The Geektastics » Monthly A safe space to geek out! Wed, 26 Mar 2014 02:57:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Celluloid Automat: Best Worst Movie (2009) /2014/02/01/the-celluloid-automat-best-worst-movie-2009/ /2014/02/01/the-celluloid-automat-best-worst-movie-2009/#comments Sat, 01 Feb 2014 07:01:02 +0000 /?p=5175 TCA

Best Worst MovieBest Worst Movie (2009)

Directed by Michael Paul Stephenson

George Hardy
Jason Steadman
Connie Young
Curtis Gwinn

Available on Netfix and Hulu Plus

In 1989, Italian director Claudio Fragasso and his wife, Rossella Drudi created a horror film, originally titled Goblins, that was supposed to satirize the growing trend of Drudi’s friends becoming vegetarians.  Instead, it became a low-budget straight-to-cable release that received a 0% “Fresh” rating on the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes and was widely regarded as the “worst movie ever made”.  The actors were horrified by their performances, even young Michael Paul Stephenson, who played the main character, Joshua.  Stephenson received the VHS of Troll 2 for Christmas in 1990 and his dreams of child stardom seemed to die a little more with every scene.

Because of repeated airings on HBO, Troll 2 gathered a fervent cult following among children and teenagers growing up in early 90s.  This was also the time of “Mystery Science Theater 3000″, which celebrated terrible movies and introduced the “so bad it’s good” genre to a mainstream audience outside of college dorms and dark basements.  Like many of my geeky peers, “MST3K” was a staple of my childhood and fueled my love of campy horror and sci-fi films.  TNT also had a show called “Monstervision”, which also featured camp horror classics and was hosted by Joe Bob Briggs in the style popularized by other horror hosts like Svengoolie and Vampira.  It was on this show that I saw Troll 2.  I was confused, disgusted, and completely entertained.

Troll 2‘s likeability despite its inherent badness paved the way for lifelong devotion among horror fans, private annual viewing parties, and showings at independent theaters that rival Rocky Horror Picture Show.  This is the world captured by Stephenson in Best Worst Movie as he documents the aftermath of Troll 2 and how the worst movie ever made has finally found its audience 20 years after its release.

Most of the documentary centers on Dr. George Hardy, a Utah dentist who starred as the Waits family patriarch.  He is introduced to the Troll 2 fandom through several events hosted by independent movie theaters around the country and is delighted to receive the recognition he was hoping for the first time around.  Along with Stephenson, he seeks out his fellow castmates, who relive the trauma of shooting the film and the horror of seeing it the first time.

Hardy and Stephenson are the most at ease with their B-movie past.  They recognize the failings of the film and their own subpar acting skills, and are willing to approach the subject in a light-hearted way.  After the highs of the wild reception they receive from the diehard fandom, they also face the sobering reality of what has become of a few of their fellow castmates.  A few have become recluses, retreating from acting and the world around them.  Fragasso, the director, still believes whole-heartedly in the quality of the movie, and unlike the cast, is disappointed by the fans’ reception of the film as a great bad movie.  He is deadly serious about the film being a legitimate message piece, and his delusion is both hilarious and sort of tragic.

Because it comes from someone involved in a camp classic, Best Worst Movie provides an inside perspective into the making of a great bad movie and reminds us that, once upon a time, it started out as just a movie.  The people who worked on it wanted it to be popular with a mainstream audience and appear in theaters.  They fully expected that movie to launch their career.  Sometimes it works out, like it did for Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore, Tom Hanks, and every other star who’s first role was a campy horror flick.  But, sometimes it doesn’t and those people have to go on living their lives.  But, if they’re lucky, they’ll get a little taste of fame from the weirdos (like me) who love watching bad movies.

This movie is a must-watch for every “MST3K” fan who actively looked for terrible horror films in their local video store.  It will make you want to watch Troll 2 again (or for the first time if you haven’t seen it).  It will make you want to dig out your old “MST3k” tapes and VHS player and have a bad movie marathon.  You may even go searching for bootleg “Monstervision” or “Elvira” videos on YouTube.

If you are looking for Troll 2, may I recommend the 20th Anniversary Nilbog Edition for the extremely reasonable price of $11.31?

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The Celluloid Automat: Dreams of a Life (2011) /2014/01/11/the-celluloid-automat-dreams-of-a-life-2011/ /2014/01/11/the-celluloid-automat-dreams-of-a-life-2011/#comments Sat, 11 Jan 2014 07:01:02 +0000 /?p=5127 TCA

Dreams of a LifeDreams of a Life (2011)

Directed by Carol Morely

Zawe Ashton

Available on Netflix and Hulu Plus

In January 2006, agents from a London housing association charged with repossessing a small one room flat, commonly known as a “bedsit”, discovered the skeletonized remains of a 38 year old woman, Joyce Carol Vincent.  Joyce’s dead body had lain in the apartment undisturbed for over three years, her television still on and tuned to BBC-1.  The discovery elicited a small article in the Sun, which filmmaker Carol Morely read by chance when she picked up discarded copy of the newspaper while riding the subway.

