Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Visit (2015)

The Visit is a M. Night Shyamalan film presented in the found film style. It is shown as a documentary of two kids visit to their grandparents house as they meet them for the first time. The main focal point of the film however is the mother and how sad the daughter perceives her as being. The mother had a big fight with her parents over a man, left the house and never saw them again. This was before the kids were born, which explains why they don't know the grandparents. The grandparents reach out online and ask to see the kids for a week as they want to be part of their life. The daughter who is 15 decides to make the documentary as a way of hopefully recording the Grandparents telling her what happened in that fight, and getting a apology so the mother can finally move on and be happy. Also it is apparently supposed to be a horror film, though nobody seemed to remember that while making it.

When you hear M. Night Shyamalan you groan and go, but that preview looked so promising. Remember The Village? That movie looked decent, it started decent, then "The Twist" happened and it turned became awful. Remember Wayward Pines? No you don't, you didn't finish that show either? Devil was okay though right......maybe. Shyamalan is known for making a few decent films very early on, then turning out neat concepts that fail to deliver for the next 10 to 15 years. He tends to throw a "Twist" into his films to, something that takes you by surprise and changes how the films story works. Easy example would be one of his older films, the Village. A movie that took place in a older time before technology. It was a take on the big bad wolf. A girl was trying to leave her village but was being stalked by a wolf. Turns out the wolf was simply trying to keep her in the area so she didn't discover the twist! She really lived in modern time, oh my god so amazing! It was stupid as was the rest of the movie.

So we have two kids visiting Nana and Pop Pop for the first time. They spend a week in the house recording everything for their documentary. During the day, they seem like normal old people, but at night Nana gets weird. It starts setting up for the horror moments, but it never really delivers on them. Yes the old people act weirder and weirder as it goes on, but they never do anything really scary. Also you never really feel like anybody is in danger until the final 10 or so minutes of the film. We get a stronger focus on the story between the mother and the grandparents, and the spooky stuff takes the back seat. The film tries so hard to keep you interested as you wait for "The Twist", but it just fails to. It gives little clues, and you keep watching because you paid for it so why not I guess. Then finally the twist starts to appear, and it looks like it may be a doozey. Shymalan starts giving out some heavy handed clues and your brain goes into overdrive trying to think up the craziest thing it could be. This is a guy who did a movie about plants and bees somehow psychically forcing people to commit suicide....actually I didn't finish that one, that is just what I was told happened. So when "The Twist" finally does come and all the build up amounted to pretty much nothing, the movie lost any good it had going for it.

Everything building to the final scenes was for nothing. You sit there bored out of your mind hoping for something magical. What you get was just plain and boring, combined with a very lackluster finish and you get a film that never really manages to accomplish much. It is never scary, never really enjoyable, and you have to sit through a 13 year old rapping over and over again. The only thing the movie really had going for it was occasional humor. The Son decides at one point to shout out female pop singer names instead of cursing. He only did it a few times, but it always made me laugh for some reason. Sadly that was the only enjoyment I got out of the film.

Also the trailer needs to be addressed. Watch the Trailer, and you have now seen pretty much the entire movie. It shows all the "scares" and even sort of gives away part of "The Twist." when you can fit the parts of your movie that are supposed to be the main reason for seeing it, into a single video under 3 minutes, you have a problem.

If you want some found footage horror, give the new Paranormal Activity a try. It is not what I would call overly scary, but it was fun and far better then this. Unfriended would be another one similar in style. It is told completely from the computer screen of a teenage girl who is chatting with all her friends as they start to die. A really unique and new approach to the found footage stuff.

Skip this, don't rent it. Don't watch it at a friends house, just pretend it never existed.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015)

Paranormal Activity is one of those franchises that most have heard of, but not kept up with. The first movie did great, good reviews and a lot of people saw it. However as they went along, the formula staid the same, and most people quickly grew bored and stopped watching. We are now on the 6th film, and the final film in this story. It does make some radical changes to the formula, while still keeping the final product roughly the same. And while I enjoyed that, I am not sure it actually helped them any. I am a fan of these films, I have seen them all. And I have enjoyed the story they tell, as all of them are linked together even if they do have 20 years between them.

The following is a short summary of the previous films which I have all seen once at release, so it may not be 100% accurate, but it is very close.

The first Movie was about Katie, she was living with her fiance or husband or something. The movie ended with her becoming possessed by a demon and killing the love interest, and left the house. We did not see where she went, and the movie made note that the police never found her. The second story was about her sister. She had a kid named Hunter, the demon wanted the kid. The movie ended with a failed possession as the family was able to cast the demon out of the mother. Katie then comes into the house, kills the family and takes the kid. You start to see how the connection works. We get a movie about the two sisters as kids next, and we see their grandmother force them into a witch coven which kills their parents and starts to prepare them for their demonic possession later in life. There is another film where Hunter is now slightly older and with a different family, the demon comes back for him as they now have actual need for him. We get a spin off where we learn there are multiple kids all born the same day, the sixth day of the sixth month, of the sixth year of the century....666, they are marked and needed for the demon to become whole and gain a physical body in this world. This movie was a spin off, and really did not tie into the story to much, but it gave a lot of great details. The ending had the two sisters when they were little show up, even though it was in modern times. We also saw a crazy scene where the main characters raided the witch's coven to get one of their friends back. One of them is being chased and runs through a door which drops them off in the house from a earlier film, and we see older Katie and other people from earlier films. That movie gave the details that the coven and the demon had the ability to travel through time, as well as locations using set points. Magic doors that were linked, that was a very integral part to this film.

