Paranormal Activity 4

Any lingering doubts that the Paranormal Activity series is following the same trajectory as the Saw series should finally be laid to rest with Paranormal Activity 4, the first of the series to officially shit the bed. I applauded parts 2 and 3 for finding creative ways of continuing the series without actually moving anything forward; as they were mostly prequels (except for the final few minutes of part 2), they still managed to build upon the mythology and occasionally offer up something new to chew on. But much like Saw IV did, PA 4 is the first entry to blatantly spin its wheels, squeezing out a placeholder of mostly cheap scares while refusing to carry the ongoing story any further. Returning from PA3, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman retain none of the inventiveness they brought to the previous one; replacing that one’s highly effective gimmick that was the oscillating fan camera, for instance, is a lame one involving an X-box Kinect sensor and a night vision camera, which allows our protagonists to spot obvious CGI-rendered movement in the room. Yawn. To its credit, the movie is actually pretty comedic on occasion, as if the filmmakers realized they needed something to make up for the lack of real scares. As it stands, the cracks are really starting to show, and if a fifth one is to be expected this time next year (it is), then some serious reassessment should be in order.  2/5

  • Drink every time someone either screams or says “Robbie.”

Sleepy Hollow

After Mars Attacks! failed to find much of an audience and he wasted the next year fruitlessly developing a Superman movie with Nicolas Cage, Tim Burton got back on his horse (no pun intended) with Sleepy Hollow, a story that practically had Burton written all over it anyway. Washington Irving’s short story is expectedly given a minor overhaul for the big screen, with one of the biggest changes being the fact that Johnny Depp’s Ichabod Crane is no longer a wimpy schoolteacher, but a wimpy police constable, sent from NYC to investigate a series of grisly murders in the title town. Of course, there’s also some back story added to the otherwise mysterious Headless Horseman, which provides a good excuse for Christopher Walken to wig out once more in a Burton production. While at least half of Burton’s filmography would make acceptable Halloween viewing, Sleepy Hollow is probably the closest he’s ever come to making an actual horror film; the R rating allows for some gruesome imagery, and even a few solid scares. The material also proved a good match for Burton, as he enjoyed some of his best reviews to date when this one came out.  3/5

  • Drink every time you hear a galloping horse. Finish your drink whenever Walken appears.

Rosemary’s Baby

Here’s a movie worth watching even if you already know how it ends. Mia Farrow is the expectant mother of the title, who gradually suspects some weird shit is happening the further she gets along. Maybe that’s because her struggling actor husband made a deal with Old Scratch in order to further his career. Rosemary’s Baby would make a good double feature with The Omen, that other Baby Antichrist movie. In fact with a few rewrites The Omen would’ve made a solid sequel to Rosemary’s Baby, together making an effective two-part story. Instead, this one stands alone while we have The Omen and the by-the-numbers retread Damien: Omen II3.5/5

  • Simple: have a drink whenever Rosemary does.

Hellraiser: Revelations

Here’s a steaming pile of shit i just couldn’t resist. Hellraiser: Revelations was made solely so that Dimension could keep the rights to the Hellraiser property a little longer, presumably so they can have more time to get their big screen remake off the ground. As such, it was rushed into production and filmed in 11 days, with hack DTV director Victor Garcia (Mirrors 2) and, for the first time in the franchise’s history, someone other than Doug Bradley playing the immortal Pinhead. (Bradley ultimately turned down the role not just over disappointment with the seemingly unfinished script, but because his salary would have been, in his words, cut down to “the price of a fridge.”) Anyway the new Pinhead sucks – just look at the cover art above, where he looks as if he’s straining to take a shit – and the whole movie looks and feels cheap and rushed, which of course it was. It’s also barely longer than an hour long, but that’s plenty of time to give any Hellraiser fan whiplash from shaking their head in disbelief.  1/5

  • Drink any time someone fidgets with the puzzle box. Finish your drink when you see hooks in someone’s face.

Chernobyl Diaries

Lots of horror movies get off to a pretty good start, before crashing and burning in the second or third act. It shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore, but it’s still disappointing when it happens. Chernobyl Diaries seems like another found footage flick (its title certainly makes it seem like one), but while it’s filmed with handheld cameras, we thankfully aren’t subjected to the usual found footage bullshit, such as characters continuing to film everything even when facing imminent danger. The setup works almost in spite of itself – four Americans traveling around Europe ditch their regular plans (Hostel, anyone?) to go on a sightseeing tour of Pripyat, the ghost town that had been hastily evacuated following the Chernobyl disaster just a few miles away. The story is fairly plausible – tours of the town do really occur – and the on location filming lends a deeply eerie vibe to some of the earlier scenes. Unfortunately, the movie can’t hold things together once it ventures into The Hills Have Eyes territory, and it’s hard to keep any rooted interest in the characters when they collectively make one moronic choice after the next. Perhaps worst of all, we don’t even get any money shots of the mutants attacking them; they’re kept largely in shadow or out of frame, and what we do see isn’t remotely original or frightening.  2/5

  • Drink every time someone does a fake Russian accent. Finish your drink when you see the bear.


For a C-grade animated movie, Igor occasionally, though not often, rises above expectations. It starts out as a reasonably clever take on the whole mad scientist thing, with “Igors” being born into a world of pull-the-switch servitude due to their hunched backs and low I.Q. Only this Igor (voiced by John Cusack) is an anomaly, naturally, with lots of creative ideas but a mad scientist boss (John Cleese) who refuses to listen. When a laboratory mishap leaves Igor in charge, he decides to enter the city science fair with a creation of his own. Steve Buscemi is amusing as Igor’s suicidal pet rabbit, but the voice casting is pretty spot-on all around, including Eddie Izzard as the flamboyant rival scientist, and Jay Leno as the city’s tacky mayor. The computer animation is relatively crude and cheap looking, though, at some points looking like those cookie-cutter kids shows Nickelodeon has been cranking out over the past decade, and the story all but abandons its horror-movie flavor halfway through, becoming just another predictable kids’ movie plot.  2.5/5

  • Have a drink every time Steve Buscemi’s rabbit tries to off himself.

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