Check this out! I’ve only seen three of them. Guess I’ve got some film watching to do!

http://moviepilot.com/posts/2014/12/12/top-10-brutal-terrifying-horror-movies-you-probably-didn-t-see-in-2014-2502881

How many of them have you guys seen?

Advertisements

My New Addiction

August 7, 2012

I’m smiling because it’s not my blood…

I have a confession to make. I am a faux-trailer maker. There, I said it. I admit it. What exactly is a faux-trailer maker, you ask? It’s a person who makes trailers for movies that don’t technically exist. And I’m one of them. I know, weird, right? What kind of a weirdo would spend the time, effort, and money to make a trailer for a movie that was never made?

This kind, I guess…

Anyway, it all started back in April when Joe and I released the “Ghost in the Graveyard” soundtrack. I got the crazy idea to cut together a trailer for the imaginary film that the soundtrack was written for. I thought it could allow the customer to hear the music used in a horror setting.  Sooo, we called up an actor friend and put together a shot list and off we went. We shot the trailer, nobody got hurt (despite the bloody wound seen in the trailer!) and I had a blast.

I thought that it would be a one-time thing. I was just experimenting, you know, pushing my boundries. But I enjoyed the feeling. After we finished, I started to miss it. Then in May we did our big photo shoot for our new board game “Specimen.” I saw my chance. As we were running through our setups for the new card images, I had Joe shoot some video clips of our cast looking scared and what not. We’re currently putting the finishing touches on the trailer. The photo up above is me working on some state-of-the-art special effects for it. We should get it posted real soon.

So that will be two trailers and counting. I know, I know, I should stop. This can’t be healthy for me. If anybody knows about any support groups out there, please forward me the contact information. But I got to tell you, it’s so much fun, I don’t think I can stop. And I’m not sure I want too.

Gotta go, I just had a cool idea for a trailer for “The Girl with the Dagon Tattoo” project. It will be epic.

‘Course, what do I know?
-Editors note. Steve is currently ‘resting’ in the Miskatonic Home for Wayward Trailer Makers. He is making excellent progress and hopes to be rejoin society and enjoy watching real movies, and the trailers that advertise them very soon.

MOVIE REVIEW – THE THING

October 17, 2011

Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.

Rating System: 0 – 5 Bubbly Head Deaths with Zero being the lowest and five being the highest.

The Review

The Thing, which I will simply refer to as the Thing, is a prequel to John Carpenters 1982 film of the same title. It’s another re-telling of John Campbell‘s classic 1938 short story Who Goes There? A group of Norwegian scientists in the Antarctic discover an alien spacecraft and its pilot buried in the pre-historic ice. The reason they’re Norwegian this time is because this is the set-up for the Carpenter film. In that one, remember, the American group finds the burned out hulk of the Norwegian base… American paleontologist Kate Loyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is recruited by group leader Dr. Halvorson (Ulrich Thomson) to help extract the thing from the ice. Note to self: if a creepy Norwegian scientist ever asks me to go to Antartica to see ‘something extraordinary’…JUST SAY NO!

Kate accepts and is whisked away to the snow and cold by American chopper pilots Carter (Joel Edgerton) and Jameson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje – good ole Mr. Echo from Lost) Once there, she is quickly taken to the crash site and finds a darn close copy of the saucer from the Carpenter film and the thing, both buried in the ice. After extracting the creature and returning to base, Dr. Halvorson immediately decides to drill into the ice and get a tissue sample. Later that night, as the base is having a celebration, the thing breaks out of the ice. The group manages to kill it, but not before it kills and swallows Griggs (Paul Braunstein). As the scientists begin to study the remains, Kate discovers that the thing can imitate other living things and that someone in camp is not who they say they are.

The rest of the film has the cat and mouse stalking of human versus thing. I don’t want to say too much more so you can enjoy the ride and keep guessing about who is who. But thanks to the Carpenter film, we know that things are going to end badly for our Norse friends. This time around, the thing is much more of a public thing than the earlier version we see. Actually, it’s a later version, if we’re going chronologically. This thing sprouts oodles of tentacles and teeth at the drop of a hat — any hat. My guess is that the later thing, the one that escapes from this film to the Carpenter film, decides that hiding is a better strategy. Consequently, this film has a lot more action while the Carpenter film has a lot more suspense. And while this generates more excitement, the film makers did sacrifice a lot of the horror potential of the story. So much so, that I would classify this film as a sci-fi action film more along the lines of Predator than a horror film.

