The Raid 2 : Berandal

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7.5/10

This hard hitting sequel to the original has some big shoes to fill. The 2012 original raid is what i consider as the greatest action film of all time. It’s fight scenes alone pack such a punch that you feel like you are going through the pain that the characters are. While some things are on a bigger scale with the sequel, the film generally follows this same format with over the top fight scenes that are complimented by shaky camera work that actually has a reason for once. Iko Uwais returns as the protagonist, Rama. He is a cop who survived the carnage of the first film, and is quickly recruited to play a criminal to infiltrate a mob boss. Uwais’s experience in martial arts is what really makes each fight scene look amazing. There are some scenes that are really violent when it comes to the consequences of the characters. It’s for that reason alone why some people might pass on The Raid series, but i promise you that this isn’t one to miss. The Raid 2 was actually given a theatrical run, and it’s good to see more foreign films get a look in American cinema. The score is also quite excellent to this film. It builds the suspense and the terror that lurks behind every corner. The Raid 2 needs that score more than it’s original because it plays more on emotions in this one. The film clocks in at nearly 2 and a half hours (A little long in my opinion), but it’s because everything is bigger in this film. One of the charms about the original Raid was that it took place in an apartment building. Thus creating the claustrophobia that our protagonists are exploring. With The Raid 2, the story is everywhere, so it needs more time to invest in that telling. I mentioned before that it is a little long in time length, but i feel this way because we literally go 40 minutes at one point without any violence what so ever. I understand that you can’t make the movie about just one thing, but that is the bread and butter for this franchise, and the action scenes have never slowed down one bit even though we have seen over 20 fight scenes between the two films at this point. The storyline itself gives us a Kill Bill kind of feel with Uwais working his way through the ruthless Jakarta Crime syndicate. He is on a mission to find out which gang members are legit and which are undercover cops like himself. You really feel for this character that Iko portrays because he is doing everything to protect his family. This includes going to prison for two years just to get close to the mob boss’s son. The Raid 2 : Berandal is a very worthy sequel to the original. It doesn’t leave you with the same feelings that the first one did because at that time that film was original. After watching the sequel, you will undoubtedly compare it to it’s predecessor. Something that doesn’t give this film as original of a taste as the first. Without question, i urge everyone to rent the original on DVD, and catch this one in theaters. For 145 minutes of solid in your face action, it’s a must see.

Oculus

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7/10

When you think of WWE films, you think of awful movies that don’t have the budgets or the writing to compete with Hollywood’s finest. Oculus will go down as an exception to that rule, but it’s a shame that the last five minutes of this film ruins what could have easily been an 8/10. Oculus is about a possessed mirror that has killed every family it has been around for the last 100 years. We pick up in current day when a brother and sister are recalling the events that went down 12 years prior. First of all, i really enjoyed the back and forth shots between present day and 1998 with the siblings being younger. We are told the end result of 1998 in the first 15 minutes of the film, but there are still a lot of shocks along the way. Another thing i really loved is that this film didn’t settle for cheap scares. Most horror movies today go for that shock when a character pops up on screen out of nowhere to scare the audience, but this film doesn’t need it. Oculus uses terrifying images to really rip at it’s viewers. I can’t really say the film is scary, but it does have enough intense moments that will stay with you long after the credits roll. The best part of the film for me was actually caring about characters in a horror film for once. So many writers have no idea how to get the crowd away from rooting for the serial killer, but Director/Writer Mike Flannagan gets it correct. I found myself feeling so bad for the terror that is unwinding in this family’s loving family. Flannagan isn’t afraid to aim for the throat on his main characters, and it’s greatly appreciated. As i said before, the last five minutes fall into a cliche mess of a famously bad late 90’s horror film that i won’t mention. If i say the film, it will automatically give away the ending. They are one in the same, and that is a shame because Oculus (Unlike that 90’s film) deserves a lot better.Honestly, this is the only problem i had with the film. This ending is so tragic because this film goes from suspenseful and original to mediocre on this list of 2014 films. Karen Gillan, Rory Cochrane and Katee Sackoff give performances that stay away from the cheesy of what every horror film this century has done. They are great facial actors, and what i mean by that is that they know how to get into the heads of their viewers when the closeup shot is shown. Sackhoff especially has eyes that are perfect when that chilling piano music starts to play. Oculus is arguably the biggest surprise so far of 2014. If we can go back and rewrite the last five minutes, it’s one of the best horror/suspense films of the 2000’s. It’s a perfect date night film for any couple who gives the time of day for awful horror films. If you gave those a chance, this definitely deserves a chance. In the era of 40 Paranormal Activity and ripoffs to that franchise, Oculus is a terrifying gasp of fresh air.

