With streaming services consuming our lives these days, and the fear that if we don’t watch that shit fast it’ll be gone, I’ve been putting off viewing DVR recordings for longer periods of time. It was getting all blocked up, so it was time to purge!
Carles Torrens, director of Apartment 143, offers up a film that sounds so much like just another case of a stalker abducting a girl and torture porning her for 90 minutes that I would have passed over it on streaming services. I’m so glad it was on cable, because I record every horror movie that airs in an attempt to get a return on my investment.
Dominic Monaghan of Lost stars as the weirdo working as a security guard at an animal shelter when he runs into a girl he used to go to school with. She’s polite enough, but she really doesn’t remember him.
Commence stalking. And abducting.
Conveniently, there are unused cages in the basement of the shelter, and all the barking dogs drown out any cries for help. I was immediately annoyed at what a sniveling mess of a main girl we were stuck with.
Man, was I wrong. We need more Ksenia Solo, whose only pseudo-horror appearance is in Black Swan, because she rules. She begins to play her abductor at his own game as a power struggle takes place between the two.
This isn’t a physical battle—it’s all mind-fucking. No worries about gruesome torture, and there’s only limited gore as well. The really sick part of Pet is how it plays out…
THE MAZE (2010)
There’s a double dose of director Stephen Shimek in this blog, starting with The Maze. This is basic slasher stuff about a group of friends that sneaks into a corn maze after closing time. I love that one of the girls is basically like, “This is going to get old and boring fast.”
To cut down on the boredom…they split up to play hide & seek, leading to the usual faux scares, nicely packaged in excellent atmosphere and the spirit of post-Scream slashers, with suspense, tension, chases, and kills that are all blade-oriented and brutal, but low on detailed gore.
The only real issue is that the killer is some fricking scrawny dude in a red hoodie, yet everyone’s running in terror like they’re being chased by Leatherface wearing Freddy’s glove while Chucky rides piggyback waving Jason’s machete.
The big surprise is that the whole maze craze only lasts 55 minutes, with the remaining 35 minutes moving to a police station for the main girl chase and a particularly long-winded twist. It makes for a unique final act, but I was still left thinking, “So what the fuck was this killer’s deal?”
Next, Stephen Shimek takes on the Ouija board craze. You know, back in the 80s, there was one fricking Ouija board movie. The cheesy sequels didn’t come until the 90s. These days, someone could make a movie about a killer toothpick, and no matter how fucking dumb the concept, within a year, there would be at least a dozen more horror flicks about toothpicks.
So yeah. Kids play with a Ouija board at a party, which brings up old wounds about prom. Then they play a game of “Never have I ever” that also goes bad. So clearly there are issues between them, as well as personal issues that come out as the night drags on.
And then one chick starts to act all weird. You know, possessed and shit. Aside from the awesome scene where she fucks the soul out of a guy with her va-jay-jay, this movie is like “serious” horror dealing with everyone’s issues rather than scary horror.
The possessed chick simply goes around making everyone confront their self-loathing then giving them all the ammo they need to just kill themselves. Hell, she even gives them a gun for that ammo.
What do you get when you cross police procedural horror, psychological profile horror, found footage, and séance/possession horror? A narrative so choppy that there’s absolutely no building of tension or fear.
Hottie Frank Grillo of The Purge franchise is the detective, Maria Bello (Lights Out, The Dark) is the psychologist, and they’re on the case when kids turn up dead at an old house. One kid is still alive and tells his story to the psychologist in found footage flashbacks…
He and his friends went to do a documentary about murders in the house in which one guy’s mom grew up.
They explore the house, doors lock, paintings burst into flames, they have a séance, and finally someone gets “demonic” and chases everyone with an axe.
Just watch Nocturne. And I don’t say that lightly.
After the first segment of V/H/S delighted many horror fans with its horny “I like you” girl, it was no surprise when an announcement was made that she was getting her own full-length movie. Siren comes from director Gregg Bishop (Dance of the Dead), who did bring us a story from V/H/S Viral, but not the story on which this movie is based.
