Naturally I’m going to check out better-known titles in between all the awesome indie trash I watch, so it was time to catch up on a few newbies. They all had their moments, but only one was a winner for me.
V/H/S 1985 (2023)
This anthology series is getting more and more messy, to the point that each time this installment jumped to a new clip, it took me a while to figure out if we were in a new story, revisiting a story that hadn’t concluded earlier, or being thrown to one of the weird “commercial interruptions” that pop up in this excessive, two-hour long installment.
As far as I can tell, these were the stories:
1st – friends out on a boat while camping get targeted by a sniper. This one has some sort of paranormal aspect it seems, but no conclusion…at the moment…so it’s not immediately clear we’ve entered another story…
2nd story – especially since that story sort of becomes a wraparound. Scientists are studying someone in a lab, and this becomes a serialized story that we keep revisting.
3rd story – a Spanish story with English subtitles, this is about a crew trapped under a collapsing building. There’s some entertaining horror at the end when they discover what’s under there with them, along with the usual frenetic camera work to make it hard to see what the hell is going on, but this is a pretty cliché premise overall.
4th story – this is a quickie in which a woman doing a presentation on technology overtaking life is attacked by a virtual reality monster.
5th story – this one is connected to the camping story and sort of attempts to give us an understanding of who was targeting the campers and why, but it is just as inconclusive as its partner story.
6th story – the vicious and gory first-person kills are the highlight of this tale about a goth teen who claims he dreams about the murders before they happen.
The film concludes with that science lab wraparound, and at least it ends strong with a creature on the loose. My vote is that the next installment is called “V/H/S – Beta wars 1981.
TALK TO ME (2022)
This is how you do a throwback to the evil specter movies of the early 2000s while giving it a fresh twist. Combining Ouija board vibes with ghosts and possession, Talk to Me is fast-paced, frightening, brutal, and sad.
Our main girl is dealing with the loss of her mother when she goes with her best friend and the best friend’s little brother to a party. The unusual “game” they play involves siting at a table and holding a petrified human hand one of the guests just happens to have…um…on hand.
First you say “talk to me” to the hand. Instead of responding “talk to the hand”, the hand reveals a corpse sitting across from you. Then you say, “I let you in”, after which you are temporarily possessed by the corpse’s spirit…theoretically.
This fresh and freaky concept plays out with great suspense and tension, and while some might argue that it’s ridiculous that the kids keep doing it despite how disturbing and intense it is, it’s pretty clear that the trick becomes addictive and they can’t help themselves.
Things go terrible when the best friend’s younger brother decides to try it. You’re guaranteed to feel so bad for this kid, because it gets brutal. And when this movie wants to get nasty, it gets nasty, including a gross eye scene and an even grosser than gross foot sucking scene. That’s right. I’d rather see an eye removal than a foot BJ.
Our main girl has to figure out how to stop the spirits that begin terrorizing her. In the process, she just keeps digging herself into a deeper hole of horror. This flick is just awesome, and it even sends a message about putting suffering out of its misery.
THE BOOGEYMAN (2023)
This adaptation of a Stephen King story is an example of how not to make a throwback to the evil specter movies of the early 2000s.
The problem is the fucking lights. I felt like I was revisiting Sinister all over again. Turn on a fucking light! Lightless house settings are one of the laziest damn techniques for creating atmosphere.
We’re talking about a teenager (played by the young version of Juliette Lewis from Yellowjackets) and her little sister being terrorized by some sort of boogeyman that borrows from the Darkness Falls concept (there’s even a tooth stealing scene), yet they never turn on a damn light in their home when they think the boogeyman is hiding in the shadows.
For example, instead of turning on a kitchen light, the teen sister opens the fricking refrigerator. Another example is the little sister, who is already terrified, sitting in the dark playing a video game and then using the flashes from onscreen shooting to fend off the creature. Someone seriously thought this was clever and wrote it into a script.
Having said that, the CGI boogeyman…which is a four-legged creature, not a boogeyman…is pretty cool and finally sees the light in the final act, which is an action-packed extravaganza.