Grave Encounters 2 is a surprisingly better made horror film than was expected. This film draws from many sources and ideas that have been seen elsewhere, but manages to blend them nicely into some solid chills and lots of fun. Capturing the tone of the first, it expands the mythos in interesting and creative ways.
Starting with various vloggers speaking about the first film, we are introduced to Alex (Richard Harmon), a film school student that initially thinks the first film is fiction and poorly made. We are introduced to his friends, Jennifer (Leanne Lapp), Trevor (Dylan Playfair), Tessa (Stephanie Bennett) and Jared (Howie Lai). We see them living their college life, with Alex shooting a movie and slowly becoming obsessed with the original Grave Encounters after he tries to find out what the actors are up to. Using social media, he gets contacted by DeathAwaits666. Alex is told if he comes to the site of the original, all the truth will be revealed. His friends are convinced to come, and manage to get into the hospital. Once there, of course, the truth is revealed.
This is another found footage film, though we do have a survivor to bring it out, and uses some effective ways to have multiple angles of the same scene. By early on placing several cameras on tripods, the viewer gets a much welcomed break from the constant motion usually evident. We also get, quite literally, another viewpoint of the same situation. This immersion works quite effectively in placing the viewer right in the middle of the action. As the group size decreases, so do the number of cameras, which further emphases their predicament. Keeping the view limited in such a dark and dank place, works well to enhance the claustrophobic atmosphere and sense of dread.
The Vicious Brothers managed to write a relatively solid script for Director John Poliquin. In an effort to create real people rather than just characters to be killed, the time between opening credits and the hospital is overly long. The inclusion of footage of them as goofy college kids only show a lack of seriousness on their part that allows them to be sucked into this, yet the film dwells on the growing obsession of Alex longer than was needed. Poor choices are made, multiple times, about things that should have been obvious to a serious horror fan. If a place is haunted, and managed to kill an entire crew once, why would you think you could go in and come out ok beyond the arrogance of youth.
Once there, things move at a fairly good pace, doubling back on thoughts and ideas as the increasingly smaller group works its way through an ever more complex system of doors and tunnels. The addition of Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson) from the first film having survived deepens the mystery of what is going on. He has gone insane, but still manages to be a hinge on which the final segment of the film rests. Having spent so much time on the college kids, they felt it was only right to let everyone in on what Lance has been up to. It’s not pretty or nice.
Longtime horror fans, and gamers, will find plenty to be familiar with, and will have seen parts of this film before. Overall it’s a solid film, both serious and casual fans should find plenty to enjoy.
Citadel is a tense and frightening thriller that moves slowly and methodically into the realm of horror. This moody and atmospheric film relies on all too real worries and fears, common concerns about parenthood, and to what end one may have to go to defend their children. Tightly written and directed, it both scares one quite effectively, but also gives one a sense of hope.
The bleak and barren landscape of a social housing complex about to be torn down and rebuilt is where we find Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) and his very pregnant wife Joanne (Amy Shiels). Stuck in an elevator, Tommy sees Joanne attacked by some youths. She winds up in a coma and he suffers from a fairly advanced case of agoraphobia, (a fear of being out in public) as a result. The child has gone unscathed, but Tommy barely functions, finding it nearly impossible to go outside, or to relate to other humans. When life support for his wife is turned off, compassionate nurse Marie (Wunmi Mosaku) and an erratic Priest (James Cosmo) to try to help him build his life. While Marie encourages empathy for the children who are themselves the victims of abuse and neglect, the Priest only sees them as monsters appearing in human form. In time, Tommy comes to rely on the Priest after his daughter is taken. Together, with Danny (Jake Wilson) they plan on getting Tommy’s daughter back and destroying the evil that is the hooded creatures.
Ciaran Foy wrote and directed an immensely tight and compelling thriller that delves deeply into the psyche of Tommy, his agoraphobia and the challenges he faces as a single parent. Youth gone wild and fear of parenthood are the overt and subtle themes running throughout. Barnard does a brilliant job of projecting those fears onto the screen, giving an almost inescapable feeling of dread. Taken with the brutish architecture that has given way to abandonment and decay, Tommy is given little that offers hope or joy. How much he really sees, and how much is his fear projected isn’t very clear until later in the film. The only bright spot is his growing relationship with nurse Marie, who has grown to know Tommy through care of his wife. Gentle and kind, her firm belief in the kindness and humanity of people offers Tommy a way to find his way back. She also gives him insight into how to relate to his child, who for a time is little more than a prop. The interplay between the two is fantastic, and both give a commanding performance. So does the interplay between Tommy and the Priest come off as genuine and intense. While some things seem familiar, there is no overly cliché moments or dialogue. Most of this film is carried by Barnard, who does an amazing job of not only bringing Tommy to life, but giving his co-stars room to live and breathe as well.
