Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Movie Review: At the Devil's Door

At the Devil's Door (2014)

Starring: Naya Rivera, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Ashley Rickards
Directed by: Nicholas McCarthy
Rating: NR
Running Time: 91 minutes
Synopsis: When ambitious young real estate agent Leigh is asked to sell a house with a checkered past, she crosses paths with a disturbed girl whom she believes is the runaway daughter of the couple selling the property. When Leigh tries to intervene and help her, she becomes entangled with a supernatural force that soon pulls Leigh's artist sister Vera into its web - and has sinister plans for both of them.

What's up in the world of horror? Very little plot and disjointed timelines plague At the Devil's Door. The only thing that made watching this one better was sharing the torture with Miko. From the very beginning, we were left wondering when the plot would actually begin. The movie opens with a teenage girl making out with a boy who may or may not have been her boyfriend. He tells her that she can make some money by playing a game with a creepy guy in a camper in the middle of nowhere. Sounds like a bad idea, right? After sticking her hand in a weird container, they play three rounds of the shell game often seen on city streets near subways. She wins and is 'chosen' to go say her name at a crossroads so some mysterious being will know what to call her. Oh...and he will call because that's how these things work.

Awhile later, the plot shifts from the girl to another set of girls, Leigh and her sister, Vera. So wait...what happened with the first girl and the creepy guys? Instead, we're learning that Leigh can't get pregnant and wants Vera to settle down instead even though she refuses because she's a wild child artist. Leigh is a real estate agent who is trying to sell a house that belongs to a couple with a runaway daughter. She sees a strange girl in the house and everything goes down hill from there. Oh...it's the girl who said her name at the crossroads. Of course, it is!

This one has more plot holes than a block of swiss cheese. If the prerequisites for demonic attachment were making out, playing a game and saying your name at a crossroads, all of this is dropped after the initial use. It's not a daunted house story so it makes little sense that the demon or whatever it is would  attempt to latch on to Leigh or Vera from visiting a house. If it's taking a cue from Jeepers Creepers with the demon 'sensing' what it wants on certain people, then what makes one chosen aside from bad timing and a working uterus?

Questionable moments continue throughout. If your wardrobe starts talking to you, I can guarantee you that it's not Narnia calling. There were several clichéd moments like creepy kids, overuse of mirrors and dark figures lurking. As usual, stupid choices continue in horror movies. If the babysitter is acting weird, don't leave your baby with it. Just saying. The same goes for leaving your six year old with a stranger. Catalina Sandino Moreno (Leigh) can do much better than this. Even recent episodes of Glee are more unsettling, just ask Naya Rivera (Vera).

Rating: 1/5

Friday, August 18, 2017

Movie Review: Annabelle (2014)

Annabelle (2014)

Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Tony Amendola, Alfre Woodard
Directed by: John R. Leonetti
Rating: R
Run time: 99 minutes
Synopsis: John Form has found the perfect gift for his expectant wife, Mia - a beautiful, rare vintage doll in a pure white wedding dress. But Mia's delight with Annabelle doesn't last long. On one horrific night, their home is invaded by members of a satanic cult, who violently attack the couple. Spilled blood and terror are not all they leave behind. The cultists have conjured an entity so malevolent that nothing they did will compare to the sinister conduit to the damned that is now... Annabelle..

I went into Annabelle with mixed feelings. The doll was featured in 2013's the Conjuring as part of the artifact collection in the home of paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorrainne Warren. The doll's story was touched on, but not expanded in the Conjuring. In those brief clips, Annabelle is mentioned as tormenting two nursing students and their friend. Later, the doll makes an appearance with the Warrens' young daughter. I won't go into detail on reality versus fiction in this review, but I was interested in seeing how Annabelle and the nursing students ended up meeting the Warrens. This movie doesn't cover that story. Instead, it offers an original take on how the doll became haunted/possessed before she's given to one of the nursing students by her mother.

John Form and his wife, Mia, are expecting their first child. Mia is an avid collector of dolls and is given one by her husband after a minor disagreement. Two home invasions happen shortly afterward that make Mia feel paranoid and uncomfortable. Who can blame her with everything that's happened especially when she could give birth any day?

Annabelle hasn't been able to capture the atmosphere that the film it's spun-off from had. The tie-in moments, other than the doll itself, is the baby's mobile playing the same tune as Rory's music box. As a whole Annabelle lacks a feeling of dread. Most of the 'scares' have consisted of the typical jump scare or misdirection that is highly overused. There's an effective transition shot that was more neat than scary. Another seen involving darkness and an elevator played on the idea of being unable to escape being pursued by something.

One of the biggest flaws in Annabelle were the underdeveloped characters. Who are John and Mia aside from pretty faces? Why are we supposed to relate to Mia and root for her to save her baby? The neighbor, Evelyn, who befriends Mia isn't really explored either. Her purpose seems to merely be exposition and a convoluted resolution. The actors weren't bad. They couldn't overcome a flimsy script that borrowed heavily on Rosemary's baby. Both films feature blondes, cults, pregnancy and childbirth as well as suicide. The families both end up with strange things happening in and around an apartment. The main characters in Annabelle are even named John and Mia. Rosemary and her husband were played by Mia Farrow and John Cassavates. Coincidence or homage?

Rating: 3/5

Monday, August 14, 2017

Movie Review: Intruders (2011)

Intruders (2011)

Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Starring: Clive Owen, Carice van Houten, Daniel Bruhl, Pilar Lopez de Ayala, Ella Purnell, Izan Corchero
Rating: R
Running Time: 100 minutes
Synopsis: Two children living in different countries are visited nightly by a faceless being who wants to take possession of them.

Don't go into this expecting a jump scare, gore filled horror movie. You won't find that here. This is a slow building psychological horror where you'll find that you have to pay attention. That's a downfall for some viewers simply due to a slow pace. The director, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, isn't unfamiliar with the horror genre. His previous foray was directing 28 Weeks Later. On this film, the screenplay wasn't handled by the director. Instead, those credits go to Nicolás Casariego and Jaime Marques.

Luisa and Juan

The film follows dual storylines that tie together. It begins in Madrid with Juan telling a story to his
mother, Luisa, about a monster he calls Hollowface. This particular monster wishes to be loved and thinks he can achieve that by stealing the face of a particular child. Juan begins seeing this monster. Is it just a story or is his monster real?

At the same time, we're introduced to Mia in London. She finds a wooden box in a tree at her grandparent's house. In the box, is an unfinished story. Mia begins to tell the story, adding on to it as she goes along. Shortly afterward, the monster begins to appear in her bedroom. Hollowface has decided to take Mia's face instead. Both parents, Luisa in Madrid and John in London, have begun to see the monster as well. What is going on with both families?

John and Mia

I was instantly intrigued as a writer. The most frightening things for me as a child were the things that I had created in my own mind. The idea of a monster created in the mind of a child coming to life was rather creepy. What would happen if all of your childhood nightmares came to life? Another familiar aspect was one parent believing the child and the other thinking it's just for attention. This is what happens to Mia. John believes her while her mother, Susanna, doesn't.

The belief and disbelief are extended to Juan and Luisa as they visit a church for help as his nightmares worsen. Father Antonio believes that something is going on with the family while his superior doesn't. Is this a supernatural problem? Or is this a matter for psychology to solve? While religion is explored with Juan and Luisa, Mia and John are taken to a psychologist. Will either be able to find some help?

As the film progresses, the lines between reality and the supernatural blur. I personally didn't see the twist coming. I hadn't expected it and it was clever. Sure, there were some plot hiccups. I hesitate to call them holes simply because they're more alluded to rather than spelled out completely for the audience. What really sells this film is the acting. All of the actors do a great job, especially Clive Owen, Pilar López de Ayala and the two children. Neither of the children had a particularly long list of acting credits either.

The cinematography is also very nicely done. There are often times when scenes are set up with the monster lurking, but you're left with darkness and clever angles instead. The director knew what he was doing in order to keep that level of mystery up. I think the film could have suffered greatly if the director hadn't kept up that mystery. Keep an open mind and give this movie a chance.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Quick Television Review

Atlanta (10 episodes) | Status: Renewed
Rating: 4/5

Being a casual fan of Donald Glover's musical persona, Childish Gambino through my brother, I heard a lot of hype for the his newest television venture. Unfortunately, I have yet to delve into Community, but I plan on doing so at some point as I see gifs of it on my Tumblr feed and heard it's quite hilarious. When I saw commercials for Glover's newest show, I figured I'd check it out and see his acting side. Now, BlipMasta5 has already given his opinion on the show, but I figured that I'd do a quick little thing on my thoughts. Getting into the show took a bit of time for me. While I did enjoy each episode, they didn't make me go "wow, you really need check this out", but there were a couple or so episodes that really kept my attention such as "Nobody Beats the Biebs", "Value", and probably my favorite "B.A.N". The show definitely has a special kind of humor and satire of the world and the black experience through entertainment, so it might not be for everyone, but I definitely enjoyed it and I look forward to checking out the second season.

*Loosely Exactly Nicole (10 episodes) | Status: Cancelled
Rating: 3.5/5

Nicole Byer is a hilarious comedian who makes a regular appearance on MTV's Girl Code, which explores the unwritten rules of womanhood and how to navigate life with a comedic and somewhat educational flair. When I saw commercials for her own TV show, I was quite excited as she was one of my favorite ladies on the show. The show follows Nicole in her day to day life as she tries to make it big in Hollywood, while dealing with intimacy, rent, and close friendships. While I enjoyed Nicole's loud and proud personality and wacky shenanigans, I realized that the show probably wasn't strong enough to attract a large audience. At least, I didn't know anyone else who watched the show in my friend circle. Before putting this post together, I saw that the show was unfortunately (and unsurprisingly) cancelled after the first season ended. Despite the short journey of Nicole's show, I still think it was funny, entertaining, and unique in content as it starred a woman of color who's proud of who she was and aspired to bless the world with her charisma and style.

American Horror Story: Roanoke (10 episodes) | Status: Renewed
Rating: 2.5/5

It's tradition here on Muddy Cult to cover American Horror Story. Buonaventura has made her debut solo review covering this show already, so it didn't make sense to have two full reviews covering some of the same grievances we had with the sixth season. Although, I could easily rant about my issues with the season too, but I will try to condense it down to suit my quick review format and perhaps simplify my thoughts on certain points. Positives: I really enjoyed the new format of the first section of the series, despite giving away the fact that they all survived during this retelling of the story. But I still enjoyed the entertaining story and tension that the storytelling gave us through the "real life" characters and their reenactment counterparts. To some extent, I kinda enjoyed the "Big Brother" portion as well when the actors meet the "real" people and stay in the haunted house together. Their interactions and relationships with each other gave some entertaining dynamics to their horror experience. Lastly, some characters I enjoyed watching were Shelby and Lee with their amusing romantic relationship, the delightful, whimsical Cricket; and the over the top performance by Kathy Bates as Agnes. Negatives: Pretty much everything else. haha I guess I should be more specific. Once again, this season is overstuffed with too many ideas that sound good, but could be left for later. Of course, there were some ideas that should've been left behind as it brought down the quality of the show. There are way too many segment ideas: haunted house, "Big Brother", talk show, ghost hunters. Buonaventura pretty much mentioned this in her review. Some of the choices the characters make sometimes don't make sense like Shelby and Lee's rocky relationship, the lore behind Scathach (Gaga's character), and, also mentioned in Buonaventura's review, the original owner of the house's lack of help later on. There's a lot of open ended questions and convoluted explanations for the supernatural; it's just a mess in short. It's really unfortunate as this season seemed so promising in the beginning, but when you have too many ghost stories (just like AHS: Hotel) and really too many ideas, it gets confusing and less entertaining...at least in a positive perspective. We shall see what this year's season holds for us, aside from amusement over Murphy's usual mess.

Cosplay Melee (6 episodes) | Status: Unknown
Rating: 3.5/5

Here we have Syfy's second attempt at a cosplay based show. I was kinda surprised that they were going to try this venture again, but it looked very promising as the host was the lovely Yvette Nicole Brown. Seeing her time and time again of being a guest on AMC's Talking Dead, I knew our fandom would be celebrated and appreciated with her on board. This show was everything cosplayers wanted from Heroes of Cosplay; a cosplay competition with a Face Off inspired format. Each episode features four different contestants with their own special skill to compete for $10,000 and a different theme, similar to Face Off. The show is split into two rounds: first round the competitors create a prop for the original character, such as a sword, crossbow, or wand and the second round the remaining three competitors get to choose an item to enhance their overall costume design such as a vacuum and assorted LED lights. This show brought enough excitement, construction involvement, and competitiveness that I for sure wanted in Heroes of Cosplay. While there isn't any personal drama or feuding, the struggle is more within themselves and the construction process, which is something that would be hard to fake and I think that's one reason that Face Off works so well; it doesn't depend on the typical person-to-person drama. Of course the highlight of the show is watching each costume walk down the runway. One thing I wish the show did was not make the winners so obvious before the runway begins, but I appreciate the attention to detail in explaining how these cosplayers achieved their end goal, minus the make-up. I'm not sure what the future is for this show, but I look forward to seeing more, especially since it features a range of amateur and professional cosplayers with no Yaya Han in sight.

Strut (6 episodes) | Status: Unknown
Rating: 3.5/5

Since America's Next Top Model decided to hang up its towel...and surprisingly picking it up one more time later on, Whoopi Goldberg produced a show that delved into the lives of a group of transgender models. For the most part, the show revolved around Slay, a transgender modeling agency, with glimpses of the models dealing with personal situations such as along distance relationships, being accepted by their parent(s), and getting back into the dating scene. This reality show didn't just have some of the drama you would expect, but manages to balance trans issues and normal every day issues. In other words, showing audiences that trans people are just people. I really enjoyed watching these models and agents interact with each other on a professional and personal level. The drama wasn't too over the top, I was happy to see ANTM contestant Isis King, and seeing these people compete and converse with each other made it worth watching. I'm not sure if this show is getting another season or not, but I was sad that this show only had 6 episodes. The models really made the show interesting and it was great seeing that them being trans wasn't overly emphasized; in other words, that's all they are is their gender.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Quick Movie Reviews

The Awakening (2011)

Starring: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton
Directed by: Nick Murphy
Rating: R
Run time: 107 minutes
Synopsis: In 1921, England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she believes unravels as the 'missing' begin to show up.

There were some things about this film that really made me question whether they threw them in last minute to add to the running time as they serve no real addition to the plot. Overall, it could have been a decent thriller about a skeptic learning that there is more to the spiritual world than hoaxes. The plot is too full of inconsistencies to be effective. The love interest/sex scene was entirely unnecessary as was the attempted assault on the main character. There were so many things that detracted from the eventual twist that it was entirely implausible.

Rating: 1.5/5

Case 39 (2009)

Starring: Renee Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland, Bradley Cooper, Ian McShane, Callum Keith Rennie, Kerry O'Malley
Directed by: Christian Alvart
Rating: R
Run time: 109 minutes 
Synopsis: A social worker fights to save a girl from her abusive parents, only to discover that the situation is more dangerous than she ever expected.

This film suffers even with its big name cast. However, Jodelle Ferland is quite possibly the creepiest horror movie kid. Her creepy acting and deadpan delivery can't save this production though. The biggest downfall is the plot never really deciding what Lily is or what she wants. That's an issue with the writing of the script not Miss Ferland's abilities as an actress.

Rating: 2/5

Don't Be Afraid of The Dark (2011)

Starring: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison
Directed by: Troy Nixey
Rating: R
Run time: 99 minutes 
Synopsis: A young girl sent to live with her father and his new girlfriend discovers creatures in her new home who want to claim her as one of their own.

I don't care that most people hated this movie. I've seen both it and the original 1973 tv movie. The remake has several key plot points changed; Sally was the wife in the original and the house belonged to her grandmother. In the remake, Sally is the daughter and the house belonged to a reclusive artist. However, the basis for everything else is the same. The scenery is beautiful. The cinematography is what you'd expect from something Guillermo del Toro was involved in. Both films creeped me out. Weird little creatures are crawling around in vents and under sheets. Uhm, no thank you. My skin crawls just thinking about it!

Rating: 3/5

The Ward (2010)

Starring: Amber Heard, Mamie Grummer, Jared Harris
Directed by: John Carpenter
Rating: R
Run time: 88 minutes 
Synopsis: A thriller centered on an institutionalized young woman who becomes terrorized by a ghost.

While not your typical John Carpenter fare, The Ward isn't necessarily bad. It's not going to appeal to your average horror fan. The body count and gore are pretty much non-existent. Even as a psychological horror, there are a few jump scares and misdirection present. Once you get to the twist, the rest of the film seems to make sense. This is almost too little, too late. Regardless, I was intrigued by the twist. I just wish it had been explored in a better way.

