Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Blade in the Dark (1983)

After spending a lot of time binging on a few different television series, I decided that it was time to take a look at something a touch older and in ways darker. That is when I stumbled on the 1983 giallo A Blade in the Dark in Shudder.

Plot/ A killer stalks a composer staying at a posh Tuscany villa while writing the score to a horror film which has an incriminating clue to the killer's identity.

To me, there is nothing more fun in cinema than sitting back and taking in a classic Italian giallo flick and that is what this Lamberto Bava entry is. This one has enough mystery and suspects to offer many different avenues for Bava to orchestrate the formula perfectly. While there are some flaws (which we will get to), it is the positives that make this one an entertaining watch.  The pacing is solid, the atmosphere dark, and heavy, the performances are decent, and the storyline is detailed and layered (plus, there is a decent amount of blood and gore). Sure, there are some head scratching and uneven moments, the body count is relatively low (up until the ending), and there are times where things do feel a touch rushed with the dubbed dialog, but those elements are easy to overlook when thinking about the entirety of the film. In the end, this is both an entertaining and finely crafted thriller that is a solid entry into the giallo archives. Sure, there are things that could be debated, but for me, I think it is a great entry in the Bava catalog and a movie that should be seen.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Mindhunter - Season One (2017)

After finishing my binge of Salem, I was drawn in by the idea of creating a true crime series off a nonfiction best seller. What I found was amazing, as the Netflix Original series Mindhunter is truly captivating.

Plot/ In the late 1970s, two FBI agents expand criminal science by delving into the psychology of murder and getting uneasily close to all-too-real monsters.

Having read Mindhunter when it came out, I was fascinated by the subject matter. When I found the show on Netflix, I had no idea what to expect, but what I found was better than I would have imagined. With a heavy atmosphere and dark storyline, the show comes across in much the same manner as the true crime serial killer entry Zodiac (a must see by the way). While the series does differ from many crime dramas, with little to no actual crime scene visits, the information and power of the dialog truly bring this true crime series to life. The series features solid characters that are perfectly captured by the outstanding cast and their performances, dark and detailed cinematography, and an amazing storyline. Yes, the pacing at times can feel uneven and there is little mystery involved in the overall plot, but those elements are easily overlooked. In the end, it appears that Netflix has hit another home run with this true crime drama. Mindhunter is a tremendous achievement and a show that demonstrates the power of storytelling in a truly educational psychological drama.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Salem - Season Three (2016)

With this being eight days into NaNoWriMo, I am spending time breaking down my own characters in my book. While my project is supernatural in nature, it is not a straight supernatural entry. With that in mind, I decided to binge watch the final season of Salem over the past couple days.

Plot/ The witches’ plan to remake the New World by bringing the Devil to earth and making Salem his capital, but the Devil is a liar, and instead of a New World free from murderous Puritan hypocrisy, his own plan will bring nothing but death and slavery with the ultimate aim of leading humanity to destroy itself. And there’s only one person on earth who can beat the devil — the very witch that birthed him, his mother, Mary Sibley — the only problem is she’s dead. Or is she?

In some ways, I am upset that I finished watching Salem and really think that I may have to break down and purchase it. In many ways, Season Three takes the series to an entirely different arena featuring an insane storyline the delved in many different and darker directions. In fact, the writers seemed to embrace ever taboo that was thought of and decided to bring them to life on the screen. In many ways, this season came across as a modern, almost more action-packed version of something that would have been perfected by Argento or Bava during their artistic peak. The cinematography, performances, practical special effects, and storyline are amazing, and the character development is brought to life perfectly by the cast (Marilyn Manson was crazy) and honestly, it was a shame to see the series end. Yes, there are still some dialog issues that felt out of place and too modern for the period and there were a few disjointed moments that felt out of place, but those issues are extremely minor and did not impact the overall feel of the series in any way. In the end, this was a series that left the air too soon and one that should be seen (especially now that it is available on the different streaming services). If you have finished Stranger Things and are in the mood for a darker more adult period piece, give this series a shot. You may be like me and become a huge fan.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Saw VI (2009)

After being disappointed by both Annabelle and Clowntergeist, I decided that it was time to finish what I started last week and write my last review from the Saw franchise. With that plan in place, here is the review of Saw VI from 2009.

