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Movie Review

"V/H/S2" is Crazier Than the Original, but Not As Scary

I'll give "V/H/S2" credit: they went for it. There's a brazenness with respect to the scares that outdoes even the original “V/H/S” (except for "Amateur Night"). No coy leave-it-to-your-imagination stuff. But in terms of images that stick with you and make you keep the lights on, I think “V/H/S” had more impact.

The connective story, "Tape 49," involves a young PI couple investigating the disappearance of a college kid. They break into his apartment and discover a bunch of V/H/S tapes, which the woman proceeds to watch while the boyfriend explores the apartment.

The best of the bunch is "Safe Haven," from Gareth Evans ("The Raid"). It involves a documentary film crew investigating a religious cult and its leader, who is eerily and convincingly portrayed by actor Epy Kusnandar. He's to "Safe Haven" what Hannah Fierman was to "Amateur Night," and a creepy actor can go a long way to making a horror movie a memorable experience. What works here is that all the cult stuff is believably freaky and the set up is tense. Something about the fact that everyone is speaking what appears to be Indonesian amps things up a bit too. The gore factor is off the charts, but there is something about the build up to this one – not to mention the over-the-top finale – that just makes it an instant cult (no pun intended) classic. It's my favorite of the group.

Next in line would be "A Ride in the Park," about a young cyclist who is attacked by zombies during his ride through the eponymous park. He's wearing a helmet cam, so after he "turns" we get to experience his transition from bewilderment, to illness, to hunger. It's a very interesting take on the zombie genre from the director of "The Blair Witch Project." As crazy as it sounds, he actually manages to conjure up empathy for the main character who has basically forfeited a pretty rocking life to become one of the undead. When he accidentally butt-dials his girlfriend at the end and realizes everything he's lost, even in his zombie haze, it's a poignant moment that leads to tragic results.

Third in line for me would be "Slumber Party Alien Abduction." This entry is just a lot of fun and its boldness in showcasing the aliens is both a strength and a weakness. What I liked about Slumber Party was the teenagers misbehaving trope we've seen in so many horror movies. This entry is not really scary and the shaky cam aesthetic is pushed a bit too far, but it's still a solid outing. (Question: why is there a blackface Santa in this movie?)

Speaking of scary, there is a section toward the end of Tape 49 – the wrap around segment – that probably provides the most significant scares in the entire flick. Let's just say that if something comes back to life after its head has been twisted completely around, it can provide some frightful moments.

Finally, the first story, “Phase 1,” is pretty good if only because it is fast paced and entertaining. It also has a few jolts.

All of the V/H/S2 stories are kind of weak on character, but you don't have much time to set up character in a short film. Ultimately, this sequel feels like it was
trying to top the first one. But I suppose that's the curse of any sequel: whether knowingly or not, it is always attempting to surpass its progenitor.

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"Mama" - Suprisingly Effective


I really wasn’t expecting much from Mama based on the previews and the PG-13 rating, but I’m here to tell you, Mama is scarier than the Evil Dead remake. It’s not as action packed and certainly nowhere as gory, but it is spooky.

The plot involves two little girls being abducted by their father (Jeffrey) after killing their mother and several coworkers. He flees authorities into the deep woods, where his car crashes and he finds an abandoned cabin. He goes there to commit the horrible act of killing the his daughters, but unbeknownst to him the cabin is inhabited by the restless spirit of a former mental patient who lost her own baby in a bizarre suicide attempt. Unable to find the remains of her baby after jumping off a cliff, Mama has been skulking around this cabin for over a hundred years… waiting. When the wayward father arrives there, she gruesomely dispatches him before he can kill his daughters and adopts them as her own.

With Mama’s ghoulish assistance, the girls have managed to survive for five years in the wilderness alone. But when they are discovered by Jeffrey’s brother, Lucas, no one knows how they survived so long. Mama tells the story of how Lucas, his über hot girlfriend played Jessica Chastain, and an overly ambitious psychiatrist unravel this mystery, and it is a surprisingly effective chiller.

There are a couple things that specifically deserve mention. First, Mama is hideously deformed and as such is one spooky looking ghost. These guys tore a page from the “Alien” playbook - make the monster scary looking and you’re halfway to the finish line. Second, the beat where Lucas is incapacitated by Mama, thereby leaving Chastain alone in that huge house with the unnerving children and the overly protective Mama is a very good plot device. The audience can really relate to Chastain’s paranoia and fear that first night in the house alone.

Mama is certain to do well in the DVD market, and was no slouch in the theaters, bringing in over $70 million domestically. Rent it and get ready to keep those lights on.

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Resolution - Movie Review

The best horror films always have a good, believable story at their core. Resolution is about two friends who’ve become estranged because one of them, Chris, played by Vinny Curran, is now a meth addict and is squatting in the California Mountains stoned out of his mind. Meanwhile, the other, Michael (Peter Cilella) has a beautiful girlfriend and has moved on to greener pastures. But he hasn’t given up on his friend and decides to trek into the hills one weekend in a last ditch effort to save him from inevitable death.

After Michael arrives and assesses the situation, he tazes Chris, handcuffs him to a pipe in an exposed wall, and dares him to make it a week without any drugs. That’s the basic set up for
Resolution, and that alone would make for an interesting movie. But there are crazy happenings up in “dem dar hills.” Things that would scare the heck out of someone who wasn’t getting high 24/7. Oh, and did I mention the house Chris is squatting in happens to be on a Native American reservation?

As a horror aficionado, I was pleasantly surprised at the slow burn pacing of
Resolution. By that end of that movie, directorsJustin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have ensconced the audience in such a believable, crazy setting that you get the feelinganything could happen - and you really cannot tell where Resolution is going in those last 15 minutes. That’s exciting in a time when scaring people in the movies is becoming more and more difficult against a backdrop of everyday horrors that are worse than the best Stephen King novel.

There are some funny lines in
Resolution and a consistent humor that is surprising. I also liked the way the two main characters behaved believably when the danger set in. They didn’t do those things that make you shout at the movie screen, and yet, they still meet an untimely demise. It’s much scarier that way. Bravo to all in involved with Resolution. I sense good things on the horizon for Moorhead and Benson.

--> Reprinted with Permission from All Good Things TV

Check out Resolution on In Demand

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