Movie Review: PRAY.

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prayCross Shadow Productions
2007
NR

I’ve always said that the horror genre is the perfect medium for Christians to get involved in. I say that with absolutely no sarcasm or irony whatsoever. But, of course, this is generally not very well received by most of my fellow brethren and sisteren who share the faith in Christ Jesus as I do. You may have noticed that I don’t generally watch a lot of Evangelical Christian produced movies, for the obvious reasons. But, once in a while, I come across something so utterly adorable that the Evangelical Christian market puts out, I have to actually watch it just to marvel at it. Sometimes I enjoy it for all the wrong reasons. It’s the same reason why I love movies like The Room and Birdemic.

Recently, thanks mainly to the YouTube channel Say Goodnight Kevin, I discovered the attempt to make a Dove-Approved, family friendly slasher horror. That, of course, seems as feasible as dividing by zero. But, then, here we go. The movie is called Pray. (that period is actually part of the title, not the indicator that I’m done writing the sentence), and I believe I may have found that rare treat for my bad movie watchin’ tastes. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Madison and Lacy enjoy an out-of-town Christian rock concert. After some eerie events, the friends decide to drive back to their hometown. However, someone or something follows them home! Events unfold that find Madison alone at the mall later that evening. The mall closes, and we find our heroine mysteriously trapped inside. It will take her resolute strength and unflinching faith to escape!

Pray. is the most amazeballs movie I’ve every had the gleeful joy of watching. I mean that. This movie manages to hit near The Room levels of badness that it must be seen to be believed. There is just so much to unravel here that I really don’t know where to begin. But, here goes.

First off, not only do we start with a text of the definition of the word “miracle”, but the movie itself doesn’t think that we, the viewers, are competent enough to take it in, so there’s a handy-dandy voice-over reading the text out loud for us. I love it when the movie I’m watching decides to insult my intelligence right off the bat. It gets this out of the way, so I can settle in and enjoy things. Anyway, the acting here is about what you would expect from a low-budget Christian-based independent flick–meaning, I wouldn’t be surprised if they used volunteers from the church to film this, with a script that just had a general outline of what was going to go on, some minimal dialogue actually written out, then the rest just improvised for filler. There’s a scene early on, when the gang of kids emerge from where the nondescript “Christian rock concert” was, and the WGWAG* has his guitar strapped to him. He wasn’t a member of the band. He brought his acoustic guitar with him to the concert. Look, I’m acquainted with plenty of acoustic guitar enthusiast youth group types, and I’ve yet to witness any one of them take their guitar with them to a concert, Christian, rock or otherwise, unless they’ve got a set to play themselves. But, I digress.

The pacing and editing is shoddy, the film making is worse than amateur, many of the shots were lit very badly, and don’t even get me started about the complete lack of actual scares, tension or suspense in this so-called “horror” movie. Look, I understand that, to get a movie “Dove Approved”, there has to be certain homogenizing going on to get just the right amount of sanctification to make this family friendly. I wouldn’t be complaining much if the makers of this movie just relied heavily on jump scares, but even that’s too scary for Christians, apparently. Mind you, there’s a lot of music cue buildup to what you may thing will be a scary payoff, but no. The actual killer in this–listed on the IMDB page as “the Shape”, so they’ve ripped off something from a much, much better movie, par for the course for any Evangelical Christian attempt at pop culture–looks so very much lame: a hoodie and one of those translucent masks that you can get at any dollar store nearby. And that final twist ending itself not only insults your intelligence, but then punches it in the gut, and spits on it as it lays on the ground in the fetal position, before riding off with its girlfriend on a motorcycle. Seriously, this twist will make you pine for the days when “The call is coming from inside the house!” made your bellybutton pucker.

So, what else do I have to say? Would you believe there have been two sequels to this movie? With the third one in 3D. Because of course there is. You better believe I have those two cued up in my streaming account as we speak. In the meantime, though, Pray. (you gotta remember that period, it’s important) needs to be watched by everybody. Highly recommended for all the wrong reasons.

[*=“White Guy With Acoustic Guitar”]

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Movie Review: TRICK OR TREATS

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trick or treatsLonestar Pictures
1982
R

“You’re cute. Are you the babysitter?”
“Well, you’re not. That’s a stuid thing to do.”
“It’s Halloween!”

As the Halloween season continues, I came across this obscure title set during the night of Halloween–the slasher Trick Or Treats. See, to differentiate this one from the other two better known Halloween flicks Trick Or Treat or Trick R’ Treat. I need to stop referencing better movies in my reviews. Anyway, that and this particular movie was released a few years before those two afore mentioned movies.