Ghost Dimension is about a family that just moved into a house, a big amazing looking house that was a deal to good to be true. They have a young daughter named Leila, and the both the wife and the husband have their sibling staying over for the holidays. It takes place at Christmas, and like the others it is all told with found footage. If you are not familair with that term, it basically means home video style. Most movies are shot as if you are looking through a camera, or as if the camera is not there. These are shot as if somebody was making their own film, and you are looking at the result. A character is holding the camera and filming, and you are seeing the movie they make. Think Blair Witch or Cloverfield.

The two brothers find a old box with a camera from the 80's and some home videos. The camera still works and they clean it up and try it out. They can see a weird distortion in their house that seems to be moving around, but you can not make out what it is. This is where Ghost Dimension differs from previous films. The camera is a spirit camera and allows them to see the demon. It is weak the begining, but as the movie goes on it grows stronger through interacting with them and takes on a more solid form. It was neat to finally see the demon, and I really enjoyed the change from before where you would just have a invisible entity terrorizing people. However it did lesson the fear, as you could see things coming and it was not a surprise anymore. Still it was unique for the franchise, and for the final film it accomplished something the fans have been wanting. The demon's name is Tobi, and fans have wanted to see and know more about Tobi, now we have.

If you remember the ending to the third or the flashback film, well you know the ending to this one. This is where those movies finally tie together. Also if you saw any of the other films, well you know how this one ends because they are all the same. That being said we do get some cool moments out of this one that fans will enjoy. They try to kill the demon at one point, a sort of super exorcism I guess. We get a creepy santa, and a great moment where you first see Tobi's face. I would say there were more memorable moments in this film the prior ones, and they really did go big for the grand finale. If you have stuck with the franchise this far, check it out. You deserve to see the ending, and you get to see some more backstory about the sisters and the coven.

If you are a newcomer, well it may not really be your thing. It was not exactly scarey, and the little details will be lost on you. You won't care about the sisters, or really know what is going on with the doorways or coven. You can still follow it all, but you will be missing key details.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

I was thinking of how to write this, and honestly I never really came up with anything. If you talk about the story, or even a synopsis it is a huge spoiler. It is not like most other movies where the trailer gives you that information already. So I decided to just go with some general thoughts presented from a huge fan, and from somebody who is not. That way you get both sides, and don't have to worry about the details of the film being ruined for you.

I don't remember when I first got into Star Wars, but I remember when it became such a huge thing to me. In the late 90's they re-released the movies in the theaters. I was already a fan, but something about seeing them up on the big screen just made them special. I started buying up the old toys, collecting the various versions of the movies, and it quickly became something more then just a franchise to me. So yes I am one of those people who hold the original 3 movies in a special place, while being of the mind that the later 3 were not so good. Going into The Force Awakens I was worried about how it would compare to the others. Would it feel like a Star Wars movie, or which Trilogy would it better fit in with. I did read a lot of rumors about the new movie as we all waited for new details to surface, but I managed to not read any actual spoilers. So with my wife, I went into the movie knowing nothing more then the characters names, and what I learned from the previous movies.

The story for the new movie was nice. The movie set up the next two, while having its own contained adventure. It felt large in scale while focusing on smaller events and world and character building. The last new Star Wars character I believe would be Ahsoka Tano from the 2008 Theatrical release of the Clone Wars animated movie. It took years for the fans to warm up to her. However the new characters in this film were the opposite. Within minutes I knew I liked Finn, and Rey grew on me very quickly to. Everybody has their own story, but the movie never rushed to present them. And in some cases never directly did, but instead gave details spread through out various scenes for you to put together yourself. It was smartly done and never got bogged down as it tried to get you invested and introduced to these new roles.

The movie reminded me more of the original trilogy from the way it was presented, handled its story telling, used humor, and the way they presented the combat. It didn't take itself to serious, but still never crossed the line to just being goofy. It was smart, and the humor was witty and on point. BB-8 was a great addition, and I loved the way he interacted with the various characters. The combat felt gritty and didn't feature the more acrobatic style the newer prequel seemed to use. It was more emotional, as if they wanted you to understand just how horrible it was for the people involved. And the new First Order Troopers were insane.

The movie had some truly memorable shots, and the cinematography was amazing. The music was on point, and there are multiple moments I still vividly remember in my head simply because of how they were presented. Using silence and visuals to create emotion and tension, it really was a amazingly well shot movie.

