still am troubled by how much worse Contracted: Phase Two gets with every viewing. Usually when you watch a movie for the second, third, and so forth time, you notice something new that adds to the story. With Contracted: Phase Two this happened as well, except that the new discoveries only made the story worse.

On my first watch, I wondered if I was having problems with the surviving characters. Our main character in Contracted: Phase Two is Riley, who we met in Contracted as a caring but awkward/creepy friend of Samantha. He is not the same likable character in this sequel. You could make the argument that as the sexually transmitted necrotizing zombie virus changes his body, he loses his morality before his humanity. Even so, his actions make him more of an anti-hero. We learn more about the villainous Brent Jaffe (BJ) and what his end game is. Simply put, he had been working on the sexually transmitted necrotizing zombie virus to infect one person (Samantha) who would infect other people and so forth until humanity would be infected and wiped out. Other zombie movies have played with this idea and produced better results, but to be fair, Contracted: Phase Two had to be noticeably different from Rec and Quarantine. I wouldn’t pick on this so much if Brent Jaffe had remained a mysterious character that viewers “knew” through second-hand reports. That was the one thing that worked well in Contracted, knowing he existed and was spreading the virus but not knowing why. Contracted: Phase Two killed that mystery.

On my second watch, I tried to ignore the out-of-character characters and find something about the plot that I would find acceptable.  Unfortunately, Contracted: Phase Two is a straight-up zombie movie. Everyone who survives (of sorts) their transformation into a zombie is a mindless flesh eater.  Unlike in Contracted where Samantha’s transformation took three days and was painful to watch (but in a good way, because it allowed viewers to connect to her even if we found her unlikable), in Contracted: Phase Two, the three day transformation period was more like two and a half days of trying to hold back the changes that had already happened and a half day of giving in to the zombie virus.  I would be willing to accept the suddenness of the transformation if I learned that once the first person was infected with the virus and passed it along, the transformation was sped up with each new person that was infected.  That would explain how Riley’s grandmother and sister, who were infected through blood (and maybe other bodily fluids) rather than sex, seemed normal until they suddenly became flesh-eating monsters.  The movie didn’t use this explanation, so I am left thinking that the new director forgot the worldbuilding of Contracted and did his own thing with this sequel.  To make a long story short, the plot was no better than the characters.

On my third watch, I appreciated the bloodbath that this movie became. Whether it was the scene where Riley coughed blood onto a mirror and had a violent nosebleed in the sink of a funeral home or the scene where Brent Jaffe shot a group of hospital employees and not long after was attacked by Zombie Riley, there was some serious blood splatter going on.  Unfortunately, blood and gore is not enough to rate a movie positively.

Additionally, I am worried that there will be a third movie and it will be even more of a let-down.  The end of Contracted: Phase Two shows that Riley’s pregnant sister is infected and has passed the zombie virus to her offspring.  While that offers a potential third movie to re-explore the zombie virus and correct or explain contradictions that Contracted: Phase Two made, it also means that any further movies will remain pure zombie movies. Some viewers may prefer that, but where I thought Contracted worked well as a “slow burn” would be erased.

Ultimately I can’t give a positive rating for Contracted: Phase Two, but I will say this: If you didn’t like Contracted because it was too slow and not zombie-filled, you might like Contracted: Phase Two.

Does Target Engage in Horror Movie Censorship?

I love Target.  We need to put that out there right now to show my bias.  Yes, it’s still shopping and can feel like a chore when the items I need are functional rather than fun, but I have always been excited to visit the store because once all the need-to-have items are purchased I can go crazy (as much as my wallet will allow) with buying the fun stuff.  One of my go-to areas in Target is the movie section, not because it’s aisles and aisles of movies (and actually, in my local Target they’ve done away with having a decent selection of movies from various genres in order to make room for pop culture fandom items) , but because overall even brand new movies are on a good sale.

This brings me to the point.  Because I have had positive experiences with Target in the past, of course I was excited  when The Green Inferno was scheduled for release on January 12th because I thought I could buy it from my local Target for a good price.  I was disappointed to learn that they were not carrying it on its release date, but I initially thought it was because The Green Inferno is not a popular horror movie even though it is produced by Universal Studios and made it to theaters.  Only today (February 14th) did I learn that The Green Inferno and many other horror movies are carried only at Target.com and you can’t select “Ship to store” as an option.  What gives Target Corporation?