This is a film of a grey world, and with few exceptions, that is how it was filmed. It sets a serious and dark tone, and maintains it throughout. Even in the moments when one finds humor, and there are several, the subtext is deadly serious. The final act is the only place where the film gets overly graphic. The violence explodes when it happens, thundering in quickly and only leaving echoes of it’s happening, reverberating that Tommy’s fears are justified. It’s not played for gore, nor is the violence simply there to have destruction. By the time they enter the Citadel, one knows exactly how fast and devastating the violence can be. Those that perpetuate evil and create this violence can smell fear. Tommy has to overcome and control his fears, using Danny as an emotional shield, ultimately reentering the building where his wife died and his child is being held.
Solid performances and writing make this film a compelling and dark psychological horror film. Well crafted and thought out, it shows what is possible in modern horror today.
Recommended for both horror and psychological thriller fans.
After is a horror based psychological drama that never quite lives up to the potential of its premise. While trying to get home on a bus, Freddy (Steven Strait) and Ana (Karolina Wydra) strike up a conversation and discover they live very close to one another. At the sound of a crash, Ana wakes up in her own home, slightly confused, but dresses and goes to work. Once there, she realizes she is alone, not just in the hospital where she works, but in the entire city. That is, until she comes across Freddy and they begin to postulate and investigate why exactly the city is empty, what that black cloud is closing in on them from all sides, and what the true nature of their existence is. Discovering they can penetrate the cloud, they enter only to find a door, one keyhole and many keys, as well as a dark creature chained next to the door. These discoveries only deepen the mystery, though each finds clues within themselves and ultimately discover the truth.
This is a dark film. Dark, not as the themes are heavy and tough, but rather most of it is shot in the dark or near dark. The lighting isn’t as much of the problem as it appears to be well lit, just filtered to be less brilliant than it may have been. At times this makes it difficult to see what the director Ryan Smith wanted seen. Though at first I thought this may have been a problem with the projection booth of the theater, subsequent scenes took place in daylight and were quite bright and crisp. I found it distracting to strain to see what was unfolding, rather than concentrate on the story.
The story itself is quite interesting, though it has many twists to attempt to keep the viewer on their toes. Anticipating the viewer’s assumptions of what is occurring, the characters have conversations trying to explain and define their predicament. Although a good device to move the plot along, the conversations are also masked an attempt to review for the viewer plot elements already revealed. The CGI is actually well done, the cloud moving slowly is quite formidable and frightening. The scale and timing is a bit off though. Told early in the film of the complete surrounding of the city, the shift in time and the darkening of the skies should have had the cloud visible in every outside shot, yet this was not the case. It seemed to expand and contract as the pair moved to different places in the city.
The relationship between the two is somewhat disjointed, going from distrust and dislike, (and at some points open contempt), to a caring relationship. This was after a big reveal that would have made most characters hate one another. The acting is adequate, I suppose, though it is uneven and rough in some scenes as well. It’s tough to see or understand why these two would be attracted to one another romantically after such an experience. The characters, even though facts are shown about them, are really underdeveloped.
As for how and why they both found themselves trapped inside the city, with the ever closing black cloud, it’s never really answered. How to get out, yes, but why did they get sent, by whom, and really, to what purpose is skipped in favor or the relationship between the two. In the end, the film failed to answer such a fundamental aspect of the story.
Overall, the film had really good potential to be an interesting study of the human psyche, what impact our choices have and what lies we tell ourselves. Through inconsistencies of direction, character development and storyline, it instead becomes more of a muddled mess than it should have been.
Lloyd the Conqueror in a comedy about Larping that is both funny and clever. Larping is Live Action Role Playing where participants dress up and act out various characters, perusing goals in a fictitious world, interacting with one another, usually with some goal or outcome set by the group as a whole. Having gained in popularity in recent years, clubs and groups have grown in size and complexity. It was this backdrop that Writer-Director Michael Peterson and co-writer Andrew Herman wanted to tell their coming of age story.
