Monthly Archives: October 2013

31 Day of Horror: Mama (PG-13; 2013; 100 min)

mama

When two girls, Victoria and Lilly, are found after being left alone in a cabin in the woods for five years, their uncle takes on the challenge of trying to raise them. With the help of a psychiatrist, he and his girlfriend begin to make progress, such as getting them to walk upright and stop eating cherries for every meal (or certain creatures, as eventually becomes the case). But it soon becomes clear that they weren’t alone in that cabin after all – Mama was with them. And Mama does not want to give them up quite so easily.

With an almost unrecognizable Jessica Chastain, and an adorable Megan Charpentier as Victoria, Mama has a solid, believable cast. The majority of the movie is suspenseful, quite scary, and a bit gruesome, thanks to some great special effects. I was disappointed in the surreal-type ending, however, and wish the movie had stuck more closely with its horror theme. All in all, a great scare for your 31 Days of Horror.

  • Top Scare: Any with Mama
  • Heartbeats: 4 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 1/2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 4 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 14 or 15 and up

31 Days of Horror: House at the End of the Street (PG-13; 2012; 101 min)

house at end of street

With Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, and Elisabeth Shue, I was happy to give this movie a try, and I’m glad I did. Though not the scariest of plots, it did have a few good jump-out-of-my-seat moments, some good suspense, and an interesting story. Plus, it had not just one, but two or three twists thrown in, and I’m a sucker for plot twists!

Teenager Elissa (Lawrence) and her wildish mom Sarah (an amazing-looking Shue) have just rented a house in the woods. They got it for a steal since the house next door was the location of a family slaying – a not-quite-all-there girl (Carrie Anne) had murdered her mother and father one night before disappearing into the woods to never be seen again. When they discover the girl’s brother, Ryan, has moved back into the abandoned house after many years staying with an Aunt, Elissa strikes up a friendship with him. As the friendship deepens, Sarah tries to put a stop to it, but Elissa is too clever for that.

Now, Ryan is a quiet, shy type of college kid, fixing up his family home in hopes to sell it one day. But as time goes on, we learn that there’s something very odd going on in Ryan’s house, something that involves Carrie Anne, who may or may not have disappeared for good on that fateful night. And just when you think you’ve figured it out – TWIST – you have to look at things differently. And as soon as you’re comfortable with that -TWIST – you have to figure it all out again. But it doesn’t stop there…you’ll be thinking this movie through right up to the very end!

  • Top Scare: In Ryan’s house
  • Heartbeats: 3 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 1/2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 3 1/4 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 14 and up

31 Days of Horror: The Cabin in the Woods (R; 2012; 95 min)

the cabin in the woods

Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: five college friends head for a remote cabin in the woods. When strange things begin happening, and they are soon dying one by one, they realize they are not alone.

What? Stop? Are you sure?

But if I do, you’ll never discover the mind-bending secrets you can only discover if you watch this unique version of the story. Secrets too big and, um, different, to reveal here! Suffice it to say, you won’t want to miss this cult classic brought to you by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, if only so you know the secret(s) and can yuck it up a bit in the process at not only the storyline, but the acting too. And maybe enjoy a few small scares here and there as well.

  • Top Scare: Undead
  • Heartbeats: 2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 4 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 1 1/2 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 15 and up

31 Days of Horror: The Conjuring (R; 2013; 112 min)

the conjuring

Wow, wow, and wow! I’d heard great things about this movie, so wanted to be sure to include it in my 31 Days of Horror. I’m just glad I didn’t watch it late at night!

The Conjuring is based on real-life husband and wife team, Ed and Lorraine Warren, and their most difficult case as demonologists/paranormal researchers. In 1971 Rhode Island, the Perron family has just moved into an old, creaky-door house they got for a steal (uh, oh…red flag!). Almost immediately, they begin to hear strange sounds (flag), and soon discover the house’s boarded up cellar, stocked full of old furniture, toys, etc. (flag). The youngest of five daughters, April, soon has an invisible playmate (flag). The Mom is noticing strange bruises on her body (flag). And another daughter is seeing people and being tugged at while sleeping (flag).