I really enjoyed the movie, I can't wait to see it again.

On the other side is my wife. She has seen the various films, and has a basic understanding of the history of the films. She doesn't really care for them, and doesn't remember a lot of the details. We tried to watch them before this one to get her caught up, but she stopped half way into the first one because it was boring.

She went with me to see this one, and she really enjoyed it. She liked the action, and the characters. She told me she really enjoyed the humor and her favorite character was Finn. She didn't feel lost not really knowing much about the other movies either. When I asked her how she would rate it she said 4.5 stars. Thinking about it I think that is fair for my verdict to.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Krampus (2015)

Krampus is a odd movie. The previews started coming out a few months ago, and frankly it was hard to get a read on. A PG-13 horror Christmas movie centered around Children. Now if you watch a lot of horror, you know there are a few rules. Children can be tormented, but very rarely are they directly attacked or beaten by the evil entity. Given that and the rating of the film, it was not really shaping up to be anything amazing. I went into this one not really expecting anything great, but knowing Michael Dougherty was behind it was enough to get a ticket sale from me. Writer and Director of both this and my favorite Halloween film, Trick 'r Treat. Seriously if you have not seen Trick 'r Treat yet, go check it out. So did Krampus surprise me, or were first impressions correct?

Krampus is the story of a reverse Santa, or Evil variation. Santa is jolly and brings good will and all that, Krampus is dark and brings Death and Destruction. Krampus is better, plain and simple. A goat horned demonic Santa with Evil elves, they don't even compare. The idea is where Santa brings you gifts and I guess grants Christmas wishes, Krampus is who shows up when your desires are more conceited or selfish. The movie does touch on the legend of Krampus, but the big take away is essentially this. Lose your Christmas spirit, that's a Krampus.

The story for the film follows a family on Christmas. The father is always working, the mother is there but not present, two kids who no longer really get along. The youngest is Max and he still believes in Santa. He writes a letter with his Grandmother and prepares to send it off. The mothers family comes to stay for a few days, and as with most family gatherings, everything goes to hell very quickly. One family is rich, the other poor. They bicker about this and damn near everything else. The different Children don't get along with the others and a event where Max is bullied ends up with him ripping his letter to santa up and tossing it out the window. This is the event that eventually triggers Krampus, granted there is far more to it however. Krampus comes, fun commences, and hold hell so do the laughs. I didn't expect that, but I love it.

The first third of the film actually works as a very solid Christmas movie. Add in a very different 2nd act and you got yourself a lifetime Original. I was honestly enjoying it to, who doesn't love to see families fighting at Christmas? From a beautiful opening shot of a toy store opening for holiday sales, filled with trampling, shoving, weapons, and a wonderful fist fight between children, it really does set a Christmas tone. It makes you almost forget it is a horror film, and you start to identify with the various characters and feel for them. Max is the voice of reason, and he loves Christmas. He asks his dad why we have to love family, and in a great scene the dad really can't come up with a reason. It all sounds quite depressing, but it feels like it setting up for growth from the various characters and a great resolution that leads to a stronger family. Thankfully Krampus shows before all that can happen.

A freak blizzard traps the family in a house without power, as well as obstructing their view beyond their own yard. A freaky snowman shows up, and the fun begins. The daughter is worried about her boyfriend and asks if she can go to his house a few blocks down. Oddly enough the parents say yes and she sets off. This is when we get our first Glimpse of Krampus. She spies him on a roof and he begins leaping from building to building as she runs away in terror. This is where the movie really picks up, and it rarely slows down from this point on. Krampus and his minions torment the family while slowly picking them off. And yes he takes out the children to. The humor is on point, and the creatures all look fantastic and very very creepy. The movie continued to outdo itself right up until the ending. And with all the terror, the family does come together which fulfills the Christmas message part of the movie.

Now for the Humor. If you have seen Trick 'r Treat you know about what to expect. Various portions of the film decides to push the humor over the horror. Normally this is a horrible decision, but it really does work for Krampus. The film is not scary, but the theater was laughing quite a bit, it was odd. However when one of your monsters is a Cookie, well odd stuff tends to happen. While I was never scared, I was entertained, so I would consider the way they handled those sequences to be a success.

If you like Horror, or Christmas films, well Krampus is solid in both genres. Yes it is not very scary, but the vibes and the tone is there, and a horror fan will still find joy in that. Plus the creatures look fantastic, and Krampus himself looks amazing. I do know some people have trouble watching kids being hurt, so I would like to point out the Krampus does indeed go after them as well. Though most of the on screen violence is aimed at the adults, while most of the bad stuff that happens to the kids is off screen.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. I left thinking about how I may start a new Christmas tradition of watching it, much like how I watch Trick 'r Treat every Halloween now. That is how much I liked this movie. Was it perfect, no. But it was easily the best Christmas film I have seen, and one of the more memorable horror films I have seen in a long time.