The ABC’s of Death 2: Review

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Everyone who reads this should already know the story. 26 different directors. 26 different shorts. All starting with a different letter of the alphabet. Each of the directors have complete freedom to make the story and film what they want. Since these are all short films, there are a lot of interesting or disturbing things that could not have been done in a full length feature.

To compare this to the original ABC’s of Death is really an injustice in my opinion. This movie is a vast improvement over the first one. The stories seem more cohesive than the original. I don’t know if there were any rules the directors had to follow, but there are not as many weird entries in these shorts. (I did some research, but was unable to find any information on the ‘rules’ for making the short films.)

There are plenty of shorts that stand out in this volume of ABC’s with a few that were pretty bad. The flow is much better in this film than in the first. The quality of these shorts stands our over the first volume of the ABC’s of Death. By far, my favorite short is R is for Roulette. This short felt very smart and the premise behind the story was quite amusing. If you enjoyed the first ABC’s of Death, you will enjoy ABC’s of Death 2 as well.
Here is a list of the segments and directors:

A is for Amateur: Evan Katz
B is for Badger: Julian Barratt
C is for Capitol Punishment: Julian Gilbey
D is for Deloused: Robert Morgan
E is for Equilibrium: Alejandro Brugues
F is for Falling:Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado
G is for Grandad: jim Hosking
H is for Head Games: Bill Plympton
I is for Invincible: Erik Matti
J is for Jesus: Dennison Ramalho
K is for Knell: Kristina Buozyte & Bruno Samper
L is for Legacy: Lancelot Lmasuen
M is for Masticate: Robert Boocheck
N is for Nexus: Larry Fressenden
O is for Ochlocracy: Hajime Ohata
P is for P-P-P-P Scary!: Todd Rohal
Q is for Questionaire: Rodney Ascher
R is for Roulette: Marvin Kren
S is for Split: Juan Martinez Moreno
T is for Torture Porn: Jenn & Sylvia Soska
U is for Utopia: Vincenzo Natali
V is for Vacation: Jerome Sable
W is for Wish: Steven Kostanski
X is for Xylophone: Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo
Y is for Youth: Soichi Umezawa
Z is for Zygote: Chris Nash

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The Houses October Built: Review

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The Houses October Built takes you on a journey through the eyes of a group of friends who document haunted houses. The group consists of Brandy, Zack, Bobby, Mikey, and Jeff. They are trying to find the elusive traveling Blue Skeleton haunt. This is supposed to be the most hardcore haunt around. As the group seems to get closer to finding what they want they encounter some hostile haunters. Eventually, they end up at a bar where haunt actors reside. While the guys are outside talking with people, Brandy is left alone inside when suddenly some guys want to rape her. The guys save her and the group continues their journey to find Blue Skeleton.

As it turns out, the haunt actors have been following our group for who knows how long. There are weird videos taken of the group during the middle of the night when they are all asleep, creepy scares going on when they are in the middle of nowhere, which all comes to a head when the group is forced to go with the haunt actors or someone will die. It seems the group had finally found what they were looking for this whole time.

One interesting thing about this film is the fact that there are real interviews, with real haunt owners and actors spliced into the ongoing story about these five characters. We see everything through their eyes because of the found footage aspect of this film. Since this film is put together with interview footage, it moves at a slower pace in the beginning but when it gets going in the last twenty plus minutes then it is thrilling.

This is a great idea for a film that I haven’t seen done before. With how popular haunted houses are now I can see this becoming something that we see more of in the genre. I wish the integration of the interviews and story would have been a bit better, but I thought it was done well enough to warrant a review.

The Innkeepers Review

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It’s the last weekend of the historic Yankee Pedlar hotel. After this weekend it will be closed for good. The two employees manning the front desk for the hotel’s final weekend while their boss is away on vacation are Luke (Pat Healy, Cheap Thrills) and Claire (Sara Paxton, The Last house on the Left, 2009). They are taking advantage of the lack of hotel guests to do some amateur ghost hunting. One of the guests staying in the hotel is Leanne Rease-Jones (Kelly McGillis, Stake Land), a ‘celebrity’ in town for a convention. Late we find out she sees things in the spiritual nature. While Luke and Claire’s investigate the resident spirit, Mary O’Malley, the forces that are being recorded by their equipment start becoming stronger. These entities effect Claire much more than she was expecting. Just as we begin to care for Luke and Claire the spirits they have conjured up begin to take over the hotel as they try to escape.

Ti West has created another great movie with The Innkeepers. He took all of the great things that he pulled off in The House of the Devil and improve upon them. Again, he brings a crazy amount of tension to this film. The characters are so realistic. I really cared for them and don’t want them to go through anything bad. In addition, the hotel brings a lot of atmosphere and charm to this film. It is pretty much it’s own character. Every time the characters walk down a hall we are constantly expecting something else to be there waiting for them.