The lack of character development also hurts this film. There are fifteen characters in this film! And with the exception of Kate, Carter and Adam (Eric Christian Olsen), they are almost unrecognizable and interchangeable. It would have helped immensely if the costume designer would have given them jerseys with numbers and names on their backs to help us keep them straight. If the film makers were going for more of a suspense and horror atmosphere, this issue would be much, much greater. As I’ve said before, the themes of “Evil is lurking everywhere” and “Nobody is what they seem” are powerful ones. This setup is perfect for them. Every twitch a character makes, every little thing that seems out of character just amps up the paranoia. And let’s face it, everybody has something to hide. Would we really be that surprised if the guy who we’ve always thought was a bit off suddenly sprouted a tentacle out of his head and attacked us? But since the flame throwers start throwing, and characters ‘thing’ out or are killed almost immediately, any chance of building paranoia gives way to action. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this film a bunch! Winstead is game, and she looks good swashing the buckle. The rest of the cast tries hard, but you can only push a cardboard cutout so far.

As a huge fan of the Carpenter film and its real, puppet effects by Rob Bottin and Stan Winston, I was concerned about how this version would look. There are a couple of great sequences of the thing going all CGI-thingy that hold up pretty well. There were certainly a few moments that looked a bit too much like a video game, but there were also a few sequences that Carpenter and Bottin would never even have dreamed of trying back in 1982. I do think that the designers did a great job of capturing the look and sound of the Carpenter film. The Carpenter film, aided by a great Ennio Morricone score, had gobs and gobs of that apocalyptic feeling. The Morricone score is hinted at several times throughout the new film, with the actual Morricone track Humanity (Part 2) – the heart beat piece, running at the end credits. Since the sequence of shots that are interspersed with the credit roll serve to set up the Carpenter film, it’s a good choice. The sound design was exceptional! I especially loved the antarctic ambiance that is present in the background of just about every scene. I know it’s only a howling wind sound, but it’s simple and it works. It suggests a bit of dread and hopelessness that a film like this really needs to succeed.

GAME INSPIRATIONS FROM THE MOVIE

Since some horror buffs, myself included, feel that Campbell’s story was inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s 1931 short story At the Mountains of Madness, Call of Cthulhu is the way to go for this. If your game group is up for it, you can easily do a set up where one of the party is already infected. Give everyone a unique hidden objective to achieve so you can keep them guessing at each other’s motivations. Let them bicker and argue while the the thing secretly tries to take them all over. When you add the fact that there is a high chance that the whole party will be killed and the entire base will be set on fire and burned to the ground, we’re talking about an enjoyable evening of gaming!

All of the things at the Norwegian base that we see in the Carpenter film faithfully show up in the prequel. From the fire ax in the door, to the frozen corpse of Collin (Jonathan Walker) still grasping the straight razor he used to slash his wrists and throat, to the two-headed burned thingy that the Americans bring back to their base, there is plenty of fan-friendly continuity here. Also, stay for the end credits to see the Norwegians begin their helicopter chase of the infected dog. Seeing that made me feel a twinge of sorrow for those crazy Swedes…I mean Norweigans.

‘Course, what do I know?

You can check out this review as well as all the others at the Bloodwork blog on toxicbag.com.

MOVIE REVIEW – CONTAGION

October 13, 2011

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Rating System: 0 – 5 Bubbly Head Deaths with Zero being the lowest and five being the highest.

THE REVIEW

Contagion, hereafter referred to as Achu!, is a chilling story about a worldwide pandemic of a hybrid bat/pig flu. Achu! begins on day two of the outbreak as Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) is returning home to Minnesota from a business trip in China. Although already infected and suffering from a runny nose, cough and headache, Beth has time to stop at Chicago for a quickie with her lover. He too becomes infected, and starts to spread the disease himself. We also see in rapid succession other people that Beth came in contact with in China, all succumbing to the disease. This is a great, and frightening sequence letting us know how quickly a virus can be spread.

Once Beth gets home, she has a seizure and collapses. Her husband, Mitch (Matt Damon), rushes her to the hospital, where she quickly dies. Already stunned by this news, Mitch returns home to find that his son Clark (Griffin Kane) has also died from the virus. From here the story picks up all of its various threads and begins to tell the story from several perspectives.

Independent internet blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) picks up on the rising body count and starts posting about it; the World Health Organization sends Dr. Ornates (Marion Cotillard) to China to investigate. Prodded by the Department of Homeland Security, Dr. Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) of the CDC in Atlanta also starts to investigate.

