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Creepy (***New Content added on 2/11/16***)

For when you're feelin' that ol' hankering to be unsettled and/or disturbed for a while...but hopefully for just a little while!


Sleep Tight (2011)



You know those kinna people whose mission in life seems to lie in projecting their own personal misery on to everybody else?  Truth be told, and most unfortunately, we alldo, right?  Well, this guy in the squeamish Spanish suspenser "Sleep Tight" takes that morose mentality to a most monstrous art form.  

Carlos is diabolically driven with every foul fiber of his being to indiscriminately infest any poor soul who crosses his path with the hopeless misery that pervades his wretched existence.  And such unharnessed hatred even extends to his own dying mother!  

Carlos's principal possession is to effect the irrevocable obliteration of a perpetually bubbly disposition.  Such cheeriness is unfailingly displayed by a friendly young lass who lives in the apartment building in which Carlos toils as a handyman.  As wholly abhorrent as this was to witness, I was transfixed as this heartless heathen carries out the systematic disintegration of a heretofore effortlessly contented human spirit.  It is both stunning and sickening to absorb. 

Now there are some scenes in this film that you're gonna need to just let go.  Stuff that, if you didn't have it, then you simply wouldn't have a movie kinna stuff.  But it doesn't detract from the comprehensive creepiness quotient of the perverse proceedings. 

Toward the end of "Sleep Tight", I found myself really wishing that one especially viciously violated character in particular would have emerged as a vanquisher of evil here.  You will likely pick out the one I'm referring to, as these moments of callous cruelty are roundly heartbreaking. 

There is a place in this story where we come to understand that this demon seed was born innately and incurably unhappy, and will remain so for the duration of his entirely self-inflicted hell on earth.  

As I wind up this review may I offer the following recommendation by way of a lasting lesson learned: 

Will ya just crack a damn joke every oncein a while for crissakes?!


Goodnight Mommy (2014)



It is a conspicuously uneasy vibe established practically right from the start of the ultra-unsettling Austrian psychological thriller "Goodnight Mommy".  And then from there all the way up to the haunting conclusion, Co-Directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz never take their feet off the pedal, unleashing an unrelenting and unnerving undercurrent of fear and dread. 

Following what we come to learn was a horrific auto accident, a single mother also only recently separated from her husband returns to her country home and to her twin pre-adolescent sons.  Severely damaged in the crash, her face is concealed in a grotesque guise of gauze and tape.  She has been helplessly rendered to revealing to her children only a mummy-like mommy looking back at them with empty eyes, one who ceaselessly scolds them through pursed lips, often times as she is at once bodily abusing them.  Mom's off-puttingly odd behavior leads one of the twins, Lukas, to suspect that this is not their mother at all.  The other, Elias, is not so sure.  At least initially, that is.
We watch, gripped with fascination, as these kids struggle mightily to uncover who, or what, this curious creature is wandering about ominously in and around their house.  Where in the world is she from?  Or more alarmingly to consider, is she even of this world?  Is she actually an amnesiac, or is it all an act?  And what of these urgent and seemingly random episodes of OCD spray bottle disinfecting of walls both inside and out? 

There are an abundance of plausible themes running throughout "Goodnight Mommy" from which to consider and to choose.  Can a brutally battered and broken family be fixed?  Can a distraught mother completely overwhelmed with pain both physical and spiritual ever fully return from the hell of a nervous breakdown?  Or perhaps the ruthless reality that a post-traumatic existence is never endured alone, but is a shared suffering among all those infected in it's aftermath. 

Not only are their roles exceedingly challenging emotionally, in addition these are physically punishing performances registered by all three principles in the film.  The slapping, punching and eye-gouging inflicted by real-life twin brothers Lukas and Elias Schwarz along with actress Susanne Wuest upon each other never appear to be simulated.  And while Wuest is certainly a stunningly beautiful woman to behold, the character she so strikingly inhabits is about as far from glamorous as can possibly be imagined. 

The tables turn in terrifyingly twisted fashion mid-movie, as the persecuted become the exploiters.  The hunter becomes the prey.  What results is a starkly sordid demanding that love lost be replenished.  And all at the will of unconscionable sadism.  It is a genuinely disturbing disintegration to witness. 

In the closing sequence of "Goodnight Mommy" we realize that we have returned back to the beginning of the story-the perfect picture of a mother and her children.  Only we are abundantly aware that this is a final image which, while by nature eternal, has been reached at the end of a viciously cruel and merciless road paved with unspeakable grief and atrocity.             


Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)



With "3", I have now seen all installments of the "Paranormal Activity" franchise save for the final act, "The Ghost Dimension", which I look forward to reviewing soon.

In terms of this third iteration of ill-omened found footage from 2011, it's pretty much business as usual but for the fact that we learn the childhood origins of why the possessed Katie (Katie Featherston) behaves as balefully as she does in later years. So for that, and really only if you're a fellow fan whose followed along over these past eight years, it is worth the watch.

