Movie Reviews: “Sound of My Voice” (2011)

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Directed by Zal Batmanglij.
Starring Brit Marling, Christopher Denham & Nicole Vicius.
Written by Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij.

Peter, a journalist, and his writer girlfriend Lorna integrate themselves into an underground cult led by Maggie, who claims to come from the year 2054.

Maggie is gentle, hypnotic, detailed, direct and subtly demanding, telling the followers that all the “choices are theirs.” It’s creepy, yet as a viewer, rejecting her openness makes me feel sad. Brit Marling portrayed the futuristic leader perfectly in ways that words can’t do justice. It’s a masterful performance.

This film works on parallel levels. Is she for real? Is she a fraud? What are the consequences of each? How deep will Peter & Lorna allow themselves to get to document this?

“Sound of My Voice” is gorgeously shot and performed, and written with a wide mind. It was a surprise gem with a conclusion that haunts me to this very moment. My brain is still philosophizing the events and rolling over the details. The best films do that to us.

3.5 out of 4.0 stars.

Movie Reviews”The Legend of Boggy Creek” (1972)

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Directed by Charles B. Pierce

“The Legend of Boggy Creek” isn’t a fictitious movie, and it isn’t a documentary. It’s somewhere in between. The film features multiple story reenactments of real reported Bigfoot sightings and attacks in southern Arkansas. In most cases the reenactments feature the actual people involved, not actors, and are shot in the locations of the reports. We are treated to audio bytes, interviews, and voice overs from the witnesses themselves. That’s what makes it feel so real. This film also has gorgeous shots of wilderness put to some sweet 70’s folk music.

This is my favorite Bigfoot/Sasquatch flick and its also the creepiest. The film is similar to Pierce’s other flick “The Town That Dreaded Sundown.” It’s a charming, low budget piece of cinema that has influenced the style of TV shows like Monsterquest, and other paranormal programs. It would be neat to see another film like this get made for theaters.

3.0 out of 4.0 stars.

Movie Reviews: “V/H/S” (2012)

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Notable Directors: Ti West & Joe Swanberg.

“V/H/S” is an anthology horror film like a “Creepshow” or “Tales from the Hood.” The film consists of 5 stories with a wrap-around story. The styles range from supernatural to slasher etc, all shot home video style with hand held or digital head cams.

I found the main wrap around story about a group of punks stealing an important VHS tape from a mansion uninteresting and kind of annoying. If you can get through the first 15 minutes of setup, then you are in for a creepy ride. The punks watch tape after tape (our tales) hoping to find the one they need.

Each story is unique and interesting in it’s own way. There’s some real horror here, but mostly with little pay off. Half of the tales leave you scratching your head, while others let your mind fill in the ghastly maybes. That can be some the scariest stuff, if the idea of something haunts you.

The effects are fantastic and some of the best I’ve seen. The film does a good job for the most part with maintaining a realistic feel, so that when something bad happens it’s that much more shocking. I just wish that “V/H/S” started off with a bang instead of an annoyance. Some will love this film, and others will think its the worst ever. I can understand both arguments. I am somewhere in the middle. Two of the stories in particular were fantastic and should be praised. I wish they were on their own. Overall, I appreciate the effort/experiment that went into this.

2.5 out of 4.0 stars.

Movie Reviews: “Resident Evil: Damnation” (2012)

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This is the 2nd full length animated “Resident Evil” feature film, and it is much better than their previous effort “Degeneration”! Much much better.

For starters, the animation is fantastic, gorgeous, and unbelievably detailed. The action scenes were well crafted, inventive and exciting. “RE: Damnation” actually felt like a horror film with TONS of gore, zombies, lickers, and creepy mutations. It’s what “Resident Evil” should be like. It wasn’t just a lame action film.

Now is “Damnation” perfect? No. The story is pretty generic. We follow Leon Kennedy (from the RE:2 & 4 video games) into an eastern European country where he is fighting the Las Plagas infection among other terrors. One good thing about a generic storyline is that you don’t need to see the other films to understand what’s going on. It’s a stand alone movie. All you need to know is who Leon is. Some of the dialog is cheesy, but not nearly as bad as the last film. I’m okay with it in this.

The final act’s action scenes were just awesome! I was gasping and sitting on the edge of my seat literally. I really enjoyed this! Man, the time it must’ve taken to craft those scenes… “Damnation” is much better than the live action films, and is the best thing to come out of the “RE” universe since “Resident Evil 4” the video game. I recommend this!
3.0 out of 4.0 stars.