Allow me to rewind back to what The Green Inferno is.  It’s a horror-comedy about college social justice warriors who travel to Peru to disrupt a rainforest clearing and after an unfortunate airplane crash end up becoming food for a cannibalistic tribe.  I am informed directly from Target.com that it’s a modern-day version of the 80s movie Cannibal Holocaust, which immediately makes it seem controversial if you are at all familiar with Cannibal Holocaust.  I am not personally, so I’ll take Target.com’s word on it.  As for The Green Inferno itself, I have mixed views on the movie.  It’s worth watching at least once and if you have a twisted sense of humor it is kind of funny.  Also, the children of the tribe leaders are so cute.  I know, kind of weird that anything about this movie is cute, but they really are.  From what I remember, *SPOILERS* one of the children even saves the Final Girl *SPOILERS*.  Happy almost-ending, I guess.  The rest of the movie is one weird scene after another.  I don’t know if viewers are supposed to cheer for the social justice warriors or not because they are woefully ill-prepared for their trip to Peru and they make one bad decision after the next.  The one genuinely likable character is the first to die, which is unfortunate because he was worth watching.  In the end I didn’t hate this movie but I expected a little more from it. The reason I wanted to buy it was because of eye candy (yes, I am susceptible to that, believe it or not) and because it adds something different to my horror collection.

Now we return to Target and the problem with them not selling movies like The Green Inferno.  If you’ve seen the movie yourself or have searched for spoilers on it, you probably agree that it’s relatively hardcore.  The thing is, I would understand Target not wanting to carry the movie in their stores if, being as hardcore as it is, it wouldn’t be a good seller for them.  That would be a smart business decision on their part.  However, I don’t like the idea that Target may be censoring horror movies by only carrying them online.  I view it as censorship since buyers can’t purchase the movie online and then have it delivered in stores.  If Target is attempting to keep the products in their store family-friendly, not carrying the movie in stores is as far as they need to go.  I honestly don’t believe that a customer stopping by to pick up The Green Inferno or even harder horror movies would corrupt young people or tarnish Target’s image.  Most people to my knowledge don’t go around waving movies in the air screaming “Look at all this “bad” content in this movie!  I can’t wait to watch it and be corrupted!  *Rattles off all the “bad” content*.”  I would think that anything held for pick-up would be kept in a bag anyway.

Finally, I just have problems with the idea that Target is promoting family-friendly products by not allowing stores to carry certain products in store but selling them online while not allowing in-store pick-up.  As we all know, the Target stores and Target.com are part of the Target Corporation.  While Target stores limit what kind of movies they sell, Target.com sells movies from all sorts of production companies, including Unearthed, one of the production companies that only makes hardcore, ultra-gory content.  Don’t ask how I know, just take my word for it.  If family-friendly is at all a thing that Target Corporation believes in, these movies would not be sold in stores or sold online.  Because Target.com sells these movies online (without store pick-up) then I believe family-friendly is not entirely true.  Again, what gives Target Corporation? Who is deciding what can be sold in stores, what can be sold online and available for in-store pick-up, an d what can be sold online but not available for in-store pick-up?

I already have my copy of The Green Inferno thanks to Amazon and their decision to carry more options in the first place.  I don’t need Target to do anything about that.  However, I am going to contact Target Corporation to see what the deal is with certain movies.

 

Paranormal Witness: “The Dark Pond”

https://youtu.be/5hS2aUGc4UI?list=PLvr-as3E8-we3w4auG4mUP1Hmu4A66MGp

I have decided to expand this blog to all forms of visual media and as such, our lucky first TV episode will be Paranormal Witness: “The Dark Pond.”  Paranormal Witness is one of the better paranormal reality TV shows still on TV and “The Dark Pond” is the perfect kick-off.

Off and on, the horror genre plays with the idea of water spirits.  Two recent-ish movies that prominently feature water are Jessabelle and The Drownsman, but all along there have been creepy movies dealing with water.  I’ve never definitely figured out the appeal of water horror, but my theory is that water is all around us in many forms and we shouldn’t be scared of something so common, but we are.  Since horror is all about the things we fear, then of course there has to be a subgenre for water.  Imagine that some of our water-related fears…were real.

