Escape Room

Rating:💀💀💀

Escape rooms have been all the rage these last couple of years with new locations popping up all over the country due to its increasing popularity, but after seeing this film, you may think twice about where you plan your next birthday party, especially if you read this article about 5 escape room deaths which occurred, eerily, on “Escape Room’s” opening week (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46781545)

Escape Room was definitely inspired by films such as Saw, Final Destination and Hostel, which is very apparent throughout the movie, but still manages to be its own unique film with a very current theme.

Six strangers are invited to “think outside the box” at an exclusive escape room with the end result being a $10,000 prize. It doesn’t take long before they realize that it’s more than just a game and lives are at stake.

I loved the fact that it wasn’t a star-studded cast and was filled with mostly unknowns, with probably the biggest name being Deborah Ann Woll from True Blood. The film did a great job of building each character, keeping you invested and caring about their well-being, something rare for a horror film these days. This is a crucial component to an effective horror film, because if you dislike or have paper-thin characters, you’re no longer invested in the film and/or its outcome, i.e. you just lost your audience.

Each escape room throughout the film was filled with intense scenarios that were suspenseful and nail-biting. Interestingly enough though, the puzzles actually took a back seat to the players, who were even more entertaining to watch.

The biggest flaw of the movie was undoubtedly its ending. It was clearly being set up for a sequel, but missed its mark completely with a very melodramatic, impractical final scene that left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Which is a shame because last impressions do exactly that: last.

As much as I enjoyed this film, I’m not too keen of a potential franchise simply so that it can become a dull, unimaginative cash grab. Sometimes it’s OK to just make one film and move on. Could a worthy sequel spawn from this? Absolutely, but the genre hasn’t the best track record in that regard. Nevertheless, the film, with a reported budget of 9 million, cracked an 18 million debut, so you can bet Sony has already green-lighted “Escape Room 2.”

Final word? It’s worth a view. I did not feel cheated when the final credits rolled. This film entertains with excellent focus on character-building, edge of your seat tension and a fresh take on a stale concept. 3 out of 5 skulls.

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Hell Fest Review

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Score: 💀💀💀 and 1/2 Skulls

The beloved slasher genre has slowly been making its comeback to the big screen with titles such as Happy Death Day and the much anticipated upcoming Halloween film. Hell Fest, the latest release on that list, looks to continue the trend and show that slasher is very much here to stay.

A group of teenagers head to a traveling haunt dubbed “Hell Fest” on Halloween night only to be stalked and hunted by a masked murderer. Natalie, played by Amy Forsyth is first targeted by the killer when she watches him murder an innocent victim, in which she believes is all part of the show. It’s not long before she realizes this is more than just fun and games.

I truly love that the traditional heroine theme is carried throughout the film much like the beloved horror classics. The tale of the somewhat innocent, timid teen who is forced out of their shell to reveal the strong, inner bad ass that was hidden underneath.

The film doesn’t try too hard to be something it’s not. It’s just your standard slasher with a pretty terrifying narrative. I’ve always said I was shocked that this particular story line hasn’t been used more in horror films. It’s quite an unnerving thought that every Halloween season, people attend haunted attractions essentially leaving themselves vulnerable to the possibility that there’s someone inside who isn’t part of the act.

The gore factor was not too over the top, which sometimes can ruin a film. It was the perfect amount of blood shed for a slasher. The mask was simple yet creepy and effective, and definitely something I’d imagine you’ll be seeing come this time next year in your local Spirit Halloween store.

Although there were a few tense scenes in the film, Hell Fest rates low on the scare factor. There aren’t any jump out of your chair, edge of your seat moments, and the score was pretty unmemorable. However, even with those missing components, I still felt the film was very enjoyable.

If you’re a sucker for a good slasher flick, then I highly recommend a trip to the theater for this one. This could very well be a sleeper hit that eventually spawns a sequel.

