Deadly Dolly: ANNABELLE: CREATION (2017) Review

Set 12 years prior to the first Annabelle film, this prequel of a prequel tells the story of the Mullins’ (Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto) who open their home to a small girl’s school after the death of the daughter Annabelle. Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) moves into the house with the girls. While residing there, friends Janice (Talitha Bateman) and Linda (Lulu Wilson) come across the infamous doll and realize a darkness is also residing in the Mullins’ household.

I was one of the many people who didn’t like the first Annabelle film at all. So when this prequel to the prequel was announced, needless to say my expectations were low. Yet when David F. Sandberg, who directed the excellent 2016 horror film Lights Out was directing this film, I was trying to be a little hopeful. Sandberg’s delivered once again. Annabelle: Creation is one hell of a horror film that scares and delivers and engaging and well-written story. We are given some very likable leads in Sister Charlotte as the adult who actually cares about the children and isn’t quick to dismiss claims of the paranormal, but trying remain logical at the same time. Sigman’s performance as Charlotte is solid and endearing and really makes us care for the character. Lulu Wilson made her outstanding breakthrough performance in last year’s Ouija: Origin of Evil and returns here with another solid performance. While she doesn’t have as great of lengths to reach unlike her performance in Ouija, she still really sells it as the young girl worried about her best friend’s well-being and willing to put herself in danger in order to save her. Wilson has great on-screen charm with her “cute kid” moments, and she also has terrific scenes and chemistry with newcomer Talitha Bateman as Janice. Where Wilson had her breakthrough in Ouija, Bateman has her great breakthrough here. Like Wilson, Bateman also provides a really charming performance and provides a lot of likability to the character. But it is during her “creepy kid” scenes that she knocks it out of the park.

When she gets into that mode, it’s genuinely scary. It’s not your usual creepy child performance, but it’s more like she’s trying to play a psychotic character, and Bateman does this extremely well. There are other actresses who star as the other girls who provide pretty serviceable performance and get a decent amount of screen time. As far as LaPaglia and Otto, they don’t get too much to do other than be the mysterious couple, but in the opening act they do a great job of being the caring parents who love their daughter, but they do a great job of showing their grief and their fear in the latter part of the film. Annabelle: Creation does an excellent job of building up our setting and characters to where we become familiar with the characters and care for them, and building up the house and land we become trapped with them in. This most especially is strongest when it comes to the friendship of the two girls and Sister Charlotte’s bond with them all. This is extremely important when the terror sets in, because when it does, you really fear for these characters. And let me tell you, the terror is top-notch here. The intensity is perfectly built up to where my heart was pounding for much of the film. An example of this is how Annabelle the doll is used. I was so unaffected by this in the first film and in some instances even in The Conjuring. But here, Sandberg sets up his scenes involving the dolls so well that when the doll is used and how it’s captured is extremely chilling. One scene in particular is a character being attacked off-screen as the camera focuses and pans in on the doll’s face, this scene gave me chills from head-to-toe. There are other examples where the doll was very well-used as well. In terms of jump scares, sure there are a couple of typical ones, but all of the good ones are perfectly executed and well-times to make them extremely effective. Finally, it seems that Sandberg learned from his audience from Lights Out that less is more. And much of that is right here. Many believed the demon was shown too much in Lights Out. I wasn’t too bothered by this, but I can agree with that statement. But here, the demon, and much of a lot of scary moments are shown very little, and still manage to terrify you.

As far as it’s connection to the Conjuring universe, it does connect to the first film, and in a way I was very pleased with. And it also has a couple of teases to the other upcoming “Conjuring universe” film The Nun. It’s worth noting that there is a small mid-credit nod, as well as a post credit tease. Now I’m sure some will say I’m over-praising this movie, and may not like it as much as me, but I thought Annabelle: Creation is that rare horror film that succeeds in telling a story with engaging characters, and one that is actually really scary. All of this without cheap jump scares, but instead uses a perfect build-up in tension and well-orchestrated and timed scares. Only 3 other movies have effectively scared me on a physical level, 2 of which were mentioned in this review. Annabelle: Creation just became 4th on that list.

