Yet Another Month of Horror 2015 – Chapter 2

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The Paramount Vault releases make up the majority of this month’s first time watches: Grim Prairie Tales, The Sender, Shanks and Beneath.

 

Grim Prairie Tales (Wayne Coe – 1990)
An odd anthology film that spends more time with its wrap-around story than the 4 tales spun from it. Granted, when your wrap-around has James Earl Jones and Brad Dourif, I could see why you might want to give them the lion’s share – unless of course what they are given is 1) a fractured and weirdly paced arc and 2) really crappy direction for their line readings. Dourif plays a man riding back to Jacksonville Florida to see his wife (by horse across the prairies – the time period is likely late 1800s) when he encounters Jones after bunking down for the night in the great wide open. After much wide-eyed yelling at each other, they begin to swap stories. The stories – each one being more of a morality/immorality tale rather than anything horrific – are both interesting and kinda dull. Even though the individual tales are no longer than 10-15 minutes each, the pace is glacial…There’s a dryness to them that simply didn’t engage me. And yet, upon reflection, each one tackles its subject (intolerance, lust, hatred/fear, pride) in a fairly unique and non-obvious way. I have to give the film credit for a different approach. If only it were more entertaining…

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Trailer: The Midnight Swim

Sarah Adina Smith’s debut feature, The Midnight Swim, is about the psychological ecosystem of three sisters during a visit to the family house on the lake. It subtly flirts with both the supernatural and the interpretation of captured (and being captured on) video. The film made some waves (sorry! sorry!) on the Festival circuit in 2014, I adored it when I caught it at Fantasia last year.

When their mother goes missing in Spirit Lake, three half-sisters travel home to settle her affairs. The youngest sister, June, a documentary filmmaker, captures their bittersweet homecoming. But when the sisters jokingly summon a local ghost, their relationship begins to unravel and they find themselves drawn deeper and deeper into the true mystery of the lake.

The Midnight Swim will be released both theatrical and VOD on June 26th. Have a look at the trailer below.

First trailer for Catherine Hardwicke’s “Red Riding Hood”

Red Riding Hood

I was aware that Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood was going to provide a fresh approach to the classic story but I didn’t really give it much thought beyond that. It’s probably best that I didn’t because had I thought about it or read some of the descriptions floating around, I may have been disappointed by the trailer but as it stands, I’m just a little… surprised.

Set in a medieval forest, the film stars Amanda Seyfried as Valerie, a young woman (in a red riding hood) in love with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez) an orphaned woodcutter, but her parents want her to marry the wealthy Henry (Max Irons). Valerie and Peter plan to run away together but when Valerie’s sister is taken by the werewolf that stalks the woods surrounding the village, their plans are thwarted. So how does the awesome Gary Oldman fit into this picture? He’s the priest/werewolf hunter the town calls on to rid them of the beast. Other notables along for the ride include Lukas Haas, Julie Christie, Virginia Madsen and the fabulous Billy Burke (apparently Hardwicke likes Burke as much as I do).

The trailer features quite a few interesting tidbits, including more than a handful of host of Seyfried looking startled which concerns me a little but then, it’s a trailer and I generally like Seyfried so I’m happy to chalk that up to editing. The most striking aspect of this trailer are the visuals. Now, Hardwicke is recognized for her sense of aesthetic (likely stemming from her previous work as a production designer) but I’m thrilled to see that she’s paired up with award winning cinematographer Mandy Walker who also shot Baz Luhrmann’s gorgeous Australia (review) (and was glaringly overlooked for an Oscar nomination).

I have to admit I’m not expecting much from this story but my inner girl is thrilled by what she sees: supernatural overtones, period, romance. Oh yes, this has my name written all over it.

Red Riding Hood opens March 11, 2011.

Trailer is tucked under the seats but it’s also worth a look in HD over at Apple.

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Review: The Twilight Saga: New Moon

NewMoonPoster

Director: Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass, About a Boy, American Pie)
Screenplay: Melissa Rosenberg, Stephenie Meyer (novel)
Producer: Wyck Godfrey
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Edi Gathegi, Rachelle Lafevre, Billy Burke, Charlie Bewley, Jamie Campbell Bower, Daniel Cudmore, Christopher Heyerdahl, Dakota Fanning, Cameron Bright, Noot Seer, Michael Sheen, Graham Greene, Tinsel Korey
MPAA Rating: PG13
Running time: 130 min.

For months the anticipation has been building. After the success of Twilight (our review), it’s not too much of a surprise. The first film in the saga captured fans and non-fans alike and in a whirlwind year, everyone seems to have caught “Twilight Fever” in one way or another. Fans love to share their love and haters their hate but nothing will take down the building monsoon. From the beginning, The Twilight Saga: New Moon was fighting an uphill battle. The change of directors caused a wave of panic and anger amongst fans. There’s also the little fact that Edward, one of (if not the) franchise’s biggest draw, is missing from most of the source material. It couldn’t have been an easy decision for director Chris Weitz to come on board with so many obstacles laid out before him but the burning question is: did he succeed? Does the film live up to expectation? In a single word no, but not for lack of trying.