Now, before you say, “I’ve seen this kind of movie a hundred times,” just wait. Because before you know it, the scares kick up a notch or twelve, with scares aplenty. You’ll be squeezing that pillow pretty tightly in no time flat! Because as soon as the Perrons decide to enlist the Warrens’ help, the spirits and demons living in the house start getting pretty mad about it all, and try to put a stop to their every effort. Adults, children, pets – all in the crosshairs. The question is, will the Perrons and the Warrens all make it through to tell the tale?

With amazing timing, special effects, lighting, and cast, The Conjuring is the perfect combination of “truth and scare,” one you won’t want to miss!

  • Top Scare: Very hard to choose, but I’ll go with bedroom scene
  • Heartbeats: 4 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 1/2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 4 1/2 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 15 or 16 and up

31 Days of Horror: Tips Your House Might Be Haunted

31 Days of Horror: Tips Your House Might Be Haunted.

Give This, Not That: Halloween Edition

halloween candy bowl

Want to be the cool house on the block come Trick-or-Treat time? Sure, the headless ghoul and ghastly sound effects – not to mention swirling fog and creepy doorbell – will go a long way. But to truly take your place in the hall of fame, you need to master The Give. To help you out, I’ve compiled a beginner’s guide to treats every kid worth her princess ball gown or his superhero cape will be looking for October 31st, along with the sure-to-scare-away equivalent:

First, the basics. Whenever possible, give:

  • Candy                  NOT         Candy Corn, Fruit, or Raisins
  • Full Size              NOT         Fun Size or Mini
  • New Candy         NOT         Last Year’s Easter Candy

chocolate bunny

Once you’ve mastered Candy 101, you’re ready to move on. Give:

  • Chocolate                           NOT     Breath Mints
  • Sour, Sweet, Gummy    NOT    Atomic Fireball, Tabasco Jelly Beans
  • Laffy Taffy                         NOT     Bit-O-Honey or Licorice
  • Caramel Anything           NOT     Coconut Anything (sorry Mounds)
  • ANYTHING ELSE           NOT     Pecan Logs, Sixlets, Necco Wafers

necco wafers

 

 

 

 

Finally, when you’re ready for the Advanced Give, give these a try:

  • Gross-out Candy (Zit Poppers, Gummy Tongue, Box of Boogers, Ear Wax Candy)

zit poppers

                                                                       NOT

  • Goodies you may have on hand (Beer Nuts, Clif Bars, or 5-Hour Energy)

5 hour energy

Now that you’re all set to be the best house on the block come Halloween night, be sure to follow this last piece of advice: GIVE IT ALL AWAY (your skinny jeans will thank me come Thanksgiving!).

31 Days of Horror: Sinister (R; 2012; 110 min)

sinister

After finding out another horror movie blogger rated this movie as a true scare, I couldn’t wait to watch it. And for the most part, it’s a good, creepy, pulse-pounding tale. I was somewhat disappointed in the ending, however, as well as the not-too-creepy makeup artistry (I’m being careful to not give too much away here) on some key players in the end. Nevertheless, I do recommend this as a good addition to your 31 Days of Horror.

Ethan Hawke is superb as Ellison Oswalt, a hush puppy-wearing true crime writer who moves his unknowing wife, son, and daughter to the scene of a murder/abduction to research his latest book. When he finds a box of 8mm home movies in the attic of the new house, each depicting a family’s murder from some past time and place, he begins to piece together the story of a serial killer in action over several decades.

As his son’s night terrors increase in number and intensity, and his daughter begins to paint dead girls on the wall, and strange noises awake him (and only him) each night, and a sinister boogey man appears in each home movie, and…you get the idea…Ellison continues his research and his drinking. But can he piece together the clues and solve the mystery before he loses his sanity, his family, and his beloved cable knit sweater?

  • Top Scare: Home Movie
  • Heartbeats: 3 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 4 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 15 or 16 and up

31 Days of Horror: The Last Exorcism Part II (PG-13; 2013; 88 min)

last exorcism 2

After seeing and hating The Last Exorcism during a past 31 Days of Horror, I didn’t hold out very high hopes for this installment. Yet the first two minutes showed such promise. Alas, it was not to be, as I spent most of the movie watching the clock and yawning. Literally. At eleven o’clock in the morning!