–Cody Landham

Sink or Swim?: LAKE BODON (2017) Review

The film begins with a telling of the events that happened at the real Lake Bodom in1960. A group of friends went on a camping trip and three of the four friends were brutally murdered by an unknown person. There was one survivor. Much speculation came about as to who did it, and the killer remains at large. Teenager Atte (Santeri Helinheimo Mantyla) has an obsession with the murders and has his own “theory”. So he, along with his rebel friend Elias (Mikael Gabriel), and classmates Ida (Nelly Hirst-Gee) who is still affected by a photo scandal at school, and Ida’s best friend Nora (Mimosa Willamo) to go join him for a camping trip. Where do they go? Lake Bodom of course. Atte believes that by setting themselves up to appear like the original victims, the killer will show up. Naturally things go really bad.

I actually had some high hopes for this horror film from Finland. It’s been too long since we had a good old-fashioned slasher, and the concept sounded really intriguing. And during the first act I was really enjoying it, even if things were moving a bit too quick. I should have taken that as some kind of sign. Halfway through the movie it takes a massive detour. From what should have been a fun slasher film it diverts into a revenge film. At first I thought this was just a small twist in the story, but it focused on this aspect way too much. And in all honesty, it just made it come off as some weird teen drama that didn’t make much sense. Granted it didn’t help that the translations in the subtitled version I saw were horrible. But even then, they spent way too much time on this. But then, we get another diversion, it suddenly goes into territory of becoming Wolf Creek in the woods. So it does go back to horror, but this last act just feels lifeless, and I really blame the middle section prior to this. So by the time this happens I just lost any care about the characters and what was happening. There was simply no build up or suspense to this act to redeem it either. Despite the problems with the script, I absolutely loved the cinematography, everything was filmed so beautifully. I admit some might think it looks too glossy, but honestly, I’ve never had an issue with that. The acting by small cast wasn’t good or bad, it definitely could have been amped a bit, but it was serviceable for the most part.

I really wanted to like this film, and it was so promising in the first act, but once the mid-point twist/diversion happens, it kind of runs the rest of the film right into the ground, even when it goes back to the horror, it feels too little too late. This is disappointing because, had the whole revenge/middle point been cut and focused more on the initial story, this could have been a really fun and great slasher. I still recommend it, but don’t go in expecting a full blown slasher.

–Cody Landman

Forgettable Found Footage: THE GRACEFIELD INCIDENT (2017) Review

After a husband loses his and the wife loses their baby in the same car crash, time goes by and the couple, along with a group of friends, go to stay in a cabin for one of the friends’ birthday. That night, a large object flies overhead and crashes. When the men go to investigate, they find a strange rock and decide to keep it. What they don’t know is that something is now following them, and it’s not friendly.

This alien invasion/found footage horror film doesn’t serve anything new to the genre. It’s not even effective entertainment. It’s actually a really boring and uninteresting movie altogether. Though I gotta say that the husband placing a camera into his fake eye is a nice touch, even if it doesn’t improve the movie any better. Besides the eye camera, everything the characters film is through their iPhones. Had it just been the eye recording everything, it could have been a bit more original in the found footage aspect. The characters themselves are just as boring and uninteresting as the story. The movie is a mere hour and 20 minutes and it goes by so fricken slow. I don’t complain if a horror movie isn’t scary, but there isn’t even a smidge of tension to be found, and it definitely doesn’t seem like there was an effort. The aliens themselves even look ridiculous, not laughable per se, but severely mediocre.

