Ms Ricci wakes up on a mortician’s slab. The mortician himself (Liam Neeson - Star Wars: TPM ) tells her that she is merely a soul trapped in a dead body, and that she will be put to rest in a few days. Will she ever get to see her boyfriend (Justin Long - Drag Me To Hell ) again?
M Night Shyamalan in his hey-day would have done a much better job with this. However, it seems he has fallen prey to the vanity of the modern film-maker and (like most low-budget directors) considers himself an auteur.
Sebastian Stan ( Captain America: Winter Soldier ) and Ashley Greene are a young couple who move into a new house. Strange things start to happen, so the husband installs CCTV. No, this is not a found footage film like Paranormal Activity , it is nowhere near that good. Despite apparently knowing in advance, Hubby did not bother to check his e-mails. His best buddy, parapsychologist Tom Felton ( Harry Potter ), sent him an expositionary video clip.
The evil spirit keeps breaking in and re-decorating. The girl is terrified, and insists on camping out in a tent in the back yard. That did not work out well for the Blair Witch Project team. Meanwhile, her husband knows exactly what the monster is but he chooses a baseball bat as his weapon to fight it with!
It turns out that hubby was once a parapsychologist too. He, Felton and Julianna Guill tried to contact the spirit five years previously, with predictable results. The only way to protect yourself seems to be to turn your home into a farraday cage, like the Moscow apartment in that recent Alien Invasion movie.
The story flips between three different views - the present-day reality, a series of flashbacks and what seem to be hallucinations. It all blends together, making an enormous unintelligible mess.
Hendricksen is listed as having worked on a dozen Feature films in 2014 that are due for release in 2015. The laws of supply and demand indicate that he is in high demand as a skilled and well-known actor, but also he must supply his services regardless of the quality or artistic merit of the project.
The house is supposed to be haunted. The teenagers do not go into the cellar to transgress. No, they go into the attic instead! They discover a radio that can be used for talking to the dead.
It is quickly evident that the ghosts are real. This raises the usual question in all cliched ghost movies. Is the main ghost going to commit a murder-spree, or is it a death-omen of a non-ghostly killer about to go on a spree? After all, those are the two resolutions that these storylines have. Well, it turns out that there is a new one - sort of. Really, it makes no sense at all.
One day they get a visit from a stranger - Stephen McHattie ( The Dark (1993) , the Canadian Lance Hendricksen).
Dr David Marrow (Liam Neeson - Star Wars: TPM ) is looking for volunteers for a scientific study. He tells everyone it is to treat insomnia, but he is really researching fear responses. As a result he decided to hold it in a creepy old mansion. Nell is selected for the study.
Nell arrives at Hill House and meets the creepy caretaker (Bruce Dern - Silent Running ). It is actually his wife who gives the cliched doom-and-gloom speech, yet another example of this movie passing the Bechdel test. Then we meet the other test subjects - Theo ( Catherine Zeta-Jones ) and Luke (Owen Wilson - Shanghai Knights ). They add glamour and humour, and are both bigger names than Lilli Taylor. This may have been necessary for marketing reasons, but it still seems unfair that she virtually carries the entire movie and yet she only gets fourth billing. The others actually do very little, and yet cash a bigger pay cheque.
The local Police officer (Aaron Ashmore - Smallville ) is a suspect. The victim's brother, Roy (Devon Bostick - The 100 ), gets called in as a witness. Julian Richings ( Supernatural ) also helps out.
This works on a number of levels. On the surface it is a straightforward police procedural, like Law & Order: Sexy Victims Unit. The detective uncovers rumours of a satanic conspiracy, which edges this into horror movie status. But the third level comes courtesy of the uniformed cops, who point out that the detective is selectively following cherry-picked information sources. All in all, this is a clear-cut case of Satanic Panic.
Ironically, for a film about a real-life puritanical witch-hunt the credited producers include Harvey Wankstain himself.
Our Final Girl has visions concerning a woman's murder fifteen years previously. Are they memories, or is she being haunted? Perhaps she is hallucinating due to insanity brought on by being stalked by co-worker Adam Scott ( Hot Tub Time Machine 2 ).