TLE II follows the same Nell Sweetzer from the original, as she is living in a kind of half-way house for troubled girls in New Orleans. Everyone seems to think Nell came from a cult due to her odd behavior and innocent ways. But as she starts to come out of her shell, and even falls for a boy, she also reverts back to seeing and hearing from the demon who possessed her before. And he wants her back in a very, um, complete way. As voodoo, religion, and sexual tension mix and Nell and her housemates try to act scary or scared, the movie spirals down, down, down to its ridiculous conclusion, leaving the door open for another installment. Let’s hope whatever possessed these people to make such bad movies gets properly exorcised before that happens!

  • Top Scare: First two minutes
  • Heartbeats: 1 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 1/4 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 1 1/2 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 14 and up, due to sexual nature of some scenes

31 Days of Horror: Abandon (PG-13; 2002; 99 min)

abandon

So Katie Holmes has finally gotten on with her life after the crazy guy she was with – oh, wait, you thought I was talking about Tom Cruise, didn’t you? No, this is pre-KOM or TATIE or whatever they were called together. This is way back in 2002, when Katie was still in grade school maybe, she looks so very young and shapeless. But Katie -now this is the Katie in the movie – is actually a senior at an elite college, working on finishing her thesis, with romance novel- named boys and men all around her falling at her feet. Of course this includes Harrison Hobart, a longtime friend hoping desperately to leave the friend zone, plus the hot detective Wade Handler (Benjamin Bratt), who has been assigned to verify the still missing-ness of Katie’s boyfriend Embry Larkin (played by the also impossibly-young Charlie Hunnam), who up and vanished two years ago without so much as a goodbye.

But wait. Suddenly Embry reappears in the soon-to-be-demolished dorm where they lived, wanting to pick up right where the two left off. You know – in B-E-D. And Katie is rightfully pissed at first, then just scared at his erratic behavior and veiled threats. Then Harrison goes missing. Hmm. Coincidence? And when Katie finally confides in Handler that Embry has returned, and Handler decides to finally be a detective and not just her boy toy, the cat and mouse game truly begins.

  • Top Scare: Benjamin Bratt kissing Katie Holmes (was she even legal?)
  • Heartbeats: 1 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 1 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 2 1/4 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 13 and up

31 Days of Horror: Paranormal Activity 4 (R; 2012; 88 min)

paranormal activity 4

I remember it like it was yesterday: the creative movie that was Paranormal Activity, with all its tension, heart-pounding scares, and terror. Then along came PA 2, perhaps better than the original. With PA 3, I had a few good scares, but laughed at the ending. And now, here’s PA 4, promising that “all of the activity has led to this!” Who can blame me for being hopeful?

Alas, as you can probably guess, PA 4 is but a mere shadow of its name. A long trudge through boring days of a teenage girl, Alex, and her family, who have taken in the new neighbor boy Robby when his mother ends up in the hospital. Alex’s boyfriend Ben teaches her to set up computers throughout the house to capture the odd happenings that start as soon as Robby arrives. Loud noises at night? Yup. Unexplained trails of toys leading to nothing? Sure! Little boys who walk around the house and yard at 3 am? You bet. Thrills and scares to make you scream and jump? Well, no. Of the only three scares I had in the whole movie, two were at the very end and were related to jump shots by the camera (the other, another jump shot closer to the beginning of the movie).

So, yes, I was surely disappointed. I guess the writers had to wrap up the storyline somehow, but this wasn’t even close to being worth the title. Save yourself the rental fee and relive PA 1 and 2 for the best scares of the series.

  • Top Scare: Bedroom shot near end
  • Heartbeats: 1 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 1 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 2 out of 5
  • Recommended for: ages 13 or 14 and up

31 Days of Horror: The Awakening (R; 2011; 107 min)

the awakening

I was so glad to have taken a chance on this instant-watch movie on Netflix…a true ghost story with smart acting and an engaging plot.

Set in post-war 1921 London, The Awakening follows Florence Cathcart, an uppity young writer and ghost researcher who has dedicated her days to exposing hoaxes which prey on those experiencing loss after World War I. Summoned to a boys’ boarding school in the countryside to explain recent sightings of a ghost, Florence is all science and reason. She uses her extensive knowledge and skills to lay traps for the foolish person trying to scare those at the school. The list of suspects is not too long: a hateful caretaker, a cruel teacher with an odd medical condition, the old headmaster, an odd yet kind cook/housekeeper, a handful of mean boys who shun and tease the weaker among them relentlessly, and Robert, the war-damaged man who brought her to the school to begin with.

