Plenty of creepy apparitions and psycho killers in this streak of 5 films I streamed over the weekend, so there were moments of chills, thrills, and brutal killing, but overall, none of these films brought anything new or exciting to my personal horror history. Here’s the rundown.
HOTEL HELL (2012)
This is a tight little indie horror anthology with a wraparound, three stories that feature familiar but varied and always watchable scenarios, some good performances, and quite serviceable horror atmosphere. For me, the only downside is that each already cliché story sets us up for a much more intense and shocking ending than the predictable, surprisingly anti-climactic conclusions we get.
The wraparound has a very weird paranormal investigator touring a supposedly haunted hotel while telling a videographer tales of terror. The stories don’t take place in the hotel, which is usually how these location-specific anthologies work, but that might be because this film was originally titled The Damned Thing – clowns and hotels are simply more marketable these days. Also, only one of the stories is actually about paranormal activity….
1st story – After moving into a new house with her husband, a woman begins to have terrifying encounters with a creepy man in black.
2nd story – Bullied as a child on Halloween, a boy spends years working out and creating a freaky clown mask to enact Halloween night revenge on his bully.
3rd story –A trio of friends heads into the woods to make a Bigfoot documentary, but encounters backwoods crazies instead.
Making up for the underwhelming shorts, the wraparound actually delivers a final boy, a chase scene, and a twist involving two of the three stories—no idea why the third wasn’t incorporated as well to fully tie it all together.
21st CENTURY SERIAL KILLER (2012)
(aka: Killing Me, aka: Killer Clowns Part II)
Here’s how studios and distributors really kill any chance of a film being appreciated for what it is—re-market it under a title to cash in on name recognition (after it has already been re-edited and re-released under a different new title once before). Killer Clowns Part I as listed on Amazon is actually the unrelated clown film Sloppy the Psychotic, which I blog about here (what the fuck am I doing with my life?). The truth is, there’s only one person dressed as a clown in this film, and only for about 5 kill-free minutes.
The plot is narrated by the protagonist, who explains that he’s dreamed of a career as a serial killer since he was a child. Problem is, he doesn’t have the guts to do it, so he tries various other jobs while researching serial killers. He ends up working at a post office, the perfect drab setting for the first drab 40 minutes of this 75-minute film. Finally, he teams up with an actual serial killer, who takes him on a killing spree in an attempt to get him to break into the business. Then, there’s a twist at the end.
Moody and dark with quirky characters and some mean-spirited murders in the second half, 21st Century Serial Killer has some good performances by the cast, but it is too low energy for my tastes, isn’t quite in line with my sense of dark humor, and in general is just not my taste in movies. But if you’re a fan of films that get into the mind of the killer and are a bit of a downer – think The Last Horror Movie – you might want to check this one out.
Ghostlight is a supernatural drama that delivers some eerie atmosphere and a few jump scares, but runs too long considering its goal is to not go very far. It would have worked better as a 30-minute ghost story in an anthology film.
A radio contest gives a man a chance to win a lot of money…if he can stay locked in an abandoned theater overnight. His wife doesn’t want him to do it because there have been numerous murders in the place and she’s having nightmarish dreams about it.
The man spends most of the movie roaming around the dark theater with a flashlight, getting spooked by various theater props and seeing black and white flashbacks of murders that took place there. Meanwhile, the wife is at home having paranormal experiences and talking with the ghost of their deceased daughter. And really, that’s it. The movie isn’t propelled forward very much, as it’s really more about the husband and wife coming to terms with the death of their daughter, which leads to a bit of a spiritual conclusion.
Keep an eye out for Russell Hodgkinson – aka, Doc in Z Nation – in a minor role.
DEAD END (2014)
Dead End is essentially two horror subgenres in one movie. Both are presented with the right look and feel, and each had potential to be a damn good indie film on its own. The big problem is, neither gets the full attention it deserves. The minor problem is, both parts rely heavily on bogus jump scares, causing it to lose its potency fast.
The film begins as a slasher, with a masked figure going around hacking people up with a machete. The score, the atmosphere, and even the cheesy gore pretty much nail it. And as the film progresses, we discover it revolves around Valentine’s Day, with kids partying then sitting around a campfire talking about the killer, complete with a prank scare.
The other part of the film is about a young reporter covering the murders. She lands smack in the middle of a ghost story, complete with a J-horror type ghost girl terrorizing her.
Once again, the film manages to do a good job of delivering what it’s going for, but like I said, the two subplots end up feeling disjointed for quite a while, and each only gets partial focus in the film. As a result, I never felt fully immersed in the story.
OUIJA SUMMONING (2015)
Mashing up the Ouija craze, the creepy ghost girl in a white nightgown craze, the passing on a death sentence craze, and the possession craze, Ouija Summoning at least does a decent job of delivering the atmosphere, tone, and cheap scares of all said genres to make a genuine horror film. But not surprisingly, the plot is a bit of a mess, which just killed it for me.
I think the basic premise is that there’s this Ouija board with a spirit in it that looks for victims to carry on a tradition of killing a single loved one. That gets all jumbled up when we meet a teen whose mother gives her an enthusiastic sendoff when she heads into the woods to camp in a tent with two boys. Um…okay.
The kids stop at a crime scene just long enough to grab a Ouija board from it. They use the board, the teen is terrorized by a woman with long black hair and wearing a nightgown, she has death dreams about her grandmother, who then begins acting weird, she calls in a priest, he wants to do an exorcism…I’m getting a headache just trying to make enough sense of it to write about it.
Bottom line, it has plenty of ghostly atmosphere (the nightgown bitch floating past the cute boyfriend’s car is killer), it’s just hard to stick with the story.