Plot/ Agent Strahm is dead, and FBI agent Erickson draws nearer to Hoffman. Meanwhile, a pair of insurance executives finds themselves in another game set by Jigsaw.

I remember originally watching and now after watching it again, how much better this installment was than Saw V. This movie definitely channeled some of the power of the initial installments and created a movie that brought everything back to where it should have been. This one did make some needed changes to the formula and those were for the better. The performances were solid, the pacing felt perfect, the storyline featured a nice mixture of flashbacks and modern musings, and as usual, the traps were awesome. Yes, there were some uneven moments and the ending did not have quite the effect that the twist endings usually had, but those flaws are minor in comparison to some of the other flaws in the series. In the end, this entry was one of the better installments in the series and a film that must be seen by horror fans and those of the Saw franchise.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Clowntergeist (2017)

Last night when I picked up Annabelle, I also wanted some type of low budget horror. After walking through Family Video with Jo, she picked out the 2017 entry Clowntergeist.

Plot/ Emma, a college student with a crippling fear of clowns, must come face to face with her worst fear when an evil spirit in the body of a clown is summoned terrorizing the town she calls home.

As I have said on here many times, I am all for low-budget to no-budget horror and can usually look past the inherent flaws and find the potential that will exist inside a film. That was not quite the case with this one, as the production values and sound are actually the primary positives in this one. Unfortunately, the storyline is riddled with predictable and clichéd moments, the performances were beyond uneven, the clown was laughable at best, and nothing within the film makes works. In fact, it felt as if the writer used a cookie cutter to cut out and splice together parts from popular movies to make this one. Hell, even the title makes little sense after watching the film. In the end, if you are searching for a thought out low budget flick trying to capitalize on the IT popularity, then this one is for you. If you want something that is entertaining and will offer more than clichéd jump scares, fund something else. I am sure that there are plenty of options out there.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Annabelle: Creation (2017)

With the weekend winding down and the days of NaNoWriMo piling up, it is hard to find time to watch and review movies that will not in any way influence my Man of the Cloth project. After some searching earlier at Family Video, I decided on the 2017 entry Annabelle: Creation.

Plot/ 12 years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, where they soon become the target of the dollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.

This is one movie where I am so happy to have waited until it came to DVD to watch and luckily, for me, we have a Family Video so I didn’t have to even pay full price. This one was a tough watch, as the amount of jump scares and clichéd moments worked to fracture what came across as something extremely disjointed, to begin with. The doll was creepy, and that may be the only real positive that came across from this movie. The storyline was uneven, the actions in the performances were laughable (although Anthony LaPaglia was not bad), and the cinematography, pacing and the overall feel was extremely predictable and nonsensical. It is really that bad. In the end, this movie is one that I believe we could have done without. There is really nothing new inside and it clearly came across as a money grab and rushed production.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Saw V (2008)

Last night I took a break from the computer to go watch Jolene in her advanced theater production of The Elevator Family. With that now over, I figured it was time to get back to my trip into the mind of Jigsaw with Saw V from 2008.

Plot/ Following Jigsaw's grisly demise, Mark Hoffman is commended as a hero, but Agent Strahm is suspicious and delves into Hoffman's past. Meanwhile, another group is put through a series of gruesome tests.

It is funny how much things change, as you grow older, and this movie kind of fits in with that ideology. Up until re-watching the Saw franchise last week, I held this entry in higher regard, but now I have a completely different viewpoint. For me, this one lacked the tremendous plot twist and tension that made the other earlier installments memorable, and most of all not having Jigsaw as a true primary character on screen was quite depressing. While the idea was solid and the storyline had potential to deliver something amazing, this was the first time in the series that everything felt rushed. Sure, the effects were decent, the traps intriguing, and there was enough blood, but even those elements could not make up for the lack of the Jigsaw. On top of that, the performances were uneven and the atmosphere was rather flat. In the end, this entry had a chance to build upon the solid foundation that was left by the earlier entries but failed to hit the mark. More of a thriller than true horror film, this one did not deliver and was rather predictable. If you haven’t seen it, you aren’t missing much.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Salem - Season Two (2015)

For some reason, I have been trapped in a Saw mood lately and while I could continue with a review of Saw V, I decided that I needed to go a different direction tonight and catch up on something I should have written about a few days ago. The next review is for Salem Season Two from 2015.