This is a suspense thriller with a supernatural element. As a result it is slow-moving ... too much so, in fact. There is just not enough material in this story for it to fit a feature length format. It could have been a decent episode of a TV show like The Twilight Zone , but that is about it. That said, the film is well-shot with great cinematography in a couple of scenes, but that is certainly not enough to save it. Especially since the editing is not up to the same standard, and the ADR has failed since the lip-synch does not work.
Eden wakes up in the year 2020, where she is called Veronica - a successful writer on the topic of racial oppression. Not the same kind of oppression as that on the slave plantation, but a series of perceived micro-aggressions. After giving a lecture on the subject, she goes for a night out with her friends Dawn ( Gabourey Sidibe ) and the token white girl Sarah ( Lily Cowles ). Yes, the purpose of the token white girl is to illustrate supposed disparities in the quality of customer service provided to People of Colour. At least this is a bit more subtle than Monae's previous movie, Hidden Figures .
The third act sees Veronica/Eden back on the plantation. This leads up to a brutal climax, which sees the Final Girl conduct a one-woman rampage reminiscent of the Nat Turner version of Birth of a Nation . That movie was undermined by the #MeToo movement as an attack on the director, so this movie can cover the same territory but remain immune to the PC police. Perhaps the best comparison is with a role-reversal of The Hunt (2019) .
So is Veronica an unwilling time-traveller? Or is she a willing participant in a White Dog scenario which is intended to train African-American people to hate white folk racially by turning straw-man villains into reality? Perhaps the real twist is a lot more mundane.
Luckily she knows the area, and has potential allies among the supporting cast. The local convenience store is run by her childhood friend (Tyrese - 2 Fast, 2 Furious ), who has a grudge of his own against the local cops.
Although this is a female-led action film, there is nothing about the protagonist that is uniquely female. It seems as if the most original thing about the film is the casting, which has swopped Harris and Tyrese between what would be the standard roles. The supporting cast are stuck in typecast roles.
To fit in with modern politics, the final sequence emphasises the racial identities of those involved. Context, such as extreme poverty, is ignored in favour of politics.
The sergeant (David Zayas - Skyline ) knows more about the entity's motivations than he first reveals. Nice casting, but not exactly an original twist.
In the present, the hero must solve the murders. Luckily his partner (Mykelti Williamson - ) and the boss (Alfred Molina - Species ) are keen to help.
The concept has been done before, and the budget is low. After all, there are only half a dozen characters and it is shot on a handful of locations. What really sets it apart is the performances, delivered by an impressive cast.
A young African-American man (Daniel Kalugha - Black Mirror ) goes to stay with his Caucasian-American girlfriend and her family. Comedy comes from a subplot involving the hero's best friend, a TSA Agent who conforms to the stereotypical TBG sidekick role.
Unfortunately things begin to get a bit creepy. For example, the girlfriend's mother ( Catherine Keener ) is a hypnotist - which leads on to one of the creepiest scenes in the story.
Basically this is the African American version of Stepford Wives . Set in the post-Obama era, it refutes his statement that There is not a Black American and a White America, there is the United States of America. Instead, the upper middle class is portrayed as completely Caucasian. Whatever African Americans manage to get there are treated like servants. Yes, this is set in a world without a Black middle class.
The narrative is supposed to be new and original, but in fact it is quite familiar. Any Black people who achieve success or status are accused of selling out their community. Obama himself could be accuse of being an Uncle Sam (not to be confused with the fictional black astronaut, Major Tom). The traditional insult to describe a successful Black person is White Acting. This film has merely created a new phrase to describe it - Going to the sunken place.
The neighbour from hell trope was the basis of a thriller subgenre from the early Nineties. More recently, the trope of the old man who warns the kids about danger has been modified in haunted house movies that have made their ghost into a death omen. So which trope is at play here? Well, the old man's real motivation is actually nonsensical.