Oh, just one more thing. In critiquing the other chapters of the "PA" franchise, I have neglected to give well earned kudos to the creative legions of the respective sound editing teams. This consistently clever crew commands that one's attention remain resolutely riveted to the screen with their freakily foreboding noises even if nothing of consequence is going down.

Or is it? For in the apparitional land of the paranormal, you're never really sure.

"Whoa. Did I just see that?!"


Kristy (2013)



The played to death "young woman alone being stalked by crazed killers" gets a little different, and a lot weird, twist on things in "Kristy". For reasons never fully funneled into focus, the whack-jobs bent on butchering our beauty, in addition to despising those they pronounce privileged, seem to be anti-Christian satanic cultsters, as well. However, this is mostly conjecture, as the script never conclusively confirms such, and there is no basis to believe that the object of their psychotic scorn (Haley Bennett) is particularly God-fearing, either.

Nevertheless, by film's finale, this gargantuanly gallant gal, having agonized through a brutal baptism by fire, has, in a very visceral sense, been born again to launch into a fiercely forged crusade. And, man, will there ever be hell to pay.

Picture something along the lines of "do unto others"...only eliminate the benevolence.


Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)



Picking up where the opening installment left off, "Paranormal Activity 2" takes us on another netherworldly ride as we witness common suburban household affectations turn terrorizing. Once again we scan the screen, searching for shadowy movement in every corner, present or perceived, as demons rage like hell to possess a home and all of it's inhabitants.

If you dug the original, you'll likely find satisfaction in this jump-scary follow-up as we come to discover that when it comes to being out of the ordinary (like, WAY out), it's all in the family.

Only this reunion is anything but a celebration.


Triangle (2009)



So ya know "Groundhog Day"? Where Bill Murray hilariously relives the same day over and over and over again? Seen that one? Okay. "Triangle" is not that.

Oh, Melissa George's eternally cursed character is condemned to suffer through the same excruciating experiences without end, yeah. Though this is particularly puzzling, as we're never exactly clued in as to why. By all evidence, it has something to do with transgressions she may have committed during a past incarnation aboard a cruise ship sailing inside the Bermuda Triangle.  Huh?  I know. You kinna hafta just go with it.

However, unlike Murray's bewildered weatherman in "Groundhog Day", it is made abundantly clear to us that whatever this chick did wrong, it sure as hell weren't no laughin' matter. Especially as it would appear that such malicious matters have driven her to become an abusive mom on top of it all.

By any measure, what it eventually boils down to in the end for this reviewer is a totally twisted take on the age-old sage advice, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

And you had damn well better do this. Or you're done.


Borgman (2013)



Abject evil comes a callin' and seeps sinisterly through the cracks in a by-all-appearances upper middle class family's "perfect" life in the Dutch creeper "Borgman". Can you say "Bogeyman"?

The devil you say.


Creep (2014)



Mark Duplass starts off in "Creep" as embodying just that. His super strange character of Josef gives you the willies from that very first moment he literally bursts onto the screen. And matters only become progressively more unbecoming and then detonate directly into deranged from there.

Duplass created the story for "Creep" together with Patrick Brice, who also co-stars and directs this low budgeter. You may wonder as I did if Brice's character Aaron would really behave as relatively passively as he seems to in the face of relentless harassment ratcheting up with alarming menace by the day. But then whose to say that this isn't what a regular guy would actually do when faced with such terrifying circumstances heretofore not conjured in even his worst nightmares?

Be aware that you will certainly need to allow for hefty helpings of implausibility and unlikelihood as this genuinely horrifying tale unfolds. However, chances are that in the end you'll discover that you have been suitably both engrossed and grossed out.

To varying degrees of visceral.


It Follows (2014)



Not generally one to impose my interpretations of what may or may not be going on in a fundamentally ambiguous film, I'll venture to offer the following on "It Follows".

This deeply strange and scary suspense story seems to approach, if not hurl headlong into, moralistic territory in it's apparent position against young folks fornicating out of wedlock. Do the deed without commitment and you're committed to pay the ultimate price. With your life.

Director David Robert Mitchell consistently references a much more pure, and puritanical, age circa the 1950's. Old black and white creature features on late night TV and classic Sunday newspaper comics doubling as cheap makeshift window shades seem to suggest that this was an idyllically bygone, and long gone, time in America. And modern day USA has screwed up the country's morals and morays so badly that, to coin a fitting euphemism, the chickens have now been provoked to come home to roost. And there is gonna be all kindsa hell to pay the piper, kids.

And what of the guy trying to drown the girl in the pool who mere moments later appears to be among those posing in a framed family photo as the dad? Or is he? And why are the adults never shown in full but exclusively at a distance, in side profile or in only partially in-frame shots? And are all the moms "Single Head of Household"?

With an ending left ominously wide open and threatening, rest assured that these and other perplexing issues will be further pursued in the inevitable follow-up to "It Follows".

I'm sucked in, and as such will follow this freaky franchise wherever it may lead.