The rest of the film shows us the spread of the virus and the medical community’s attempt to stop it. The multiple threads let the audience get to see the effects of the virus from different perspectives, from the ground level of Mitch Emhoff to the penthouse view of Dr. Cheever and the scientists at the CDC. Along the way we get to learn a lot of chilling concepts like what an r-not number is. The r-not of a virus, we learn, is a mathematical formula calculating the virus carrier and the number of people he or she will potentially infect. The flu, for example, has a normal r-not number of one. This means that a person infected with the flu is likely to infect one other person on average. The CDC soon estimates that the r-not of the film bug is more like 4, but it could be higher. The scary thing is, the r-not is a real thing, and it’s monitored by scientists every day!

Soderbergh and his cast and crew are pros, and they go about their business in a professional way. Overall, I enjoyed this movie. I especially loved the mid-movie montage of abandoned locations. We see in quick succession the gym, the mall, the bank and several other places that are usually teeming with people and noise, all dark and abandoned. There is something unsettling about seeing these familiar places in such unfamiliar conditions. The apocalypse fan in me also loved the scenes showing the breakdown of society. People looting and killing and being generally unpleasant with one another as soon as the power goes out shows us a scary concept: the idea that acting civilized and obeying the law goes out the window as soon as personal preservation kicks in. We see this demonstrated when Mitch witnesses some armed looters break in to a neighbor’s house. He promptly calls 911 to report the break in and gets an endless automated message. (“You have selected regicide. If you know the name of the king or queen being murdered…press one.”) Later on we see that Mitch himself is now looting his neighbor’s houses. Survival has trumped law and order. And to be fair, I don’t blame him; I would probably do the same thing. This concept of “where exactly is the line between obeying the rules of society and doing what you have to in order to survive” is a powerful one, and it would have been great to see more of it. The film makers could have shown us the moral struggle Mitch Emhoff experiences as he makes these decisions. And an actor like Damon has the chops to pull it off. But since there were so many other threads going on, the audience quickly got whisked away to another character’s storyline, and any drama about Mitch’s decision to rob and steal to survive was quickly dropped into the memory hole. The next time we see Mitch, the danger is pretty much over and power has definitely come back on.

This brings me to the movie’s main flaw. I felt that the film was a bit bloated. There were too many characters trying to tell too many stories. Especially the Dr. Ornates storyline in China. I wouldn’t have missed it if that whole bit had been dropped, and the pacing would have improved dramatically.

GAME INSPIRATIONS FROM THE MOVIE

By itself, Achu! doesn’t really fit into a workable game. Some serious re-working would have to be done. Something or someone causing all the unpleasantness would have to be added on. Call of Cthulhu has a lot of potential beasties that could be responsible for the outbreak, but any modern day rule set could work. It could also be re-worked for a fantasy setting as well. This could be a lot of fun, especially when you can throw in the medical knowledge and sensibilities of the period. Again, a lot of extra work for the GM, but it could be satisfying.

I loved the storyline involving the doomed Dr. Mears (Kate Winslet). One of my favorite scenes involves her interaction with the Minnesota Department of Health officials. She gives them a shopping list of what needs to be done; shelters, morgues, food, water and supplies. Their response was great. Instead of taking the steps needed to save as many lives as possible, they are more concerned with questioning how much her plan is going to cost and who’s budget it’s coming out of. It’s only a few exchanges, but the actors nail it. It felt real, and that was scary!

‘Course, what do I know?

You can check out this review as well as all the others at the Bloodwork blog on toxicbag.com.

MOVIE REVIEW – FRIGHT NIGHT

September 29, 2011

Directed by Craig Gillespie

Rating System: 0 – 5 Bubbly Head Deaths with Zero being the lowest and Five being the highest.

THE REVIEW

Fright Night (hereafter referred to as FN) is the latest entry in the unending stream of remakes coming from Hollywood these days. This time around FN is set in a Los Vegas suburb and concerns teenager Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) and his attempts to destroy his new neighbor, and blood sucking vampire, Jerry Dandridge (Colin Farrell). Charlie becomes suspicious of Jerry’s thirst for plasma after his ex-best friend Evil Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) tells him about the many disappearances in town lately. Among the missing is Adam (Will Dentor), the third member of their childhood trio. Charlie dismisses Ed’s vampire theory and tries to go back to his new life. Charlie, it seems, has moved on from all the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror stuff that he, Ed and Adam used to to do when they were younger. In fact, he has moved on from Ed and Adam. Now, he hangs with the cool kids Mark (Dave Franco) and Ben (Reid Ewing) and has even found himself a hottie girlfriend, Amy (Imogen Poots) to boot!