I came across Trick Or Treats on — where else? — the stream on Amazon, as one of the horror flicks set during Halloween. I had never heard of this one, so I threw it on to see how this was. *sigh* Let’s see if this was a treat or a trick.

Try and guess which way this is going to go.

Mr. and Mrs. Adams are attending a Halloween masquerade party and decide to leave their precoucious son Christopher in the care of Linda, a local babysitter. Christopher is a master of mischievous pranks and continually batters Linda with them, until a bizarre turn of events unleashes a true madman, just escaped from a mental institution, who treats Christopher to a trick he will never forget…and his babysitter may never survive. Next time your doorbell rings, be prepared…because it’s Trick Or Treats!

My biggest issue with Trick Or Treats–and there are many–is that it’s a movie that doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be a straight slasher flick, or a thinly veiled spoof of a slasher flick. I say this because there seems to be a kind of over-the-top quality to the acting with everybody that seems to indicate that no one was taking this anywhere near seriously. Which is fine, but there are moments where the “humor” almost achieves an Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes level of awfulness…only without the self-awareness.

I will say this: Trick Or Treats is something that benefited greatly with David Carradine all-too-brief appearance as the stepfather. Otherwise, we’re set upon by an inept script plagued with horrible dialogue an far too many clearly improvised scenes and pacing issues. As it stands, this is a movie that could have been much more enjoyable had they ditched the escaped mental patient angle and developed the story as a deranged child torturing his babysitter in kind of a Problem Child meets The Omen by way of Home Alone black comedy. But no, we’re given this badly rendered urban legend trope to waste everyone’s time with. I would much rather get my house egged than watch this again. Pass.

Why Do I Listen To Christian Metal?

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metal crowd
Lately, I’ve been chewing over the general claim that Christian’s don’t really like metal, we just use it as a means of propaganda for our beliefs. That it’s just an outreach tool; that we effect the standard metal uniforms only when trying to infiltrate the culture, and when we get back to the safety of our homes, we change back into our Mister Rogers-esque proper Christian clothes and get back to being proper Christian boys and girls. Or whatever.

Fair enough. In my almost thirty years of being a Christian and a metalhead, I’ve seen my fair share of so-called “metal ministries” that weren’t what you would call genuinely trve metal, that would only throw on the denim and leather when doing what they would consider ministry outreach. Those kind of posers you can smell from a mile away, if not more.

I get it. It’s easy to just type…

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Movie Review: The PREDATOR

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the predator20th Century Fox
2018
R

So, here we are. Yet another movie involving the intergalactic hunter species known as the Predator. Ever since showing up on the big screen in 1987 with the very first movie, the fanbase can’t seem to get enough of the creature. Even with every sequel that doesn’t seem to live up to the insta-classic that was the first one. Even when they pitted the Predator with that other intergalactic fan favorite, the Alien (which is, ironically, technically more of a predator than the actual Predator is). Since it’s been 8 years since the release of the better-than-most-realize sequel Predators, another go at a sequel was not surprising, but again I don’t think a lot of people were clamoring for another one. But we got one. And of course I went to go see it on the opening weekend.

So, the story for The Predator goes as such: a couple of Predator space ships are battling it out over Earth when the smaller ship ejects something, and then crash lands on our planet, in the middle of a hostage retrieval mission. One of the snipers picks up some sweet Predator hardware, and mails it to his autistic son for safe keeping. And because Hollywood treats autism like it’s magic, the young boy figures out how to use the Predator mask and arm gauntlet. Meanwhile, the captured predator has come to and escaped the super-secret military lab where was in the process of getting looked at by Jake Busey (Busey Lite…you get all the Busey with only half the crazy), and tracks the kid who’s out trick or treating with the Predator tech. Which, technically, this makes The Predator a Halloween movie. Anyway, Sniper Dad was being transported to a government prison during all of this, but managed to escape with his fellow inmates and tracks down the escaped Predator and saves both a scientist and his son from not only the Predator, but kind of a bigger, scarier Predator that’s been hunting the first Predator for reasons. Stupid reasons, as we’ll come to find out later. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. The gov’ment is also hunting the Predators, and it seems that the aliens are looking to upgrade their species with the best of the best DNA, and in this case, that’s from the sniper’s son, because, and I’m quoting from the dialog here, “autism is the next step in human evolution.” *sigh* Anyway, the Apex Predator does the whole Most Dangerous Game thing with the gaggle of inmates and gov’ment guys, captures the young lad, and makes to take off for home, when the surviving inmates take out the ship, then takes out the Apex Predator, and the movie ends on sequel bait.

For what it is, The Predator is exactly what it is: a Predator movie. Nothing more, nothing less. But, this one feels like a bit of a hot mess, mainly due to the combination of awkward humor beats, some choppy editing (possibly due to the controversy surrounding one of the actors who was cut from the final film), and some attempts to build on the Predator mythos that doesn’t make much sense. The real hits to this, though, are not only the autism treatment, but The Predator once again uses Tourette’s as comic relief. It just pisses me off.

The Exalted Geeks and I went to see The Predator the Saturday after it opened, and the theater was mostly empty. This is not doing well as of this writing, and we’ll probably never see that sequel the movie was hinting at. Just as well. I give this movie a frustrated head shake and a “wait for the rental”.

Movie Review: ICEBREAKER

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icebreakerEdgewood Entertainment
2000
PG-13

“They were all huddled together, but you know I could tell they had just enough piss and vinegar left in them that, uh, give them an inch, they’d scream for miles.”

Wow. Just…wow. I never thought I’d see the day where a movie featuring Bruce Campbell would fail to entertain me on any kind of level. But, here we are, at that day. And not surprising, it’s a movie that’s put out by the same studio that brought us Radical Jack and Time Chasers. Yeah, I seem to be stumbling on these left and right nowadays.

Icebreaker not only stars Bruce Campbell, but also Stacy Keech and Sean Astin. Yes, that Sean Astin. This was the movie he was in before starring in the Lord Of The Rings movies. My guess is that Peter Jackson didn’t see Icebreaker before casting him. But, that’s neither here nor there.

In Icebreaker, a group of terrorists lead by a shaven-headed Bruce Campbell, have stolen a nuclear warhead and have it on a mountain nearby a ski resort. At said ski resort works an earnest Radar O’Riley type of rescue team member (Astin), who is already nervous enough due to being scheduled to have lunch with his fiance’s father (he doesn’t approve of him as his daughter’s betrothed, surprise surprise), but then finds himself in the position of an ultra-low-rent John McClane in a second-rate Die Hard At A Ski Resort when the resort is taken hostage by the terrorists, and he seems to be the only one able to try and save the day. It doesn’t go as well as planned, let’s just say.

You know, I never thought I’d see the day where I’d get bored watching a movie featuring Bruce Campbell. But, here we are. Icebreakers is the movie that has proved to me that, despite the pairing of both Campbell and Keech, the movie couldn’t be saved from utter mind-numbing mediocrity. Campbell seemed to be phoning it in, whereas he normally gives a memorable scene-chewing to anything I’ve seen him in, including those bad-on-a-different-level Sci-Fi Channel movies from the early Aughts. Sean Astin, bless his heart, comes close to elevating Icebreakers to an almost watchable level with his patented cherub-like demeanor, but this still falls very short in the process.

Overall, there’s not enough cheese in Icebreakers to make someone like me, a man who famously revels in cheesy bad movies, keep my interest. The Rifftrax edition does make this a bit more palatable, but as a movie in and of itself, give it a hard pass.

Movie Review: ANTISOCIAL 2

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antisocial 2Breakthrough Entertainment
2015
NR

Hey, look. It’s a sequel to one of the more mediocre Millennial horror movies I’ve had the displeasure of watching. What were the changes of there being one? I’m not certain why, but we have a sequel. And by some twisted masochistic logic that only I can understand, I was compelled to watch Antisocial 2: Antisocial Harder.

Gads, I’m already using bad humor as a coping mechanism. This is not a good sign.

So, anyway, after a voice-over recap of the first Antisocial, we find the final girl from the first movie — Sam — emerge from the trunk of a beat up car, having spent the night there to be safe from any attacks from those feral humans that were fully zombified from the Red Room virus referred to as “users”. It’s evident that, sometime between the end of the first movie and now, she managed to get preggers, as Sam is clearly in the third trimester. She then drives off in the car, which is when we realize that Antisocial 2 is going to be a Post-Apocalyptic Road Trip movie. She gives birth to her baby in an abandoned building, where the kid is immediately taken by a crazy (but uninfected) lady spouting off religious end times gobblety-gook and Sam is left to die, but of course she survives and takes off to find her kid and drive around some more. Somehow, three years go by, and while trying to score some munitions Sam runs afoul of users, who are turned away by a precarious preteen who has figured out how to hack the Users to do her dark bidding get them safely out of the way. Seems the Read Room social media chat room is still alive and well, making more and more infected Users, causing them to become kind of a hive-mind collective. It’s convoluted, yes, but let’s just go with it. Seems the preteen kid is the daughter of a crazy military scientist who ran away due to…well, he’s a crazy military scientist. Seems he’s doing experiments on not only the Users, but also the ones that are normal because they had the DIY tumor removal that was done in the previous movie, of which Sam is one of them. Of course, the two are captured by the military that the kid’s dad works for, and is brought back to the base, where it appears that Sam’s three-year-old is at. This kid, because he was in-utero during the infection, has some wicked psychic abilities, because of course he does. The military science guy does a bunch of SCIENCE! things, Sam discovers her son is alive and well an in the facility, yadda-yadda, they escape only to have things end on one of those frustrating sequel baits.