The Others (2001)



The 2001 Nicole Kidman vehicle "The Others" (Co-Exec Produced by then hubby Tom Cruise) is on the surface a good old fashioned haunted house ghost story. And to be sure, there are an abundance of the requisite starts and scares.

However, in the end, we see that this movie is really about something else. Writer and Director Alejandro Amenábar crafts a compelling narrative exploring the devastating emotional toll that war extracts not only from the soldiers who engage in bloody combat, but also that which is taken on those loved ones left behind to struggle with their own battles back home. It is the latter to whom the film's title refers.

War is hell. And so, too, is the carnage that litters the wake of it's aftermath.

That is, until the next war.


Dark Summer (2015)



Sometimes it's cool when you're unaware that someone longs for you romantically.  And sometimes, it is not.  "Dark Summer" would fall into that latter category.

Chances are you'll pick up on what's developing as this story of a young man under house arrest for stalking being terrorized by the menacing spirit of his prey plays out.  Odds are perhaps not as good, however, that you'll quite as readily anticipate the jarring end to this harrowing summer.  In fact, I'd practically be willing to "give an arm and a leg" that you won't.

Confused?  Oh, you'll see...


The Houses October Built (2014)



 "The Houses October Built" is one of the most terrifying and unsettling movies I have ever seen.  Period.

I make only one promise.  You WILL wonder out loud this: Why in the HELL don't these guys, upon fully realizing that their good natured little Haunted House Hunt has plunged full force into a criminally psychotic backwoods nightmare, just turn the damn RV around and opt to celebrate Halloween by bobbing for apples?

Or virtually anything other than what this crew actually did.

Ah, but alas, then we would never have had "The Houses October Built".  And what a frightfully monster bummer that would be.


Extraterrestrial (2014)



Aliens from outer space come to earth. It's been done. And done. And done. And done. And...okay. We GET it.

But perhaps never quite like "Extraterrestrial" it hasn't. All progresses pretty much by the book as per this genre as typically told. That is until the pair of primary characters leave this world. And, man, do they EVER leave it. For far, FAR out are they transported, and then deposited into an interplanetary place that may best be described as a freaked out Felliniesque pod prison on acid. And even THAT doesn't do it justice.

And if you think you're gonna get a true love conquers all sweet little ending to all of this wickedly whacked out weirdness, then think again sweetheart. 'Cuz that ain't what the powers that be back on this planet particularly have in mind.


The Den (2013)



"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" "The Shadow" knows. And evidently so do the folks who created the sick scenarios we see spilling out from the bowels of the internet in "The Den".

Their grim and grisly perversions reflect a cyber world where at anytime anyone can get anything their heart desires. No matter how heinously vile that yearning may be. But, as with all vehicles of free enterprise, it's gonna cost ya.

How about we say, oh, your soul? And then we call it even?


Nightcrawler (2014)



Jake Gyllenhaal channels Forest Gump and Rain Man and winds up giving us a thoroughly creepy hybrid of the two as Lou Bloom in "Nightcrawler".

Bloom is a loner's loner who soaks up in startling detail information of all variety from the internet inside his cramped and dark apartment. His eyes are hollow and haunting, providing the window into a soul that seems to have long since been vacated. His lone source of income it appears is stealing and pawning off anything he can negotiate to be paid for in exchange. "In between jobs" and desperate, he turns to making a living by "crawling" the streets of Los Angeles at night with a video camera in search of bloody traffic accidents and criminal mayhem. Once committed to tape, he then sells his "Ratings Gold" to lead the evening news at a third-rate local TV outfit. The floundering station's News Director (chillingly played without conscience by Rene Russo) is an unapologetic disciple of the "If it bleeds, it leads." doctrine. She absolutely can not wait to grab the next cassette from Bloom and top her broadcast with the carnage he has recorded.

"Nightcrawler"'s ending makes it abundantly clear that this is not a short-term vocation for Bloom. He has found his calling. It lies in the next police call to a potentially gruesome and grisly scene. And only he is hoping for the worst.


Stephen King's A Good Marriage (2014)



"Stephen King's A Good Marriage" is a pretty good movie primarily because the two leads are each pretty damn good actors. Otherwise this twisted domestic tale of murder and deceit just wouldn't be especially good at all.

Mild and restrained by King's typically sinister standards, this story of film vets Joan Allen and Anthony LaPaglia as suburbia couple supreme is still certainly plenty sordid. And when this perfect pair's seemingly enchanted existence slams up against a bump in the road the size of Mt. Everest, the freaky factor shifts into "Maximum Overdrive" (to steal a titular phrase from one of the iconic author's cinematic ventures of years ago).

Only "The Master of Horror" himself could brand this macabre matrimonial union as being anywhere near "good". For most of the rest of us immersed in our own version of wedded bliss, count your Blessings. If nothing else, King impresses upon us that, even on the worst day, it could always be one helluva lot worse!