Paranormal Witness: “The Dark Pond” is a solid reality horror TV episode in part because it’s short and to-the-point.  It doesn’t take more than 46 minutes or so to build and complete the story, unlike the comparable horror movies that take much longer just to show evidence that there’s something wrong.  The story is simple:  A couple and their young daughter move into the man’s house, which has never been problematic before that point, and as soon as they are there things start to happen.  In the beginning the woman notices that the air around the pond is so much colder than the air further away and she thinks it’s off, but then she brushes it aside.  The paranormal activity begins innocently enough, with candy going missing from a jar and the daughter talking to an “imaginary friend”, but quickly builds to the point where the water entity is possessing the daughter and tearing up the floors of the house. The family calls on their local religious leader to check into things because they no longer feel safe.  He comes with a medium to bless the house with holy water and a prayer.  While they are there, the medium tells the woman that they need to leave immediately because there’s an evil entity that will kill them (starting with their daughter) if they don’t leave.  The couple argue about leaving because they would lose all of their material possessions if they left but they know their daughter is in danger if they stayed.  In the end, a paranormal event involving the man and the daughter cause them to list the house for the lowest reasonable price and they move. The epilogue notes say that the house was put on sale in 2014 and remains unsold.

I like Paranormal Witness.  The stories are told in renactments and interviews with the affected family members so that eventually we viewers get a feel for the events without being bored. From the episodes I’ve seen, it’s edited to feel more like a movie than a documentary. That makes Paranormal Witness stand out from similar TV shows such as A Haunting (which, to be fair, has some amazing episodes as well) and Paranormal State. I definitely recommend the series to everyone.

“The Dark Pond” is an engaging episode so I can also recommend it, but there’s something you should know before going in. I guarantee you that the slow reaction of the couple to the haunting will make you rage. It literally took a third near-death experience with the daughter before the couple moved. A third. Three. Never mind that the couple experienced little things themselves. They’re good people from what I’ve seen from their interview segments, but they didn’t handle the entity very well. Also, I don’t know for sure if they gave full disclosure that the pond and the house were haunted by an evil entity when they listed it, but I didn’t get the feeling they did. If they did not say anything up front, they are irresponsible. Just keep these things in mind if you’re an angry TV watcher like I am.

Upcoming Horror Movies For 2016

I was going to create a year-end summary of the best and worst horror movies of 2015, but 2015 was kind of a “Meh!” year for horror.  Don’t get me wrong, I have positive things to say about certain movies.   I thoroughly enjoyed Krampus and I was pleasantly surprised by Sinister 2.  I wasn’t 100% blown away by Insidious Chapter Three but it redeemed the trilogy (series?) after Insidious Chapter Two was a let-down and yes, I would like more if Insidious becomes a series.  Green Inferno (which should’ve been a 2014 movie) finally came out and was a fair offering for cannibal horror.  I even liked Crimson Peaks, which is probably the one movie nobody liked.  To be fair, Crimson Peaks is more of a psychological period piece than a supernatural horror movie.  For Video on Demand releases, the only movie worth mentioning is Contracted: Phase Two and it wasn’t so much good as it at least carried out the story that Contracted set up.   In my summary of 2015, I would say that the year wasn’t a total waste for horror, but I’m looking forward to 2016.

The Forest

https://youtu.be/lBgKi0XVn4A

This is the earliest 2016 horror movie release, slated to come out on January 8th in the US.  From the trailer, it looks like the plot of this movie is that identical twins who are so close to each other they can sense when something is wrong with the other are now adults and Sara thinks something bad happened to Jessica.  Sara learns that Jessica visited Suicide Forest underneath Mount Fuji, a place so named because people only go there to commit suicide.  With the assistance of a tour guide who is familiar with Suicide Forest, Sara searches for Jessica.  As she does, she is attacked by angry ghosts.  I’m not sure if I’m excited for this movie or not, but as a fan of supernatural horror I have to see this movie regardless.  We’ll have to see!