Well, I’ll give Antisocial 2 this — at least it didn’t insult my intelligence by just rehashing the same story beats and tropes as the original movie. No, instead Antisocial 2 insulted my intelligence by copying and pasting ideas and tropes from far better horror and sci-fi movies. You know the ones: Day Of The Dead (the original, as no other versions exist in my reality), I Am Legend, Zombieland (without the humor), Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, and Children Of The Damned, to name a few. I did find the concept of the Red Room virus turning the infected into a kind of hive-mind organism intriguing, and wished they explored that a bit more than what they did with the story. Overall, though, I found Antisocial 2 to be mediocre for the most part, while picking up a bit at the very end. I don’t hate myself for watching this unnecessary sequel, but I’m not clamoring for another one. I wasn’t clamoring for this one after watching the first one, but here we are.

Movie Review: GHOST STORIES

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ghost stories 2018 movie posterLionsgate Films
2017
NR

“It’s funny, isn’t it? How it’s always the last key that unlocks everything.”

There’s just something about British horror movies that appeal to me. Even when it involves the lowest common denominator in the sub-genres, there’s a kind of distinct artistry and class to them that you can’t get too often with your standard Hollywood flick. Mind you, this isn’t in any way an admittance to being an Anglophile; I’m a born-and-bred Midwestern American boy, with all the quirks associated with that. I know what I like, and I like this particular recent release here, Ghost Stories.

Not to be confused with the also-released-in-2017 A Ghost Story, Ghost Stories plural is based on a play that was written by the two writers / directors of the movie. The story involves a famous skeptic of the paranormal, who considers his life work to be debunking so-called psychics and other paranormal reporting to keep other lives from being ruined by superstition and charlatans. This stems from a rather dysfunctional family upbringing due to strict religious beliefs. He receives an invitation by his long-thought dead childhood inspiration, a paranormal investigator from the 1970s, who tasks him to investigate three incidents that he couldn’t explain away, outside of admitting that they were genuine supernatural sightings. The first case involved a night watchman who was haunted by the ghost of a young girl in an abandoned asylum; the second involved a neurotic teenage boy who is obsessed with the occult after a terrifying encounter with the Devil on a wooded road late one night; the third involving a successful businessman who is haunted by the spirit of his wife the night she died giving birth to their…son? Anyway, the skeptic investigating concludes that all the so-called paranormal goings on are the result of extreme stress, guilt and sorrow, stating that the “brain sees what it wants to see,” giving birth to this movie’s tag line. But when he takes his conclusion back to his mentor, it turns out that the mentor isn’t exactly who he really is. And that’s when things start getting weird…

Ever since I read the buzz surrounding Ghost Stories from the film festival circuits, I was waiting patiently (okay, that was a bit of a fib, there) for the movie to be available here in the States. I kind of knew there was no chance that, even if it did make it to general theater release, it would be one of those small-releases that never seem to make it to my neck of the woods. Finally, it was made available here, and after watching it, I can say I wasn’t disappointed with the wait.

Going far beyond being just another “Haunting Of…” movies, Ghost Stories actually goes for the David Lynch style of psychological horror that delves deep into the darker regions of the human psyche and borrows deep under your skin. This movie is dark, chilling, thickly atmospheric, and will make you question reality, which is all the hallmarks I look for in a good horror movie. You don’t need gore or blood or excessive violence, and Ghost Stories proves it. Mind you, I do have to say the ending twist was almost a cop-out, as it’s a standard type of trope that has been in use since horror stories were created, really. Regardless, the ending doesn’t ruin the movie; it still is a satisfying horror movie that begs for a re-watch so you can experience it in a different angle. I highly recommend giving Ghost Stories a watch.

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