Along with original scary girl Hannah Fierman reprising her role, this sausagfest includes a bunch of horror guys:
- Chase Williamson (The Guest, Beyond The Gates, John Dies at the End)
- Justin Welborn (The Crazies, The Final Destination, The Signal, Dance of the Dead, Beyond the Gates, Southbound, V/H/S Viral, The Bay, Pelt, Halloween II, Plague of the Damned, My Super Psycho Sweet 16)
- Michael Aaron Milligan (Don’t Kill It, Shark Lake, V/H/S Viral, Dance of the Dead, The Wake)
- Randy McDowall (Paranormal Activity, One Missed Call, Dance of the Dead, V/H/S/ Viral).
Siren is just what you’d expect when a highly effective short is expanded – it’s a predictable creature feature that dilutes the monster’s mystique by adding too much backstory that makes her much less terrifying, yet still provides some fun but familiar thrills.
Buddies go to a private strip club party in the middle of nowhere for a bachelor party, and the groom is ushered into a private peep room with…our scary girl! She sings a mysterious song that gives him hallucinatory orgasms, and then he becomes convinced she’s the victim of sex trafficking and that they need to break her out. BIG mistake.
Now they’re on the run from her and the guys from the underground strip club, who want her back. There’s plenty of crazy action, suspense, and freaky girl moments, but it’s definitely a far cry from the succinct, chilling story told in the original short from V/H/S and has the huge disadvantage of not having the advantage of surprise. We know this chick’s deal.
When watching Behemoth, I was reminded of the lack of closure that keeps me mourning the sudden cancellation of 2 Broke Girls, because it stars Max’s on-again/off-again boyfriend and horror hottie Ed Quinn.
He’s the bright side.
The down side is, this is SyFy Original monster movie stuff at its most boring. Tremors start hitting the earth in the town where Quinn does construction. An old man is convinced it’s a sign of the end of the world, and that a giant creature in the big mountain nearby is coming to get them all. He’s right.
While Quinn’s off dealing with the death of one of his men due to the quakes, his sister and her boyfriend hike up the mountain. It’s funny when they’re attacked by CGI tentacles and a giant eye peers from the mountain wall, but it really is one of my worst nightmares when they are hanging on the edge of a fricking sinkhole from hell and a monster starts chomping up out of the center.
As bad as the CGI is and as hokey as the movie is (naturally Quinn has to head into the mountain to save his sis), it looks pretty cool in a 60s SyFy monster movie throwback way when the monster bursts out of the mountain. And it’s straight up video game shit when Quinn busts out a rocket launcher. He even looks like he’s having fun and knows he’s going to take this final boss down the first time.
OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL (2016)
Set in the 60s, this prequel focuses on a widowed mother and her two daughters, who run a business doing bogus séances to help grieving people find closure (I need to go to them to get over 2 Broke Girls). When the teen daughter has an encounter with a Ouija board at a party, the mother decides to start using one in their séances.
The younger daughter gets her fingers on it, officially guaranteeing young actress Lulu Wilson (Deliver Us from Evil, Annabelle: Creation) a spot on every list of scariest kids in horror from this point on. Her performance is chilling.
While the film is at times entrenched in cheap modern ghost/possession film scare tactics to appeal to tweens that thought the first film was the scariest movie ever (it’s most guilty of this in the final act, when Henry Thomas steps in as the priest for the exorcism), the buildup leading to the money shots is what really gets under your skin.
The movie makes the effort to demonstrate why the Ouija board is able to target and influence this family, giving much more depth to a generally throwaway horror subgenre. The throwaway part comes in the slapped together, absurdly extravagant explanation dumped in near the end of the film as to why there are supernatural forces in the house.
The film smoothly incorporates elements of the first film, such as the sewn mouth and planchette looking glass aspects, and even ties the films together directly if you stick around until after the closing credits.
But the scene that really did it for me is the moment when we actually see the evil force enter the little girl. Beginning with her complaining about her neck hurting, it has never been presented in quite this way, and it’s truly nightmarish.
And I’ll admit, the final jump scare is a hoot in all its cheesiness.