I Frankenstein

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3/10

This movie had the ability to be so much better than it was. Aaron Eckhart’s latest role puts him as the creature himself from the famous legend. First of all, i had no idea Eckhart was actually playing the creature. I was led to believe he was Dr. Frankenstein. It is this casting alone that has a lot to do with what is wrong in I,Frankenstein. From anyone who has read the Frankenstein novels to anyone who has seen the countless number of films, they know what the creature is supposed to represent. He’s a tall, slow and practically brain dead science experiment that returns from the grave. The character that Eckhart plays is the EXACT opposite of those things. He’s quick, intelligent and even a master swordsman. This Frankenstein can do it all, ladies and gentlemen. Don’t get me wrong, i love Aaron Eckhart but the man clearly doesn’t belong in this role. For those of you who say this is a new take on an old tale, you would be wrong. They even talk about the events of the past films/books at the beginning of this movie.This film just picks what it liked about the Frankenstein story and leaves out the rest. Besides this, the film has cheesy CGI and laughable death scenes that haven’t been seen since Van Helsing. Frankenstein is in the middle of a modern day war between gargoyles and demons. When a demon dies, they float to hell on a fire streak. Ya know, because fire represent bad. When a gargoyle dies, they float to heaven on a beautiful blue streak. Because blue equal good guy. I hope i came off sounding like a moron in those last sentences, it was intended. That’s not to say that this film doesn’t have good ideas. The story of the creature in the middle of this war had the ability to be a great after story, but because it never feels like Frankenstein we are never fully invested. The scenery is something straight out of an Underworld movie. There is nothing wrong with that, as i always felt Underworld had some beautiful landscapes with great shading. The fighting choreography is also beautiful in sync. They definitely had great intensity with every fight from countless amounts of gargoyle and demon armies. The ending is laughable (Unintended) and takes away from any creative buildup that the movie gains in the first 80 minutes. Coming into this film, i wasn’t expecting much from it. I was a little wrong in that regards. I, Frankenstein is a film that isn’t quite the monster that critics have dismissed it to be. There is a little something there behind the dead eyes of a nonsensical script. With the right casting and a little less overbearing CGI, this film could have been near the top of the list for January releases. I would recommend this film to a very small audience, and that is the people who have seen and loved every Underworld movie. I think you will get a kick out of this movie. If it’s your intention to see I,Frankenstein, wait until the dollar theaters.

Devil’s Due

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4/10

This is probably going to be the most credit that i ever give to a film that i rated 4/10. Devil’s Due brings us back to the same tired and predictable genre of found footage. It is a modern day version of Rosemary’s Baby without all of the memorable scares.The film is about a couple that gets married and goes on their honeymoon to Mexico. The two encounter trouble late one night while agreeing to go to an underground party. This film does have it’s chilling images that make you want to take a look for a second longer, but because of the POV camera style you will miss those shots and never get to soak in the true terror. One of my biggest problems with these films are that there is never a good reason as to why the camera is always rolling. In Paranormal Activity : The Marked Ones, a gang walks up to a kid who is obviously filming them. WHY WOULD THIS HAPPEN? What gang is stupid enough to show their faces on camera? Devil’s Due actually gives us a reason for the over 20 different cameras used in the film, and i think it is acceptable. There are cheap scares with loud noises that come out of nowhere, but not as many as other franchises rely on. My favorite part of the movie is the wonderful effects done during the possession scenes. There is a shot in the woods where three stranger teenagers go flying up in the air and one of the kids is taping the whole thing on his smart phone. It’s a shot that truly warrants watching just for how impressive it is. Easy in execution, but it goes a long way with true cinema buffs like myself. After this, it’s all downhill. A film like this will always suffer from meaningless characters because the camera isn’t on them long enough for us to learn anything about their backgrounds. They will simply always be actors to us for this reason. Also, for those of you who were upset about 2012’s The Devil Inside not having an ending, you will be disappointed in this film as well. The ending is basically just pushing repeat on your DVD menu with the opening 2 minutes of the film. Devil’s Due shows a lot of heart in a genre that truly should fade out fast. If it can get past some of the weaknesses i mentioned in this review, there might be a chance for a passing grade for one of these films someday. Or maybe i am just tired from a long day at the theater