Lloyd (Evan Williams), Patrick (Jesse Reid) and Oswald (Scott Patey) are three Community College students who would rather eat pizza, drink beer and play video games than study Beowulf. Upon failing to pass the assignment, their professor, Derek (Mike Smith) suggests they can join his LARP league as a means to pass his class and keep their scholarship. Derek just wants fodder so he can have a final battle and win the league record. They are sent to join the league and meet Andy (Brian Posehn) who quickly educates the boys about the world they want to enter. As they begin to enter into this world, they get help from martial arts instructor and Lloyd’s love interest, Cassandra (Tegan Moss). Together they are trained and helped by Andy, also the White Wizard who holds the current winning streak, in how to defeat Derek the Unholy, a dark wizard who is determined to hold onto his title as champion of the Larpers.
Filled with messages about kindness, friendship, forgiveness and determination, it also has a well presented humor that both supports and mocks the world it is presenting. The jokes come fast and often, and little is considered taboo by the group. While at times, the new team openly mocks Larping, they are also equally as mocked by other Larpers. There are brilliant representations of the movement, but also equally stunning examples of how their imagination and inspiration mix to make what they are doing as real and honest as they possibly can. Rather than insulting and demeaning, the quick pace and never ending series of jokes allows the viewer to enter into this world quite easily where they might otherwise have been apprehensive. Even when they are throwing balls of aluminum foil and calling them lighting bolts.
The acting is top notch, with Smith and Posehn being the each end of good and evil, bouncing the group back and forth with their plots and advice. The younger actors do well and keep up with the timing and pace of the older actors, so much the strength of the direction and generosity of the older comics. Everyone has a chance to shine, and the constructing of the film is such that all the characters have their moments to shine. An espically funny sequence comes at the hands of comic Harland Williams, who plays a Vulcan in a small but pivotal role as the man who controls the sign in sheet at the final battle.
Fans of Larping will find much they recognize and enjoy in this film, as will anyone open to a well made adult comedy. Some may be apprehensive because of the subject matter, considering it too far out of the norm or too niche to be of interest. With a bit of imagination, and a bit of inventiveness, one can enter a world of wonder and have some great laughs along the way.
Doomsday Book is a three chapter anthology of stories by co-writers and directors Jee-woon Kim and Pil-Sung Yim. An interesting take on several ideas and concepts, the overall effect of the film is quite impressive. While each segment is well done, though not really containing enough as shot for a full length feature, their proximity and differences don’t seemingly flow from one story to the next as it may initially appear. They do in fact, each contain at their heart tales about human existence. Each is excellently done and offers something unique with their particular vision.
The first segment is ‘A Brave New World‘. One bad apple spoils the bunch, or in this case, turns everyone into zombies. Carefully constructed tale of a guy left at home to clean while the rest of the family goes on vacation, an apple tossed out in the process mutates and enters the food chain. It returns to humans via the cow that consumed the apple, but now with the distinction of mutating its human hosts. Humans become zombie like creatures and the world begins to crumble. Taking a look at mans attempt to control his environment, and how that can turn against him, there is also an interesting love story running through the middle of this segment. Funny and poignant, this segment sets the tone for the rest of the film.
The second segment is ‘The Heavenly Creature’. Far more serious in tone and content, it tells the story of a worker robot in a Buddhist temple that achieves enlightenment. The corporation that manufactured it is sent in to determine if it is malfunctioning. What happens next is a dialogue that can best be described as an examination of faith, perception and humanities reliance on technology. These questions are discussed at length, and in the end, one may learn something about man’s willingness to allow his perception to create an illusion that covers a painful truth. The most interesting of the segments, it is also the one that begs for a longer version. Beautifully shot and scored, it is also the only part by Kim Ji-Woon.
The final segment is the whimsical ‘Happy Birthday’. The most original story of the three, it deals with a girl who tries to replace her father’s 8-ball before he can notice it’s broken. Fear of being caught has her toss it out the window, where it gets mixed up with a wormhole and aliens. To say more would be to ruin the fun. Never taking itself, the characters or the predicament the world finds itself in overly seriously way allows the peculiar nature of this story to unfold quite well. It’s quirky and eccentric nature blend themselves quite well between the story and the characters.
Overall this is a fantastic film that is quite entertaining. Fans of the genres contained should enjoy it, as well as those who enjoy anthology films.