But when Ed joins the ranks of the missing (dispatched by Jerry), Charlie reluctantly begins his own investigation. In a great scene involving a six-pack of beer, Charlie confirms Ed’s theory, Jerry is indeed a vampire. What’s worse, Jerry knows that Charlie knows. And the way that Farrell plays this scene (as well as the whole film) lets the audience know that Charlie, his mom (Toni Collette) and Amy are all in big trouble.

Later, when Charlie sees that Doris (Emily Montague), the stripper who lives next door (Why can’t I ever live in that neighborhood?) is going to be Jerry’s next victim, he quickly attempts a rescue. He breaks into the house and soon discovers secret passageways, locked cells, and finally the bitten and drained Doris. After watching Jerry take another big drink from Doris, Charlie attempts to sneak her past Jerry and out of the house. It’s a great sequence, and Gillesipe and his actors nail it, mixing in equal parts of suspense and horror.

Charlie, now desperate for help, goes and sees the great magician and vampire expert Peter Vincent (David Tennant). Vincent is currently headlining at a casino in Vegas, and Charlie hopes he has the answers. Vincent reveals himself to be more of a performer than a vampire hunter, and quickly sends Charlie on his way.

The final reel has several battles, pitting Jerry and his growing army of vampire followers against Charlie and his friends. With casualties mounting in both camps, Charlie and Peter Vincent (Who has had his own little moment of redemption, and is now willing to fight) gear up and head off to a final showdown in Jerry’s underground lair. There, in a nod to the original film, Jerry menacingly tells them “Welcome to Fright Night…for Real!”

This movie was actually a lot of fun. Great performances by the entire cast (especially Farrell and Tennant) help to raise this movie beyond its standard script. It’s 106 minutes of roller coaster action, and I enjoyed the ride. The design was excellent and CGI was used in appropriate amounts. My biggest nitpick with the movie actually was the pacing. As fun as it was, I felt it made the movie more of an action genre than a horror flick. A slower pace could definitely have made for a scarier movie. From just about the opening scene the human characters (as well as the audience) are clued in that Jerry is a supernatural creature. The film makers could easily have made that journey of discovery longer, and much more horrifying. I feel that the film makers missed an opportunity to use a great horror concept: ‘Evil is lurking right next door.’ It’s something that all of us can identify with, and suburbia is a wonderful setting for it. We’ve all heard a strange noise coming from our neighbor’s house or apartment and wondered “what are they doing in there?” But since the plot is in overdrive, and Jerry pretty much flashes his fangs to anyone watching, this concept is quickly run over and left far in the distance.

One theme that did come through is “Things are seldom what they seem.” Jerry, at first introduction, is a night contractor, and at worst, a ladies’ man.  We quickly learn that he is much, much worse (he’s a vampire contractor – imagine him re-doing your kitchen!). Even Charlie is pretending to be something that he is not, having ditched his childhood friends and re-inventing himself to be accepted by the ‘cool’ clique.

The biggest example is Peter Vincent. We actually get to see him strip off all of his external character traits (hair, beard, sideburns, eyebrow ring) and go from mystical vampire killer to drunk B-actor. It’s a great scene, and Tennant plays it just right, comfortably and believably showing us exactly what the man behind the curtain is like. And at the same time, he confirms our fears that nobody is who they say they are.

Combine these two themes and you could have a really powerful, scary film. A different film than what Gillesipe and crew turned out, but a good one, I think. As is, the film they did was an exciting joyride, and I highly recommend it.

GAME INSPIRATIONS FROM THE MOVIE

The set up is perfect for horror gaming, and Call of Cthulhu comes to mind instantly! Vampire stories are perfect for Cthulhu, since you can craft each encounter with Jerry exactly as you want. That being said, when you look at the set-piece encounters in the film, there are a lot of opportunities for good gaming.


Look for Chris Sarandon (The original Jerry Dandridge) to pop up in a cool little cameo. In the credits, his character is listed as “Jay Dee” – get it?

‘Course, what do I know?

You can check out this review as well as all the others at the Bloodwork blog on toxicbag.com.

Oct 14 will see the release of another remake of the Thing.

You can view the new redband trailer here.