The climax predictably involves a young black woman being chased by an old white man who owns a red baseball cap. Obviously a statement about the Make America Great Again movement.
This film marks Spencer as the black Kathy Bates. She starts out opening her own whistletop cafe, serving beer to underage kids rather than friend green tomatoes, but ends up more like the Bates character in Misery .
Sue-Ann had a hard time at High School, and ended up in a Carrie type situation. Now her classmates have grown up - Erica ( Juliette Lewis ), Ben (Luke Evans - Dracula Untold ) and Mercedes ( Missi Pyle ). Sue-Ann seems to be hanging out with the kids in order to live out a fantasy of an idealised High School life, but she turns out to have a more sadistic and violent plan to set right her teenage regrets.
As well as the impressive casting decisions, the movie also has some shot composition that borders on the Spielbergian.
At first, our heroine settles into life alone on the deserted desert island. With the only other person washed up a corpse, this is a lot like Tom Hanks in Castaway. However, she eventually realises she is not really alone. There is a monster on the loose.
At first, the creature is quite intimidating. After all, it is barely shown on-screen at first - merely hinted at in silhouette and sounds. Later we get to see a lot more of it, both in rubber suit form and in CGI form. It is basically a merman, perhaps inspired by the one in Cabin in the Woods . Although aquatic in nature, for some reason it lumbers slowly onto dry land so it can eat whatever fish the protagonist caught. Yes, this is despite the fact it can easily catch enough fish by itself.
A few days later, a life-raft appears. The protagonist is joined by her boyfriend (Benedict Samuel - Pimped ) and their buddy, Hannah Mangan Lawrence . Unfortunately the boyfriend and buddy seem to have bonded during their days on the raft, which leaves the protagonist as the odd-one-out. Finally we get some real tension, derived from a realistic threat rather than a rubbery CGI one.
There are many name-checks of vampire movies, both famous and obscure. One that stands out is Martin , because that film seems to be the template for this one.
The vampire's victim's include Lloyd Kaufman , head of Troma Studios, who has a cameo as an old homeless man.
Writer/director Jordan Peele is best known for his previous movie Get Out! , and this has certain similarities. Normally a stalk-and-slash movie has reactive protagonists who run away from danger rather than fight, but Peele's heroes tend to use brutal violence at the first opportunity. He justifies that with the rage of the black man mantra that is epitomised by the character of Mouse in the crime thriller Devil in a Blue Dress . However, in this genre it seems out of place to the extend that it just makes them look insanely violent.
In order to escape from the witch, Grandma takes her little ward to her favourite hotel in Alabama. The manager (Stanley Tucci - Hunger Games ) is a horrendous snob, typical of the kind of character that Tucci normally plays. It seems he is intended to be a villainous figure of White Power, like the Sheldon Cooper character in Hidden Figures .
The hotel is hosting the annual conference for a group purporting to be dedicated for the prevention of cruelty to children. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a convention of the very witches that Grandma and Junior are trying to escape from. What a coincidence!
The leader of the Witches ( Anne Hathaway ) has decided to announce her masterplan to kill all children in the world. Of course, this would lead to the extinction of the human species - but the story was written for kids so it does not have to make sense any more than the average YA novel.
It turns out that Dixie-land has some bad history to it. Not that it is built on a bunch of ancient Native American burial grounds or anything, but there are the unsettled spirits of some former slaves to worry about.
This movie is apparently based on a true story. The surviving people portrayed in the film appear at the end credits for a group photo.
There is a ghostly presence in the house. Is it a murderous entity, or merely a death omen? The ghosts show themselves to the daughter, but her parents think she is merely hysterical. When she is physically injured by the ghosts, the parents think it is self-inflicted.
A stranger (John Corbett - The Visitor ) drops by the house, and gets hired as a farm labourer. He says he cannot see the ghosts either, but at least he offers to help the heroine.
The result is a decent supernatural suspense effort. Stewart is acceptable as a Final Girl, and the cast is not overshadowed by the special effects.