Unsane

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Rating : 💀💀💀💀

This is one of my favorite films of 2018 thus far. The fact that this movie was shot entirely with an iPhone 7 Plus in 10 days makes it that much greater in my opinion. I actually first saw the preview for this film the same day that I went to see it in theaters. I was looking for something to do and figured, why not? Little did I know, I was about to see another hidden gem.

A young woman, Sawyer Valentini, played by Claire Foy moves away from home to evade the memories of her stalker. When she realizes she may have PTSD from the incident, she pays a visit to a counselor at a Behavioral Center, and is committed to the institution when she unintentionally signs a release form allowing her to be kept under 24 hour supervision. After a few altercations, she finds herself stuck inside for another seven days in order to be monitored and medicated. While at the facility, Sawyer believes her stalker has found her and is posing as an employee in order to get closer to her. Everyone around her begins to question her sanity. Are Sawyer’s fears rational, or is she really unhinged?

Talk about a stressful, anxiety inducing movie! One hell of a roller coaster ride that’s for sure. You could really put yourself in the main character’s shoes and just feel her frustration with the predicament that she is in. The plot is not only original, but very plausible, which makes it even more unnerving. This was Steven Soderbergh’s first horror/thriller film and I really hope that he continues on this path.

Terrifier (Spoilers)

Rating: 💀💀💀

Ok, so this is one of the most talked about movies in the horror community as of late, so naturally I had to get my hands on a copy.

First, let me start off by saying that Art The Clown is undoubtedly the scariest clown I have ever seen. I do not scare easily and he is definitely a thing of nightmares. He may be one of the scariest horror villains of all time, so kudos to David Howard Thornton!

I’ve found that a lot of people complained about not getting any background on Art, but that’s actually one of the things I liked about this movie. It’s much more terrifying when you know little about the killer and their motives, which is why I love the character of Michael Myers so much. The fear of the unknown is such a powerful tool that should be utilized more in horror.

For a low budget film, the effects are quite realistic. Disturbingly realistic I might add. Obviously the director was going for complete gore and carnage, and he most definitely succeeded. I love horror just as much as the next person, but some of these scenes were even a bit much for me. One death in particular was one of the most disturbing I have ever seen, and I have seen A LOT of movies. Although slasher is my favorite genre of horror, I’m not always the biggest fan of movies that go overboard with blood and guts strictly for shock value.

I think the biggest flaw of the film was killing off the main actress (Jenna Kanell) about half way through the film. She was the only character that you actually sympathize with and root for. You’re then left with her sister as the lead role, who gives a cringeworthy performance. The film gets carried away with the characters making poor decisions. It eventually becomes tiresome and irritating when you realize several of the characters had multiple chances to actually kill the vicious clown but instead hurt him slightly and then ran away only to be hunted by him moments later. I know that most horror movies contain that kind of stupidity, but this was just eye-rolling over the top.

Obviously this is a low budget B horror movie not meant for an Oscar worthy plot and script, but I do wish they could have gone in a different direction with the story. I feel like they squandered a lot of potential worrying too much about how gruesome and horrific the death scenes would be and put less thought and effort into the storyline.

This may be just a one time watch for me, but I’m sure the Gorehounds will be more than satisfied. Needless to say, I’m still giving this film 3 skulls based on how literally “Terrifying” Art The Clown was.

Top 10 Horror Films of 2017

10. The Belko Experiment
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This film was my hidden gem of 2017. A survivalist movie with a twist. Eighty American employees of Belko Industries become part of a sick and twisted game, when they are suddenly trapped in their office building and told to kill off fellow co-workers before they run out of time and the decision is made for them. I saw a lot of elements of The Purge, The Hunger Games and Would You Rather? in this film, yet it was still able to be a completely new, original idea. The cast was great and the kills were quite gruesome. See my full review here.

9. 47 Meters Down

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I truly enjoyed this summer popcorn flick. It was thoroughly entertaining and suspenseful, and had a fresh concept that was terrifying and realistic. This film uses the fear of the unknown to deliver some seriously nail-biting scenes that I personally will never forget. Obviously nothing will ever compare to Jaws, but it’s refreshing to finally get a couple of good modern shark movies back to back (The Shallows, 2016.) See my full review of 47 Meters Down here.