Plot/ the consequences of the Grand Rite are apparent: Salem is afflicted by a terrible plague and a witch war is on the horizon. Mary is reunited with her son; trying to seize power, Mercy kills the Elders, effectively starting an open fight with the remaining witches; Anne is learning about her powers while keeping them secret; John's fate is revealed; Cotton deals with his failures and his father's death. But Salem's biggest threat comes in the form of the Countess an original witch that is trying to raise the devil. It's soon revealed that the Dark Lord himself possesses Mary’s son, and this starts a full-scale witch war that could destroy the town—and the entire world.

After thoroughly enjoying season one of Salem, it was a no-brainer to dive back into it during the month of October with season 2. What I found when venturing into this is something that pushed the limits even further than it did during the first season. While this fictional tale was interesting and at times somewhat over-the-top, the quality and depth of the storyline made it interesting and the subject matter was perfect for viewers like me that love dark and violent period pieces that are loosely connected to real events. This one definitely continued with the action, the torture, the blood, and the explicit sexual tension that made the first installments adult friendly. In this case, the added details to the storyline with the Grand Rite and the Dark Lord may turn some viewers off, but for me, this was the perfect step that the series should take. As in season one, the characters are interesting and the cast is solid, the cinematography and effects are tremendous, and the action and atmosphere do a great job working in tandem to create an entertaining show. Unfortunately, the series is still littered with historical inaccuracies and the performances are still a touch uneven, and the dialog isn’t where it should be for a period piece. Fortunately, these flaws are easily overlooked and do little to bring the series down. In the end, while this one may not be on the top of the list for some people, it is an entertaining and dark journey into a different time and a series that talks about some subjects that should be talked about. In many ways, the social commentary sprinkled into the storyline speaks volumes about where we are in society today, and that alone makes it a must-see.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Saw IV (2007)

I was rather shocked when I discovered that I had never reviewed the entire Saw franchise, as it is one of my favorite series to watch. Of course, that also gave me an excuse to re-watch them for review purposes. Next up for review is 2007s Saw IV.

Plot/ Despite Jigsaw's death, and in order to save the lives of two of his colleagues, Lieutenant Rigg is forced to take part in a new game, which promises to test him to the limit.

I remember wondering after watching Saw III how the series would continue and went into this one with some trepidation. What I found when watching this one was a layered and complex storyline that took the Jigsaw storyline to a new level and darker depths. As a fan of the series, the twist that the end was perfect, and was something that seemed to almost transport us back to the original ending. The storyline is interesting especially as they dove back into Jigsaw’s history and take you through his journey, the special effects and traps are awesome, and the performances are solid. However, it is the way they overlapped time and stories that really made this one stand out for me. Yes, there are some moments where things seem too coincidental or random and there are a few times, where it almost feels predictable, but those are only minor flaws in the overall production and don’t really impact the quality of the film. In the end, while it did lack some suspense, it made up for that with a quality storyline that is extremely memorable. This is definitely one of my favorites in the series and an entry that must be seen.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Saw 2 (2005)

After spending last night at the Edgar Allan Poe reenactment, I decided that I wanted some violent horror for my Halloween night. Thinking back over the past month, I couldn’t believe that I had never reviewed half of the Saw franchise and figured that I would start that undertaking by revisiting Saw 2 from 2005.

Plot/ A detective and his team must rescue eight people trapped in a factory by the twisted serial killer known as Jigsaw.

The original Saw was one of the best horror/thrillers I had seen. It was atmospheric, dark, and the storyline was tremendous. Creating a sequel to a movie such as that is almost an impossible task. Yet, now after revisiting Saw 2, it is clear that Darren Lynn Bousman did just that with a tightly woven storyline that differs from the original but captures the essence of the classic perfectly. I remember when this one first came out and the clear differences between the two made it an uneven watch for me. However, today, that feeling is completely different. The change with having multiple players in Jigsaws game was the perfect step for the franchise and added layers to the legend of Jigsaw that would pay many dividends throughout the rest of the series. The cast is tremendous, the performances are solid, the dialog, scripting, and storyline were fantastic (the twists made it even more worthwhile), and the gore, traps, and special effects were amazing. Sure, the pit of needles was blah (and honestly still a letdown) and some of the arguments and decisions made by the participants were annoying, but those are only minor flaws. In the end, I am glad that I decided to revisit this one tonight on Halloween; it was so much better than I remembered and a movie that fans like me could have easily overlooked as it was sandwiched between the two best movies made in the franchise (and possibly the genre). If you haven’t seen it or revisited it in a while, I think you should. This is an outstanding movie and one that is perfect for the Halloween season.

