SON of HALLOWEEN HORROR MOVIE CHALLENGE

The finale to last year’s challenge not being brought to you was brought to you by Hurricane Sandy. Nevertheless, welcome back for (what will hopefully be) 31 more horror flicks for October, and here’s hoping us Jersey folk can enjoy Halloween this year without losing power and/or having our houses torn apart. Cheers!

TEXAS CHAINSAW

Released in theaters as Texas Chainsaw 3D, this is an interesting sort of sequel in that it acts as a direct continuation of Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original, thereby ignoring the handful of loose sequels that followed, not to mention the 2003 remake and its own 2006 prequel. Got all that? The direct continuation approach at least yields a pretty clever opening, which seamlessly joins the ending of the original (via some significantly cleaned-up footage) to the new movie – think the opening of Halloween II piggybacking off the ending of Halloween, only here it’s with two movies that are nearly 40 years apart. Once the action jumps to modern day, however, the timeline doesn’t make sense; for someone supposedly born in 1974, the main character, as well as pretty much everyone else, is at least 10 years younger than they should be, and yet it’s clearly supposed to be 2012. (Not to mention Leatherface himself, who should be in his sixties by this point.) As for the movie itself, it just sort of exists. There’s a few brutal kills but nothing remarkably shocking or original, and the eleventh hour attempt to humanize Leatherface and turn him into some sort of anti-hero is not the kind of original idea this series needed. Worst of all is the [spoiler!] sudden 180 the main character pulls once she finds out she’s related to him – forget the fact that he just killed all of her friends, family’s more important, right? The finale briefly reminded me of Alien vs. Predator, where the lone human survivor suddenly teams up with the Predator to take down the alien queen. That should clue you in as to how idiotic this becomes.  2/5

THE TALL MAN

Some could probably guess that The Tall Man isn’t the simple little horror flick it seems on the surface, but even I wasn’t prepared for the series of twists it threw my way. Jessica Biel (quite an underrated actress, as it turns out) plays a nurse in a dilapidated former mining town that has been plagued with child kidnappings. Local folklore blames a shadowy figure known as the Tall Man, who may or may not really exist. When Biel’s kid is taken, her pursuit quickly sets off a chain of events that turns the movie on its head. The Tall Man is occasionally reminiscent of some of the best episodes of The X-Files, not least of all because of its dreary Canadian wilderness locations (though it’s supposed to take place in the US), and an appearance by William B. Davis, the show’s infamous “Cigarette Smoking Man.” The movie is slow to start, but becomes thoroughly engaging once the narrative begins to corkscrew. It all leads to a fairly ballsy and morally questionable finale, and not all of it makes complete sense. But getting there was interesting and fun.  4/5

MAMA

What an over-hyped clunker this one turned out to be. Mama is at a healthy 66% on Rotten Tomatoes – so either I’m wrong about it, or Jessica Chastain’s presence/Guillermo del Toro’s name in the credits made the critics a little too generous, or the bulk of the nation’s critics simply aren’t real horror fans. And since I’m never wrong, it’s probably some combination of the last two. The movie sports a moderately chilling opening and a few impressive shots, but it’s also saddled with a confusing mess of a script, useless supporting characters, and an ending that overdoses on subpar CGI. There’s little here that hasn’t been done in every other haunted house/ghost movie over the past 10 years, but what is here is proof that Hollywood still thinks every one of these movies needs at least one creepy kid.  1.5/5

DARK SKIES

I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve seen a good old-fashioned, bare-bones alien flick, and Dark Skies surprisingly hit the spot. It centers around a suburban couple whose financial problems are compounded by the fact that their home is routinely invaded by unfriendly E.T.s in the middle of the night. The movie sports plenty of cliches, ranging from little kids doing weird shit to Poltergeist-style kitchen rearrangements, but the small budget helps keep the focus on creepy tension rather than overblown special effects. I enjoyed the psychological horror aspects, but could have done without the Paranormal Activity surveillance video stuff – not to mention the fact that the husband goes from talking about canceling the cable to save money in one scene, to rigging his whole house with professional cameras 10 minutes later. Maybe one of the aliens left their wallet behind.  3/5

SILENT HILL: REVELATION

Silent Hill: Revelation continues – and seemingly concludes – the storyline established in the first film, though if you’re like me you still won’t comprehend a lot of it, let alone care very much. [If it’s not obvious already, I’m not terribly familiar with the games these movies are based on, but it’s my understanding that they’re very loose adaptations anyway.] The main reason to sit through these flicks is for the tripped-out, creepy visuals, even if some of them seem disjointed and are of little relevance to the plot. If the sequel has any inherent problems, it’s that we’ve seen a lot of this before, not to mention the fact that it’s operating at less than half the budget of the original. The movie does manage a few pretty cool sequences – most notably one involving nurses with various sharp objects – but then there are some, such as a spider creature made out of mannequin parts, that are just too crazy and CG-dependent for their own good. Sean Bean is on hand to provide some welcome continuity, but then Carrie-Anne Moss randomly shows up as the sister of one of the first movie’s villains, which only makes you wonder where the hell she was last time. The ending is apparently a nod to another one of the games in the series, so the door is still open for the next filmmaker who wants to gather $20 million and go shoot somewhere in Canada.  2/5

THE COLLECTION

I hate to overuse the Alien/Aliens analogy, but watching The Collection, there’s no doubt that’s what Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton had in mind when crafting their sequel to The Collector. Escaping capture at the beginning, our desperate jewel thief-turned-reluctant hero Arkin is forced to head back to the Collector’s lair, this time leading a team of mercenaries financed by Christopher “Shooter McGavin” McDonald, a millionaire whose daughter was recently abducted. While the original’s (unintentional?) mix of Home Alone and Saw provided some entertainment value, the setting here (an abandoned warehouse-turned sadistic fortress) is significantly less interesting, even though the filmmakers seemingly throw everything but the kitchen sink at the screen. At the same time, there is curiously less emphasis on the Collector’s booby traps, as he mostly just walks around knifing people. Perhaps this was to soften the comparisons to Saw (a series Dunstan & Melton took the reigns of from Saw IV onward) but the Collector himself was basically Jigsaw Jr. to begin with. One additional plot hole: The ending of The Collector made his identity pretty clear – he was one of the Spanish exterminators who had been working at the house in the beginning. Yet in this one, while you never clearly see his face, it’s obvious that it’s a slightly bulkier white dude in the role – especially in the final scene. How about some continuity, fellas?  2.5/5

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: