Love At First Fright (Love In The Time Of Monsters review)

For someone who claims to not want to watch horror movies, I seem to be reviewing a number of them already this year.

I would complain. but I’ve been rather fortunate to have watched really excellent movies, ones that walk the fine line between fear and folly. Which only adds to my theory that satire is the best way to communicate issues we’d rather ignore.

And so here we are, at this week’s Theatrical Tuesday with a horror movie that just might warm your stone cold heart.

 

 

 

Love In The Time Of Monsters (2014)

Cast: Gena Shaw, Kane Hodder, Marissa Skell, Danny Vasquez, Michael McShane, Hugo Armstrong
Director: Matt Jackson
released on blu-ray February 17, 2015
******** 8/10

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IMDB: 5.4
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A, Audience Score 74%
The Guardian: N/A

 

Matt Jackson is something of a unicorn as it relates to the movie industry. I scoured the internet and found very little in the way of information about him other than learning he has been involved in entertainment for over a decade now, getting his start in Arizona and developing his skills over a myriad of independent productions. He has directed the action/adventure/comedy Background(ed) and the horror/comedy Love In The Time of Monsters.

He frequently collaborates with producer Andy Gunn, and I hope they are either working on a sequel or something equivalent soon. Did I just give away my thoughts on the movie?

Love In The Time Of Monsters is not, despite the clever title, a parody of Love In the Time Of Cholera, which I am thankful for because that movie was super boring. I know, I know, it’s beautifully shot, but so what? If something is polished and turdlike, that doesn’t make it worthwhile, its just shiny shit.

So what is LITTOFM then, you ask?

It’s a story about two sisters who have lost their father to a family vacation accident many years previous and how they have grown up as a result of said accident. One is a hopeless romantic about to get married, and the other a cynic with no interest in long-term attachment.

We follow them as they take a vacation to Uncle Slavko’s All-American Lodge, where Carla (Marissa Skell) hopes to surprise fiance Johnny who is working at the resort as a Bigfoot impersonator (one of many). Marla (Gena Shaw) wants to have fun and hopefully have a casual encounter or two, though she has no luck with this. While this is happening the entire fleet of Bigfoot impersonators (save one) are exposed to a chemical waste that turns them into mindless zombielike creatures, and some/one of them even gain powers akin to Gremlins 2, which gave me a particular moment of glee.

What is amazing about this movie is that somehow through all of the absurdity, the tongue-in-check horror movie moments, the b-movie practical effects, and the expected Bigfoot cameo, we easily relate to each member in the sizeable cast of characters. The backdrop mainly serves as a plot device, but it truly is a story of love in the time of monsters. And if you’re caught of guard, love will appear.

 

Pros: There are a number of horror actors who represent in the movie and the cliches are played to a T. I especially enjoyed the dynamic between Carla and Marla. Also Dr. Abraham Lincoln was comedy gold.

Cons: My major complaint is the introduction to the story – I kept expecting there to be more of a tie-in to the father’s death and the one scene about it felt somewhat forced. This is worrisome because a casual movie viewer might get turned off before the story gets interesting.

Runtime1 hour 37 minutes

Points of InterestThe one gratuitous nudity/death scene was delivered by Heather Rae Young – she happens to be a former Playboy Playmate.

I keep thinking back on the film as I write this review and I can’t help but smile when I think about all of the goofy special effects and the use of CGI in a disarming and fun way. I always wonder if a horror comedy is going to go off the rails and make me want to swear them off altogether, but Love In The Time of Monsters has cemented that love in my heart to keep back at least a dozen bad examples of the genre.

Jackson has done an excellent job adding to the oeuvre of horror comedy and I sincerely hope that another of these flicks gets made, even if it’s on another horror topic. With that said, I highly recommend you take some time out of your day and watch Love In The Time Of Monsters, I have a theory you just might fall in love with it.

Tim!

The Creep Show (The VVitch review)

 

It can be difficult to watch a horror movie even in the daytime. Horror movies are designed to use your natural fears (and sometimes create fears) to get a negative emotional response.

If you feel bad while watching a horror movie, it’s doing its job. This week’s review did that and more. I watched last Tuesday and I am still creeped out.