Morely was fascinated by the story of the woman who died alone and seemingly went unnoticed for so long.  She began culling information about Joyce through public records and interviews with friends and acquaintances and pieced together a sketch of Joyce’s life as it appeared to those around her.

This became the bare bones for her film about Joyce, Dreams of a Life.  It is only really a documentary in that it is about someone who actually lived and died, told from the perspective of the actual people who were a part of her life.  The interviews with Joyce’s friends are intercut with reenactments as Morely imagines what Joyce’s inner life was like, with actress Zawe Ashton portraying Joyce.  Some of the details, such as the small pile of wrapped Christmas presents found beside her body are a part of the official record, but much of the rest is an educated guess based on the little Morely found out about Joyce in her search for information.

Far from detracting from the story, the reenactments humanize Joyce more than the few photographs available can.  Ashton does a wonderful job of conveying the apparent duality of her life – showing both the bubbly, effervescent side that her friends remember and the solitary, tragic figure she became at the end.  Morely often transitions between the interviews and the reenactments using the television, an eerie reminder that the television had stayed on throughout Joyce’s entombment in her apartment. At times, it seems like Joyce is watching her old friends describe her, which adds a layer of haunting surreality to the depiction of her solitude.

It’s impossible to really know Joyce Carol Vincent from what we’re given in the in the film, but we are allowed to glimpse the shadowed figure under the glossy veneer that the rest of the world saw.  Joyce’s often mentioned sisters declined to be interviewed, so their side of the story is missing – as is the fact that they hired a private detective to find her.  There are significant gaps in the story and I got the impression that many of the people interviewed were guarded about the information they shared, but Morely does her best to connect the audience to her elusive subject and she bookends the story with a haunting song by Alice Temple that, in the moment, seems to be the voice of Joyce herself, calling from the grave.  It is a film that will leave you breathless and haunted, particularly the final moments, which feature the only known video of Joyce Carol Vincent.

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It Came From Netflix: The Moth Diaries (2011) /2013/11/02/it-came-from-netflix-the-moth-diaries-2011/ /2013/11/02/it-came-from-netflix-the-moth-diaries-2011/#comments Sat, 02 Nov 2013 06:01:24 +0000 /?p=5005 The Moth DiariesThe Moth Diaries (2011)
Rated R (for some bloody images, sexuality, drug use and language)

Directed by Mary Harron

Sarah Bolger
Sarah Gadon
Lily Cole
Scott Speedman

Rebecca (Bolger) returns to her posh boarding school for the fall term and is eager to reunite with her best friend and roommate Lucy (Gadon).  The two girls reconnect with their usual group of friends – the rebellious Charley, level-headed Dora, love-sick Sofia, and sarcastic Kiki.  Rebecca is prepared to have the best school year ever, as she is finally starting to move past the tragic suicide of her lauded poet father, but her plans are thwarted by the arrival of a strange new girl, Ernessa Block (Cole).  Lucy begins spending all her time with Ernessa and her personality begins changing.  Rebecca, in an effort to determine what’s going on, becomes obsessed with monitoring Ernessa and sees strange, supernatural things happening around the girl.  As her friends are taken away from her one by one, Rebecca begins to slip deeper and deeper back into depression and no one seems to believe her strange stories.

TMD Class

Mr. Davies (Speedman) teaches his class about Gothic literature. It’s in reading Dracula and Carmilla that Rebecca starts to understand Ernessa’s true nature.

Based on Rachel Klein’s novel of the same name, The Moth Diaries was adapted and directed by Mary Harron, a well-regarded director who has helmed films like American Psycho and I Shot Andy Warhol.  Klein’s book was written well before Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, but the choice to adapt it as a film nine years after it was written seems like a cash grab to capitalize on the growing romantic vampire craze.  The movie never saw a theatrical release, but was shown “out of competition” at the Venice International Film Festival.

TMD Rebecca Running

Rebecca (Bolger) runs to intercept Ernessa from influencing her best friend.

When I saw the film was directed by Harron, I decided to check out the trailer, and was very intrigued.  It reminded me of a lot of the supernatural YA fiction I read as a teenager, particularly Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn.  The film is beautifully shot and has an atmospheric ethereal quality that is very visually appealing, but the story and the script don’t match up to the visual potential.

TMD Ernessa

Ernessa (Cole) seems suspicious only to Rebecca.