Before I Wake

https://youtu.be/YZADQupAhu4

I was so excited for this movie to come out since seeing the trailer and it’ll finally happen!  Before I Wake is scheduled for April 8th in the US, just six days after my birthday.  This one is a supernatural and psychological thriller, in which a couple adopts an eight-year-old boy shortly after losing their biological son and things go downhill from there.  The new boy starts having nightmares (or are they real, happening in front of him?) about the old boy and other terrifying figures that are so disturbing he refuses to sleep.  His parents worry about him and are forced to learn what’s going on.

The Conjuring Two: The Enfield Poltergeist

https://youtu.be/ylWN3isg3sU

On June 10th my fellow US readers have The Conjuring Two: The Enfield Poltergeist to look forward to.  I’ll be honest, I have no idea what this one is about just by watching the trailer, but there’s an abandoned mansion, a ouija board, and a creepy young woman dressed in white that feature prominently.  All of those elements are appealing, don’t get me wrong.  However, a poltergeist is an entity that likes to levitate items and/or throw them across the room, which is weird because that element is not shown in the trailer. While The Conjuring was a classic haunting/possession movie, this one looks like a demonic splatter movie.  This could work for drawing in new fans but alienating others, so we’ll have to see how that works. As for me, I definitely have questions about this one but since I don’t like to stop with one movie in a series and I did like The Conjuring I will definitely have this on my list.

Happy movie going horror fans!

 

Krampus *Spoilers*

https://youtu.be/h6cVyoMH4QE

The best way to describe Krampus is “You all must see this movie.”  You’re probably wondering what I’m figuratively singing about; if you have been following my blog post-hiatus, you have never heard me say this about any movie and you likely never will again.  I repeat, you all must see this movie.  Do you like horror?  I know, this is a horror movie blog so you must.  Well, the title character Krampus is definitely horror.  I will expand on this in a post for my blog Supernatural Wonderings but for now keep in mind that in this movie as well as the folklore, Krampus is one supernatural entity you do not want to mess with.  Do you like comedy?  There’s banter among the dysfunctional family members, goofy creatures that come right out of bad b-movies, and very un-Christmas actions as the backdrop during classic Christmas carols that make such a bizarre combination you have no choice but to laugh.  Do you like Christmas movies?  This is not the kind of movie you will find on Hallmark, that’s for sure.  Nevertheless (what a weird word, by the way), the setting is two days before Christmas and the entire movie has a very heavy emphasis on the meaning of Christmas.  Do you like movies with morals?  As I tell you a little about the folktales of Krampus and how this movie interprets it, there is definitely morality there.  It’s essentially that bad people get what they deserve, but unlike a true morality tale, it is told in a way that is less preachy.  In addition to all this, there are little hints throughout the movie of what’s to come that are quite interesting from a storytelling perspective, there is at least three ways of telling this story that make the cinematography interesting, and the ending is ambiguous so that you can take it in two ways at the same time or in whichever way you prefer.

I admit that Krampus looked terrible during its first movie preview, maybe even in such a way that can mislead its potential audience and turn them away, but don’t let that put you off.  I promise it’s good (even when it’s, ;like I will often refer to it, a bad b-movie.  The story is simple; family sucks but life would be sad and empty without them.  Two opposite families join together for the holiday in a ritzy neighborhood and they hate each other.  The two fathers rag on each other for their failings as men and providers, the two mothers (sisters) are at odds because one is too perfect and one is a slob, the children come to blows, the aunt wants nothing to do with anybody unless there’s alcohol involved, and the grandmother is haunted by something she only reveals midway through the movie which makes the visiting family taunt her for being weird.  It’s the ultimate bad family reunion.  The pre-teen main character Max gets fed up with everyone’s arguing and his cousins mocking him for his belief in Santa and makes a wish that they all go away.  As soon as he rips up his letter to Santa into pieces and throws it out the window, Krampus and his minions cause an unnatural blizzard and begin picking off family members one by one throughout the night(s).  In the end, it’s Max’s responsibility to face Krampus and undo his wish, therefore releasing his family from the underworld.  Does he succeed? Yes…No…Kind of…Maybe not…You’ll have to follow along as I try to explain this discrepancy.