Paranormal Activity : The Marked Ones

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3/10

What can you say about this film that hasn’t already been said about the previous four Paranormal Activity films? Every time i write a review for one of these, i feel like i am just copying and pasting myself over and over again. The Marked Ones is the 5th film in the franchise. In this film, a boy named Jessie has graduated high school, but finds himself going through some frightening changes before his 18th birthday. After the death of his neighbor, he finds out some eerie things about his past. Lets get the good things out of the way. There are some better characters in this film compared to the other four films. That doesn’t mean 1. They make smart choices or 2. that you care about their survival. These films after all are the cheapest and most satisfying way to make a movie. They cost about 2 million dollars to make, but always see at least 20x the payback because they know cheap horror fans will see them. I also felt the ending had a decent concept but a terribly flawed execution. I won’t spoil much more about this film except that their is time travel. What is going on lately with horror films and time travel? After 2013’s Insidious Part 2 did a similar concept, i guess i can now look forward to Jason traveling back to 1974 to kill the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Wait, that actually doesn’t sound like a bad idea (wink wink). Anyway, The Marked Ones has all of the favorites that are included in these cheap movies; terrible acting, awful dialogue and the worst decisions made throughout this whole series. The film does connect decently with the past films, but it’s not enough to make me care. I am someone who actually did enjoy the first Paranormal Activity, but ever since it’s been a cheap knockoff of that one with small tweaks for originality. I wish horror movies would get back to the old days when a scene was built and built for a big payoff,not just jump scares. Don’t buy a ticket to Paranormal Activity : The Marked Ones. Lets show the studio that they have to quit making a cheap effort to satisfy smarter fans. In closing, if you liked the other Paranormal Activities, you will enjoy this one. Everyone else? You aren’t missing anything

In Fear

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7/10

In Fear grips like a full speed thrill ride even as the tension threatens to spin out of control. I was curious to check out this film if only for the 100% rating it currently has on Rotten Tomatoes, and it didn’t disappoint…….completely. This film is the happiest i have been with an original thriller in a good couple of years. It stars two young adults who have only known each other a couple weeks and are on their way to a festival when they decide to get a hotel room for the night. Just miles from the hotel, they encounter a maze on the way to getting there. They take different ways at different times to get there but end up at the same place they started. I really enjoyed some of the chilling themes of this movie like being stuck in isolation in the woods. Make no mistake, setting is VERY important in a film like this. It’s obvious that not a lot of money was involved in making this picture, so you have to hit the audience with ideas that can make the experience memorable. Alice Englert stars as female lead Lucy. It is in Lucy that we feel her pain as being stuck in the woods with someone she doesn’t fully know or understand. When you really think about it, that can be frightening for anyone. The sound editing/mixing is also something that should be complimented in this film. The suspenseful score starts the engine, but it is the amplified sound that compliment the high speed chases the most. I felt like i was getting the most i possibly could out of a movie with three characters and a car. The last British thriller that i saw was The Descent films, and i think this movie is sooooo much better than those. As the film’s 85 minute run time goes on, it is the darkness that plays the biggest role. Our characters sense a feel of panic and time running out with a car’s gas tank. It’s those little things that sneak up to the audience and hit you hard when you realize what is coming. The only problems i had with the film were a couple of the things the couple encounter during the movie. (Minor spoiler) With only one villain, it’s hard to imagine how all of this stuff was accomplished. I also felt the ending wasn’t entirely satisfying. It did give me a sense of pleasure, but not worth what these characters entailed. Overall, In Fear is a straight to DVD film (March 11th) that is definitely worth a look. If you like 80’s style suspense that is almost complimentary to the John Carpenter feel, this is a good film for you. I don’t know if today’s audience will be completely satisfied with the film, but it will be refreshing compared to today’s standards of shot on video (Or shot on shitteo, as i refer to them) films that are plaguing the genre.