8. Mother

Mother-920x584This film had an extremely religious undertone, which is strange, since director Darren Aronofsky is an atheist. I liked the ingenuity of modernizing parts of the Old and New Testament by illustrating biblical stories throughout the film, which sometimes were extremely straightforward and other times entirely hidden. It is certainly a movie focused on symbolism and at times could be quite confusing, but interesting nonetheless. This was definitely a film that you continue to discuss long after the ending credits. Although I don’t quite agree with Aronofsky’s religious views, I do think this movie had a powerful message about Mother Earth and how humans are responsible for destroying her.

7. Creep 2

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Mark Duplass is an absolute genius once again in this sequel to 2014’s Creep. I’m never a fan of “POV” or found footage movies, but these films are too good to care. It was the perfect balance of humor, tension and angst, and does a great job of making you wonder how it’s going to play out in the end. It’s not an easy feat to make a movie involving primarily only two people, but both Duplass and Desiree Akhavan commanded the screen.

6. 1922

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Another dark and twisted Stephen King story that demonstrates the dire consequences of one man’s actions. Thomas Jane (who can do no wrong in my eyes) is absolutely phenomenal as Wilfred James, the man who plots to kill his own wife in order to retain his home and his son. This is a slow burn film that packs a punch with surprisingly creepy moments that were unexpected. This will definitely go down as one of my favorite Stephen King adaptations.

5. The Devil’s Candy

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This movie sat on my Netflix list for quite some time until the end of the year when I decided to give it a shot, and boy am I glad I did. A film that pulls zero punches when getting to the goods, as it is noticeably short, yet filled with action and horror. The on-screen chemistry between the young, hip, heavy-metal family is so strong that you become attached instantly. Ethan Embry’s best performance yet, in my opinion. The Devil’s Candy is definitely a sweet treat for the Horror genre.

4. Happy Death Day

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This tongue-in-cheek slasher was charming and enjoyable with a strong, spunky female lead. The Groundhog Day concept in a horror film was unusually refreshing and it even included some valuable life lessons about redemption. My recent desires for a decent “whodunnit” horror movie were definitely fulfilled with Happy Death Day. See my full review here.

3. Annabelle: Creation

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Annabelle: Creation is another terrifying horror film to add to the Conjuring Universe, which doesn’t seem to be losing any steam. In this origin story about the infamous doll, we finally get to put the pieces together on who Annabelle really is, and how she came to be. This movie brilliantly ties in to the first installment, which you most definitely need to watch before viewing Creation. Filled with jump scares and intense hair-raising scenes, this sequel was my scariest film of 2017. See the full review here.

2. Split

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This movie was released in January of 2017, yet I still discuss it at length to this very day. One of the most ingenious horror films of recent memory that put M. Night Shyamalan back on the map, complete with a performance that made James McAvoy deserving of an Oscar. Split was full of suspense and unpredictability that had me captivated from start to finish. The surprise ending was a geek out moment for Shyamalan fans and certainly made me anxious for the sequel.

1. IT

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Although I wasn’t jumping out of my seat in terror (it takes a lot to scare me), I still found every other aspect of this film to be quite flawless, making IT my number one movie of 2017. The opening scene with Georgie was absolutely riveting and Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise was utterly perfect. I immediately fell in love with the Loser’s Club, who brought undeniable chemistry to the screen with charming comic relief that couldn’t help but put a smile on my face. When I watched this film a second time on DVD, I enjoyed it even more, wishing I had given it FIVE stars instead of four. See the full review here.

Insidious: The Last Key (Contains Spoilers)

Rating: 💀💀💀

When the trailer for Insidious: chapter 4 first dropped, I was less than pleased with the preview. I felt that they showed too much, and it’s never a good sign when a movie has a release date in January. Despite my premature analysis and lack of excitement for the film, being the horror fan that I am, I obviously was going to see it anyway. It turns out, I was never so delighted to be completely and utterly wrong. I should know by now, that anything that has James Wan’s name on it is usually gold.