NewMoonMovieStillNew Moon picks up where Twilight left off. Bella and Edward are together and happy but it doesn’t last long. The story starts, in essence, on Bella’s birthday and while at the Cullen’s celebrating the event (an event Bella is not at all happy about), she cuts her finger, causing Jasper, one of Edward’s brothers, to come flying across the room in a blood frenzy. Edward, upset that he can’t keep Bella safe even from his family, leaves Forks throwing the young woman into a catatonic state from which she eventually breaks only out of pity for what it’s doing to her father. She finds solace in her friendship with Jacob and the two form a bond that borders on romance but never quite crosses the line. But all is not well as well as it seems on the surface for Victoria, one of the rogue vampires from the first film, is on the hunt for Bella. The closeness of threat has stirred a long dormant gene in some of the boys in Jacob’s tribe, including himself, turning them into wolves in order to protect their people. A number of events snowball into a final climax which has Bella traveling to Italy to save Edward from death at the hands of the Volturi, a coven which guards the laws that keep vampires secret from humans.

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Paranormal Activity Looks Awwwesome

ParanormalActivityMovieStilThere’s been a lot of talk lately about Paranormal Activity. The small indie horror has been screaming it’s way across the web and though it keeps popping up, I’d managed to avoid the trailers until a new trailer started making the rounds with the common response of “looks awesome.” I had my misgivings. A movie about a haunted house? Really? Are we back to that? Then thinking about it I came to realize that it’s been a while since we’ve seen a good one and frankly, horror films of late have been more about the gross than about the scare so heck, why not. I checked out the trailer.

Somewhat reminiscent of everything from The Blair Witch Project to White Noise, this low budget film sets up a semi-realistic premise in which a couple thinks their home is being haunted so they set up a camera to capture video of what happens while they’re asleep. What’s most impressive about this low-fi trailer is that it manages to be effective in building tension and if the praise is accurate, horror fans are in for a treat.

Paranormal Activity is scheduled to play Fantastic Fest and I’m not sure if the September 25th release date I’ve seen kicking around is accurate but it certainly looks like a movie to keep on the radar.

I prefer the original trailer over the newly cut and distributed one which features most of the footage from the original trailer intercut with crowd reaction from a screening.

Both trailers are tucked under the seat for your viewing pleasure.

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Ghosts, Vampires, Italy; Oh My!

NewMoonMovieStill

So it’s true. Those nasty rumours you’ve heard about me being a Twilight fan…they’re all true. Thankfully, I don’t feel the need to share every tidbit of new information, every little detail, in an effort to drive traffic. There have been a number of trailers, a load of images and lots of news over the last few months but nothing has been particularly worth sharing until now when over the weekend, Summit premiered a new (the third) trailer for The Twilight Saga: New Moon.

No one knew what to expect from Catherine Hardwicke’s franchise starter Twilight (our review) which was a big gamble from the small studio. The film’s success, among the plentiful negative reviews, showed that fans were ready for the franchise. With a new director in tow, Chris Weitz (of The Golden Compass, About A Boy and American Pie fame), the follow-up has even more to prove to the ever growing fanbase and to date, Weitz seems to be on the right track.

This time the story shifts from puppy love to drama as Edward leaves Bella. She’s devastated and finds comfort in her friendship with Jacob. When Edward miss-reads an event (proving that reading minds is not a good thing to do) and assumes Bella is dead, he travels to Italy to have the Volturi, the vampire elders, kill him.

Until now, the trailers have focused mainly on Bella and her growing relationship with Jacob but this new trailer shifts direction, showing the vampire side of the story and focusing mostly on Edward, Alice and the Volturi. Are there some iffy moments? Yes there are. Some of Kristen Stewart’s reactions seem at odds with the unfolding story and the ghost effect isn’t really working for me but overall, it looks like Weitz has managed to capture the sprawling story while also fixing some of the glaring problems with the first film (the make-up, effects).

The Twilight Saga: New Moon will blow minds (or at least panties) on November 20th.

Trailer is tucked under the seat.

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Review: My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine 3D One Sheet

Director: Patrick Lussier (White Noise 2: The Light, Dracula 2000)
Screenplay: Todd Farmer, Zane Smith
Producer: Jack L. Murray
Starring: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 101 min.

In a rare moment of weakness immediately after the Vancouver Canucks’ eighth strait loss on home ice (which I understand is the worst streak since the 1970-71 season), I managed to convince the husband to go to a late show at the local multiplex. I should have known that convincing him in moment of weakness would end poorly.

My Bloody Valentine 3D Movie StillThe choices for a late night film are slim around these parts but we had two options: The Uninvited or My Bloody Valentine which was screening in 3D. Husband decided that it would be “cool” to see the 3D debacle. Things started to go south when I used a $25 gift card to pay for our two tickets and still had to shell out $5. Did ticket prices go up since my list trip to the theatre? Doubtful and after asking a few employees we discovered that the 3D film is indeed more expensive (probably for the use of the 3D glasses which we stupidly returned at the end of the film). After the price induced minor heart palpitation we headed into the theatre. Little did I know that that heart flutter was the most excitement I was going to get for the next 100 minutes.