Adapting a novel into a two hour film is always a challenge.  The best adaptations convey the essence of what the author was trying to get across using key moments essential to the story.  This movie seemed like Harron was trying to cram everything from the source material into the allotted two hours, which gives it a very jumbled feel.  Because so many things happen, we never feel connected to any characters outside of Rebecca, so when her friends leave the story one by one, we don’t really care.  Had Harron cut out several minor plot points and kept the story focused on Rebecca’s growing obsession with Ernessa’s interference with Lucy, the movie might feel like it has a bit more structure and direction.

Some of the visuals are very well done, but the acting is surprising flat, considering the usually excellent cast, and the ending is extremely anti-climactic.  The movie did make me interested to read the book, if just to see whether the characters and the story were more fleshed out in the original source material.  Although the trailer makes it seem like the film has a lot of potential, the end result was an unsatisfying watch.  I’d recommend skipping this and watching Léa Pool’s excellent Lost and Delirious instead, which deals with much of the same themes, albeit without the supernatural slant.

IFCN Rating:


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Tab Goes to the Movies: MHHF Features /2013/10/09/tab-goes-to-the-movies-mhhf-features/ /2013/10/09/tab-goes-to-the-movies-mhhf-features/#comments Wed, 09 Oct 2013 06:30:49 +0000 /?p=4782 Missed Part 1?  Find it here!

Tab Goes to the Movies Logo

Mile High Horror Festival

In addition to featuring tons of award winning shorts, Mile High Horror Festival also gives horror fans a chance to see new independent genre films.  I saw three new films, as well as two classics with Q&As from stars and filmmakers.

My All-Access Pass afforded me the opportunity to attend to incredible screenings.  On the first night, I was able to see a special 40th anniversary screening of The Exorcist.  Linda Blair was in attendance for a Q&A before the film and, although I had heard most of the stories she told before, it was cool just to be in the same room with her.  She donated her appearance fee to help local flood victims and spent several hours meeting fans and taking pictures.  The real treat was getting to watch the film with an impeccable sound system.  I also got to see the 35th anniversary screening of Dawn of the Dead, preceded by a Q&A with special effects artist Tom Savini and star Ken Foree.  They were very open to answering questions and seemed excited to be there, which made watching the movie all the more fun.  They’re both extremely gracious to their fans and spent the entire weekend talking to attendees and signing autographs.  If you’re local and planning to attend next year, I highly recommend getting the all access pass.  Pass holders got first choice of films, priority seating, and priority access for autographs – well worth the money if you’ll be there all weekend.  Alamo Drafthouse was awesome as well; the servers remained energetic and upbeat throughout the weekend and remembered returning attendees.  Several of my servers even offered free refills throughout the weekend that carried over from movie to movie.  I’m really hoping that they have the festival there again next year!

Now, for the part you’ve been waiting for – the movies!  I saw three new features – Haunter, Para Elisa, and We Are What We Are.

Haunter (2013)

Directed by Vincenzo Natali

Abigail Breslin
Stephen McHattie
David Hewlett

Lisa Johnson (Breslin) and her family repeat the same day over and over again.  While her family is oblivious, Lisa is quite aware of what’s going on and senses real danger when a pale stranger (McHattie) that only she can see begins to appear.  Lisa gets the feeling that she’s not alone and discovers evidence of horrible doings in her home’s past.

Haunter is a minor ghost story that borrows heavily from its predecessors.  The first third brings some interesting things to the table, and I really enjoyed the 80s aesthetic, but the film seems to fall apart a bit at the end.  The movie relies heavily on jump scares punctuated by loud audio cues and lots of CGI, but there’s only a few real frightening scenes.  It’s worth a Netflix or VOD watch, if you’re looking for a milder horror film.  Haunter will have a limited VOD release on October 18th.

Para Elisa (2013)

Directed by Juanra Fernandez

Ana Turpin
Ona Casamiquela
Luisa Gavasa
Jesus Caba

Ana (Casamiquela) is determined to raise enough money to go on her senior trip.  After quarelling with her boyfriend Alex (Caba), she agrees to go to a job interview for a nanny position in a grand old apartment building across from an ornate cathedral.  Ana gets more than she bargained for when her prospective employer (Gavasa) traps her in the apartment as a plaything for her demented daughter Elisa (Turpin).  It will take everything Ana has to try to escape.

This film was vastly different than what I was expecting; I pictured something closer to The Turn of the Screw.  The creep factor is high with this one and Turpin turns in a harrowing performance as the violent and weirdly childlike Elisa.  It’s visceral without being overly gory and, like many foreign horror flicks, vastly different than anything that would play in American theaters.  Para Elisa doesn’t currently have a US release date, but is playing a number of festivals.

We Are What We Are (2013)

Directed by Jim Mickle

Julia Garner
Ambyr Childers
Bill Sage
Michael Parks

The Parkers – Frank, Alyce, Iris, Rose, and Rory – are a devoutly religious and somewhat eccentric family living in a rural town besieged by a raging flood.  Alyce is killed when a medical condition causes her to pass out and drown, leaving the responsibility of providing for the family to the oldest daughter, Iris (Childers).  But, the Parkers have a dark secret that dates back to Frank’s early ancestors, one which the rising flood waters threaten to reveal to the entire town.

