The hits and misses never end. Here’s a new handful of horror goodies (and baddies).
THE DARKEST HOUR (2011)
Emile Hirsch, the cutie from teen flick The Girl Next Door, comes to Moscow with his buddy for a business meeting. While at a club they meet two girls, but within minutes there’s a blackout (can you imagine that at a club?), everyone ends up on the street, and these beautiful amber blobs of light fall from the sky…and start incinerating people!
Generally, this is a really fun and suspenseful take on the alien invasion film. The four pretty Americans have to stay alive in a completely decimated city as they are chased by these orbs—which are fricking invisible most of the time. But there’s one way to know they are near; they give off electrical pulses that turn on anything electric in the vicinity. It’s a thrilling premise that makes for some tense moments.
As expected, the usual characters are present. There’s a self-serving asshole. One girl (Rachael Taylor of the short-live 666 Park Avenue) starts to lose it and thereby makes some dumb, risky decisions. And there’s a love connection. But most importantly, there are plenty of “chase” scenes of the kids trying to escape the invisible alien light blobs.
The movie isn’t without its absurdities, which reminded me of some of the stupidity of Cloverfield. These kids are convinced they are going to get home to the U.S. and everything will be alright. They also become as brilliant as the kids from Red Dawn, taking on an advanced army that even the military failed to stop.
And on top of all that, all the Russians they meet are so hospitable and nice. No offense to Russians, but I tend to think of them as a bunch of gay-killing psychos who hate Americans as well….
BENEATH THE DARKNESS (2011)
Dennis Quaid works his evil acting chops in this clone of movies like The Stepfather and Suburbia. This type of film is always fun for some cheap thrills.
A bunch of pretty high school kids believes there’s a ghost living in Dennis Quaid’s house. So they spy on his house. They sneak into his house. They discover something horrific. He catches them. And shit gets serious fast. Something awful happens and the sheriff believes him, not the kids. So they set out to prove he’s a psycho.
You’ve seen it all before. But this time, the kids are well-versed in literature (Poe and Shakespeare are big topics of discussion), one of the kids had a ghost experience as a kid that adds a supernatural element, and since they live in Texas, there’s a bit of social commentary, including Quaid saying, “In Texas, we can shoot burglars.” Well, Ye-ha!
THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN (2014)
The Taking of Deborah Logan is a found footage flick that pretty much mashes up Paranormal Activity and The Last Exorcism. A medical student and crew come to film the deterioration of a woman with Alzheimer’s, who lives in a creepy old house with her drunken lesbian daughter, played by the wacky sister from Mad About You. The presentation of the disease’s effect on those involved is quite sad.
The woman paints pictures of her garden with a mysterious shadow of a man in it every time—and keeps them covered in scary haunted house sheets. She also walks aimlessly around the house at night and stands staring out the window. And that’s pretty much the movie’s way of setting the eerie tone. She’s constantly walking in the background in a white robe or standing with her back to us. This great actress spends the majority of the time with her back to us. It’s scary…the first few times.
BOO! Did it work that time?
Adding to the forced terror, the film crew feels the need to walk around the house, in the dark, with only flashlights, constantly. Even when things get terrifying and they realize they aren’t just dealing with a woman suffering from dementia, they still run through the house scared and whispering, turning on no lights. Being this unrealistically set up to be bombarded by jump scares, approximately two out of fifty actually work because it just gets way too predictable and repetitive. How many times can I jump out of my seat re-watching a flashlight getting closer and closer to the woman’s back until she turns around making a scary face and screaming at the camera? Not to mention, even though this is “found footage,” the filmmakers have opted to add music “stings” to cue the scares.
The Taking of Deborah Logan kind of runs off the rails, with the characters going on a scavenger hunt around town and ending up in tunnels and caves. The light keeps going out and the camera keeps coping out, two sure signs that we are again about to be shocked into terror when they come back on and something horrific has suddenly appeared in front of the lens. Eventually there’s a scene involving camera night vision that is pretty much stolen directly from [REC].
Despite using every cheap found footage technique in the book to spook us, The Taking of Deborah Logan does have a fun (if predictable) plot twist and is totally worth watching just to see the freaky thing the old lady becomes at the end of the film. I was so tempted to post a pic of it here because it’s so freaky awesome, but I’ve refrained.
DEAD SOULS (2012)
The opening of Dead Souls is cool, with some crazy dude in a farmhouse dragging his family members out to a barn and crucifying them some seventeen years ago.
Cut to the present and some eighteen year old kid gets called to that house because he’s about to inherit it. His mother begs him not to go. But he does. Think he’s related to those people from the beginning of the movie?
Once in the creepy house that’s now his, he discovers there’s some chick about his age hanging out there. They strike up a friendship, explore the house—which is accompanied by endless false alarm musical stings to scare us—and find the usual: photo album, creepy doll, etc. Pretty soon, the two of them are seeing people around the house who aren’t really there when they look again.
This goes on for a LONG time. The most rewarding part is some woman singing a really spooky version of the spider and the fly song. Then Bill Moseley appears as someone who has been investigating what happened in the house years ago, and various people show up, seemingly possessed, to kill our main guy.
Pretty much nothing about this movie is unpredictable.