reviews

It’s been a good couple of years for the horror genre. Break out hits like Get Out, A Quite Place, The WitchHereditary and The Girl With All The Gifts have ushered in a creative renaissance and have earned top box office dollars. The trend of  psychological mind-fuckery and deep metaphors has most certainly changed the expectations of what a horror movie can be. Not saying that’s a negative change. Damn well written and well thought out stories will always be a GOOD thing. But there is nothing wrong with making a few classic slasher flicks with old-fashioned scares. That style of horror are few and far between these days, but there are still those interested in them. After all, they would get to make scary movies featuring obnoxious teenagers getting killed in various fucked up ways from a masked killer. Sometimes that’s just absurd, dark fun. Such is the case with new horror film – Hell Fest (more…)

As the month of Halloween nears, the creepy and horrific only becomes more and more exciting. In the world of video games, almost nothing is more bloody and exhilarating than Dead by Daylight, the best multiplayer game where you can happily kill your friends.

Dead By Daylight is an asymmetric survival game that was released in the summer of 2016. Players can either be survivors working in teams of four to escape a killer’s murder arena, or as the killer hunting down the survivors. The base game came with 5 different survivor options and 4 killers. In the past two years, that has expanded to 14 survivors and 13 killers. Some have been added to the game for free, but others exist as low-cost DLCs.

The game came out amidst a few others similar to it, but its largest competitor, Friday The 13th, ended its updates earlier this year because of decreased sales. Right now, Dead By Daylight is the king of its fun, niche genre.

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Eli Roth” and “family film” are probably the last four words anyone, especially fans of Roth’s hard-R, exploitation genre efforts, would expect to read in a sentence, but Roth (Green Inferno, Knock Knock, Hostel, Cabin Fever) has done the near impossible: He’s semi-successfully reinvented himself as the family-friendly, kindler, gentler Spielberg-inspired filmmaker he apparently always wanted to be. An Amblin produced adaptation of John Bellairs’ 1973 novel for young readers (a nameless marketing executive hadn’t coined “Young Adult” yet) – with Goth-inspired illustrations from Edward Gorey – The House with a Clock in Its Walls delivers CGI-aided, kid-friendly, blood- and gore-free shocks and scares mixed in with the usual supply of stock story elements, an eccentric, but not too eccentric, adventurous lead character, and familiar, if not exactly unwelcome, comfort-zone performances from Jack Black and Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett. (more…)

Netflix recently dropped season 2 of Marvel’s Iron Fist, a show with an overwhelmingly panned first season. As the fourth series to round out  “The Defenders” hero group of New York, the first season failed to do much except set up plot for The Defenders itself. Its main hero was annoying, parts of it were boring, and it quickly became known as the worst Marvel series to exist.

But what about season 2?

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In Hollywood, there is no try. There’s do (and fail), fail (and do) until something, anything inevitably sticks with moviegoers, breathing new life into a thirty-year-old series in desperate need of reinvention, The Predator, co-written and directed by Shane Black (The Nice Guys, Iron Man 3, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), proves what 20th Century Fox executives should have known – or maybe they’ve known all along – the Predator series should never have been a series. It should have stopped at one. The Predator was – and continues to be – near impossible to beat, let alone match, the combo of peak Arnold, ace action-director John McTiernan (Die Hard), and a dreadlocked, crab-faced, spine-ripping alien hunter caught up in jungle-set, deadly game of hide-and-seek. Bigger, faster, and armed with super-advanced tech, the Predator bloodily dispatched well-armed (in every sense) mercs, but proved no match for the former Mr. Universe (a/k/a, the Austrian Oak). Arnold, however, smartly stayed away from every sequel or spin-off greenlit by Fox in the misguided hope they could capture the magic of the original. They couldn’t and they haven’t. (more…)

PAX West 2018 showcased hordes of new games and pixelated adventures. However, one that was quietly unique was a graphic novel game focused on queer teens and mental health: Burn Ban. While hardly a perfect game or story, the game highlighted aspects of youth culture and mental illness that are often glossed over until it’s too late. Talking to one of the devs, it was a passion project for the team, however they also wanted to combat the toxic versions of mental health from stories like 13 Reasons Why.