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First Images from Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell

At one point, girl of the moment Ellen Page was cast in Sam Raimi’s upcoming horror film Drag Me to Hell. For one reason or another, she dropped out of the production and was quickly replaced by Alison Lohman in the lead role of Christine, a woman who is in love with Clay (Justin Long) but before continuing the relationship, must break out of a curse cast upon her by an older Eastern European woman which will see her dragged to hell.

Sounds like a fun premise and considering this is written by Raimi and his brother Ivan, it’s bound to be a whole lot of entertainment goodness. Along with a great interview with Sam Raimi, a number of photos have appeared on-line and though they’re not exactly jaw dropping, they are somewhat promising.

As much as I like Justin Long, I always consider him more of a comedic actor which suggests that perhaps this is a return to the old days of comedy infused horror and the picture of the old woman, though creepy, is just odd enough to be a little funny too. We’ll surely get a better sense for the film once a trailer is released, something which won’t be coming any time soon considering the film isn’t scheduled for a release until May 29th.

For now, I leave you with a peek at the pictures.

Drag Me to Hell Movie Still

Drag Me to Hell Movie Still

More pictures tucked under the seat!

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Hathaway and Wilson in Passengers Trailer

Passengers Movie StillIt’s always nice to see an actor one likes make a bit of a splash but I’m not sure Patrick Wilson is really going down the right road. Since I first spotted him in Hard Candy I’ve been curious about Wilson whose performance was overshadowed by Ellen Page. For the most part, his performances since then have ranged from great (Little Children) to wasted (Evening) and it looks like he’s headed down a bad road.

First in the bad comes Lakeview Terrace, the crazy neighbour thriller with Samuel L. Jackson which looks worse by the minute and close on its heels is Passengers, a horror film about a plane crash survivor who emerges from the disaster with extrasensory perception (Wilson) and then falls for the grief counselor (Anne Hathaway) followed closely by bad things unforlding.

To its credit, Rodrigo García’s film is not a remake and though the concept isn’t exactly fresh (I keep thinking The Mothman Prophecies) it’s nice to see something vaguely original. I only wish it looked better because this trailer doesn’t show a whole lot to get excited over (other than a Hathaway love scene which seems to get the boy’s attention). As for Wilson, here’s hoping these are only small tumbling blocks on the road to better things. The furture is looking mildly better with 2009’s Watchmen.

Passengers opens in limited release on October 24th.

Trailer is tucked under the seat!

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Review: The X-Files: I Want to Believe

The X-Files: I Want to Believe One Sheet

Director: Chris Carter (The X-Files)
Writer: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz
Producers: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz
Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Xzibit, Callum Keith Rennie
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 105 min


For me, “The X-Files” will for ever be linked with one of the most traumatic days of my life. I was 15, home on a Friday night. Mom was working and dad was in the yard and at 8:30PM, my sister and I started to pack up the evening activities. We changed into our PJ’s, poured ourselves a glass of milk and wrapped ourselves in a blanket in preparation for the final hour before bed time. The minute long set-up came on and then Mark Snow’s much hummed theme music kicked in. “The X-Files” was about to begin. It was at that moment, partway through the theme, that we smelled smoke. That was the night our house burned to a cinder and when asked about it years later, I can clearly recall the circumstances of our escape.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe Movie StillI always imagined that at some point in my life I’d come to associate the show with that tragic event in my life but it never happened. If anything, over the years we, my sister and I, have become even more fanatical about the show that provided us with hours of midnight chats and nightmares. While the show was on the air, we collected everything from comic books (to this day sealed and protected in limited edition numbered plastic wrap) to trading cards (the entire first season including the specialty cards). It’s fair to say that I’m a big fan of the show. Yet, when the production headed South in season six, I started to lose interest. The move, in combination with the release of the film in 1998, marked a difference in the series and almost immediately, the tone of the show seemed to change. It was darker, the characters a little more pessimistic and overall, less interesting. I stuck around for a few more seasons until Fox left the show at which point, I completely lost interest. I caught it here and there when nothing else was on TV but gone were the days of ritualistic weekly viewing.

I tried some of Chris Carter’s other projects; “Millennium” was excellent while it lasted and “Harsh Realm” seemed to have potential before it was canceled but nothing nothing seemed to stick any more. Carter, who had once seemed a bright beacon in TV land, seemed to be fading and when “The X-Files” finally went off the air in 2002, Carter seemed to go into seclusion. Over the years there was occasional talk of another film but those rumours never seemed to go anywhere. So when David Duchovny started to talk about the potential for another movie, no one paid much attention. It wasn’t until the film was finally announced that fans started to believe something could come together. So here we are, a little over a year since the initial announcement of the film and The X-Files: I Want to Believe has brought back the once unstoppable team of David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and Chris Carter. The fans have been anxiously awaiting the return but was it worth the wait? In one word: yes.

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