This is another slow burn type of film, a lot like The House of the Devil. It has funny moments o break up some of the tension, which personalizes the characters more because they aren’t scared all the time. If the film didn’t have these moments the audience would never feel any relief until the movie is finally over. If you like movies that have a slower pace like The Woman in Black, then i think you would really like this film.

The Sacrament Review

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Sam Turner (A.J. Bowen, You’re Next) is in charge of V.I.C.E. V.I.C.E. is a news organization which covers stories that aren’t covered by mainstream press. Patrick (Kentucker Audley, V/H/S), who works for Sam at V.I.C,E, has been telling Sam about his sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz, You’re Next). Some time ago (how long is not mentioned in the movie) Caroline fled the country to live on a religious compound called Eden Parish. Wanting to investigate the compound, Sam tags along with Patrick and brings a camera man Jake (Joe Swanberg, You’re Next) to document what happens when they visit Eden Parish. The guys end up meeting “Father” (Gene Jones). After meeting with the “Father” they notice something is weird about the compound and discover what is really happening.

Once at Eden Parish, Sam and Patrick begin interviewing compound members to find out why people would leave everything they have to come to this compound. What they find is the “Father” has brainwashed his members into staying. While there filming, they meet people who want to leave the compound, but are fearful to because they do not want to be beaten or worse, killed. The “Father” starts telling his “children” (the compound members) the government is coming to ruin their heaven on earth and they need to drink what he is giving them. Knowing this drink will kill them, they still drink because the “Father” tells them it will be painless and they will go to paradise. Those who blindly follow him convenience the skeptics until almost everyone, including babies and children, drink.

I thought this was a really interesting and great movie. I am a huge fan of Ti West (The Roost) and everything that he has made so far. This movie is very different than any of his other movies. Usually he makes slow burn type of movies. This feels much more energetic and tense. This is probably due to the fact you are really seeing everything from Sam and Jake’s eyes. This is the best use of first person p.o.v. (point of view) because it is done documentary style.

Another great thing about this is Gene Jones. He is fantastic in this Jim Jones type of roll. When he finally shows up on screen he is so enigmatic that he’s the only person that you are really paying attention to during his screen time. I don’t know how or where the film maker found him but he should be used in more films. A.J. Bowen is in a very different type of role that we aren’t used to seeing him in and he is great. He is always on the go and actually seems a lot like the actual main guy at the real V.I.C.E. network.

This movie is really powerful for two reasons. First, because the movie is so realistic. We always hear on the news about people being part of these religious cults. This movie is all about people who need something in order to make their lives better and the “Father” gives this to them. They are basically empty without Eden Parish. They come from nothing or are substance abusers like Caroline. The second reason is because this movie is rooted in history because these types of compounds exist in real life. A prime example is what happened with Jim Jones in Jonestown. The people were lost and taken in by someone who fulfilled their lives with something that they didn’t have inside them. In turn they followed him all the way to their death.

The fact that more people haven’t seen The Sacrament baffles me. It is one of the best movies to come out last year. It is too bad this movie wasn’t released on a broader spectrum because, last year unless you attended a festival, you didn’t see it. It had a small release on VOD earlier this year and now it is out on Blu Ray/DVD and Netflix. I would encourage everyone to see this film. It is probably the best entry that Ti West has offered us so far. Also, I know some people are not a big fan of his, but this movie probably caters to a wider audience range. I have heard those who don’t like his films, really liked this one. If you are interested in something different than your normal, average horror film check out this one. I would bet if nothing else you will find it very interesting.

Motel Hell: Scream Factory Blu-Ray

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Farmer Vincent Smith (Rory Calhoun) owns Motel Hello. In addition to owning the motel he also has a smoked meats business, which is popular where he lives with his sister Ida (Nancy Parsons). His brother, Bruce Smith (Paul Linke) is the town sheriff.

While out hunting Vincent witnesses a motorcycle crash. The driver is killed, but he is able to rescue Terry (Nina Axelrod). Over time, Vincent starts falling in love with Terry. All the while he and his sister and murdering people to make into sausages. Terry is clueless about the murders, however Bruce suspects this is happening and tries to have Terry leave town. Because he is family he turns a blind eye to what his brother and sister are up to. Madness ensues as the people Farmer Vincent and Ida have trapped turn on them.

I have never seen this film before, but I really liked it. It has a great mix of comedy and horror. One thing I love about this movie, is the film maker has you sympathize with Vincent and Ida. You really start to care and actually like them no matter what horrible things they do. Vincent actually is more kind when it comes to killing people. He never wants them to really suffer. Vincent mentions at one point there is more food than there are people to eat it.