As I said in my introduction paragraph, Krampus is a movie that can appeal to many audiences.  I don’t want to rehash the old information too much, but it’s interesting that there’s many terrifying parts (most jump scares but not unwarranted jump scares) but those are balanced by humor (some that is situational and some that is conversational).  I don’t think of horror comedies seemlessly blending the two but here it works.  A more surprising element, at least for me, was that sometimes it was also a touching movie.  Not that I’ll admit to emoting during movies, but I will say this: There are some moments towards the end that can get the waterworks going.  Imagine being left alone as punishment for a mistake and realizing it too late. Be warned that it’s not just a goofy movie.  On that note, the ending of the movie is ambiguous *SPOILERS* as to whether there’s a happy ending with the family reunited or whether the scene is a flashback of happier times when the family members got along better trapped in Krampus’ snowglobe as one memento in a collection of kills *END OF SPOILERS*.  The point is, Krampus is such a mix of tastes that it can be universally appealing.

For viewers that like detail, there are neat references to older Christmas pop culture and hints of things to come in the movie.  It took me this second viewing to notice how much was packed into the movie and I imagine I’ll see even more on additional viewings.  Here I will focus on the story that the little references help build.  As a morality movie, Krampus tells us that we should care about our family and our fellow humans even when they don’t deserve it and that we should never lose hope in…I assume the goodness of humanity, although that point isn’t explicitly stated.  From the beginning, it’s clear that these characters have lose their way.  The opening scene set at a crowded department store (think Wal-Mart) where people are trampling each other, fighting each other over who gets the hottest “toys”, and standing around with stressed/exhausted looks on their faces, all backed by the Christmas carol “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” is a critique of our consumer culture and how we lose all common sense when we want something (even if it doesn’t make sense).  As the family returns home beaten and bruised from what should’ve been a quick shopping trip, the grandmother character is watching a black-and-white version of A Christmas Carol , specifically the scene where the main character is told that he will be visited by three ghosts in order to show him his mistakes and he asks if there’s any hope.  Pay attention to this because it references pop culture but is also a hint at things to come involving the grandmother.  Also notice Max’s wooden Christmas calender where every day leading up to Christmas there is a mini gift behind the day’s door.  The things he gets in the calender are coincidentally (or not) representative of the agents of evil.  I didn’t notice this detail until today and it cleared up a few of the questions I had after my first viewing.  Just watch for it.

Hey cinematography fans and special effects lovers, this is actually a pretty impressive movie in the way it’s shot.  There are three major ways that this story unfolds.  Before the family knows that they are fighting a Christmas demon and aren’t sure what to think, the movie is completely live action.  When the grandmother reveals that she had met Krampus when she was a young girl and he’s come back for her (which is partially true), the flashback scene during her story is animated.  Think of the animated kids from the Puffs Plus commercials on TV; that’s how everyone looks in her story.  When we finally meet Krampus’ assistants (the gingerbread people, the toys, and the human/creature demons) there is a mix of live action and CGI.    I don’t know enough about film to analyze if the three types of filming are effective or not, but I wanted to mention it because it seems like mixing it up was a good idea.  It at least impressed me.

There was only one thing that bothered me about this movie, and while it’s fine from the perspective that the director is allowed to create the world their way, it seems wrong.  Apparently Krampus is a man/goat demon. Google “Krampus Folklore” in images to see the many interpretations of this entity; it’s worth the time. In some illustrations he looks more like a man and in others he looks more like a goat, but he always has unnaturally long claws and a tongue that should not be able to do…whatever it does.  That was such as bad way of explaining it, so another way is that if you think of the tongue like a lizard’s, that’s the best comparison. The movie did a faithful job of the claws and the tongue, but the face of the entity was all wrong.  Instead of being a man’s face or a goat’s face, it was a sunken-in gray blob.  Okay, I get artistic interpretation and all that good stuff, but given the neat make-up and masks for the assistant demons, I expected Krampus to be more elaborate.  This will not necessarily take away from the movie, but it was the only thing I personally didn’t feel and I want to be honest about that.

Other than my beef with Krampus himself, I would absolutely recommend this movie.  Watch it in theaters now or wait for it to come out, but definitely see it for yourself.

 

 

 

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