Tag Archives: scary movies

31 Days of Horror: The Amityville Asylum (NR; 2013; 91 min)

amityville asylum

I am so happy, dear viewer, to save you from wasting 1 -1/2 hours of your life by telling you to run far, far away from this B-level “horror” movie. No, wait. That’s insulting to B movies! Let’s just say: don’t bother wasting your time or money.

Drawn in by the lure of the Amityville franchise, I didn’t exactly have high hopes for this movie set at the High Hopes Psychiatric Hospital, but thought I might get at least a good scare or two. What I endured instead was a slow, tedious, foreign knock-off with terrible acting, weird POV shots, and a plot out of Horror 101.

Annoying: we are supposed to believe the H.H. Hospital was recently built and opened at the sight of the Amityville Horror house in New York. However, every character in the movie minus one speaks in an undeniable foreign accent (plus, one annoying girl calls it the “Uh-meaty-ville House), so it’s pretty obvious we are not on the New York side of the pond. We are also supposed to believe that five-minute slow conversations, long readings from books about a Native American/cult tie-in , and non-pertinent-to-plot, cleaning-with-chemicals advice during a movie are not boring; that criminally insane patients are always locked up in cave-like basements with no guards, yet their hallway needs a nightly mopping; and that an entire mental hospital runs at night without nurses (only two orderlies) and with just one doctor. Even without all these issues, the movie offers no scares, just a bit of gore, and shouldn’t be allowed to use the good Amityville name.

  • Top Scare: Hallway surprise
  • Heartbeats: 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 1/2 out of 5
  • Recommended for: Burning. But if you must: 15 or older.

 

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31 Days of Horror: The Quiet Ones (PG-13; 2014; 98 min)

The Quiet Ones

 

Based oh, so loosely on a real experiment in the early 70s in Canada, this movie moves many, many steps forward to slowly, carefully terrify your pants off. I was quite surprised it has gotten such so-so ratings online, since my heart was pounding throughout much of the movie and I even jumped during several scenes.

In The Quiet Ones, an Oxford university professor and three of his students conduct an unusual and unethical experiment on a young woman named Jane who seems to be possessed by an entity – ghost? demon? spirit? – named Evey. Jane is locked in a room while Cum on Feel the Noize blares day and night (yes, there is a non-Quiet Riot version from 1973). Using various instruments and methods, the team tries to help Jane to telekinetically move Evey from her body into a doll, thus curing her and proving the professor’s theories. But Evey has other ideas about how and where she wants to live.

The Quiet Ones is not a splashy possession story, at least not at first. The two main settings – Oxford and an abandoned country house – are pretty much it. Tension builds slowly in the first half hour, but once it kicks in, it kicks up a notch every few minutes and doesn’t stop until the very end. Expect lots of surprises and even a good supply of scares.

  • Top Scare: Too many to pick just one
  • Heartbeats: 3 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 4 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 15 and up (even though it is PG-13), due to scares and some violent scenes

31 Days of Horror: The Intruders (PG-13; 2015; 92 min)

The Intruders

Miranda Cosgrove of Nickelodeon’s iCarly fame is all grown up, but is she ready to take on the lead role of a horror movie? Unfortunately, no.

Cosgrove plays Rose, a college-age girl on a break from school following the death of her mother and a subsequent breakdown. Rose and her father – who remodels houses – have just moved into an old house where a girl had gone missing. As odd happenings begin in the house, we are left to wonder if they are real or if Rose is imagining them, a side effect of a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia or possibly related to her dumping her meds down the toilet.

While there is a good bit of tension in some scenes and some odd characters to throw red herrings around, Cosgrove is just not powerful enough to help us really feel the tension and fear of her situation. Plus, it’s hard to believe she’s not twelve during several scenes – a kiss later in the movie is uncomfortable at best. So while the plot itself has potential, it falls somewhat flat at times and feels more like a movie-of-the-week. Still, for the younger viewers Cosgrove will attract to this genre, it just might be enough to introduce them to some safer scares.

  • Top Scare: Basement scene
  • Heartbeats: 2 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 1 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 2 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 14 and up

31 Days of Horror: Unfriended (R; 2014; 83 min.)

unfriended2

While what’s truly scary is how much time teenagers spend online nowadays (was that a giveaway that I’m a bit “older”?), this scary movie uses the young generation’s uber-connectedness in its favor. Seen entirely from the viewpoint of teenager Laura, while she is chatting, IMing, researching, viewing, and flirting with friends who are each on their own computer one evening, Unfriended lets us join the group chat as they learn each others’ secrets and lies. But they aren’t giving up these scandalous tidbits willingly. They have another “guest” in their chat room who is pulling all the strings and forcing the teens to play a game designed to show how each teen is connected to the recent death of Laura’s friend, Blaire, while exacting revenge as the night unfolds.