This fourth installment in the series is Directed by Adam Robitel and stars the beloved Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier, whom I really never get tired of seeing in these fright flicks. Elise is once again joined by her two sidekicks, Specs and Tucker, played by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson. In a turn of events, Elise’s Paranormal Investigator status leads her straight to a case that takes place in the very home she grew up in. Reluctant to take the case at first, she finally decides to set her fears aside and return to the house she was hoping to never step foot in again.

No time was wasted when it came to jump scares, as you received your first fright right in the beginning when you’re taken back to Elise’s childhood horror house. You finally have an understanding of how it all began, when you learn that her family home is adjacent to a prison where her father, Gerald works as an executioner. Not only is Elise’s house effected by the jolts of the electric chair, but Elise herself is impacted by the deaths of the prisoners that are executed by it. Gerald, who has zero tolerance for her “childish games” becomes enraged one night, when Elise has another encounter that frightens her and her bother, Christian. Gerald proceeds to beat Elise before locking her in the basement, where she unintentionally sets free a malevolent entity.

I agree that it was about time that we were given Elise’s backstory, considering the fact that she is such an essential part of the Insidious franchise even though she actually died in the first one. (I know, crazy! right?) If you are confused by this, here’s a short breakdown of the chronological order: 1.Insidious: Chapter 3, 2.Insidious: The Last Key, 3. Insidious, 4.Insidious: Chapter 2. I do believe, however, that if they decide to make another installment, that the torch will most likely be passed on to Elise’s niece, Imogen, whom we meet in the film, along with her sister, Melissa. Imogen reveals to Elise that she, too, has abilities much like Elise’s, and becomes an important part of the rest of the story when she has to delve into The Further later in the film.

Before The Further even comes into play in the movie, viewers actually get a nice little twist when Elise hesitantly returns to her childhood home to help out a distressed Ted Garza, who is experiencing paranormal activity since moving in. While in her old bedroom, Elise finds the whistle that her mother gave to Christian when he was a child to help him with his fears. Later on that evening, a ghost of a familiar woman appears and steals the whistle from Elise only to use it the following night to help lead Elise and her team to a shocking discovery down in the basement. I really loved that unexpected curve ball they threw at you that tied everything in the movie together so perfectly.

The two most memorably creepy scenes in the film were when Elise was getting questioned at the police station, and the “suitcase” scene. The scene in the police station was actually shown in the preview, but I had forgotten about it and wasn’t expecting it at all. The “suitcase” scene reminded me a lot of the elevator scene in Annabelle, because of the built up tension that went on for what seemed like eternity. You were waiting for the scare, you knew it was coming, you prepared yourself, and of course it eventually came, but not in the way you thought it would. The demon, Key-Face, (not the most creative name) was definitely frightening and unsettling, but the Lipstick-Face Demon from the first film will always be the most spine-chilling Insidious character in my opinion, which is why they probably still give him cameos in the other films (including this one).

Ultimately, this wouldn’t be an Insidious movie without taking a trip to The Further, which this time ends up being a prison realm where the Key-Face demon keeps the souls of those he has taken. The ghost that helped Elise make the big discovery earlier on in the film reappears to guide Imogen to the gated entrance of the realm. I really loved the  unearthly atmosphere leading up to the gates, but this part of The Further was supposed to be deeper and darker and I really wish they would have explored that more. The final “showdown” between Elise and Key-Face seemed a bit rushed, and the demon’s on-screen departure was a tad bit silly. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the little nod to the original Insidious that they added in there at the end.

The Last Key is definitely deserving of its place in this spectacularly spooky franchise. I am curious to see which direction the series heads in next and if they will somehow manage to fit Elise into another installment. Her chemistry with Specs and Tucker throughout each film, I believe, is a valuable part of the story and one of the reason’s the films are so successful. The “psychic-sidekick” relationship with the three of them provides the comic relief that the audience now expects from an Insidious movie. Yes, Specs and Tucker are usually the ones cracking the jokes, but Elise’s motherly role of keeping the boys in check are what makes the trio so lovable. All in all, the film sticks to its roots and keeps all of the great qualities from the other three. Insidious fans will not be let down.