Carrie (2013)

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6.5/10

Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore star in this remake of the 1976 thriller about a girl with telekinetic powers. This film wasn’t as bad as i thought it was going to be. The dialogue was awful, the high school kids were a little over the top with their villain hatred, and it’s a little hard to believe Chloe Moretz in this role. Moretz is a great actress and a great pick for the role of the prom scene, but it’s every thing else that i have a problem with believing her in the role. Moretz is too beautiful to play a role that was described as an “Ugly duckling” in Stephen King’s book. The prom scene is pretty badass though. They modernized it to make some pretty gruesome deaths that much more interesting. Julianne Moore and Judy Doyle were amazing as the mother and gym teach of Carrie White, respectively. Moore is one of those actresses that can play any role you put her in. She is just that damn good. I sort of wish the film were a little longer than the 91 minute cut that we received. I can imagine there are some decent deleted scenes as there was a good chunk of the story left out. Still, Carrie isn’t a bad little film. I would recommend it for the dollar theater if you want to get out of the house. We don’t really learn anything new in the story, so the only reason to see it is to see the performances by the different actors at the helm.

Birth of the Living Dead

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6.5/10

This documentary about George Romero’s original zombie masterpiece shows us the struggles of introducing the world to zombies. It’s hard to understand today just how much Romero went through with trying to get this film into theaters and drive ins because the world as we know it today loves zombies. What i loved about this film was all of the stuff i learned about the cast, what it took to purchase the equipment and the copyright mistake that led to a horror classic possibly losing millions of the take it brought in. This documentary gives us some great in depth interviews with Romero. The master of zombies tells us that no one wanted to give a first time 27 year old director a chance, and how that was his motivation to get the film released. The only thing i didn’t like about this film was how many films outside of the horror world that it took credit for. I don’t exactly think The Godfather trilogy was made because of the negative ending in Night of the Living Dead. It’s a bit of a stretch to claim many cinematic classics, but i see what they were going for. Check it out if you are like me, and a big fan of the Romero zombie epics

Machete Kills

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6/10

A decent sequel from the same people who brought you the legendary original. This film lays the ground for a very unusual trilogy. I will not give much away about the upcoming third film, but this film gave what it always promises. It had great and goofy action scenes with a lot of blood. It had laughs that were a little few and far between, but still there. It had crazy characters played by some big time actors. The best of those performances are from Mel Gibson and Cuba Gooding JR. Cuba is only in the film for a few minutes, but his performance is one of my favorites just on the attitude he brings to the role he is playing. Gibson is great as the villain of the film. He creates a Star Wars-esque scenary (Yes you read that right) that creates an over the top finale. The things i didn’t like about the film were petty, but they were there. I have never been a fan of CGI blood when there are so many amazing special effects guys anymore. Hell, Tom Savini was starring in the movie, so there is absolutely no reason for this. I get that they might do it to make it look cheesy, but i think human effects would make it even funnier. I also didn’t like the ground work laid for the 3rd film. I will definitely go see it, but i am not looking too forward to it based on the scenery. These films are all about the goofy, but sometimes you can take it a little too far. I recommend Machete Kills if you want a good time at the movies. There isn’t anything wrong with waiting till dollar theaters though to see it.

