Here we go again, it’s another year and another list of films watched, judged and graded.
I’ll be keeping it a little shorter this year as I believe I watched fewer movies than I did last year. Not sure if I’m getting pickier or if I have less time on my hands to spend viewing.
Either way, it’s the same as always—I grade movies based on my own personal expectations for each film and each film has it’s own expected qualities when I sit down to watch. If I’m watching Oscar bait then I expect that kind of quality; and, if I’m watching straight-to-video, low budget fare, then I expect less in the way of quality. There is no scale for all films, each gets it’s own measure from me.
This year we’ll divide the list up into three posts so that each section is more manageable. This here is the films worthy of the high "C" down through the lowly "D" according to me--your opinion may differ, and that's too bad.
Those familiar with THE GOODS may notice that I left off the five 80's horror films on videotape I saw during the month of October. If you are interested in those reviews, they were posted for my "Countdown to Halloween" and can be found there. There's some terrible-entertaining stuff there.
is an interesting premise. A teen who is restricted to house arrest after stalking a female classmate online comes to believe she is haunting him after she commits suicide. The story centers on his effort to convince his friends and find a way to stop the haunting before it kills him. While the menace becomes clearer and the plot twists, things do get more interesting—just not enough to get that “B”.
is a murky deep Southern supernatural horror tale that wraps itself around you like kudzu, obscuring the effectiveness of the story. Jessie, who is wheelchair bound, returns to her estranged father’s home to rehab after an accident. There the mystery of her mother’s death years earlier comes to the fore after she finds videotapes among her mother’s things. This one doesn’t quite get there—although it maintains interest throughout.
is a low budget horror comedy about a guy who finds an invitation to a party, entitled a “Murder Party” on Halloween night and decides to attend. Things don’t turn out as he planned, as the party in question is an art instillation that could get him killed and so the comedy ensues… kinda. Not much in the way of horror, though.
is a science fiction thriller that seemed to be aimed right at my big head—imagine SPLICE crossed with EX MACHINA. And it had a nifty cast aimed right at my fat heart. Unfortunately the story came up short and the movie descended into disappointing, though usually interesting girl-fight territory. Kate Mara is a risk-assessment specialist from a company that researches artificial life. Not computers, but genetically created beings that mimic normal human life. And so she arrives when a test subject/human hybrid named Morgan has hurt one of her scientist/creators.
is the kind of thriller that has potential that it never reaches—though certainly not for lack of the quality of the actors involved. It’s the script, which takes a sympathetic child psychologist in Naomi Watts and doesn’t isolate her enough or damage her enough for the story’s plot to affect her so.
ALICE, SWEET ALICE
is Brooke Shields’ film debut. It’s also a horror film about an emotionally unstable girl named Alice and how her family deals with her. While very annoying at times, the film is a fairly effective slasher with an interesting twist. Still, so damned annoying.
OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL
is the prequel to the film OUIJA from a few years back that probably didn’t need a prequel. What we get is an interesting enough premise where a mother is trying to raise two daughters in the late 60s by holding seances in her home and taking the rubes for what she can. Unfortunately it’s not enough, so she gets a spirit board to increase her profits. Things go wrong from there.
is a premise so full of potential that it sadens me that it just missed the mark. Imagine the retelling of the true story of a couple of dumb bank robbers who might just be able to pull off a heist. Much like The Bronze or The Boss from this year, a movie full of talent that was lacking in the writing department. It’s as if they rely too much on the ad lib—and while I’m a huge fan of the practice, it doesn’t always pan out.
NYMPHOMANIAC V. 1 and V. 2
is a thoughtful, if somewhat fruitless examination of depression (this is the third installment in this trilogy along side ANTICHRIST and MELANCHOLIA). It is a very sexually explicit look at the long, sad life of a sex addict. And there’s the added bonus of psychobable and parables and but it all adds up to a truly depressing movie experience, so Lars got what he wanted.
is Roman Polanski’s Kafkaesque exploration of a descent into madness. It is also his least effective film in his “Apartment Trilogy” (the other two being REPULSION and ROSEMARY’S BABY). It follows a man who kind of insinuates himself into becoming a tenant in an apartment building.
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
is a bit of a mess as far as story goes—though well acted—it just circles in drunken memory too much to be cohesive. I assume that’s by design, but it’s sometimes hard to tell. Some fine actors giving fine performances herein, but the story just doesn't draw me in.
is said to be a 1986 horror comedy originally to be titled “April Fool”, but it was changed when Paramount announced APRIL FOOL’S DAY. It’s about three friends who pledge a sorority and the strange killings that begin when they do. It starts as a straight forward slasher that becomes mildly comedic when it is revealed that the killer is demon possessed.
is the little comedy that couldn’t quite get there. A great premise involving a former Olympic bronze medal-winning gymnast and her plan to stay on the easy-train and continue to live the good life as a big fish in the little pond of her hometown. While superbly played by Melissa Rauch, the comedy isn’t as layed on thick as it should be.
is a rare miss by the Brothers Coen. It’s a tale of old Hollywood when the studios relied on “fixers” like Eddie Mannix to protect the images of the studio’s assets be it writers, directors or actors and all the trouble they seemingly are meant to get into. A movie full of potential that could’ve used a fixer itself!
is a disappointment, that somehow has it’s moments. Melissa McCarthy is a Martha Stewart-like guru who loses her fortune and is incarcerated, and who, upon her release, imposes herself on her former assistant. Though very funny in spots, the overall tale is lacking.
is what should have been the original sequel to the original BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. This one began to get genuine buzz when it was going by the title "The Woods", but once it hit the circuit word got out about what it really was. It takes place 17 years after the disappearance of the original filmmakers and involves the younger brother of Heather Donahue looking into the case—he believes she is alive still. Though a slicker production, they do manage to keep the general feel of the original, but the story itself is just too similar to the original to be very effective.
is a 1989 Italian horror film about a church built over the site of a massacre and burial of witches—about how, in modern times the seal that kept the evil spirits contained is broken and visitors to the church are trapped inside as the evil is unleashed upon them.
NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR
is a mid-80s attempt at an anthology of horror tales that mixed everything from God and Satan having a meeting of the minds on a train, music videos, a death cult and Night Court’s “Bull”, Richard Moll (with hair!) as a psychotic and entrepreneurial orderly in an insane asylum. It was actually pieced together from three other films, making it as close to seventies Italian horror releases as America ever got.