Manhunter (1986)



Michael Mann was the Executive Producer of the hit and hip cool cop show "Miami Vice" in the 1980's. The edgy, atmospheric and tense mood he infused into that landmark TV classic is splattered all over "Manhunter" (the 1986 prequel to Oscar champion "The Silence of the Lambs"), which Mann directed and for which he wrote the screenplay, as well. 
William Petersen and the late, great Dennis Farina are both excellent as obsessed FBI agents who are hot on the trail of a psychopathic serial killer disciple of the notorious madman Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter. While Mann has manufactured a solid suspense thriller, there are some flaws with the production to be sure. The film is noticeably drawn out longer than need be, and it really loses it's way right along with it's bearings about three quarters of the way through. 
But Mann manages to right the ship and gives us a satisfying, and almost obligatorily bloody, finale to the frenzied festivities, all to the blow out your speakers strains of Iron Butterfly's eternally eerie "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida". 
Mann, you wanna talk about weird, "honey".


The Canal (2014)



So I was in the mood for a good (or at least passable) suspense chiller.  What I got was a much more than satisfactory (if a bit longish) horror thriller. 

"The Canal" is a uniformly well produced, directed, plotted and acted effort, anchored by a potent performance from Rupert Evans.  Evans plays archivist (don't call him "librarian") David, a man who is condemned to carry on the deadly evil conduct of those who resided in his home before he and his family. 
I recommend that you dive headlong into "The Canal".  But be warned: No guarantees on when, or if, you're gonna resurface.


The Babadook (2014)



The unsettling Australian chiller "The Babadook" is definitely not your typical monster movie.  In fact, it's not one at all in the classical sense of the long explored, and too oft exploited, genre. 

Rather, this strange story of a widow, still grieving six years after the death of her husband in a car crash, and her troubled young son is really an allegorical tale of dealing with the pain of unbearable loss and the inability to let go of a loved one.  The horrifying physical manifestation of the "Babadook" is no match for the debilitating emotional scarring it embodies. 

The final moments of "Babadook" suggest that this mom and her child have succeeded in keeping the monster relatively at bay.  And in so doing they have enabled their life together to carry on in relative peace and contentment.  

Still, we get the lurking feeling that this is a tenuously fragile sense of happiness, forever fated to continue only at the mercy of the vicious impulse of a most sinister force.              


Lake Mungo (2008)



While you may not have a death wish, death may harbor such sinister inevitability just the same.  That is the dark premise of the well acted (particularly Rosie Traynor as a grieving mom who learns that she never really knew her late daughter) and strikingly photographed (courtesy of cinematographer John Brawley) Australian mystery suspenser "Lake Mungo".
The filmmakers claim that the unrelentingly unsettling documentary style record we are watching is based on actual events.  Whether one accepts this oft times loose premise or not, "Mungo"'s overarching message of a soul departing the living before it's prepared to do so never really leaving the lives of those left behind makes a lasting impression.  


Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014)



The two young lads in "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" pair up for a pretty damn funny Gen Z version of Cheech & Chong.  But such frivolity won't last for long.  For as with all installments in the "P A" franchise, we know full well that the fate awaiting them sure as hell ain't gonna be no laughin' matter in the end.  And, natch, it certainly is not for these doomed young 'uns and those most unfortunate to be snatched up as part of their collateral damage. 

"Marked Ones" is scary enough and has it's requisite creepy and shocker moments.  But much of what are intended to be tension-building stretches just fill film time and should have been filling up the cutting room floor instead.  A recurring bit with moving shower curtains becomes particularly tedious and offers no pay offs. 
However, you need to pay close attention at the very end here.  I had to back up the DVD and watch it twice.  When I did I confirmed that, whoa, that is what I thought I saw.  So now we've come full circle, huh?  Don't worry, I'm not gonna give anything away.  But if, like me, you've been a fan since this serial's original dropped back in '07, you are definitely going to get what I mean.


Absentia (2011)



Two too-cute sisters (Katie Parker and Courtney Bell in extraordinarily natural performances) come to discover what in yonder tunnel lurks.  And it ain't good.
Be warned.  "Absentia" is bound to getcha.

The Maze (2010)



You make the call to watch a slasher flick, you pretty much assume the following: human anatomies are gonna get gutted, the acting will be in the range of a pedestrian Senior Class Play and the relatively decent production values will help make up for the inherent lack of talent.  

And what do ya know?  There we have "The Maze".  Not good.  But not the worst.  And that's really about all you can wish for after all, ain't it?  Except for hoping against hope that "The Maze 2 (This time it's a GIANT...and super stinky! ...Mushroom Farm!) isn't already lurking in the weeds. 

Please.  Somebody.  Kill itbefore it grows!!


Alien Abduction (2014)



The action grabs you (and, quite literally, the various main characters) pretty much right from the get-go of "Alien Abduction", another found footager that does a competent-plus job of jolting and jarring right through. 

But, come on now.  We know that the mom would have put an end to her youngest's non-stop video taping just as soon as they commenced running for their collective lives.  And to scamper and shoot amidst relentless peril and frenzy like he evidently did for hours, the kid would have had to possess the stamina of a Navy SEAL.  And the strength of tenGrinches...plus two.


Don't Blink (2014)



There's something in the air in "Don't Blink".  And only the government knows what it is.  Or do they? 

These things are for sure.  Brian Austin Green (TV's Beverly Hills, 90210...remember?) as the male lead isn't gonna garner an Oscar, but then he doesn't overact either.  And Joanne Kelly (Syfy Channel's "Warehouse 13") puts one in the mind of Liv Tyler.  Only Kelly can act.  She is really good in her role as one of a bevy of buddies who inexplicably split the scene one by one with neither a trace nor an explanation. 

Rookie Director and Writer Travis Oates wastes little time in effectively establishing a vibe of unsettling tension, which is brought to a climax in a decidedly ambiguous denouement that still manages to wield a wallop. 

Oates freshman effort is yet another entry in an ever expanding parade of productions which, while not made with the biggest of budgets nor the highest Q Score of stars, still offer creative and compelling entertainment well worth the while.  After all, any film that dares accompany it's opening credits with the eternally polarizing strains of the late, great John Denver can't be all bad, right?

In the end, we are inspired to heed the ultimate message put forth in "Blink".  Value what you have.  While you have it. 
And hold on like hell to what you got.
Come Back to Me (2014)



If you've ever seen "Ground Hog Day", then you'll remember Bill Murray killing himself in a variety of gruesome comportments day after day, knowing full well that he would always rise from the dead to experience tomorrow.  Except for the fact that it is much more supernatural and super sinister, and one helluva lot gorier, this is the premise we are asked to just go with in "Come Back to Me". 

This film is not brilliant.  But it's not abysmal either.  The two leads, Katie Walder (who puts one in the mind of Reese Witherspoon) and Matt Passmore (a near dead ringer for Nick Lachey) play a young married couple embroiled in growing turmoil.  Their predicament is extra exasperated by a guy who gives the phrase "bad neighbor" a good name as played to the hilt of creepy by Nathan Keyes.   

"As The World Turns" soap star legend Maura West probably infuses the proceedings with more credibility than has been earned when she delivers the script's big reveal near the end of the flick.  That Walder and Passmore can continue to play it straight after this point is a credit to their composure.   

Lastly, let it be said that there are plenty of ways to off yourself where ain't nobody bringin' you back, Maura.  No doubt you can come up with just a few.  I'll spare you the decidedly demented details of my personal suggestions. 
"Come Back to Me".  Once is plenty.  No reason to return.            


Silent House (2011)



Elizabeth Olsen is one of my favorite actress's goin' today.  She is okay, not exceptional, in the psyche suspenser "Silent House". 

In truth, the ominous silence that permeates throughout this "House" actually serves to build the most tension in this unsettling tale of long buried family horror buried no longer.


Absence (2013)



Let's face it, guys.  "Found footage" productions are here to stay.  The widely unanticipated success of "The Blair Witch Project" insured that well over a decade ago now.  And that's okay.  I am one who, for the most part, is absorbed and entertained by such fare. 

Which brings us to the suspense horror effort "Absence".  Not fabulous.  Not a failure, either.  The source of the flick's sinister "something's out to get you" undertones are not so mysteriously revealed fairly early on, culminating in an alarmingly "Whoa, CRAP!" style ending.  As most of this genre does.  

My only suggestion/minor complaint is this: Is it possible to have just a few more semi-intermittent scenes of stimulation during the usually hour-plus mundane meandering toward these frenzied finales?  It would certainly make the total viewing investment so much more rewarding along the way to inevitably being shocked out of our shoes. 

Just a thought.       


The Mist (2007)



Creepy, squirmy, blicky.  "The Mist" certainly embraces these unsettling adjectives and more over it's nearly two hour tale of secret military experiments and humanity under siege run amuck.  Director Frank Darabond ("The Green Mile", "The Shawshank Redemption") also fashions an alternative ending to the conclusion imagined by horror hero Steven King in the novella upon which Darabond based his screenplay.  And it is a diabolically disturbing derivation from the one originally written by King, who reportedly gave Darabond his blessing to make the about-face change. 

Still, if the bluntly barbaric final frames of "The Mist" were intended to convey some sort of message vaguely encompassing hope, faith and benevolence, count me among those with whom such commentary must have been lost in translation. 

Or, perhaps more fittingly, "shrouded in fog".


388 Arletta Avenue (2011)



With a clear nod to other suspense creepers like the "Paranormal Activity" franchise and the ending of  the lesser known "ATM", Director/Writer Randall Cole still manages to create his own brand of steadily-building dread and desperation in "388 Arletta Avenue". 

Nic Stahl is really good as a guy who's lifetime of reprehensible behavior at long last catches up with him in a most menacing manner.  His character James suffers the enduring and, in this case, brutally grim, lesson that you ultimately reap what you sew, Jimmy. 

The film's haunting final images drive home the point of it all in effectively unsettling fashion.  To wit, we never really know the dark secrets that may lurk behind the front door of our seemingly innocuous suburban neighbors.  Naturally, we assume that they're just regular folk like us.  