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While Warner Bros. continues to try – and continues to fail (and flail) – to match Disney/Marvel’s cinematic (superhero) universe at the box office or in popular culture, it’s succeeded where just about everyone least expected: A shared supernatural universe created by James Wan, the filmmaker behind not one, not two, but three popular franchises (Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring). (A fourth, Aquaman, will get its long delayed debut at multiplexes in December.) Wan’s second entry in the series, The Conjuring 2 introduced “The Nun (Bonnie Aarons),” an ancient demon, supernatural star, and expert-level cosplayer that haunted the protagonists as a pasty-faced, rotted teeth, glowing-eyed nun (because by their nature, nuns are inherently frightening creatures). Within seconds of her terrifying appearance, audiences wanted to know more, see more, and hear about the Nun. As always, though, we should be careful what we wished for. Too much explanation, too little story, and the result looks something like the 1950s-set The Nun, a slow burn, slow build horror entry that’s all burn and all build, with little in the way of a satisfying emotional payoff.

As always, spoilers!!!!

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To franchise or not to franchise. That’s the question apparently every filmmaker, producer, or studio executive has to ask him- or herself before giving a greenlight to a sci-fi or fantasy property. In the case of Jonathan and Josh Baker, brothers making their feature film debut with Kin, an ill-conceived, frustratingly executed family/crime drama mashed up with plot points and elements unashamedly borrowed from familiar sci-fi classics (and at least one non-classic), the answer should have been no (as in “hell no”) when the franchise or series question came up. Instead, Kin sets up a larger world and universe, a bigger conflict in its final moments that practically begs moviegoers to see Kin multiple times so studio executives can greenlight anther entry. Spoiler alert: They shouldn’t. The Bakers and their screenwriter, Daniel Casey (expanding their short, “Bag Man”), shouldn’t have bothered or if they had, they should concentrated all of their time, energy, and talent into telling a story that could stand on its own. (more…)

Screens. Computer screens. Phone screens. Tablet screens. Screens within screens (e.g., iChat, Messenger, etc.). We live by (and through) screens. Sometimes we even die by them. Walk onto any bus or train in a major (or minor) city. Walk down a street in a major (or minor) city. Chances are, the result will be the same: A sea of downturned, blue-lit faces, their attention fixed on a virtual space (a text, a game, a video), often listening to music or audio, closed off to the analog world, simultaneously connected and disconnected. Both a cautionary tale and anti-cautionary tale and how technology can do both bad – connect a teen girl with a potential abductor – and good – help her father find her via her social media accounts, writer-director Aneesh Chaganty’s feature-length debut, Searching, takes a shallow dive into the deep end of the social media/tech pool, but where Chaganty swipes left on the subject, he also delivers an incredibly gripping, engaging suspense thriller, a credit both to a screenplay that mines universal fears parents have about their children and the world, and John Cho’s committed, persuasive performance as an increasingly frantic father desperate to find his lost daughter. (more…)

Moviegoers of a certain age and temperament will never see Silly String, the Wham-O product turned forgettable fad almost five decades ago, the same way again after Brian “Son of Jim” Henson’s (The Muppet Christmas Carol) R-rated, puppet-themed comedy, The Happytime Murders, hits an all-too-early, literal climax involving two super-enthusiastic, randy puppets engaged in sexual congress of an entirely unexpected kind. It blows past the boundaries of good taste (whatever that is) into seriously demented, shock, and awe territory. It’s subversive with a small “s,” probably worthy of applause and appreciation, but it’s also laugh out loud, “slide to the floor out of your recliner” hilarious. Unfortunately, it’s all downhill on a bike with no brakes from there, the gags become less frequent and novel, the jokes take on repetitive staleness, and the characters, human and puppet alike, go through the motions of a tired, overused neo-noir/buddy cop plot. (more…)