In some ways I can’t even call this a horror film due to the end result. The whole movie plays out as a “lesson learned” movie where everything turns out okay in the end since the main character has learned their lesson. I have never seen a horror movie end in a more cheerful note, happy music playing and all. Quite frankly, it made me disgusted. That’s not to say every horror movie should have everyone die or have an unhappy ending, but to end in a way where the whole thing might as well have just been a dream and everything is all good in the hood is an entirely different matter. In terms of acting, there isn’t anything to brag about. I’ve definitely seen much worse, but the acting feels just as mediocre as everything else about the movie. If you want to see an actually pretty good and suspenseful horror movie, check out Phoenix Forgotten when it comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray. It’s not fantastic, but it offers a lot more than this one does.

–Cody Landman

Crazy Camping: KILLING GROUND (2017) Review

A young couple goes on a camping trip in the woods where they make a startling discovery. Meanwhile, a family that is also camping encounter two psychotic men who set their sights on the family for their hunting game.

I like to think that I’m very un-phased by most disturbing things in horror. But there are the few occasional horror films that come along that really push certain boundaries. Sometimes it’s not even disturbing, but more so I think it’s a film of poor taste. Killing Ground fits into that category. The thing with movies like these is that it’s so hard to call it a good movie and praise it because of how horrible in content it is. Killing Ground would be like if The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on the Left, and Wolf Creek had a big, messed up three-way. In some ways it doesn’t reach the brutality or grittiness of those films, but in some ways it comes off as more realistically brutal, which in some cases makes it almost worse. There are things that happen that definitely aren’t for the faint of heart. What Killing Ground succeeds at is that it doesn’t need gore or in your face violence to be disturbing. Of course I won’t get into detail on this, but this feels more taboo than any of the films I listed. It doesn’t cross Cannibal Holocaust or A Serbian Film threshold, but more so fits into it’s own territory. The screwed up games these two “hunters” play with the character is demented and their lack of humanity is even worse.

What really makes this film more on the unbearable side is that all of our protagonists are extremely likable. The main couple is cute in the most un-annoying way, the parents are really caring and not nagging and overbearing, the teenage daughter is a good kid and not bitchy or annoying, and then you have a toddler in the mix. When thrown in danger the characters aren’t stupid either. In this respect, the script is really well-written in that we have these solid and likable characters, and then you have these two horrible antagonists that just make you sick. These are backed by the strong performances by the cast. The general plot isn’t particularly new, but it’s definitely new in the choices it chooses to make. When all is said and done, the film is commendable in how far it chooses to go and the strength of the characters and actors, and overall the movie is well-done. It’s not a bad movie at all, but I can’t call it good because at times it does feel in poor taste and it seems to only want to horrify you with those lengths it takes and not serve much else. If you are by chance into these movies and willing to stick it out, totally go for it. But it’s definitely not one I recommend to all horror fans.

-Cody Landman

Unlucky Seven: WISH UPON (2017) Review

Years after Clare (Joey King) witnesses her mother committing suicide, she is struggling not only with this memory, but also with a lot of bullying and ridicule by her peers for her lifestyle. Clare’s dad (Ryan Philippe) go dumpster diving and has become a hoarder. When he finds mysterious box, he gives it to Clare whom discovers it’s a wish box. Thinking nothing of it, she makes a wish and it comes true. But she discovers that for every wish she makes, there comes a sacrifice.

Wish Upon is hands-down one of the most teeny-bopper horror movies I’ve seen in a long time. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because the movie is entertaining for the most part. But if anything it’s a more darker version of an episode that would have been on Nickelodeon’s old T.V. series Are You Afraid of the Dark. There aren’t very many scares here except for maybe one scene where it cuts between two characters and has the audience guess who is going to die in that moment. Though the answer is fairly obvious. The story itself is very by-the-numbers, and not exactly anything special. The thing is, it does try to do something a little different by showing aspects of addiction, but the point in which they chose to explore this is rather late in the film and feels random. However, the film’s biggest problems don’t come from the fact that it’s unoriginal and formulaic, but more so from the fact that it’s horribly put together and much of it feel underdeveloped.

