Aliens, a tentacle, a giant croc, and a demon. So which ones deliver on the chills and thrills?
ATTACK OF THE UNKNOWN (2020)
If SyFy bothered to show anything other than Harry Potter movies these days, this film would be in heavy rotation on alien invasion movie marathon days. Oh how I miss those days.
The thing about this movie is that there’s an hour of mostly pointless nonsense before getting to the good stuff.
First a mob hiding out in a warehouse has a shootout with law enforcement. The whole mob aspect adds nothing to the plot other than a lot of gunfire.
Richard Grieco, who looks too exhausted to even act these days, is a member of a SWAT team. After a gratuitous strip club scene, he finds out tragic news about himself. Then his team has to transport a criminal to prison.
Meanwhile, a ship crashes to earth, a mother ship hovers over the city, and an eclectic group of people trying to escape in a car is introduced. They are more entertaining than the entire SWAT plot. Too bad they are incinerated within minutes.
The awesome aliens first walk around in spacesuits and kill people with their black appendages. Then the prisoner randomly tells a story about his family’s history with “vampires from the sky”. This out of place flashback to western days features an odd cameo by Tara Reid.
Things finally get good an hour in when the aliens remove the helmets and wreak havoc in the prison. It should not have taken an hour to get to this. The aliens are cool, plus there’s some gore, plenty of action, and even some humor that never quite lets the otherwise serious movie find its tone.
INTO THE DARK: TENTACLES (2021)
Hulu’s Into the Dark series returns and once again manages to ruin the holiday of the month by not actually being about the holiday of the month. If you consider “Valentine horror” to be any horror movie in which there’s a love relationship, then I guess this qualifies. It doesn’t for me.
It’s also not scary or suspenseful. A girl and guy meet at an open house and, I kid not, immediately get sexy together and decide to live together.
Their relationship is just unnaturally weird from the start, which I guess is kind of the point. The movie is all about their relationship. The female is also keeping secrets about an ex, while the guy keeps bleeding from his ear.
At the end, there’s a tentacle that really gets in the middle of their relationship for a brief moment. The end.
This killer croc movie is plenty suspenseful all along, but only sets itself apart by delivering a fricking fantastic final scene.
Just as a warning, the first scene plays out like a clip from a National Geographic show, with a croc dragging a bull into the water. And the animal insensitivity comes back for more later when ***SPOILER*** a dog is shown being gobbled down by the croc after the incident was already implied from off screen with one of those whimpering dog sound effects. ***END SPOILER***
Michael Vartan plays an American journalist in Australia. He goes on a boat tour of gorgeous Australian landscapes with horror queen Radha Mitchell as the tour guide. We get to see some boy booty when two locals come by in a boat and moon the tourists.
The tour boat eventually springs a leak and is grounded on a tiny piece of land, and a good chunk of the movie focuses on the group of tourists trying to get to higher land across the way because the water is starting to rise.
Plenty of suspenseful scenes abound, but there’s a surprisingly low body count for a killer croc movie.
But that final scene is one of the best croc horror sequences ever!
THEY REACH (2020)
This little indie is getting compared to Stranger Things because it’s about a group of tweens experiencing the supernatural in a small town in another decade. The film really feels like it takes place in a small town because there’s an oddly low energy vibe that even affects the pacing.
It’s 1979, but the people look like they haven’t left 1972, missed out on the disco era, and have no idea the early 80s new wave movement is breathing down their necks. I guess that’s why to this day women in small towns still have butch 1982 hairstyles. It was a relief when the main kids busted out a chord of “I Wanna Be Sedated” to show that at least they’re moving forward even if the adults aren’t.
The story is about a girl that scores an old tape recorder at a thrift shop. While trying to get it to work with her dad, she is cut and bleeds on it. Uh-oh.
A demon is released and the kids have to figure out how to send it back. It takes a while, but the film finally finds a light, humorous vibe…just as the demon comes out to play. It’s actually just demon hands. That’s all we ever see until one brief shot of the face near the end, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to when and how the demon appears. It just seems to reach out of dark spaces wherever and whenever it wants to. Supposedly it jumps from body to body, but that aspect doesn’t play out quite clearly.
The likable characters, funny moments, and lack of intense creature action make this more of a family horror film. It even ends light…with a cover of the band Bread’s soft rock classic “Everything I Own”.