Mysterious deaths start to happen. As the farmer is put under more and more stress by events, his family (including daughter Claire Holt ) think he is insane and distance themselves from him. Of course, we must ask ourselves: is this a monster movie, or is there a predictable untruthful narrator twist?
This was directed by Tobe Hooper , his big-budget SPFX-heavy effort after the success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1976) . Spielberg, more experienced with SPFX, was the Producer - and there is a rumour that he stepped into the Director's shoes. However, there is no sign of Spielberg's trademark foreground/background style. For better or worse, this is Hooper's work.
There are a couple of creepy facts about this movie. One is that the eldest daughter is played by Dominique Dunne , whose role in V (1983) had to be re-cast with Blair Tefkin after Dunne was murdered half-way through filming. Another story about Poltergeist is that, rather than use plastic skeletons, the special effects crew used actual real-life human bone skeletons . This dis-proves the film's central thesis - that contact with human remains will lead to a mass haunting event.
As with the rest of the ghost movies that have polluted our screens since Paranormal Activity appeared a few years ago, you can expect the Lewton Bus to be used when you most expect it.
Let us look at the state of the movie industry these days. Poltergeist has just come out, the most controversial thing on is Mad Max , and we are all looking forward to the next Star Wars and Terminator movies. Are we all trapped in the year 1981? Is there nothing to look forward to except yet more re-hashings of old favourites? On the bright side, there is now Jurassic World on the way. Let us hope Jurassic Park 4 is more original than Die Hard 4, Scary Movie 4, Mad Max 4 and any of the other recent fourth parts of a Trilogy!
Mother and adopted daughter go on a road-trip, in search of the girl's birth-parents. She was originally from a ghost-town in Appalachia, West Virginia, which has been abandoned due to a massive underground fire in the coal seam underneath. This is actually inspired by a real-life town in the USA, although the real-life town lacks the supernatural infestation.
Rose gets pulled over by a Police Officer ( Laurie Holden ), but does not want to have a brief conversation. Instead she commits Contempt of Cop - the worst crime imaginable - and drives off at full throttle towards the town. Naturally, the cop follows ...
Rose and the cop end up in Silent Hill - an empty, smoke-filled ghost-town. Sharon has gone missing, so they go in search of her. Instead they discover some homeless folk, led by a Matriarch ( Alice Krige ). The birth-mother turns out to be Deborah Kara Unger .
Meanwhile the husband (Sean Bean - Game of Thrones ) comes in search of his family. The Police Chief (Kim Coates - Sons of Anarchy) tells him to go home, but he naturally refuses.
The wicked Queen ( Carrie-Anne Moss ) and her minions need the girl to defeat a demon.
Ron hears a creepy demonic voice speak to him through his Walkman. Well, it was the decade of the Satanic Panic - when people thought that Heavy Metal music would convert their kids to satanism! This was due in part to movies like this, based on a supposedly true-life book brought out to cash in on the 1970s trend started by The Exorcist (1973) . Ironically, that trend also inspired the style adopted by rock and roll musicians when they created Heavy Metal itself. A case of life imitating art imitating life imitating art … a circle that could potentially continue forever.
The cellar contains a hidden door. Ron discovers that it hides a secret gateway to Hell, or something. He also gets some strange camera angles, to indicate that his mental state is fracturing. That is about as subtle as this movie gets.
The local Catholic priest knows that something bad is in the house. He even suggests to his boss that they arrange an exorcism. However, he still takes the weekend off so he can head off on a trip with his boyfriend (Andrew Prine - V: The Final Battle ).
Since this is based on a true story, it is all rather predictable. Was anyone surprised when when the ship sank at the end of Titanic ? However, the story keeps going. Ron is arrested on suspicion, because he is an incredibly suspicious-looking person. The priest gets permission to perform an exorcism. Unfortunately this requires taking the mass murderer to the church - no police escort, just a lone unarmed priest. What could possibly go wrong?
The first film in this series was based on the claims of the Lutz family. The second was a prequel, about the DeMeo family murders. This effort tells the story of a journalist who buys the house to debunk the claims of a haunting.