 

 

 

The VVitch (2015)

Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw
Director: Robert Eggers
released on blu-ray May 17, 2016
********** 10/10

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IMDB: 6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Audience Score 55%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Robert Eggers is an American film director and screenwriter, best known for his 2015 film The Witch, originally titled The VVitch: A New-England Folktale.

 

Did you know that The Witch is Eggers own script? It’s an old concept, that of a ghost story. But we are used to seeing modern tellings of these myths and legends. Eggers decided to direct a story about the beginnings of western culture. Set in New England The Witch is a tale of evil in the woods, plain and simple.

The story is rather chilling too.

In the 17th century a puritan family is banished from their larger plantation community because of the fathers accused pride (Ralph Ineson). We then watch husband and pregnant wife move to a large forest and build a farm there with their four children. Some time passes and Katherine (Kate Dickie) gives birth to their fifth child.

The story slowly unfolds as newborn Samuel goes missing while the oldest girl Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is babysitting him near the woods. It reminds me very heavily of listening to a camp-fire story except we have the added bonus/cruelty of witnessing the story for ourselves.

As a movie, The Witch functions as something of a slow-burn, carefully building towards the climax but not revealing the source of the kidnapping until the final scenes. This is intentional and helps to cement The Witch as a unique piece of horror cinema.

Playing off elements of both ambiguity and very clear scenes, the fear and paranoia is what sets up the tension but the final scene and the lingering thoughts and feelings after the curtain call are what make this one so haunting.

 

Pros: Horror has great potential to make you see things you didn’t want to see, when done right. This movie is one of those diamonds which is both scary and intelligent at the same time.

ConsOddly enough, it does such a good job of accomplishing what it sets out to do, that I have a hard time recommending it to others to watch because they may either miss the point or be too heavily affected by it.

Runtime1 hour 32 minutes

Points of InterestEggers based his film on research of New England witch hysteria, several decades before the Salem Witch Trials. Stephen King admitted that he is terrified of this film, also The Satanic Temple has endorsed this film, if that means anything.

While I am not certain if this is a film focused solely on female empowerment, a classic and well-executed horror story, commentary on Christian themes or possibly a combination of the three, The Witch is like nothing I’ve seen in some time.

The Witch has given me some bad dreams, I don’t think I’ll sleep well for a few weeks. Regardless of the terrors presented, this movie manages to walk a fine line between scary and conceptual, and while I wouldn’t recommend it to the impressionable or those with strong religious convictions, it is something to consider and think upon.

Hopefully it doesn’t give you nightmares.

You’re Gonna Start A Howl (Wolfcop review)

I like to think I’ve seen my share of horror movies. Mainly because I’m a child of the 80’s and horror movies were in their heyday between the 1980s and 1990s, so just as I was growing up I got to know the major successes of the time and watch them in the comfort (read: discomfort) of my parents basement.

But the thing about horror movies is that they come out all the time and haven’t really slowed down by any means since that supposed heyday.

What that means for the novice movie watcher or the aged veteran, is that there are now all kinds of genre benders out there, and there is a good chance that you haven’t seen them all yet. Which is where this week’s entry comes in.

 

 

 

Wolfcop (2014)

Cast: Leo Fafard, Amy Matysio, Jonathan Cherry, Sarah Lind, Jesse Moss
Director: Lowell Dean
released on blu-ray March 10, 2015
******* 7/10

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IMDB: 5.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%, Audience Score 46%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Lowell Dean is a Canadian film maker – yay for Canadian content! He has directed two feature films to date, 13 Eerie which was released in theatres in 2013 and Wolfcop which was released in theatres in 2014. I scoured the internet, including IMDB, Wikipedia and even his personal website, in the hopes of explaining his directorial style some more but unfortunately that was all I could find. Oh, I also know he was born in 1979 which makes him 37 or 38 years old.

So yeah. There’s not much to go on in the way of an introduction.

But sometimes that’s what happens with indie films, you don’t get a lot in the way of traditional information. And further to that point, the content often strays from your typical fare because, dammit, it can.

