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: 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: HOTEL OF THE DAMNED

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hotel of the damnedUn’Corked Entertainment
2016
NR

Abandoned hotels are a staple of horror movies. You have your haunted hotel, or…well, that’s pretty much it. Unless we’re talking about an abandoned hotel that has cannibal hillbillies squatting in them, like in Hotel Of The Damned.

This being one of the offerings on the Amazon Prime streaming, I really wasn’t expecting much. I had my expectations lowered. And, it seemed like one of those movies I could throw on, and not pay too close attention to while I transcribed stuff on my laptop and still could follow along with the plot.

I mean, the plot itself is a tried and true one: dark and stormy night, car wreck, nearby abandoned building to take shelter in…this is the standard beat of every “true ghost story” legend in my personal library. Only, instead of ghosts, this hotel is haunted by cannibals. Also, instead of your typical group of annoying young adults being the ones finding themselves stranded and spending the night there, the movie does get a bit creative with that trope.

A recently released ex-con is hoping to make things right with his estranged daughter. Things get to a bit of a rocky start when he learns that she has run off with her junkie boyfriend. So the ex-con and his pal track them down to bring the daughter home, with her boyfriend in the trunk of the car. On the way, they manage to crash the car and left stranded, so they take up refuge in a nearby abandoned hotel until morning. Things go well enough as to be expected, until they happen to run into a family of cannibals living in the hotel as well. From then on, it’s a game of avoid being captured and eaten and try to escape, with varying results.

Overall, Hotel Of The Damned was the kind of horror survival movie that gains some points with making the cast not a bunch of annoying teenager stereotypes, and going with a more nuanced gangster father/daughter/junkie boyfriend setup (with the friend of the gangster father for that extra zip and zing). However, by the time they get in the accident and hole up in the abandoned hotel and encounter the cannibals, things settle into the standard cat-and-mouse game you would expect.

As a movie, Hotel Of the Damned is okay. It works better with its family drama aspect, and maybe should have ditched the cannibal horror aspect and worked with that angle. Otherwise, it’s not a bad way to kill some time.

Uncle NecRo Watches: HEREDITARY

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Recorded June 9, 2018

Uncle NecRo is joined by Work Friend Sarah in watching the new psychological horror thriller Hereditary. This is being touted as this generation’s The Exorcist. Is it really? Come join Uncle NecRo and Sarah in talking about the movie at Sean O’Casey’s in Omaha…SPOILERS ABOUT, my wonderful freaks…

necrosarx@gmail.com

Movie Review: WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK

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when a stranger calls backUniversal Television
1993
NR

“I am not the reflection of anything. I am not an illusion. I am the truth. I’m invisible. Unknowable. You people are the real illusionists. You people are the real illusionists.”

Back in 1979, a very mediocre horror movie called When A Stranger Calls was released, to a chorus of yawns. I presume. I’ve never really watched the original When A Stranger Calls, but if it’s anything like the needless 2006 remake, then the possibility of me watching the original is very slim. Regardless, in 1993, a television movie sequel to the first When A Stranger Calls was broadcast. And I recently watched it. Why? Well, it was on Amazon Video. Also, I was morbidly curious. Also, it was a Rifftrax presentation. So, at least this would take some of the edge off of what was promising to be a rather dull 90-or-so minutes.

And boy howdy was this a massively dull movie to sit through. But first, let’s recap this thing, shall we?

So, we’re introduced to Julia, a teenager that’s babysitting for a couple one night, when a stranger knocks on the door stating his car is broken down and asks to come inside to use the phone. Instead of letting the guy in, she agrees to call the auto club for him, only to discover that the phone was dead. Instead of telling him that, she lies and tells him they’re on the way. Of course, he doesn’t buy it, and there’s a stilted back-and-forth that goes on for several minutes too long, before it’s revealed that the guy has been in the house the entire time and was throwing his voice to make it sound like he was outside. The kids are now missing, and the babysitter escapes, and now needs intensive therapy one would presume. Flash forward five years, and Julia is now a really reclusive college student who still has issues from the incident. Weird things start happening to her at her apartment, leading Julia to think that the stalker is back and messing with her again. Fortunately, the woman from the first film is now a counselor at the college she attends, and she takes an interest in her situation, offering to help. She then contacts the detective that helped her in the first film. He’s a bit skeptical about this, but agrees to help, while the counselor buys Julia a gun for protection. Except that Julia decides to shoot herself in the head instead, putting herself in a coma. The stalker is tracked down performing a ventriloquist act at a club; he gets away, and then finally shows up at the counselor’s apartment for a confrontation that ends with her getting shot by the stalker, then the stalker getting shot by the detective. Then Julia comes out of her coma and the end.

Overall, When A Stranger Calls Back feels longer than what it really is, mainly to the rather slow pace and dull story execution going on, as well as the wooden acting from the cast. No surprise that it was produced for television instead of a theatrical run. All these years later, and I’m pretty sure no one was demanding a follow-up to the original movie. I could be wrong, but given the time frame, someone was grabbing at straws for content to fill a slot. Okay, so technically it was broadcast on Showtime, which is more of a basic cable channel; let’s face it, though, a made-for-television slasher film is going to not be up to snuff. No pun intended, there. Pity, as I actually adore Carol Kane, as well as Charles Durning, both of which were in the first film.

When A Stranger Calls Back, let this movie go straight to voice mail. I hate myself now for that pun.