I’m not sure what to think of this. It appears that it’s a prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing with this story concerning the Norwegians’ first discovery of the alien life form. It would be fun to finally see how the base that MacReady and Copper discover got torched. And who the guy was who slit his wrists and neck and then froze to death in the chair. I hope that this group of  filmmakers have a sense of continuity.

Looks like a lot of CGI, but it could be fun!

What do you guys think?

Directed by Rupert Wyatt

Rating System: 0 – 5 Bubbly Head Deaths with Zero being the lowest and five being the highest.

THE REVIEW

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (hereafter referred to as ROTPOTA) is a reboot of the Apes movie series from 1968-1973. Specifically, it is a remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and attempts to explain, as Chuck Heston put it in the original Apes, “How in the hell did this upside-down society get started?” In the original, Caesar the talking chimp was introduced to our current time by his backward time traveling parents Cornelius and Zira (In Escape from the Planet of the Apes). ROTPOTA depicts Caesar being accidentally created by well meaning scientist Will Rodman (James Franco –  in a totally forgettable performance) who is working on a cure for alzheimer’s disease. He is developing a virus that attacks the disease and causes the brain to repair itself. One of his test subjects is Caesar’s mom, Bright Eyes. Rodman’s dad (wonderfully played by John Lithgow) suffers from this terrible disease, so Will has extra motivation to find a cure. After the worst progress report meeting in the history of progress report meetings occurs, the testing is shut down and Will is ordered to destroy all of the test monkeys. But once he looks into baby Caesar’s little green eyes (Which indicates that he has got the test virus in him and is uber smart) he can’t bring himself to do it and instead decides to take him home. This act of kindness, as you can imagine, will ultimately have REALLY BAD consequences for the other 6 billion or so folks living on the planet.

We see Caesar (Andy Serkis) quickly grow up and develop sign language skills, and other smarts as Will studies him in secret and continues to develop his cure. Eventually Caesar is discovered and sent to a home for wayward chimps run by John Landon (Brian Cox) and his sadistic son Dodge (Tom Felton). Once there, Caesar experiences the cruelty of man, and begins to plot revolution.

Meanwhile, Will has used his test virus on his dad with spectacular, although temporary results. This convinces his money-driven boss Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) to begin testing on a new, more powerful strain – even though the effects of this new virus on humans is (John Carpenter music here)…unknown!

And so the stage is set for the apes to start their rise. The final reel is all about the pitched battles between some rather dim humans and Caesar and his simian army.

Overall, this film was a lot better than what I was expecting. The acting was great – not counting Franco. Andy Serkis again delivers an Oscar worthy motion capture performance as Caesar. His work coupled with the impressive CGI work make Caesar a real, believable character. Old pros Lithgow and Cox deliver the goods as well, and Tom Felton has fun as the punk kid who constantly has to prove he’s smarter than his ape charges.

The design was good and the film was well edited to keep the film on a brisk pace. I did have a few issues with the story telling; there were a couple of plot points that weren’t totally believable for me. First and foremost is the battle. I guess the realist in me can’t really envision how a bunch of monkeys armed with sticks and rocks are going to defeat fully armed S.W.A.T. teams with air support. But the movie had so many other positive things going for it that I really didn’t mind.

Being a huge fan of the original Apes film, I wasn’t overly excited about this film. In fact, my fondness towards the original pretty much preordained my dislike for this film. But about 20 minutes in I realized that this wasn’t a remake of my beloved Apes movie; it was really a re-telling of Frankenstein. Once I saw that Wyatt and his producers were really telling us a cautionary tale of man meddling with nature, I was able to relax my protection of the Apes films and just sit back and enjoy the show.

GAME INSPIRATIONS FROM THE MOVIE
This setup is perfect for modern day Call of Cthulhu. Although it would take some extra work on the part of the GM, it would be fun to set in the 1920’s too. I can easily see making your party the group of scientists tampering with forces beyond their control. Maybe bring in a Lovecraftian artifact that will help your players accomplish their goal (albeit with really, really bad consequences, naturally). Or maybe the corporation funding their experiments is really run by the head of some cult (or the actual beastie, itself) and is funding the money to unleash some icky evil on the world. And to keep the party going forward, no matter what dire warnings they come across, you can give each player a secret goal (like fame, helping a dying loved one, boatloads of cash for example) And if you can throw in global apocalypse along the way so much the better!