Curse of Chucky

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7/10

The moral of this story is to never judge a book by it’s previous covers. The Child’s Play franchise isn’t one one of my favorites in horror, but i did enjoy the first one. I think it’s a pretty silly premise, but has it’s charms with some great death scenes and a story that is good but never gives us a full history lesson. That is all multiplied by 5 with Curse of Chucky. This is the best film in the franchise by far. It’s got amazing death scenes, an amazing story that i will get to later and a cast of great characters. Brad Douriff dons the voice of the knife hurling doll known as Chucky. It was great to also see his daughter, Fiona Douriff as the lead of the film as a wheel chaired victim who must overcome her situation. The film is filmed with other amazing cameos that i am not going to spoil for you, and we finally get to find out the back story of the killer who possesses the Chucky doll, Charles Lee Ray. Brad Douriff had a lot to do with writing this film because he wrote a very clever way to bring Chucky back which none of the other sequels have figured out. Chucky is also menacing in this one like he was in the original. Sure, there are some comedic lines, but it’s not overdone. Chucky became a literal joke to everyone with the last couple films and this rightfully brings him back as a legend in the horror genre. The acting was terrible as usual with this film and some of the characters are dumb by actions, but i don’t think the film suffered as a result of it. Curse of Chucky is one of the biggest surprises of the year in my book, and it definitely reaches the top 5 in horror for the year of 2013. I recommend this film to fans of the franchise or anyone who thought that last few movies were crap. I think this is a film that likers and haters of Chucky will all enjoy.

Insidious : Chapter Two

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5/10

I am convinced that i may be the only person who didn’t like this movie. I have seen posts over the last week from people saying it was “The best movie ever” and “The best horror film of the year”. It all left me scratching my head after watching it. Insidious 2 does have it’s moments. I particularly enjoyed the storyline about the abused little boy and the spirit of the woman in black. It made complete sense when they were explaining the back story and some of the things that happened in the first film. The one thing i didn’t understand was how the good spirit of Josh could hear the alarm going off in the first film and then be the one ringing the alarm at the same time in the 2nd film. The thing that is real depressing is that i laughed my way through a lot of this film. The fight scenes were anything but suspenseful and the scenes are just utterly pointless. The comedic dialogue was great (especially with the two nerds), but it doesn’t belong in a demonic film this dark. The score is once again phenominal. There is something about hearing violins during jumpy scenes that really heightens the terror. I also enjoyed the work of Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne. They were definitely the right choices for the mother and father of this family. This film really made me sad for the first one because i LOVED that movie. The suspense was great and it didn’t need some cheap comedy laughs or even a backstory for it to be great. Speaking of which, where the hell did the man with the red face go in this sequel? He is nowhere to be found. You would think that he would have a lot to do with this abused child becoming a killer. Overall, i DO recommend this film because i know people are going to like it because some people were not raised on classic horror films. This is a genre that i am a very tough critic with because it’s my favorite kind of films, but i do not give this a passing grade.

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane

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3/10

What a horrible piece of mess. This 2006 shelved film just came out this year and stars Amber Heard as a teenage girl who goes on a weekend getaway with the popular crowd. I can only imagine that the reason this film was on the shelf for 7 years is because it is a complete failure. I appreciate the original idea they were going for with this film, and some of the deaths are cool, but this film has a lot of problems. First of all the acting is terrible. Even for a straight to DVD horror film, the acting is some of the worst of the year. With that acting comes awful dialogue. Even for stupid teenagers, i can’t picture them saying some of the conversations that are said in this film. Not one character you give a single bit about. They are all expendable and a waste in the truest form. The film is a whodunnit? which takes us back to the horror films of the 90’s, but you realize who the killer is within the first 25 minutes. It is during the 40th minute when the killer reveals themselves, and 50 minutes still to spare. The thing that the director didn’t realize is that there is nothing left after you give the big reveal, so it struggles for the rest of the movie. The remainder does include a swerve that i can say i did see coming, but it does work. It’s just too late by this point. The close of the movie shows possibly the worst 10 minute fight scene i have ever seen. Neither person work well in a fighting angle, and it looks like a teenage girl slap fight. This is dead and useless film here people. Do yourself a favor and pass on this one when you see it on the movie store shelf. You will be glad you read this review first