Taken from Wikipedia and edited,

Lou Garou (Leo Fafard), an alcoholic cop in the small community of Woodhaven, spends most of his day either asleep at work or at Jessica’s (Sarah Lind) bar. When his friend Willie Higgins (Jonathan Cherry) phones in a complaint of occult activity in the area of his gun store, the police chief (Aidan Devine) sends Garou to investigate. After meeting with Higgins, Garou dismisses his concerns as the actions of heavy metal fans. Higgins again reports a disturbance, and the chief forces Garou to investigate. When he arrives at the scene, Garou finds occultists in the middle of a ceremony to sacrifice an upstart politician who was running on a platform of reform and anti-corruption. Garou is knocked out and wakes up the next morning in his bed, not remembering how he got there, though he has a pentagram carved into his stomach.

Garou’s senses become extremely sharp, and his wounds heal near-instantly. As he investigates the case, he surprises Jessica and his coworkers, all of whom had written him off as lazy and incompetent. As he goes over his notes at Jessica’s bar, she encourages him to drink more and invites him to join her privately. Before he can, two criminals part of a local gang sneak into the bar and attack him in the bathroom. Garou, who is in the middle of a transformation into a werewolf, easily kills one and drives off the other. Angry that they did not kidnap Garou, the gang leader stabs out the eye of the escaped gangster when he claims to have seen Garou transform into a monster. Meanwhile, Garou ends up in Higgins’ house, handcuffed to the bed. Higgins explains that he captured Garou and restrained him for his own safety. Higgins later researches his condition, and they learn that occult ceremonies in which a werewolf is sacrificed can strengthen the magic of reptilian shapeshifters.

Garou and his partner, Tina (Amy Matysio), investigate the deaths at the bar and a series of seemingly unrelated armed robberies by a gang who wear pig masks. Higgins convinces Garou that he must be restrained at night, and Garou submits to being locked in the town’s jail. However, when the police station receives a call for help, Garou, who has since transformed into a werewolf but has retained his human intelligence, dons his policeman’s uniform and heads to the local supermarket, where the pig-mask gang have taken hostages. Garou savagely kills all the pig-mask robbers and heads toward a meth lab. Higgins cowers in the car as Garou again savagely kills several gun-wielding gangsters…

This movie is rather short, as most horror and comedy films are, and it takes full advantage of the runtime to slowly draw you in and assimilate your sensibilities. It does this so that all of a sudden that when the final 25 minutes start to creep in, you haven’t realized how casually you’ve invested in the construction.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing, because the movie starts slow and is somewhat confusing, but as you understand Lou, the town of Woodhaven and it’s characters you almost feel robbed of more movie. On top of that Wolfcop walks a fine balance between the nostalgia of practical effects and the impracticality of them in execution. You can tell that the crew had fun making the movie, that’s for sure.

Pros: The spin Wolfcop takes on the werewolf mythology is charming, funny, and something to be appreciated. Of course, it helps that it takes it’s cues from the campiness of the 1980s. That’s the beauty of Postmodernism though, taking dissimilar concepts like a werewolf and a police officer, combining them, and producing interesting results.

Cons: Because this is unexplored territory and the comedy uneven, not all of the jokes come through – They are particularly dry. I wish that more time was spent on developing the humour of the situation.

Runtime: 1 hours 19 minutes

Points of Interest: The film exists in distribution because Dean was awarded the 2013 CineCoup Film Accelerator, worth $1 million in financing. The main character is is named Lou Garou which is a play on words. In French loup garou means werewolf.

So there you have it, a movie about an alcoholic cop turned werewolf and filmed in Canada exists. It’s rare for Canadian film to be part of the horror landscape (think Ginger Snaps), and even stranger still for a movie to do well, but it is in a fine tradition.

The truth is that Wolfcop isn’t doing anything tremendously new or interesting as it relates to horror movies, but what it does do, it has a lot of fun doing. Sure, there are lots of horror comedies out there, but that doesn’t mean that they are Canadian born and breed. As I mentioned earlier, maybe you haven’t watched a horror movie in a while, so If you want to try something “new” Wolfcop will likely surprise you, in a good way.

But that’s just a theory. What do you think? Have you seen Wolfcop? It’s been out for a couple of years now, but it’s not stale by any means. I’m done for now friends, I’ll see you tomorrow with some wisdom.

Tim!

The Final Word On The Matter (The Final Girls review)

Who doesn’t love the 80’s? And especially the seemingly hilarious violence and over-the-top way that films addressed their genres at the time?