Fans of the Apes movies should keep their eyes and ears peeled for many references to the original movies that are peppered through out the film. From Caesars mom being called ‘Bright Eyes” (which was Taylor’s nickname in the original) to Tom Felton’s character being named Dodge Landon (a nod to Taylor’s fellow astronauts Dodge and Landon who both meet bad ends in the original) to the quick news footage of the Icarus mission – commanded by George Taylor, lifting off and later on, vanishing. There are a bunch of others, see if you can spot them all.

The whole second virus test was really a big sticking point for me. From a plot perspective it was incredibly dumb, and since the rest of the film was actually quite smart, this made this moment really stick out. First of all, they are using an airborne strain of the virus for testing. Seriously? That seems a bit reckless, and unsafe. Second, all of the scientists administering the test are NOT in full hazmat suits. All they have are little masks that cover their nose and mouth that you would wear if you were varnishing your furniture. Again, seriously? No scientist worth their salt would ever conduct an experiment with an unknown virus under those conditions. As you would imagine, one of them gets his mask knocked off and is exposed to the virus. This brings me to the other thing about this sequence that is dumb. Once Franklin (Tyler Labine) starts getting sick after being exposed (complete with sneezing up blood), does he bother to tell anyone? No, he goes home and hides for several days. Not very scientist-like of him, but since the virus is the mechanism for wiping out humanity, the film makers had to get it out somehow. I just wish they could have come up with a smarter way.

Oh, and don’t forget to stay for the end credits. There is a great sequence that shows exactly how the virus spreads ALL over the world!

‘Course, what do I know?

You can check out this review as well as all the others at the Bloodwork blog on toxicbag.com.

The Last Exorcism

Directed by Daniel Stamm

Running Time: 87 mins

Rating System: 0 – 5 Bubbly Head Deaths with Zero being the lowest and five being the highest.

THE REVIEW

Now, I know that this flick came out last year, but I’m gonna review it now anyway, in case anybody missed this little gem of a movie.  The Last Exorcism (hereafter referred to as TLE) is about a preacher in Baton Rouge named Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) that is having a documentary made about him. As we see him preaching, he explains the showmanship in his work, and in a great gag involving a recipe, we quickly become aware that Cotton is moved by money more than God. Soon the documentary turns to demons and exorcisms. “I don’t believe in Demons,” he announces, but he does believe in good healthcare. As far as he’s concerned, if people want to pay him to conduct an exorcism, then why not. He’s totally willing to put on a show, and he has, many times. But since he has read about people, including young children, who have died in exorcisms, he has decided not to do them anymore. Iris (Iris Bahr), the producer of the film, convinces him to do one more for the movie and Cotton decides to let the film crew tag along on the last exorcism.

TLE then moves to the Sweetzer farm in rural LA. There, Louis Swetzer (Louis Herthum) believes that his teenage daughter Nell (Ashley Bell) is possessed. In another great sequence, we see Cotton prepare for the exorcism – complete with hidden iPod and speakers producing spooky noises and a smoke-generating crucifix. Later, he puts on a spectacular show, ending in the grand tradition of Zelda Rubinstein pronouncing, “this girl is clean.” Thinking that the job is done, Cotton and the film crew return to their hotel and begin planning the trip home.

That plan quickly unravels when they find Nell in her pajamas waiting for them at the hotel. How she has managed to get there is a mystery. She has no car and had no idea which hotel the group was staying in. The mystery of the Sweetzer farm quickly deepens as Cotton and the crew return Nell, and try to uncover what is truly going on.

The filmmakers do a great job in not tipping their hand too early, instead letting the audience discover what is going on along with the characters. Cotton and friends all have their “I’m in a horror movie” moment at the right time. It’s believable, and feels right, which makes it even more scary! The look of the film was effective and creepy. The documentary style of long takes gives the film a realistic look – in that what we are watching are real events and not scripted scenes. Only the occasional scoring of horror music in several scenes betray this effect. I guess the filmmakers decided that the film wasn’t strong enough on its own and needed them. Too bad, cause I think it works pretty damn good without them. One final note on the sound design: Fantastic! The designers did a great job without throwing it in the audience’s face.