This film is more of reimagining than a remake of the Mexican film Somos Lo Que Hay.  I hadn’t seen the original, but from everything I’ve read, this movie is very different (other than having the same base premise).  We Are What We Are is dark and moody; a slow burn all the way to the incredibly shocking climax.  The atmosphere is helped by the near constant rain and the tortured performances of its stellar cast.  Everyone is amazing, but I was particularly impressed by Parks’ understated portrayal of the grieving Doc Barrow.  The soundtrack is killer, as well.  This film is a must see for horror fans and likely to become a classic in its own right.  It had a limited release on September 27th, but will hopefully be available on VOD soon.

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Tab Goes to the Movies: MHHF Shorts /2013/10/08/tab-goes-to-the-movies-mhhff-shorts/ /2013/10/08/tab-goes-to-the-movies-mhhff-shorts/#comments Tue, 08 Oct 2013 06:30:04 +0000 /?p=4763 Tab Goes to the Movies Logo

Mile High Horror Festival

What did I do this weekend?  Oh, just watched a ton of horror movies and was within a few feet of Linda Blair, Tom Savini, Doug Bradley, Meg Foster, and Ken Foree!

Mile High Horror Festival was held at Alamo Drafthouse this year and it was AMAZING!  I loved getting to see the films in an optimum viewing experience, but my favorite part was getting to share them with fellow horror fans.  I love being part of the horror community.  We’re sometimes an misunderstood bunch, and it was awesome to see horror fans of all ages and from all walks of life.

Let’s get to the good stuff.  In my first post, I’m looking at the amazing shorts programs MFHH offered this year, specifically my top five shorts.  I love the shorts programs because they give the audience a wide variety of mini films from amazing upcoming filmmakers and there’s something for everyone.  I thought the festival did a great job of creating variety in the individual programs as well as the presentation of shorts as a whole.  Here are my top five choices for the best shorts:

5.  ”Abyssus Abyssum Invocat“ 

[For those interested, the title is a Latin phrase that means "deep calleth unto deep" or "hell calls hell" and is a quotation from Psalm 42.]  I was surprised at how much I loved this short.  It felt very Clive Barker-ish and the intricate stop motion put it miles away from everything else in that particular program.  I really like how lush and old school it was, and it sort of reminded me of this terrifying piece of stop motion madness.

4.  ”The Trap” (4 min)

A Belgium production directed by Alberto Lopez, “The Trap” reminded me of a condensed “Outer Limits” episode.  Wordlessly, the protagonist faces the horrible temptation of looking at something he’s expressly told not to, with dire consequences.  It was completely unexpected in a program of pretty heady mini movie-style shorts and refreshingly different.

3.  ”Vienna Waits For You” (26 min)

Directed by Dominik Hartl, this short is darkly funny and just weird enough to fit in with the scarier stuff.  It had shades of the funnier “X-Files” episodes and I was impressed with how quickly Hartl is able to make us identify with and sympathize with Anna, the main character.

2.  ”Whispers” (14 min)

Directed by New Jersey filmmaker Murad Peret, this was one of the two shorts that I would have loved to see expanded into a full-length film.  Peret was in house for a Q&A session following the shorts program, and I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that it came from a fully formed idea – Peret’s short story of the same name.  This both seemed polished and like it had more to say, perfect for a really spooky feature.  I really loved the two child actors and thought they had a very real, natural sibling relationship.

(I was really hoping to find a trailer for this one because it’s so visually gorgeous, but I wasn’t able to find one.  Check out the pictures on the Facebook page in the above link.)

1.  Ghoul School” (22 min)

This had everything I loved about 80s horror flicks and I had SO much fun with the film references.  (I think I spotted homages to Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, The Stuff, Poltergeist, The Breakfast Club, Monster Squad, etc.) This was another one I would totally watch as a full-length film.  In fact, I was bummed I didn’t get to see more.  Director Brook Linder had a Kickstarter to make the short and I’m hoping they go for the real deal, because I would fund the shit out of that movie.  (Also, if Adam Scott ever needs to find an actor to play a younger version of him, the lead in “Ghoul School” would be perfect.)

Honorable Mention: “Killer Kart” (15 min)

I had to include this one because it was so much fun and there’s a possible sequel in the works!  Director James Feeney was in house for a Q&A and he also mentioned a mobile game, which I will totally be buying if it becomes a reality.  Think Jaws with grocery carts.  Yeah, you know you want to see that!

Check out tomorrow’s post for the dirt on the features!

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Tab Goes to the Movies: Insidious: Chapter 2 /2013/09/18/tab-goes-to-the-movies-insidious2/ /2013/09/18/tab-goes-to-the-movies-insidious2/#comments Wed, 18 Sep 2013 06:01:57 +0000 /?p=4645 Tab Goes to the Movies Logo

Insidious 2Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)
Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements)

Directed by James Wan

Patrick Wilson
Rose Byrne
Lin Shaye
Barbara Hershey

Director James Wan’s latest film is the follow up to the 2010 cult horror flick Insidious.  Widely regarded by genre fans as one of the best horror films in recent memory, Wan’s original left the next installment with some big shoes to fill. [WARNING: MILD SPOILERS for Insidious]

Chapter 2 picks up where the last movie ended, directly after the death of Elise (Shaye).  Josh (Wilson), Renai (Byrne), and the children move into Lorraine’s (Hershey) home temporarily as police investigate the death.  Renai senses that Josh is not himself and immediately begins to experience strange occurrences, while Dalton continues to astral project.  With the help of old friend and paranormal investigator Carl, Lorraine attempts to discover the history behind the old woman who has haunted her son since childhood in an effort to return him to normal and rid her family of the spirits who continue to haunt them.


One of the terrifying spirits in Insidious 2.

The aptly named Insidious: Chapter 2 is heavily dependent on the first film, and while it gives viewers the highlights, the mythology only really makes sense if you’ve seen the original Insidious.  Wan and Whannell took a chance intertwining the two films so intricately, but the fanbase was definitely there for a second film.  On one hand, I was excited to see what happened to the Lamberts after Josh and Dalton returned from the Further, but by exploring the old woman’s backstory, she lost some of her intensity and didn’t seem as frightening as she did in the first film.  The movie had some genuine scares, particularly since I watched it in an empty theater, and all of the elements I loved about the first film are present in the second.  The cinematography, set dressings, and scares are nods to classic horror, which the fangirl in me adored.  Chapter 2 isn’t as cohesive and tightly woven as Chapter 1; the emphasis was definitely heavier on the jump scares than expanding the story in an original way.  Some of it does feel like a rehash of the first film, and the old woman’s back story is a bit cliched, but the film as an entire package worked for me as a dedicated supernatural horror fan.

Insidious 2 Specs and Tucker

Specs and Tucker check out a haunted house.

The first Insidious shouldered Byrne with much of the heavy lifting, but it’s Wilson who does most of the work in the latest film.  His character has a deeply menacing edge that’s present from the beginning and steadily grows of the course of the film.  His performance reminded me of Jack Nicholson’s in The Shining and it was a really nice change from the fringe character he played in the original flick.  Lin Shaye, as always, is amazing.  (If I was a casting director, I would cast her in everything.)  Byrne seems a little bit wasted, but if you view the two films as a full story, both of the main actors get their chances to shine.

Insidious 2 Patrick Wilson

Josh Lambert (Wilson) isn’t himself since coming back from the Further.

If you’re a supernatural horror fan, I highly recommend watching both Insidious films.  They have a great classic haunted house feel, in the vein of movies like The Shining, The Sixth Sense, and Poltergeist.  They’re also proof that PG-13 films can be insanely scary using tracking shots and suspenseful music.  Chapter 3 has just been announced, and it will most likely follow Elise’s assistants Specs and Tucker as they help another family escape the clutches of otherworldly spirits.

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Tab Goes to the Movies: The World’s End (2013) /2013/08/25/tab-goes-to-the-movies-the-worlds-end-2013/ /2013/08/25/tab-goes-to-the-movies-the-worlds-end-2013/#comments Mon, 26 Aug 2013 01:49:51 +0000 /?p=4584 Tab Goes to the Movies Logo

The World's EndThe World’s End (2013)
Rated R (for pervasive language including sexual references)

Directed by Edgar Wright

Simon Pegg
Nick Frost
Martin Freeman
Rosamund Pike

Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fans rejoice as the Cornetto Trilogy comes to its inevitable conclusion with The World’s End.  Director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost give us their take on the sci-fi genre, but as with their previous two films, there is plenty of drinking, ice cream, and geeky pop culture references.

Three Flavors of Doom by cabinboy100 [click through for source]

Three Flavors of Doom by cabinboy100 [click through for source]

Twenty years after attempting their town’s “Golden Mile” pub crawl and failing, five friends join up to try again.  They’re reunited by their old leader, Gary King (Pegg), and while the others have grown up and moved on, Gary is still living in his halcyon high school days.  The men return to Newton Haven and set out to drink a pint in all twelve pubs on the crawl, but soon notice something is off in their tiny hometown as no one seems to recognize them.  The crawl turns into a mad dash for the last pub on the list, The World’s End, as Gary and the boys try to avoid psychotic robot replicas and make it out of Newton Haven alive.