Right?


Leave (2011)



A successful author suffering from terrifying nightmares in the wake of a traumatic life event decides to write about his ordeal in the mystery-thriller "Leave".  But on the way to a remote vacation home to do so, he encounters a man who looks strikingly, and eerily, familiar. 

Frank John Hughes stands out as the enigmatic stranger.  And while the multi-talented Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad") receives top billing status for marketing purposes, be advised that his is hardly a feature role. 


The Frozen (2012)



"The Frozen" is a pretty good flick. Pretty good at generating suspense. Pretty good at building a sinister sense of dread. Pretty creepy/spooky music score. Pretty off the beaten path conclusion, which you're bound to pick up on at some point and are gonna likely see coming. 

Still, Brit Morgan's character Emma is beyond relieved to realize that the question "Where in hell are we?" is not ultimately answered in the literal sense.


I Spit on Your Grave (1978)



This is one of those movies that many of us had always been aware of, and one which we felt we had to see at some point in our lives.  Especially if your were coming of age when it was released in the late '70's as I was.  You just had to build up the wherewithal to endure it.   

Well, I have now seen "I Spit on Your Grave".  I can't say I'm glad I saw it.  I can tell you that it was a profoundly raw and visceral experience.  The no name actors, the seemingly pastoral country setting and the complete absence of music other than that which is being produced in the scene combine to infuse the horror being depicted with an elevated sense of reality (the filmmakers, in fact, claim that their sickening story is based on actual events). 

This is practically the only film Camille Keaton ever appeared in.  With what she was put through as an actress (and one can only imagine as a human being) in "Spit", even though it is all pretense, one can hardly blame her for not wanting to make a career out of the movie business.  

Ultimately this is a tale of vicious vengeance.  Keaton's character Jenny Hill is abused as if she wasn't even an animate creature (and, in effect, as if she is not even actually present) by these animals.  "I Spit on Your Grave" drives home the "no evil deed goes unpunished" dictum in a disturbingly effecting manner unlike no other film had done before it.  Or, truth be told, perhaps ever since.  


Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)



I have now seen two of the four installments of the "Paranormal Activity" franchise.  So I have come to understand that not much really happens until the final ten minutes of these movies.  And that's cool, as long as the hour and twenty minutes or so leading up to the killer (literally) climaxes is compelling enough to keep you hanging on until all hell (again, literally) breaks loose. 

For me, "PA4" succeeded in accomplishing this prerequisite.  The teen leads of Kathryn Newton (TV's "Gary Unmarried") and Matt Shively are each naturally believable as two kids bonded by both adolescent sexual tension and a drive to figure out what the devil is going on in her house.  And, more importantly, in the mega-strange pad across the street from it.  

The real fright factor in these efforts is generated from the fact that they all take place entirely in the regular lives of suburbanite America.  There is never the standard horror flick device of suspense stirring music building to a chaotic crescendo to cue us to be scared.  It is as if, as the filmmakers intend, what we are witnessing could conceivably be happening to our own families in our own homes.    

Sure, there are a lot of scenes where you just have to go with the flow of the weirdness being depicted before you (hey, it's not "NormalActivity" after all).  But when all is said and done (in) what you may find most unbelievable is that at no point does this dude even make a game effort to steal a kiss from such a ferociously fetching lass. 


The Purge (2013)



You have just GOT to go with the premise on this one, kids.  Or you may as well eject the pitch black paradoxical suspenser "The Purge" from your player and reject the whole damn thing out of hand.  

This is a seriously sick vision of the United States, circa 2022, where the powers that be have royally failed to reach a happy medium between ObamaNation and Right Wing Wackomania.  While the resultant government-sanctioned "cleansing of the country" is profoundly disturbing and depraved, that's actually not the scary part.  The notion that what we are witnessing, or more conceivably something even remotely close to it, may actually BE America's future, is. 

God help us all.


Quarantine (2008)



Some reviewers will tell you that "Quarantine" does not hold a candle to the Spanish original it is based upon, "[REC]".  To those folks I politely say: "BEE-ESSS". 

I just finished watching both movies back-to-back on DVD.  Hey, the predecessor kicks total backside.  Period.  And while the American follow-up matches it practically frame-by-frame (plus a heaping helping of Hollywoodized pump-up the volume antics, namely the incessant whirring of choppers overhead and the deliriously disorienting horrific action sequences), in a dearly rare feat of cinematic accomplishment, this remake may actually have eclipsed the original in terms of drop-dead dread and fear factor. 

Exhibit 1: We bear witness as the pretty and effervescently unaffected TV reporter Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) alarmingly and organically transforms before our eyes into a terrified and trembling primitive human animal. 

Exhibit 2: Stunningly stoic cameraman Scott Percival (Steve Harris, in a role which eerily never revealed the character's face in "[REC]") remarkably remains strong and stable despite the gruesome and gory images he is relentlessly recording. His character invests new meaning in, and forever sets the standard for, the ultimate "steady cam" videographer.