Unfriended starts out a bit slow, and you have to be prepared to read A LOT during the movie to keep up (the movie itself is actually a shot of Laura’s computer screen as she pulls up various videos, websites, etc. and clicks away during the chat). Yet it picks up the pace nicely and lets us see only exactly what the teens are seeing, so it feels realistic and we understand the fear the teens are feeling. All in all, a decent movie, though if you are looking for true scares, you won’t find many here.

  • Top Scare: At the end
  • Heartbeats: 2 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 3 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 3 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 17 and up due to gore and adult content

31 Days of Horror: Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (aka Part V) (R; 1985; 92 min)

Friday the 13th New Beginning

I was looking for a retro scare, so I turned to a franchise I loved as a teenager. I’ve also heard that a new installment is due on Friday, March 13, 2015, so I wanted to do some catch-up on the story. Seems I’m VERY behind, since there are seven more FTT’s after this 1985 film, including some crossovers with Nightmare on Elm Street…Movie Marathon time!

New Beginning catches up with Tommy Jarvis, the boy who killed Jason Vorhees, as a teenager living in a sort of half-way group house for mentally disturbed kids. One by one, the residents are brutally butchered in increasingly imaginative ways. Tommy, damaged and almost mute, sulks around a lot, while the music escalates and crazy neighbors hack at raw chicken carcasses. As the bodies pile up, Tommy befriends Reggie, a young kid whose grandfather works at the home. Together they must find the killer – could it be Jason reborn? – and try to live to see the 6th installment.

Overall, New Beginning is cheesy enough to be pretty funny, and features some terrible acting thrown in all around with no real scares. If you’re looking for a B horror movie to play a drinking game to, this just might be the one.

  • Top Scare: Uh, can’t think of one
  • Heartbeats: 1 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 1/2 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 1 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 15 or 16 and up

31 Days of Horror: Oculus (R; 2013; 104 min)

oculus

 

Ever feel like a horror movie has the possibility of being a great scare, yet it falls just short? That’s how I felt about Oculus. Even though it did have some scary-ish moments, and a decent horror movie premise underlying it all, it never managed to pull me out of my living room and into the spirit world like it could have.

Switching back and forth – sometimes quite confusingly (the director’s intention) –  between today and ten years ago, Oculus is the story of two siblings, Tim and Kaylie. Tim has just been released from a mental institute where he was being treated after murdering his parents as a young boy a decade ago. But Kaylie wants to prove via an elaborate set-up of alarms, switches and cameras that the murderer was actually an evil spirit residing in the antique mirror hanging in their father’s office, known as the Lasser Glass, and that the spirit has been murdering its owners for hundreds of years. A la Stephen King’s IT, Kaylie also wants Tim to keep his promise of coming back and helping her to take care of the spirit once and for all. The problem is, Tim doesn’t remember the events quite the same, until he is caught up in Kaylie’s efforts and starts to relive the night in question. But the evil that resides within the mirror has many tricks up its sleeve, all designed to prevent Tim and Kaylie from accomplishing their goal. The question is, who will be victorious?

  •  Top Scare: Evil Spirit in office
  • Heartbeats: 2 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 3 out of 5
  • Suspense Factor: 2 1/2 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 15 and up

 

 

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: 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: 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 Movie: Halloween (1978; R; 91 min)

For me, Halloween is the ultimate scary movie. Every year I try, and fail, to watch it all the way through without having to turn it off. This year, I almost succeeded: I only paused it once! Of course, it was very sunny outside and I sat way, far away from the screen, but…baby steps!

John Carpenter’s masterpiece was filmed in just 21 days for only $320,000 in 1978. Carpenter also created all the music for the movie, which to me, is the bow on the present that is this super scary movie. Just hearing the opening score or the pounding piano sequence that plays whenever Michael Myers is on the move can make my heart rate jump and my insides turn to jelly. So, thanks to Mr. Carpenter, our Halloweens will never be the same!