GAME INSPIRATIONS FROM THE MOVIE

This is a film the H.P.Lovecraft himself would heartily endorse. It’s chock full of all the “There’s something dark and evil lurking everywhere” ideas that he constantly wrote about. And the setup is perfect for “Call of Cthulu” games, in any time period. In fact it would be fun to try this story set in the 20’s. The film also has just the right amount of research moments. Not sot many that they give the farm away, (no pun intended) but enough to provide the characters with enough information to try to solve the mystery. A good group of role-players would have a field day with these characters. From the cynical preacher to the true-believer father and the girl who may or may not be possessed, there are lots of nuggets to play with. If your group isn’t quite into full blown role play, then the story itself should be quite enough to ensure a fun evening or two of gaming.

I’m not gonna say much, cause I really don’t want to blow anything. However I must point out an important lesson from TLE: If a possibly possessed girl draws pictures of you being horribly, painfully killed, DON’T JUST LAUGH IT OFF, RUN!

‘Course, what do I know?

You can check out this review as well as all the others at Bloodwork blog on toxicbag.com.

Season of the Witch

Directed by Dominic Sena

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating System: 0 – 5 Bubbly Head Deaths with Zero being the lowest and five being the highest.

THE REVIEW

Season of the Witch (hereafter referred to as SOTW) is a curious little film. I say that because it seems like the filmmakers couldn’t make up their minds on what type of movie they wanted to make. Horror or action? Instead of picking one, they compromised and decided to do both. The result is a 95 minute mess. A well made mess, but a mess nonetheless. Now, let me stop for a second to say, I enjoyed the 90+ minutes that I invested on this film and didn’t feel like the six dollars I spent were wasted. But Lord of the Rings, this ain’t.

SOTW is about two 14th century Crusade knights who, fed up with the endless killing in the Holy lands, desert and return to Eastern Europe. Once there, they come upon a land rife with plague. At the heart of the pestilence is a girl (Claire Foy, named only ‘the girl’ in the credits) who is believed to be the witch that unleashed the plague. This supposed witch is to be sent to a faraway monastery where she will be tried and killed, thereby lifting the curse and ending the plague. Our two knights, Behmen (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) are quickly recruited by the local Cardinal (Christopher Lee – I know, wow, the dude’s gotta be 80!) to transport the witch. If they accept, the Church will forgive them for deserting the Crusades.

Behmen and Felson are joined by a fellow knight named Eckhart (Ulrich Thomsen) a priest named Debelzaq (Stephen Campbell Moore) and Kay, (Robert Sheehan) a knight wannabe. Rounding out the intrepid band is Hagamar, (Stephen Graham) a trader who knows the way to the monastery. But is the girl really a witch? Debelzaq is convinced of her guilt, but he is a priest and might just have the Church’s best interests at heart. Or, maybe she is a scapegoat, like Eckhart thinks, and the Church is intent on killing her to show the local populace that they have the answer to the plague? But if she is a scapegoat, then who or what is unleashing the deadly illusions and packs of CGI wolves that appear almost immediately? And what about the Davy Jones eyes that the Girl and Kay share?

The last reel features the final CGI overload showdown at the monastery against the ‘true’ evil of the film.

The look of the film was pretty good. The dark, menacing woods were quite effective, and the makeup effects were good. As far as the acting went, it was OK. Both Cage and Perlman clearly had a boat payment due, and don’t really bring anything extra to the film. Along with the rest of the cast, they gamely try, but the limited script doesn’t give them much to work with.

The same can be said for Dominic Sena’s direction. He seems to know what to do, but the script handcuffs him into going straight down cliché alley for most of the picture. Again, I think that the initial decision by the producers to hedge their bets and try to make a combination horror-action picture (and a PG-13 one at that) instead of going all in on one genre or the other, doomed SOTW to mediocrity.

GAME INSPIRATIONS FROM THE MOVIE

This type of thing is obviously perfect for D&D. Although for a truly engaging story, the journey would have to be fleshed out a bit, with a few more encounters along the way. Maybe some more bits of story expo to help prove the girl’s innocence or guilt.

As far as role-playing goes, there is nothing wrong with the secret agenda. For a veteran gaming group, one of the players could even tackle the character of the witch. Now that can be fun. She can plead her innocence and try and turn the other characters to her side, all the while, setting them up for the big fall. Or not; maybe she is just a pawn. There are a lot of ways to go on that. And lots of ore to mine, with the right group of players.