Nine Dead (2009)



Low budgeter with uneven script and performances.  Still, diabolically clever enough to hold your interest for the most part over the 86 minutes running time.

Melissa Joan Hart is hardly the premier thespian.  However, she does have her moment toward the end of "Nine Dead" where she justifies her top billing. 

This flick would have done itself a big favor by giving us more John Terry.  So that we actually realized it was HIM, that is.


[REC] 2007



A self absorbed Spanish television reporter and her cameraman get WAY more than they bargained for as they shadow a crew of firemen on a call for help to a Barcelona apartment building.  Pablo videotapes it all, following the constant command of Angela (Manuela Velasco in a gradually and terrifyingly transformational role) to "Record EVERYTHING!".  

The resulting footage is both immensely disturbing and ominously fascinating from the very first step into this house of horrors until the last frenzied frame.


Sinister (2012)



Any movie that features the impressive collective acting resumes of Ethan Hawke, Fred Thompson and Vincent D'Onofrio can't be all that bad.  And "Sinister" isn't all that bad.  It's also just not all that good. 

Note to all families in "House #1":  As bad as it is, don't leave!  That next pad you pick is gonna be one whole HELL of a lot worse!


Shuttle (2008)



Ever been stuck at the airport without a ride?  Many of us have.  Eventually, though, we find a way to get home safe and sound, perhaps by means of a shuttle service. 

That's the lucky break that these passengers stranded curbside late one rainy night thought they had found in "Shuttle".  Boy, were they everwrong.  Within moments these travelers discover that they have climbed onboard for a terrifying trip to a grim destination.

In the end you're left with a most unsettling notion that those who "didn't complete the journey" may have actually been "the fortunate ones". 

Cold Prey (2006)



I love Norwegian cinema.  As my dad was born in Norway, I guess it's no big surprise. 

"Cold Prey" (Fritt vilt) is a mostly satisfying chiller-thriller set in the chilly mountain snow of back country Norge.  Director Roar Uthaug keeps the proceedings loose yet lurid.  And Ingrid Bolso Bordal is definitely one bad ass babe.
I'm hoping the subsequently released "Cold Prey 2" (2008) is as cool.  Those crafty Norske.  Taking a Box Office cue from Hollywood: If at first you succeed, sequel, sequel again.


P2 (2007)



So "P2".  Psycho dude obsessed with totally hot chick.  He pursues her in the most deranged ways imaginable.  

In the case of this effort the guy's a security guard, stationed on level P2 in an underground parking garage.  Not a bad use of your time if you like this kind of creepy horror. 
Rachel Nichols is the unwanted object of the nut job's twisted affections.  Natch, she's quite pleasant to behold.  And Simon Reynolds is more than credible as a social reject who departed the world of the stable long ago.   

Nothing else to do on a dark and stormy night?  You could do worse than to steer toward "P2".   


Killer Movie (2008)



Silly, preposterous and grisly.  And yet good fun.  Added bonus:  Every single chick in "Killer Movie" is killer FINE.  And, for you gals, every dude is a BIG time Hunk. 

And this head's up: If you're thinking about watching "KM" because you're a fellow Leighton Meester ("Gossip Girl") fan, then do NOT miss the first five minutes.  

Finally, watch the closing credits closely.  That way you, like me, can say, "Hey.  Wait a minute.  What the hell are those two guys doing there?".


Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)



"Martha Marcy May Marlene".  These are all identities assigned to the enigmatic lead character in this relentlessly unsettling film.  

Just who exactly is Martha (Elizabeth Olsen, in an absolutely haunting breakout role) after she is lured into a cult by young people who are as completely lost as she is?  And particularly after the deal is sealed by the diabolical charm of  it's leader, Patrick (John Hawkes, continuing to impress with his remarkable versatility). 

We bear witness as Martha searches her tormented soul, consumed in an unremitting struggle to find the answer to who she is.  Or was.  Or is becoming.  And all the while her experience at the cult compound becomes increasingly more sinister.  

I hate to give away endings.  So I'll just leave you with this if you're considering "MMMM".  If the final scene, in all it's stark realism, does not convince you to NEVER, EVER join a cult, then I can NOT imagine what would.


Inside (2006)



"Inside" is an account of devastating human loss, and the shattered souls desperately struggling to carry on in the painful aftermath. 
This film starts off most intriguingly. The decidedly strange story unfolds at a deliberate pace, all the while effectively creating mystery and generating suspense.  The creepy music almost plays a character in the deftly patient building process.  Cheryl White is particularly effective and affecting as a grieving mother who is powerless to "let go", even after a year has come and gone since tragedy debilitated her.  The movie poignantly portrays the internal, or "inside", anguish torturing three people who have come to bear responsibility, warranted or not, for the deaths of their loved ones.  That is, it did for roughly the first half or so of the 103 minute running time. 
Then things changed dramatically.  Disturbingly. 
And White suddenly, and unconvincingly, transforms into a sort of psychotic character along the lines that Glen Close in "Fatal Attraction", or Kathy Bates in "Misery", so disturbingly terrified us with.  At this point, Director Jeff Mahler's movie loses both it's way and it's impact.  What was an unusual but absorbing chronicle of the recovery of life after death becomes a silly and over-the-top near-slasher horror flick.  Why?  It certainly didn't need to, and still it would have served itself proudly. 
In the end, "Inside" turns out to be a poster child for "pick a genre, and then have the guts to go with it".