As her investigation takes her deeper into the workings of the school, we also learn more about what propelled Florence to enter into such an unusual field of study and career path. And as we learn more about the estate’s history, we discover that maybe, just maybe, there might really be a ghost residing within. How else can you explain some of the things which are happening even as Florence continues laying her traps and finding reasonable explanations? Or is it all just her mind playing tricks on her too? Will she find the answer she is seeking for herself and the school?

The Awakening features many twists and turns, with lots of great scares, wonderful mood lighting and sufficiently creepy characters. But more than that, it’s an intelligent ghost story that doesn’t rely on gore to do the hard work. I highly recommend it during your 31 Days of Horror.

  • Top Scare: Little figures
  • Heartbeats: 3 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 4 1/4 out of 5
  • Recommended for 17 and up, due to full frontal nudity

31 Days of Horror: Dark Skies (PG-13; 2013; 97 min.)

dark skies 3

Keri Russell sans twisty hair? Okay, maybe I can manage. And I’m kinda sorta glad I did.

Dark Skies is a supernatural horror movie with a decent premise: unusual, freaky things are happening in the Barrett household, especially to the youngest member Sam, and those beings responsible are not stopping until they get what they really want. As horror movie parents go, Lacey and Daniel are good ones to have because they don’t just dismiss these odd occurrences and get on with their days as so often happens in these movies (that dismissal is left up to a local, cocky police officer they keep calling in to help them figure it all out). Lacey especially works hard to figure out how, say, toasters and plates and glasses came to be stacked-floating in her kitchen one morning and her kids have strange markings on their bodies. Despite not being able to convince me she actually bore two kids – her body is way too underdeveloped for that – she is very convincing in her passionate fear for their safety. And with decent scares stacking up as well as mugs and appliances, this movie leads us on a tense, if odd, path towards a twist ending a la M. Night Shayamalan’s Signs.

  • Top Scare: Seeing “others” each time
  • Heartbeats: 3 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 1 1/2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 3 1/2 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 15 and up

31 Days of Horror: The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georga (R; 2013; 100 min.)

haunting of connecticut 2

After loving the scares from The Haunting in Connecticut, I was anxious to see THIC 2! Unfortunately, like most sequels, this installment left much to be desired.

The setting: 1993 rural Georgia, where these events supposedly occurred. The I-refuse-to-believe-that-weird-and-unexplainable-things-are-really-happening-despite-my-meds Mom: an unbelievably skinny (yet curvy), and gorgeous, country-girl named Lisa who is settling into a new house along with her forgettable husband (see, I can’t even remember his name), daughter Heidi (a bright spot in the movie), and also-gorgeous sister, Joyce. Seems the females in this family have a “gift,” you see, and are able to see things others can’t because they were born with a veil on their faces. O-kay.

Now, this new abode is located, it turns out, on the property which used to house a Stationmaster of the Underground Railroad (a taxidermist by trade), and later was owned by a bigoted Mr. Gordy, and which is still haunted by many ghosts and, um, others. As Heidi continues to speak to dead people and goes missing again and again, and Lisa continues to deny her “gift” while curled up half-submerged in a tub, and Joyce continues to be the cool cowboy boot-wearing Aunt, and what’s-his-name is forced to leave his day job as a police officer over and over without getting fired, the tension builds until finally, the family is forced to discover the property’s true past to try to save their daughter once and for all.

To be fair, while the first half of the movie nearly left me comatose, the action and scares did pick up a little after the mid-way point. Never was I truly terrified or jumpy or any of those reactions I look for in a scary movie. It was all just a little too, well, boring. If you want to learn more about the Underground Railroad, well, this movie is not really for you. And if you want a good scare, well, again, not for you. But if you need something long to sleep by, you’ve found your match.

*Top Scare: Creature man in long coat

*Heartbeats: 2 out of 5

*Gore Factor: 2 3/4 out of 5

*Suspense Factor: 2 out of 5

*Recommended for: 16 and up, due to theme and gore