The New Haven boys reunite: Oliver, Steven, Gary, Andy, and Peter

The New Haven boys reunite: Oliver, Steven, Gary, Andy, and Peter

As with other Cornetto films, Wright’s latest flick references well-known genre pieces, including Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the 1977 B-movie End of the World.  The first half of the film works as a by-the-numbers buddy comedy, a premise that’s turned on its head once the sci-fi elements appear.  The genre tropes are the candy coating on the real meat of the story – the struggles of growing up and settling into middle age.  A perfect mix of Wright’s trademark quick-witted comedy and fast-paced action keeps the movie from being too heavy handed, however, and the ending is the ideal button on a story about the classic Man Child faced with his own advancing age.  Familiar Cornetto tropes appear, including the recurring fruit machine jingle, the garden fence gag, and, of course, the classic British ice cream reference that gives the trilogy its name.  As an added bonus, the movie has an excellent soundtrack, led by its defacto theme song, The Soup Dragons’ 90s cover of “I’m Free” by The Rolling Stones.

The guys try to avoid by suspicion by acting normal.

The guys try to avoid by suspicion by acting normal.

Like the other films in the trilogy, The World’s End features an exemplary cast of British actors.  It’s refreshing to see Frost and Pegg do a role reversal, with the usually straight-laced Pegg playing the habitual screw up and the normally more bumbling Frost playing the straight man.  I loved getting to see Frost as the bad ass, especially since he often ends up as the side kick.  Freeman was wonderful as well, playing the group’s resident WASPy douchebag.  Having most recently seen him as John Watson in BBC’s “Sherlock”, I almost forgot his amazing comedic timing.

Pegg plays against type as the shiftless, self-destructive Gary

Pegg plays against type as the shiftless, self-destructive Gary

The World’s End is a fitting conclusion to the Cornetto Trilogy and a love letter to the fans who have supported Wright, Pegg, and Frost since their work on “Spaced”.  While it is hilarious and well-crafted on its own, it works best when seen in context of the other two films.  I loved picking out the running gags and cameo roles that connect the movies and I’m eagerly anticipating a collector’s edition box set!  If you’ve enjoyed any of Pegg and Frost’s previous work, you won’t need much convincing – see The World’s End with friends, preferably in a theater that serves alcohol for the full pub crawl experience!

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Tab Goes to the Movies: The Conjuring (2013) /2013/07/20/tab-goes-to-the-movies-the-conjuring-2013/ /2013/07/20/tab-goes-to-the-movies-the-conjuring-2013/#comments Sat, 20 Jul 2013 06:01:31 +0000 /?p=4503 Tab Goes to the Movies Logo

The Conjuring PosterThe Conjuring (2013)
Rated R (for sequences of disturbing violence and terror)

Directed by James Wan

Lili Taylor
Ron Livingston
Vera Farmiga
Patrick Wilson

James Wan’s latest foray into supernatural horror is The Conjuring, a 70s throwback to haunted/possessed house flicks.  The film is based on the personal accounts of the Perron family about experiences in their haunted farmhouse and the involvement of famous demonologist/medium couple Ed and Lorraine Warren, detailed in Andrea Perron’s memoir House of Darkness, House of Light.

Lorraine Warren

Lorraine (Farmiga) explores a child’s music box left in the Perrons’ home by previous owners.

Carolyn (Taylor) and Roger Perron (Livingston) move their five rambunctious daughters into a large farmhouse, hoping for a fresh start.  Almost immediately, the family begins to have disturbing experiences – the family dog refuses to enter the house, they find a boarded up basement filled with the possessions of previous owners, and Carolyn wakes up with severe unexplained bruises.  Eldest daughter Andrea smells something fetid in her room, but the odor dissipates by morning.  All the clocks in the home stop at 3:07 AM and Christine feels someone tugging at her leg in the middle of the night, despite her sister Nancy being fast asleep in the bed beside her.  It quickly becomes clear that a supernatural entity is terrifying the family and Carolyn seeks the help of renowned paranormal investigators Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Farmiga).


Ed (Wilson), Lorraine (Farmiga), and Roger (Livingston) look on as the demon’s power grows.

As he did with Insidious, Wan takes familiar horror tropes, particularly those dealing with ghost and exorcism movies, and pays them homage while adding his own clever twists.  If Insidious can directly trace its lineage to Poltergeist, The Conjuring is reminiscent of The Amityville Horror.  For good reason, actually.  Not only are both touted as “true” stories, the Warrens also investigated the claims of George and Kathy Lutz, owners of the Amityville home.  The marketing relies heavily on the “based on a true story” angle, but dwelling on it as a viewer can take you out of the film once you start to question the veracity (unless you’re firm in your belief of the supernatural).  As a skeptic, the movie worked much better for me when I decided to watch it purely as a straightforward horror film and that’s how I’m exploring it for this review.