I miss movies like these because they are just fun to watch. There is a time and a place for serious movies with a really heavy handed message but there is always a time for fun. There are some visuals in this that are very memorable like Vincent running around with a chainsaw wearing a pigs head that are fantastic.

The film transfer from the Scream Factory release is amazing! The movie is bright and extremely colorful. Another thing I have noticed from watching movies from the 80’s is how bright the colors are and how crazy some of the plots are. They take you to this dream world where anything can and usually does happen. It’s as if writers and film makers were allowed to dream and put that up on screen, unlike now where everything is grounded in reality.

This release has some great special features on it which are great to watch if you like this movie. The features are:

-New Audio Commentary with Kevin Connor the director
-New Interveiws with Kevin Connor, Robert and Steven Charles Jaffe, and Marc Silver
-Iterviews with Paul Linke and Rosanne Silver
-Ida, Be Thy Name: A look back at Motel Hell’s female protagonist, Ida Smith Featurette

If you would like to hear some more stories about this movie from the writers/producers listen to Killer POV podcast episode 73 through iTunes or Geek Nation. There is some really good stuff in that episode that goes further than the features on the Blu Ray.

Oculus

The movie starts with Tim (Brenton Thwaiters, Maleficent) in a mental hospital talking with his doctor about being released. Kaylie, his sister (Karen Gillan, Gaurdians of the Galaxy) is working at an auction house when a peculiar mirror is put up for auction. Flashback to 11 years ago, Alan (Rory Cochrane) and Marie Russell (Katee Sackhoff, Riddick) are moving into a new home with their kids. Young Tim (Garrett Ryan) and young Kaylie (Annalise Basso) are playing throughout the house while movers are unloading furniture. One of the items put into Alan’s work space is the mirror. Kaylie in the present is dealing with her demons and that mirror.

Like any other movie of this sort, Alan stays in his office and begins to fall under the mirrors powers. Eventually the mirrors powers begin tearing apart his and Marie’s marriage. This all seems to happen pretty quickly from the time they moved in. This sets in motion events that ultimately have repercussions on the children for the next 11 years.

11 years later, Tim, gets released from the mental institution. Kaylie picks him up and tells him of the plans she has to destroy the mirror. This involves going back in the house where their parents died. He haphazardly falls in line with her plan, just trying to prove her wrong. Everything starts to go against the plan Kaylie has and the precautions she put in place to keep them ‘safe’.

I really liked this movie and I know a lot of people did not. This movie is really interesting because it has two congruent story lines going on at the same time. The characters seem to flow in and out of each story line mixing the present day with their past. This is a typical possessed object kind of movie that takes over the family and makes them do bad things story line that we have all seen over and over again, but it is done very well.

There is one thing I wish would have been done better. Each time the mirror goes after someone, it uses the embodiment of one of it’s past victims (which Kaylie describes when she is going over her ‘precautions’). It could have been more effective if the film maker would have designed a creature that inhabited the mirror that could just take the form of other people when it wanted to go after with someone. Other than that, it was a great movie. I really can’t wait to see what else Mike Flanagan (Absentia), the writer/director, puts out in the future.

Beneath

Larry Fessenden brings us his giant man eating fish movie that has the typical horror trope cast of characters on a lake. Our cast is made up of Johnny (Daniel Zovatto) who is in love with Kitty (Bonnie Dennison) but she is now dating Matt (Chris Conroy). Johnny and Kitty have a past relationship as they dated in high school. Simon (Jonny Orsini), Matt’s brother, who also appears to be in love with Kitty. Zeke (Griffin Newman), the film nerd, who is filming this trip with a handheld camera and Deb (Mackenzie Rosman) who really has no character as she dies within the first ten minutes.

Basically the premise is a bunch of kids trapped in a row boat on a lake. The kids, enjoying some swimming, encounter this giant fish. As they begin to beat the fish with the paddles of the boat the paddles break. Using their hands as paddles, they try to get back to shore. As the fish begins to grab their hands in the water, they turn on each other (to keep the fish occupied) and get picked off one by one. That is about as deep as this movie goes.

I liked the movie, but i kind of think this would have been better as a short in some sort of anthology movie. If this movie would have been 45 minutes long, it would have been really tight and would not have started to repeat itself constantly. Apparently there is only one way to kill people off in this movie and that is tossing them off to a giant fish after yelling at them. In the end there really is only one likable character in the whole bunch, Johnny.

I do like the fact that they did use a practical monster which is awesome. I don’t think that we have had a good movie with a practical monster in a long time. This is a trend that should continue happening stop having CG in every single low budget movie.

People who like segments like The Raft in Creepshow 2 will probably like this. If you want to see a giant man eating fish, then you will probably like this. It really isn’t the best movie out there but it is pretty fun. It is only 90 minutes long so it goes by pretty quick but nothing really stands out at all about it except the actual fish, not being CG.