Now, all that being said, Halloween the movie does have its problems, too! Read on…

Halloween opens in 1963, when a six-year-old Michael Myers stabs his sister Judith to death on Halloween night (Problem: his stabs don’t actually land anywhere near his sister). Fast forward 15 years, and Michael’s doctor, Doctor Loomis (the amazing Donald Pleasance), is going to visit the insane asylum where Michael lives, in an effort to make sure he never gets out. But he’s too late. Michael has just broken out and he manages to steal the car Loomis is in, heading back to his hometown of Haddonfield (yes, it’s a problem that somehow Michael can drive).

Meanwhile, three teenagers named Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), Linda (one of the mean girls from Carrie and who says “Totally” every 5 seconds), and Annie (the production designer’s wife, who is possibly the worst actress in the history of horror films, is annoying, and yells all her lines) are preparing for Halloween night in Haddonfield. Laurie and Annie will be babysitting children just across the street from each other, while Linda plans to party with her boyfriend. Now the boy, Tommy, who Laurie is babysitting, warns her as they walk to school, telling her to not go near the abandoned old Myers house ’cause it’s haunted. Yet, and this is a problem: Annie picks up Laurie in her car, in full sunshine, to go to the houses where they are babysitting, and when they arrive it’s full dark outside, and she’s babysitting Tommy, who lives close enough to walk the same way to school with her. Huh?

Okay, so back to the story. Michael has been following Laurie all day. She has noticed him several times (cue creepy music) but thinks it’s just her imagination. Now, if I saw a tall man in coveralls wearing an expressionless mask standing among my hanging sheets in the backyard, I’d freak out. But not Laurie.

So, it’s Halloween night. Dr. Loomis has taken up post at the old Myers house to await Michael’s return. But he’s too late, ’cause Michael is after Laurie and her friends. As the night unfolds, teenagers neck (and more, in about 3 seconds flat!), none of the kids being babysat get to trick-or-treat (yes, that’s a problem), and Michael starts picking the teens off, one by one. But will he get to his ultimate goal, Laurie, before the night ends? Or will Dr. Loomis catch him just in time?

Additional insights: While this may sound like your everyday teen slasher flick, it’s not. Carpenter uses lighting and scene setting to build amazing tension and suspense. Often we can see Michael and know he’s just a man, yet his dead eyes let us know evil resides within, evil that cannot be reasoned with, evil that cannot be stopped. And perhaps the simple storyline makes his evil all the more scary to watch. All in all, an amazing movie (despite the storyline problems) that will remain in my top three for a very long time!

  • Top Scare: Every one with Michael and the piano music
  • Heartbeats: 4 3/4 out of 5
  • Gore factor: 1 1/2 out of 5
  • Suspense factor: 5 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 17 and up, for nudity and theme of storyline

31 Days of Horror Movie: IT (1990; Not Rated; 192 minutes)

What’s more creepy than an evil clown? An evil clown holding a fistful of balloons, with fangs and a cackling, maniacal laugh (portrayed by the genius Tim Curry no less), who can take the shape of the thing you are most afraid of. A clown who lures and murders the children of a town (Derry, Maine) every 30 years, for hundreds of years, and who only the children can see and hear. A clown called Pennywise by name, but IT by a group of misfit 11 year-old friends who have formed The Losers Club, and who are being targeted and hunted not only by a group of bullies from their school, but by this evil entity in clown form as well. A clown that claims, “I’ll drive you crazy and I’ll kill you all…I’m your worst dream come true. I’m everything you ever were afraid of!”

Based on the pulse-pounding book by horror master Stephen King, IT is set in two main time periods, thirty years apart, and follows the same group of seven friends (six boys and one girl) as they realize they must stick together to survive. As children, Bill’s younger brother Georgie is one of IT’s victims. He is visited by Pennywise first, then one by one the others are too. Finally, each one admits that the clown has visited and threatened him or her, and they form a plan to kill IT. But they do not succeed, and all but one move away, losing all memory of what happened thirty years ago.

Flash forward thirty years and children are once again dying. Mike, though, has stayed as librarian in Derry, and he calls each one back to fulfill a promise they have made to kill IT if it ever returns, and put an end to the evil once and for all. As each receives the call, the memories start to return, and they merge on Derry to face Pennywise. But IT has other plans for them…

My take: all in all, a great premise, likable characters (and a fabulous cast) and lots of scares, even if some of the ending does feature some B-movie type hijinks. Plus I guarantee you’ll think twice before attending the carnival again!

  • Top Scare: All with Pennywise
  • Heartbeats: 3 1/2 out of 5
  • Gore factor: 2 out of 5
  • Suspense factor: 3 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 14 and up