Wan immediately begins with terrifying visuals as the film opens on the cracked glass eye of the most terrifying doll I’ve ever seen.  (This doll actually exists in the Warrens’ collection, but is decidedly less creepy in real life.)  He intercuts the Warrens’ lectures and home life with scenes of the Perron family adjusting to their new home.  Wan doesn’t waste time getting to the haunted house elements.  From the minute the family dog, Sadie, won’t enter the house, we know something is up.  The sense of dread increases as each night progresses, and Wan presents us with measured increasing steps of supernatural occurrences.  Traditional ghost scares abound – the family hears strange noises in the night and shadows permeate the darkness, but they take on an especially sinister feel as the ghosts use the Perrons’ favorite game, Hide and Clap, against them.  After the Warrens get involved, the scares move from familiar haunted house tropes to seriously disturbing visual frights.  (I spent most of the film with my hand clapped firmly over my mouth to keep from screaming.)

The Conjuring has garnered a lot of positive reviews, but critics seem to be taking issues with the “unoriginal” elements in the film, which I think is a bit unfair.  Wan and the other filmmakers are drawing from a source, an allegedly true account that happened to a real family.  That account is the basic framework for the story and Wan builds from that.  Many stories of “real” hauntings recall consistent elements.  It’s also obvious, from this film and Insidious, that Wan is a huge horror fan and as a fellow horror fan, I really appreciate the nods to previous classics.  Beyond the obvious connection to The Amityville Horror, I saw elements of The Haunting (1963), The Sixth Sense, and even The Evil Dead (1981).  I also loved the throwback feeling of the flick.  Everything, from the title card to the expert costuming, was pure 70s without feeling like a period piece.

Taylor does a wonderful job at conveying the absolute terror her character experiences.  She is an amazing and underused actress who often gets relegated to the “quirky best friend” role (you may know her as Julia Roberts’ marriage-wary friend Jojo in Mystic Pizza or John Cusack’s boyfriend-obsessed best friend Corey in Say Anything), but she has great range and works really well in this film as a warm, loving mother.  Farmiga is not as effective as Lin Shaye was in Insidious, but I always appreciate her ability to convey quiet fragility; she and Taylor had a great empathetic chemistry, even in their brief scenes together.  The male figures are less defined.  Livingston isn’t given much to do, mostly because the spirits focus on Carolyn and the girls, but it works for the most part because his job as a truck driver puts him on the fringes of the hauntings.  Wilson is good, but is mainly used as the catalyst for Lorraine’s powers, so his character (and his relationship with Farmiga) doesn’t have the same kind of resonance portrayed in Insidious.


Carolyn (Taylor) and Christine (Joey King) are terrified by demonic spirits.

I definitely enjoyed the growing sense of impending dread created by the steadily ramped up scares, but the exorcism portion of the film felt a bit glossed over and unfinished.  I got the impression that Wan was much more interested in the haunting aspect (as was I, actually) and not as fascinated with the possession.  The things I enjoyed about Insidious are echoed in The Conjuring, and while I feel that the previous film was more consistent, Wan’s latest effort definitely delivers on the terror.

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It Came From Netflix: ATM (2012) /2013/07/08/it-came-from-netflix-atm/ /2013/07/08/it-came-from-netflix-atm/#comments Mon, 08 Jul 2013 06:30:11 +0000 /?p=4409

ATMATM (2012)
Rated R (for violence and terror)

Directed by David Brooks

Brian Geraghty
Alice Eve
Josh Peck

Just in time for the company Christmas party, David (Geraghty), an accountant, loses the life savings of a client.  He isn’t in the mood for the festive celebrating, but his friend and coworker Corey (Peck) convinces him to stay by telling him it’s his last chance to ask his crush out before she leaves the company for a more lucrative position.  He finally works up the nerve to approach Emily (Eve) and offers her a ride home, but his romantic gesture is thwarted when Corey insists he also give him a ride.  Not only does Corey want a ride home, he decides he’s hungry and has to stop at an ATM because the lone restaurant open only accepts cash.  Once inside the ATM booth, the three see a hooded faceless man in a parka who watches them from the parking lot.  They debate about whether he’s dangerous . . . until he viciously kills a man walking his dog without provocation.  David, Corey, and Emily must find a way to escape the ATM booth before the hooded killer – or the cold – takes their lives.

This film was written by Chris Sparling, the writer behind the indie darling horror flick Buried, starring Ryan Reynolds.  In that film, Reynolds discovers he’s been buried alive by an unknown assailant and has a limited amount of time to escape before he runs out of air.  Apparently working under the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” axiom, Sparling went to the “trapped in a small space by a ruthless faceless killer” well again for ATM, albeit adding two more people and a slightly bigger box.  The problem is that this film is built on a very unsteady foundation of plot contrivances and dumb decisions made by the three leads.  ATM is also plagued by extremely clunky dialogue and a significant lack of chemistry between all three actors, but particularly Geraghty and Eve.