The Belko Experiment

Rating : 💀💀💀

The Purge meets The Hunger Games in this gore-tastic action/horror/thriller flick!

I’m a little ashamed to admit I had never even heard of this movie until my brother suggested we watch it on VOD one weekend. About five minutes into the movie, I already knew that it was going to be a hidden gem. Directed by Greg McLean and written by James Gunn, The Belko Experiment is not your typical day at the office. The film takes place in Bogotá, Colombia at Belko Industries, a company that hires American workers to deal with international business relations. At the beginning of their work day, eighty American employees become completely barricaded in their corporate office and are given an ultimatum by a mysterious computerized voice (over the intercom,) to start killing off their fellow employees or face their own fate. Suddenly, a normal nine to five turns into survival of the fittest.

I really enjoyed the cast of this film. It didn’t star any HUGE names, but a lot of well-known actors such as John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley, Sean Gunn and Michael Rooker, along with several other notable faces. Aside from the few character introductions in the beginning of the film, the action gets started fairly quickly, yet still allowing the viewer to become invested in those characters.

At the beginning of employment with Belko industries, each employee is implanted with a small device in the back of their head in case they are kidnapped. Failure to adhere to the rules of game, resulted in detonation of this “tracking device” causing their head to explode. It is not unheard of for companies to chip and track their employees, which makes this both a scary, but clever idea for a film. I have stated before in past reviews that I’m not the biggest fan of gory/overly bloody films, but this movie is definitely one of the exceptions. Some of the kills are pretty brutal, so if you have a weak stomach, this may not be for you.

This film, like so many others of its kind, shows you what people are capable of when given the choice between life and death and the lengths they will go to in order to survive. Everyone’s true colors come out when it becomes “every man for himself.” I did have a slight inkling of how the movie was going to end, but it wasn’t completely predictable and still kept you on your toes.

A Seriously enjoyable, action packed thriller/horror combo that keeps you engaged and entertained throughout the whole movie. A definite recommendation to all the gore fans out there!

Murder on the Orient Express (May Contain Spoilers)

Rating: 💀💀

Although not categorized as “horror,” I wanted to share my thoughts on Murder on the Orient Express with my readers. Originally a famous novel by Agatha Christie, the story centers around world-renowned detective, Hercule Poirot, who just so happens to be in the right place at the right time. With an explosive cast featuring  Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, and Michelle Pfeiffer, one would think this movie couldn’t possibly be a failure. Yet, here we are with a two skull rating.

Kenneth Branagh, who plays Poirot, was the only redeeming component of the film and the only actor, in my opinion, who was captivating on screen. Everything else and everyone else just fell flat. Poirot, who just finished cracking the latest case, catches a last minute ride on the luxurious Orient Express only to find himself involved in another unfortunate circumstance. The train gets derailed due to an extreme snow drift and the passengers become stranded leaving ample amount of time for someone to commit a murder. Poirot finds himself in a race against time to find the culprit before he or she strikes again.

The major disappointment came when I realized that there was absolutely no way for me, or anyone else for that matter to help solve this crime. The draw of going to see the film was so that I could be the off-screen investigator and come up with suspects of my own. The problem was, Poirot knew things about the passengers that not a single audience member could have pieced together on their own, and not once did they explain how he seemed to figure these things out. In once instance, he magically realized one of the passengers disguised themselves under a different name giving no explanation as how he came to that realization. Poirot quickly figures out how everyone on board is connected to the crime in some way by seemingly pulling facts about them out of his “you know what.” It obviously comes together in the end, but by that point, all of the fun was taken out of it.

Another issue I had with the film, was that they made the victim of the crime un-sympathizable. You personally didn’t care that this horrible, detestable human being was now dead, and that definitely takes you right out of the movie. It had me wondering why this crime was even trying to be solved. As soon as Poirot realized who the victim really was, he should have closed the case and called it a day. I find a movie far more engaging when you truly want justice to be served to the person who committed the murder.