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Night with Edgar Allan Poe

With tomorrow being Halloween, it was nice to see the rain from the weekend clear and allow us to get out. Not knowing what tomorrow will hold, i was able to get tickets to see to something different: ANight with Edgar Allan Poe.

Tonight I had a chance to sit back and watch a tremendous performance by literary historian Rob Velella. During this hour and a half show at Fort Necessity Nation Battlefield, he was able to channel his energy and take us into the life and words of Edgar Allan Poe with a combination of well-known and lesser-known works including Shadow A Parable, The Oblong Box and of course, The Raven

This special evening program was held at the Visitor Center at Fort Necessity National Battlefield and the amazing performance drew a packed house. For me, as a huge Poe fan it was nice to see such such a diverse group on hand to learn about the works of one of the greatest authors of all time. Especially in a performance that was both entertaining and informative. 

Velella, who is an independent literary historian and playwright specializing in American literature of the 19th century, created the perfect character and seemed to flow through the material effortlessly. I would highly recommend checking out a performance if you get a chance.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Having returned from a wet but amazing trip to Haunted Hills Estates, it was time to cocoon myself in a blanket and review the movie I decided on after watching Jigsaw last night. That movie was the 1981 classic An American Werewolf in London.  

Plot/ Two American college students on a walking tour of Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists.

Even after all these years, this movie remains one of the best werewolf films ever made. Complete with a great mixture of comedy, drama, gore, and horror, everything seems to fall perfectly into place. The storyline is both entertaining and interesting, the performances are outstanding, the dialog and scripting work and the special effects are tremendous, as they still run circles around much of the subpar work that is seen in films today. Most importantly, between the soundtrack and the masterful work of director John Landis, everything works to create a dark but uplifting atmosphere in a film that is an easy watch and one that has more than stood the test of time. Sure, there are some predictable elements and the movie feels a touch short, but those are very small flaws within a movie that is a must-see for all horror fans. In the end, this is a classic take on the werewolf genre and a movie that should continue to be the standard that all others in the genus should strive to achieve. If you have not seen it, you are missing out. Find it and check it out.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Jigsaw (2017)

The weather outside today is absolutely miserable and I have until tomorrow for my trip to Haunted Hills Estates. While I could have sat and watched some type of horror flick, instead, I decided to head out to the theater to see the next entry in the Saw franchise, 2017s Jigsaw.

Plot/ Bodies are turning up around the city, each having met a uniquely gruesome demise. As the investigation proceeds, evidence points to one suspect: John Kramer, the man known as Jigsaw, who has been dead for ten years.

I was fun being back in the theater for one of my favorite franchises. For me, it has been too long, with the last time being for the Halloween re-release of the original a few years ago. While this one did not quite reach the level of the originals, there were many facets that left me again wanting more. The pacing was perfect, with the layered storyline continually moving forward instead of wavering during the non-action sequences, the storyline was interesting and tied into the series in a perfect way, the characters again were diverse and amazing, and the way the layers of the storyline worked together to create a subtle mystery was again refreshing. In fact, for me, those layered aspects of the story have always been one of the strong points of the series and often go unnoticed or are underappreciated by those that are watching the series. While all of those aspects worked, the performances were a touch uneven with the delivery of some of the well-placed humor in the script falling short, the graphic elements that made many entries of the original series were lacking by comparison, and the overall tension seemed a bit flat (which again falls on the uneven performances). In the end, while this one does not rise to the original Saw or Saw 3, it does do a great job at bringing the storyline back to life and hopefully, allow for more entries in this series. Is it perfect? No, but it was much better than many of the recent horror flicks I have seen over the past few years and a great way to bring some blood back to the Halloween season. Plus, it wasn’t PG-13, a fact alone that should make horror fans happy.