I personally am glad to have grown up at a time when claymation and other practical effects were still the norm, because when you watched something, you had to rely on your imagination to fill in the gaps.

And for the most part, movie magic worked. But sometimes it didn’t, and sometimes tropes would develop.

But this week’s review addresses those pop culture pieces in an interesting way.

 

 

 

The Final Girls (2015)
Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Middleditch
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
released on blu-ray November 3, 2015
******** 8/10

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IMDB: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%, Audience Score 74%
The Guardian: N/A

I don’t know much about Todd Strauss-Schulson. I had to struggle a bit to learn about his directing history.

Highlights include A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas and a few episodes of The Inbetweeners. Like I said, not a lot to go on.

But that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Holy Moses, this movie was interesting. As a fan of satire, and all things meta, this effort by Strauss-Schulson really is a loveletter to 80’s horror films, as Sam Raimi has put it.

If you liked Scream or Cabin In the Woods, this movie will be right up your alley folks. I promise.

But let me paint you a written picture and you can start to see for yourself.

The movie starts out with Max Cartwright (Taissa Farmiga)  waiting in the car for her mother Amanda (Malin Akerman). Amanda has just returned from an audition where she likely didn’t get the part because the director recognized her from “Camp Bloodbath,” an infamous ’80s horror film she starred in almost 20 years prior.

On the way home the two get into a car accident and unfortunately Amanda doesn’t survive the crash.

Fast forward three years later, on the anniversary of her mom’s death, and Max is studying with her friend Gertie. They are also discussing that Chris (Alexander Ludwig) has just broken up with Vicki (Nina Dobrev) and how it is Max’s opportunity to show her interest as Chris will be tutoring Max.

Enter Duncan (Thomas Middleditch), Gertie’s stepbrother and avid fan of the Camp Bloodbath franchise. He is there to convince Max to join in the back-to-back screening of the first two films at a local theatre and make an appearance for the fans. He eventually wins her over and Max, Gertie, and Duncan go to the show. Chris has decided to come and support Max as well, knowing it is a sensitive subject for her. And Vicki shows up too, pretending to not be there specifically to see Chris and win him back.

Once the movie finally does start, in a very cool effect, some audience members accidentally start a fire. In a bid to escape the fire, Max and her friends decide to rip through the movie screen, and are transported to Camp Bloodbath.

Once they realize they are trapped inside the film, they pass themselves off as counselors, hoping to figure out a way out of the movie and avoid getting killed by the crazy Billy Murphy (Camp Bloodbath’s antagonist). Both we and the group quickly realize that they will have to deal with horror movie tropes if they want to make it out alive – concepts of final girls, sex equating to death, and flashbacks litter the world they inhabit.

Without giving too much away, I think you will really enjoy this one.

Being a fan of horror movies and satire should help you connect with the story, as it is a little slow to start, but there is a surprising amount of heart in The Final Girls, and you can’t help but root for everybody to make it through. All the while laughing at the way the tropes are dealt with.

Part of me wishes I had watched a couple of these slasher flicks just ahead of sitting down to enjoy this movie, but I’ve got a good enough memory of Friday the 13th and other 1980s horror to get the references.

Pros: The relationship between Max and her mother is incredibly sweet, and the dialogue between Max and Nancy, the character Amanda plays is incredibly interesting and will warm your horror desensitized heart. And while mostly one-dimensional, almost all of the minor characters are quite fun to watch

Cons: There is surprisingly very little sex or violence in this film, which is a convention of the genre, I wish Stauss-Schulson had been able to add more of this content and found ways to flip those details on their head, but SONY wanted a PG-13 rating.

Runtime: 88 minutes

Points of Interest: The Final Girls is the same runtime length as Camp Bloodbath. This film was co-written by Joshua John Miller, whose father, Jason Miller had passed away recently, and starred as Father Karras in The Exorcist.

I don’t know what else to say about this movie that I haven’t already said. If you want to see a genre-bending film, check this out. If you’d rather stick to the confines of what has been established already, The Final Girls probably isn’t for you.

With that said, I expect you’ve enjoyed this review dear readers. Have you enjoyed the variety of films I’ve looked at so far? Are you hoping for something else? Science Fiction perhaps? Adventure? Leave some comments!

Tim!