Eden Lake (2008)



When adolescents attack. 

If this troubling tag line intrigues you, then "Eden Lake" may be worth the plunge.  If not, then stay out of these waters. 

This is brazenly brutal, bloody and base stuff.  The fact that children are the purveyors of the majority of the vicious and murderous mayhem in this film is deplorably disturbing. 

Despite that in the end we discover that these kids are the products of repugnant parents (in name only), it still scarcely softens the impact of this relentless exercise in crushing (in)human cruelty.


Audition (1999)



There are some movies where you absolutely have GOT to look away from the screen for long stretches, as what is being depicted is so relentlessly disturbing.

This is one of those movies.

Watch it at your own risk...of nightmares for weeks! (especially if you fancy yourself a "play-uh"-consider it fair warning, you guys).


Cloverfield (2007)



Completely preposterous (Hey, it's a Monster Movie, man). That said, also thoroughly engaging and entertaining from start to finish.

This is the definitive "Popcorn Flick", so go pop up a bunch of kernels, plop yourself on down and scope it out!


Cujo (1983)



Scary and tense.

Dee Wallace and Danny Pintauro (in a remarkable film debut pre-"Who's The Boss?" days) are compelling and believable as a Mom and her young son being stalked by their own rabid and bloodthirsty pet St. Bernard.

However, the dog's work may be the most impressive performance in the film.

Seriously.


The Killing of John Lennon (2006)



A riveting and disturbing portrait of a man's spiraling dissension into madness and murderous obsession.

Jonas Ball gives a remarkable performance as the mentally unhinged assassin Mark David Chapman. At times nuanced, at times terrifying.

The only drawback: there is absolutely no music in the film from either Lennon nor The Beatles. But aside from the restriction of the obviously prohibitive licensing fees in this regard, here is a film well worth the nearly two hour investment. Particularly if you were as devastated as I was the moment I heard John Lennon was dead.


ATM (2012)



For what it was, this was pretty good, actually. Yeah, there were unlikely developments and stuff that didn't happen that could have, but then you wouldn't have a movie.

When I watch a film like "ATM" I wonder what I would do in the dire situation presented. Who's to say it's not similar to what these three grimly unfortunate characters did under the most extreme duress imaginable? May I, and you, never, ever know.

By the way, the reason the trio parked so far from the ATM vestibule is that the driver wanted the drunk third wheel passenger (Josh Peck, one of my under-rated favorites) to suffer while walking in the frigid sub zero cold for screwing up his chances with a paralyzingly hot co-worker. Can't blame him for that.


Take Shelter (2011)



This is the gripping tale of a man's gradual descent into an ever-consuming madness. Or at least it was until the twist, and somewhat gimicky, ending, which I won't reveal. And while the final scene was cool, this viewer couldn't help but come away feeling a bit cheated in light of everything that came before it.

Nevertheless, Michael Shannon as a darkly troubled soul, and Jessica Chastain as his enduring but severely tested soul mate wife, are each impeccable in their performances.

I liked this one, though it left me a bit less than satisfied.


Compliance (2012)



After relatively only a few moments into it, this film becomes an uncomfortable experience to watch. In a near-supreme example of "What would you do?" circumstances, things start off moderately plausible, though teetering all the while on the edge. When the fast food restaurant manager's boyfriend gets involved in the young girl's criminal interrogation toward the end of the movie, matters spiral way over the top and land firmly in the realm of the ridiculous.

Still, even these preposterous scenes invite speculation in terms of this: If one is essentially given free reign from what they believe to be an authoritative source (a cop investigating a theft case), will they obediently do as instructed? No matter what they are asked to do? These deeply unsettling scenes certainly stretch the concept completely out of proportion. However, if the individual being ordered to carry out these outrageous acts is weak of mind and character (and drunk, as this sad sack boyfriend was) it may, MAY I emphasize, not be entirely out of the question.

What makes this effort all the more compelling, and increasingly downright alarming, is that "Compliance" is based on actual events. And while certainly over-blown for dramatic purposes, research reveals that much of what is depicted in this film more or less happened in fast food joints throughout America in recent years. Authorities eventually tracked down and arrested the sick cretin they believed was responsible for these evil hoaxes. But the man was never brought to trial, as both the prosecution and the defense counsels agreed that he would never be convicted of his alleged crimes.

These fake police calls stopped after the suspect was taken into custody. And there have been no reports of any similar such disturbing i


This post first appeared on The Quick Flick Critic (***LATEST NEW CONTENT Added To "Documentaries" On 6/6/16***), please read the originial post: here

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