I will say this, I have never read the book or watched the television show, therefore, I have nothing to compare this film to, nor am I certain on how closely the movie follows either one of them. But, what I do know is, this film was definitely set up for a sequel based upon how it ended, and if they do end up making it, I truly hope the plot will be much more interesting than this one.

If you really want to check this film out, go on a discounted movie day. This was definitely not worth a full priced ticket!

Happy Death Day Review

Rating: 💀💀💀

I was already so excited for this movie to come out because slashers are my favorite horror genre, and I thought this concept for a film was pretty awesome. It was definitely a horror version of Groundhog’s Day with the humor included. Directed by Christopher Landon and produced by Jason Blum, the story focuses around college student Tree, played by Jessica Roth, who is murdered on her birthday and has to keep reliving that day over and over again until she finds out who her killer is.

This movie was a lot of fun, and obviously not one to take too seriously, as any story where the day keeps looping is bound to have some plot holes that you can sit and pick at endlessly. The point of the film is to suspend your disbelief for the sake of entertainment and I did just that. I thoroughly enjoy movies where you have to figure out who the killer is, and can play detective to try and determine each character’s motive. I did, however, figure this one out fairly quickly, but also began second guessing myself at times, because they were quite successful at trying to throw you off.

I absolutely fell in love with the main character, Tree, who started off in the film as cold-hearted and standoffish, but grows as a person throughout the movie when seeing how her constant actions hurt the people around her. She not only gets a chance to solve her own murder, but also gets a chance to make things right by going from selfish to selfless. Tree’s character also brought a lot of humor to the film. One of the more memorable sequences being the diner scene with Carter (the guy whose dorm room she keeps waking up in) when she lets one rip and tells him he won’t remember it tomorrow.

The only downside for me about this film, was the PG-13 rating. It is after all, a slasher movie. The death scenes were super toned down and not much was shown. They could have made each of Tree’s death scenes unique and memorable, but I guess it’s just not the kind of movie they were going for.

Definitely go check this out if you haven’t seen it yet! I don’t think horror fans will be disappointed in this one.

Jeepers Creepers 3

Rating: 💀💀

By Paula

For one night only, Jeepers Creepers 3 had a limited release in theaters, so horror lovers everywhere can get their chance to see it on the big screen. The tagline for the film states, “Third time’s a charm,” but in this case, the third installment in the Creeper franchise wasn’t so charming.

The film stars Meg Foster who plays a distraught grandmother and Stan Shaw who OVER plays his role as Sheriff Tashtego. The story takes place between the first and second film, starting immediately after the first, when a task force is assembled by Sgt. Tubbs and Tashtego in hopes of destroying the Creeper for good before it disappears for another 23 years.

The tone in this film compared to the previous two installments was entirely different. The first film was dark and haunting, but this third entry came off as more campy and borderline silly. The interactions between Sheriff Tashtego and Sgt. Tubbs were completely overacted and over dramatic which did not fit in with the rest of the film’s atmosphere. The slow motion effect was way overused in the film and ruined what could have been cogent, compelling scenes. The majority of the film takes place during daylight, which to me, is an absolute horror movie killer (no pun intended). The darkness is half of what sets the mood for an entire sequence or movie, and what made the first film so frightening. Also, seeing the Creeper constantly in broad daylight throughout the film made him less menacing.

The CGI and graphics in the film were very B movie-ish, but obviously they didn’t have much of a budget to begin with. I kept saying to myself throughout the movie that it reminded me of something I’d be at home watching from my couch instead of watching at the movie theater. I did still give the film two skulls because although it wasn’t at all comparable to the first film, I don’t mind a fun campy horror film from time to time. Some of the death scenes were actually pretty decent and it had a fair amount of blood and gore. The cameo from Gina Philips at the end was a nice little surprise which clearly hinted at more films in the future for this franchise.

All in all, if you’re hoping for another scary Creeper film, you will be sorely disappointed. But, if you’re just looking for a fun fall creature feature, then it would be worth checking out once it gets released on VOD and Blu-ray.