When SOTW finally reaches the monastery, we find that all the monks there are dead from the plague. The witch is not really a witch at all, but is in fact a demon possessing the girl. It seems that the demon needed to be brought to this monastery to get a holy book of Christian rights and chants (there’s always a holy book!)  This triggers a massive battle against the CGI beastie, who suddenly is just another monster to be hacked and slashed. I really hate it when films do that. Here we have a demon who for the whole movie is hiding in a girl’s body and perpetuates this witch-plague story so it will be taken to this monastery, yet once it gets there, it quickly becomes this winged fire breathing dragon-like beastie that looks like it could have saved everybody the 95 minutes and just flown to the monastery and grabbed the book on its own. I guess that in this age of movie making, the audience is expecting the climactic battle, so this is what we get.

‘Course, what do I know?

Paranormal Activity 2

Directed by Tod Williams

Running Time: 91 Minutes

Rating System: 0 – 5 Bubbly Head Deaths with Zero being the lowest and five being the highest.

THE REVIEW

You know, overall, sequels are tough things to pull off. They’re tough for audiences to like, and they’re tougher for producers to make. Now, to me there are two basic kinds of sequels; one is a continuation of a larger story arc (think Harry Potter for a current example or the Empire Strikes Back for a retro example) and the other is bringing back the elements of a successful film to try and cash in a second time. Paranormal Activity 2 (hereafter referred to as PA2) clearly falls into the latter category. The sequel brings back all the things that worked in the first film: the greenish video surveillance footage, the rumbly noise, the menacing date graphics (DAY1, etc) in heaping amounts.

Now I call PA2 a sequel, but it’s more like a prequel/sequel. It starts several months before the first film in an attempt to provide an explanation of why the first film happened and then shows us what happens after the first film ends. PA2 centers around Kristi (Sprague Grayden – most recently seen in 24) and her family. Kristi is the sister of Katie (Katie Featherston) from the first PA. Just like in the first film we see video clips of Kristie, her husband Daniel (Brian Boland) and their kids; teenager Ali (Molly Ephraim) and baby Hunter (William Juan Prieto & Jackson Xenia Prieto). After a break-in which may be ghostly or just a non-ghostly crime, the family installs surveillance cameras in every room of the house. After that, the film follows the PA playbook page by page as the creepy bits ramp up in intensity and violence. The film offers an explanation or two about why the sisters are being visited by the demonic beasties, but it mostly just runs through the series of nights leading up to its grisly conclusion. Like the first film, PA2 does have a scene with a ouija board. But this one is actually a very funny scene involving the teenage daughter and her horny boyfriend.

The acting is about what you would expect from a film like this; so-so. The exception is Molly Ephraim. Out of all the actors, she runs the most believable arc of “I’m in a horror movie” and starts believing that the titular paranormal activity is really happening after the appropriate amount of evidence is presented to her. She brings a good balance of “this is scary” and “I’m a teenager so this stuff is cool” to make her character ring true. Plus she’s a cutie.

PA2, much like PA, times out at a brisk 91 minutes. So don’t blink, ‘cause you might miss it. Overall, it’s an enjoyable 91 minutes, and given the limited subject matter, anything longer might have dragged. And if you liked the first one, PA2 is a good second helping.

GAME INSPIRATIONS FROM THE MOVIE

Obviously, this film is gonna inspire horror RPGs more than any other game. Call of Cthulhu comes to mind most. The idea of dealing with an unknown, seemingly unstoppable beastie is right up Lovecraft’s alley.

The idea that one of the players is ‘cursed’ or ‘stalked’ by the beastie definitely has possibilities for a good story. For a quick, one night adventure, something as simple as PA2 (Or PA for that matter) would work. Anything that is going to be multiple game sessions would require a bit more work developing the beastie and its motives.

The family of PA2 does make a successful research roll and come up with a possible solution to their possession. However, it’s what I would term a Faustian Solution – that is it doesn’t kill the beastie, it just sends it to someone else. So, you save your own skin, but you have to pick some other poor fool to take the fall. This idea is not new one, and it was used much more effectively in The Ring and Drag Me To Hell. In PA2, they can ‘pass’ on the curse of this particular demon, but only to another family member. Husband Daniel doesn’t hesitate to push the beastie and its supernatural baggage onto sister Katie (which is why the events of PA happen in the first place) and let her deal with it. I would have liked to see a bit more hand wringing over this potential decision, but that wouldn’t have fit in with the films lickety-split pacing.

This concept of damning others to save your own neck is role playing gold. It gives you a chance to find out how much of a ‘good’ guy your character (and by extension, you) really is. I think in tournament play, where each player is competing with each other to be the best role player, it can be even better. And in a game like Cthulhu, where character survival is usually a coin-flip anyway, so much the better.

‘Course, what do I know?