This is what film nerds call an “And Then” script.  The writer starts out with a basic premise and a “clever” ending, but no connective tissue, which forces him to search for a way to get from Point A to Point B.  It can be a great brainstorming technique, but if it’s not fleshed out enough, the final script comes out as a stilted timeline of events with no depth to them.  Not only does the killer go to extreme lengths to murder three random people, but the victims have ample opportunity to get away/get help and spend most of the time arguing instead.  The film is also about 20 minutes too long; five minutes could have been cut from the beginning and the last 15 minutes were completely unnecessary as they rehash what a smart audience has already figured out.  The kills were pretty standard and I found the killer more funny than scary, mostly because of this:



A film with only three people is a tough sell if those people are unlikeable and unsympathetic.  Ostensibly, Geraghty is the lead, but his wooden performance makes him unbelievable as the potential hero.  His interactions with Eve are painful to watch, particularly in the first act as they gamely try to flirt with each other while Peck whines about being hungry in the backseat of the car.  Peck, best known for his role as Drake Bell’s sweet, chubby step-brother in Disney’s “Drake and Josh”, is almost unbearable.  He was clearly cast as the douchey friend, but he was so grating I kept wishing the other two actors would push him out of the booth and let the killer get him.  Eve brings nothing to the story other than being attractive, which audiences of Star Trek: Into Darkness already know by now.  Margarita Levieva (Adventureland, “Revenge”) was originally cast and I would have really liked to see what she did with the role.

This never got into “so bad it’s good” territory and was definitely more frustrating than funny.  Unless you want to watch three stupid people stand in a box and argue, or you like screaming at your television screen, I would skip ATM and watch Buried instead.


IFCN Rating:

It Stinks

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Tab Goes to the Movies: Evil Dead (2013) /2013/04/07/tab-goes-to-the-movies-evil-dead-2013/ /2013/04/07/tab-goes-to-the-movies-evil-dead-2013/#comments Sun, 07 Apr 2013 06:01:12 +0000 /?p=3667 I was going to try really hard to be good and not include spoilers, but I failed miserably.  The whole middle section is spoilerific.  You’ve officially been warned.

Tab Goes to the Movies Logo


Evil Dead (2013)Evil Dead (2013)
Rated R (for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language)

Directed by Fede Alvarez

Jane Levy
Lou Taylor Pucci
Shiloh Fernandez
Jessica Lucas

Five people meet at a remote cabin in an effort to help Mia (Levy) detox from her heroin addiction.  Her estranged brother David (Fernandez), his girlfriend Natalie, close friend and registered nurse Olivia (Lucas), and David’s former best friend Eric (Pucci) have all come together to support Mia’s effort to get clean, but Olivia and Eric have done this before and insist that they will not let her leave – no matter what happens.  The family cabin seems like it was broken into by rowdy teenagers, but a horrible smell seems to indicate something much more serious.  When they decide to investigate the cellar, they discover the cabin’s terrible secret and something that has the potential to unleash hell on Earth.

When I heard about plans for a remake, my reaction was an instant and violent “Hell no!”, but I learned that Raimi and Campbell were heavily involved and I decided to give it a chance.  The original Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 are among my very favorite horror films and any chance of my being objective flew out the window in the first five minutes of the remake.  I think I can safely say without spoiling the film that I liked the first version better and if you are a serious fan of the original, you definitely will too.  The effects in the new version are done very well and there are a lot of intensely gory scenes, but it’s not especially scary and the overall experience is not as good, especially not for a diehard fan.  There are several homages to the source material, including camera work and props, that will make your fanboy or fangirl heart giddy, though.  These and a small post-credits scene were enough to make it worth seeing in the theaters for me!

If you somehow haven’t seen the original Evil Dead/Evil Dead 2, I would absolutely recommend watching the new version first and then watching Raimi’s 1981 and 1987 versions.  You’ll understand what Raimi and Campbell were trying to do effects-wise and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the camp of the original and its hilarious initial remake after seeing the more straight forward gorefest that is Evil Dead (2013).  [For a well-written and very fair review of the new film, go here.]

Bat Country

“We can’t stop here! This is spoiler country!” [ie: Final warning, guys!]

Raimi and Campbell decided to produce the new Evil Dead to show off the kind of effects they wanted to include in the original (but couldn’t because of budget restraints), and if you see it in that spirit, it’s worth a trip to the theater.  If you’re a gorehound, you’ll love all the blood and guts, but if you’re looking for genuine scares, it doesn’t have many too offer.  Alvarez’s version is stylish and very technically well made, but it just can’t live up to the creativity and sense of fun delivered by the original trilogy of films.

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