Movie Review: The DEVIL’S HAND

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devil's handRoadside Attractions
2014
PG-13

The Devil’s Hand is a one of the movies that was available for streaming on my Prime account on Amazon (for all the plugs I do for them, I should really look into getting some kind of monetary kickback or something), with a cover that looked straight out of one of those small rural-based horror flicks of the 1980s. Eh, it looked like a nifty way to kill 90 minutes or so on a Saturday morning.

Doing a bit of research on this movie, it seems that this movie went through several working names, including Where The Devil Hides, The Devil’s Rapture and The Occult. Nothing really too shocking, really. On the Staci Layne Wilson review of this movie on Dread Central, she mentions that, having been on-set when it was being filmed, what she expected based on interviews with the cast and director wasn’t what she got when she watched the movie. Not necessarily a bad thing, but still. I bring this up, because the description of The Devil’s Hand on the Amazon Prime site describes it as “Five young Amish girls accused of being ‘Satan’s children’ must fight for their lives when their devout community elders insist they be ‘cleansed’ before turning 18.” After watching The Devil’s Hand, I find that to be not quite accurate.

So, we begin on a dark night on June 6th, when six girls are being born to six mothers (this sounds like the beginning of a nursery rhyme). Since this community has a prophecy that states that on the sixth day of the sixth month, six girls will be born, and on the day of their 18th birthday, one of them will become the Devil’s Hand. Because of this prophecy and incredible coincidence (*cough*), this prompts the town’s head Elder Beacon (Colm Meaney! Star Trek’s Miles O’Brian to my fellow geeks out there) to come over and try to kill the newborns. The father of one of the babies takes umbrage with this, and stops the Elder from his grizzly purpose, but not able to stop one of the mothers from smothering her own baby out of fear of the prophecy.

Infanticide. Always a great way to kick off any movie. [/sarcasm]

Anyway, fast forward a few years, and the remaining five girls are on the very cusp of their 18th birthdays, and during a group dip in the nearby lake, a couple of towny boys decide it would be hilarious to go skinny dipping with them. This inspires the girls and their chaperone to pack up and head back to their respective homes. Turns out, all the girls have been deliberately left ignorant of the whole prophecy bit, but are being watched closely by the Elders for any evil shenanigans and the like. One by one, however, the girls are being systematically murdered by a mysterious cloaked knife-weilding individual. Of course, this makes the townsfolk begin to get paranoid, looking upon the remaining girls with suspicion. It also doesn’t help that one of the girls seems to have epilepsy, with her episodes being chalked up to devil fits or something like that. This also causes the “good” Elder Beacon to turn up the fire and brimstone…and use that as an excuse to perve on the girls. One of the girls gets the full shunning and ejected from the community (which makes one wonder…how is New Bethlehem — the name of the community — supposed to be a “beacon of light” to the outside world, as one of the elders mentioned, if they’re shunning it completely? It makes no sense, but more on that later), which leads to the remaining two girls to go after her and, with the help of one of the towny boys who seems to have fallen smitten with the girl with epilepsy, find sanctuary at the house of another former New Bethlehem resident who was shunned for allegedly making a pact with Satan…who happens to be the biological mother of the epileptic girl who thought her mother died when she was an infant. The reunion is short lived, however, as Elder Beacon comes calling to retrieve the girls, who manage to escape back to New Bethlehem under cover of Day For Night filter, they’re pursued by the townsfolk and that hooded knife-weilder, when everything comes to a head when it turns out [SPOILERS] it was the mother of the epileptic girl that was the knife-weilding killer, leveling the field for her daughter to become the Devil’s Hand. Which she totally does at midnight of her 18th birthday, which leads to her killing everyone and burning down New Bethlehem.

My 18th birthday involved a pizza buffet and a trip to one of the malls in Omaha. Anyway…

The Devil’s Hand is mediocre at best. It doesn’t seem fully developed as far as what kind of movie it wanted to be. It starts off as a slasher, but then switches into a kind of CW style drama that’s set with…well, I’m certain the label “Amish” is not the word to use. The style and look seem more in keeping with Puritanism, and John Calvin’s experiment with a community of holiness with Geneva, especially with the reference to New Bethlehem being a beacon of light to the world. Also, the men don’t have the standard Amish beards.

Cultural pedantic nature aside, to be fair, I actually thought The Devil’s Hand’s main strength actually was when it was a harrowing drama about spiritual abuse at the hands of spiritual leaders, and finding the strength to break free. There’s a scene that is more horrifying to watch than any of the slasher moments, involving Elder Beacon groping one of the girls under the guise of inspecting her for any evil influence. It made me sick to my stomach, and considering the recent controversy involving a former youth group pastor investigated for sexual abuse of students, it’s especially despicable. Of course, then at the last quarter of the film, it turns into a bad imitation of The Seventh Seal, and the big “twist” only leaves you groaning, “really?”, as it felt ham-fisted in there at the last minute.

As I mentioned at the top of this review, The Devil’s Hand is a good way to kill 90 minutes, but that’s really it. Again, it’s mediocre at best, comes off as more of a CW drama for the most part, with a disjointed plot and flat characters. It doesn’t insult your intelligence too bad, but except for Colm Meaney’s delightful scene chewing performance, there’s not much to care about when the end credits run. Worth a look-see, but not much beyond that.

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