Rating: 2.5/5

Red Mist (2008)

Alternate Title: Freakdog
Starring: Arielle Kebbel, Sarah Carter, Katie McGrath, MyAnna Buring
Directed by: Paddy Breathnach
Rating: Not Rated
Run time: 82 minutes
Synopsis: A young doctor in a US hospital administers a powerful and untested cocktail of drugs to a coma victim. But instead of curing him, it triggers a powerful "out-of-body" experience and enables the patient - a depraved and dangerous loner - to inhabit other people's bodies and, through them, take revenge on the bullying medical students who were accidentally responsible for his condition.

Medical students more interested in sex, drugs and drinking get in over their heads cause injury to a creepy janitor and leave him outside of a hospital. While this isn't the greatest premise ever, it's fairly original considering all the remakes we've been expected to enjoy. Arielle Kebbel has an innocent look to her that's easy to sympathize with. There are lots of pretty faces and bloody deaths to satisfy the average horror fan. I couldn't quite get past the plot holes or the weak ending to really enjoy it.

Rating: 2/5

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: American Horror Story: Roanoke

Title: American Horror Story: Roanoke
Starring: Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson, Cuba Gooding Jr. Lily Rabe
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller
Episodes: 10

How psyched were you when you found out that this season’s AHS was going to focus on Roanoke, and GHOSTS!?!?!?!?!?

I was super psyched. My all-time favorite season has always been Murder House. I can’t help it, I love the ghosties! I don’t believe in ghosts myself, but I’ve always always always been super into ghost stories. They’re like little history vignettes personified. Ah, love it!

The elements were sort of similar to Murder House as well. There’s a main entity that got the whole ghost thing started (ahem, Lady Gaga and the colonists), a variety of ghosts from different time periods, and a super fantastic looking old house.

However season 6 used different techniques from previous seasons that both helped keep the narrative interesting, but also fell victim to a lot of the problems I have with AHS in general.

We start off with My Roanoke Nightmare, an “unsolved mysteries” type show with dramatic reenactments. I love those types of shows so it really resonated and I was into it. However, as we progressed, I noticed a glaring flaw. Anyone who’s talking about what happened obviously didn’t die so a lot of the tension just wasn’t there. Jeez, lady. It’s dark and you’re in a hot tub by yourself in the middle of nowhere?! Oh wait, nothing too bad is going to happen because you are here telling us this story. Carry on.

I think Ryan Murphy realized this, too, because part two had all the actors and their “real” counterparts come back to do a Big Brother type show. Besides not being able to imagine why anyone would have any motivation to go back (especially Matt), I hate reality shows like that. Captivation lost. Having the actors, the “real” characters, and “real” ghosts all together was like too many cooks in the kitchen and created a huge clusterfluff.

I still would have been on board with this premise (after all, it does take care of all that lost tension when you bring every one back), but I swear Ryan Murphy can’t help but play Jenga with his creations. Not only did he add a part three with a “ghost team” but also a part four with a found-footage-Blair-witch thing and a part five with a cops thing and a part six with a 20/20-dateline type thing.

This was too much. What’s the next thing after overkill? This was two stops past that.

I would much rather have had a ghost team and amateur ghost team combination instead of the big brother portion.

I didn’t like the gore, but then again I’m not a gore person. The reenactment gore was over the top and so it was gross, but still palatable. The impaling of the found footage crew and the cannibal rednecks were more realistic and not as palatable. There was gore, it was gross, moving on.

I really appreciated Kathy Bates’s character. She was just so pitiful and at the same time aggravating and misguided as hell. I wanted to give her a hug and at the same time tell her to go home and move on with her life.

Other than her, I didn’t really feel for any of the characters. Instead of fretting over the safety of characters I liked, I ended up rooting for certain characters to die (I’m looking at you, Sidney). This was problematic because a lot of the driving force was supposed to be an attachment to main characters, especially Lee, and it just wasn’t there.

I was disappointed that the “real” ghosts didn’t have much screen time, but I suppose they never really do. Something that really irritated me was that Shelby seemed to know a lot more about the situation than she let on. She and Matt never fully explained how they got out of the house the first time. The ghost of Edward, the plantation owner, supposedly helped them escape so why was he so malevolent the second time around? What gives? It was a loose end that was never tied up and is the most frustrating aspect of this season.

I had high expectations for this season. It really should have been better or at least on par with Murder House, but it caved in on itself with an overabundance of unnecessary plot. Boo.

3/5 stars