Movie Reviews: “[REC]³: Génesis”

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Written & Directed by Paco Plaza.

“Rec 3” is something special. It’s a genre changer for horror films. I find it funny that the series that really championed modern found footage, 1st-person angle shot horror, may be the one to end that trend.

“Rec” was remade in American cinemas as “Quarantine”, which also had its own sequel. “Rec 2” in my opinion is the BEST 1st person docu-shot horror film ever made. It’s brutal, intense and best of all, it makes sense as to why everything is being filmed.

“Rec 3” is self aware. The premise takes place at the wedding of adorable couple Clara and Koldo. The first 15 minutes of the film we are treated to the opening ceremonies of their wedding and the beginnings of a rowdy reception, all shot on hand-held 1st person view cameras. Koldo’s Uncle arrived at the wedding with a wound on his hand (claiming a dog bit it), and during the party he changes into something monstrous. All hell breaks loose as people begin attacking one another and mutating into ferocious demon ghouls.

The groom yells to the camera man “Why are you filming this?!” He then smashes the camera! Haha. It’s as if the film is mocking the absurdity of the genre. Starting 20 minutes in, “Rec 3” is shot conventionally, like a normal film, and it is refreshing!

The rest of the movie is about bride and groom trying to survive and find each other amongst the mess of bodies and rabid relatives. At times it’s goofy, and at times sentimental. I cared about the characters, and I enjoyed the film’s practical gore effects. This felt old school like Dario Argento’s “Demons” from 1985, yet new and exciting.

Paco Plaza has made 3 great “Rec” films and It’ll be interesting to see what he does next with the series. If 3 is the end, then so be it. It will be remembered by me as one of the absolute best and underrated horror trilogies ever made.

3.5 out of 4.0 stars.

Movie Reviews: “Tesis” (1996)

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Tesis is the Spanish word for thesis. The film follows a woman in college named Angela who is working on a thesis paper about violence and media. Her research leads her to an underground snuff film cult who have been killing women on campus for years. Who can she trust, and will she be next?

This is a well crafted horror/mystery from Director Alejandro Amenábar, and is considered to be one of the most shocking films of the 1990’s. The reputation is well deserved as “Tesis” keeps you on the edge of your seat, as well as squirming in the back of it. (Well not me personally, but I’m sure most people would squirm.)
The more Angela and her friend Chema uncover, the more bizarre the situation gets, and the more you fear for them.

Amenábar also wrote/directed “The Others” with Nicole Kidman, and “Open Your Eyes”, which was later remade as “Vanilla Sky. If “Tesis” were made today it wouldn’t be considered anything special, but because it came out in 1996, I bet it inspired a lot of films that followed. I enjoyed it.

3.0 out of 4.0 stars.

Movie Reviews: “Quarantine” (2008)

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Directed by John Erick Dowdle.
Starring Jennifer Carpenter and Jay Hernandez.

A television news reporter and her camera man tag along with the local fire department for a story. It starts out as a fun and flirty interview with the fire fighters until the station gets an emergency call to an apartment complex. The group go to the complex to find that some of the tenants are acting violent and rabid. Things get out of hand and the group tries to leave, but the doors have been locked from the outside. The group has to fight the infected maniacs and figure out why they’ve been locked in, and how to get the hell out.

“Quarantine” is the remake of a 2007 Spanish film called “Rec.” I’ve seen “Rec” and “Rec 2”, and they’re both fantastic. Now that I’ve seen “Quarantine”, I must say that it is fantastic as well. It’s as good, if not better than “Rec.” They are very similar, and both great examples of the RIGHT way to shoot a docu-style horror film. In the story we have a TV station guy behind the camera trying to capture everything, instead of some scared person running around with a camcorder. The shots are steadier and clearer. Everything about “Quarantine” and “Rec” is a step up in quality.

This film is scary. You can visually see what is going on, but you don’t know why. The acting is realistic and sensible for the given situation which makes everything believable, hence more frightening. With the CDC blocking off the building and the military guarding all doors, there is an urgent sense of dread throughout. You might remember Jennifer Carpenter as the possessed Emily from “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” I really enjoyed her in this. A very different role from the versatile actress. I love this film, along with “Rec” and “Rec 2.”

There’s a sequel to “Quarantine” called “Quarantine 2: The Terminal.” It is not a remake of “Rec 2” and is supposed to be terrible. I haven’t seen it yet. “Rec 2” though is my favorite of all the films, and a good followup to “Rec/Quarantine.” See em!

3.5 out of 4.0 stars.