When the film starts and we’re supposed to see the life Clare has, I found myself thinking her life isn’t THAT terrible. For example, the bitchy blonde girl who bullies her (while pretty bitchy) isn’t portrayed as horrible as she could have been. Hell at one point Clare gets in the bully’s face and they actually fight each other! This was in the first 20 minutes! I’ve been waiting for a bullied girl to strike back at a bully in film for a long time (as opposed to run away or start crying). Clare’s is shown to be ballsy and can handle herself. But that’s just an example. Yes, her dad embarrasses her in public by being seen digging in dumpsters and her house is pretty nasty. The worst thing about her life is the fact that her mom died. Other than that her life isn’t that terrible. She has two great friends who would do anything for her. Her relationship with them is more developed than between her and her dad. Apart from being underdeveloped, everything just seems so rushed in how it moves from one thing to another to where elements and characters feel like they have no purpose other than filler. Even scenes that should be focused on more (especially in the final act) are barely touched upon but then forgotten later. An example here being a character who cuts their wrists in front of Clare, she screams (at night), cut to the character being put in an ambulance (in daytime), and then cut to Clare and a friend talking about the box (not acknowledging said character), and said character appears later acting as if nothing happened (when really they would have been in a psychiatric hospital). And don’t get me started of how quickly Ryan Philippe’s grows a beard between scenes. Plain and simple, this movie just has poor pacing, editing, and just not well put together. One thing I also need to mention is the cringe-worthy dialogue by the teenagers. I can’t imagine any teen talks like this and in lingo I’ve never heard of in my life (unless I’m just getting that old?). I do have to say though that I LOVED the ending.

It ended basically how I was hoping. Bleak, shocking, and depressing. Once it happens, it lingers just enough to make sure you feel the bleakness and then it ends. You could say that the way it was done was maybe TOO bleak and dark, but compared to how it could have ended, I embraced this with open arms. However, as much as the suddenness of it was awesome, a little build-up to it would have been nice. Though I was building it up in the back of my mind. In terms of the death scenes, they’re very quick shots and bordering off-screen (one character seemingly looks beheaded by a chainsaw, but it looks like they just get hit in the head), but the scenes themselves are pretty great and very Final Destination-like in nature. The cast actually does a great job. Most especially Joey King. She carries the movie really well and during some of the hefty and dramatic scenes (especially the ones showing her addiction) and nails it. Ryan Philippe does what he can with the role, and he honestly deserved much better material to work with. Shannon Purser and Sydney Park play Clare’s best friends and they’re great in their respective roles. You fall in love with them immediately and it’s really thanks to the actresses really bringing the characters’ personalities to life, you almost think that this is how the actresses really are.

I can’t say I recommend this movie, but it’s entertaining and worth watching on Netflix one day under the “Teen Screams” section or spending a dollar for it at Redbox. But if you don’t happen to see it in your life, you won’t be missing much. It’s a super average movie, with a super average story that has solid acting, but suffers from brutal script issues and even more brutal pacing and editing that you can’t exactly miss.

–Cody Landman

Slasher Studios Horror Podcast: The Making of IRRATIONAL FEAR

On a brand new Slasher Studios Horror Podcast, our hosts Kevin Sommerfield & Andrew Beirl had a chance to chat with the cast of the upcoming Slasher Studios horror feature IRRATIONAL FEAR. Big thank you to cast members Charles Chudabala, Cati Glidewell, Jenn Nangle, & Kaleb Shorey for calling in. Want to know the gory details behind the latest film from Slasher Studios? Click on the link below to listen to an archive. IRRATIONAL FEAR will be available on DVD & limited edition Blu-Ray this November with a special limited edition VHS planned for early next year.

Actor Spotlight: Helen Mirren (TEACHING MRS. TINGLE)

Dame Helen Mirren is one of the most prestigious actresses alive. Most film viewers will remember her for her award worthy roles in The Queen, Calendar Girls, Hitchcock, and many others. And for those who prefer blockbuster/mainstream films, many will remember her for Red 1 and 2, and most recently Fate of the Furious and Collateral Beauty. But for me personally, and many will call me crazy for this, I will personally remember Helen Mirren for her role as Eve Tingle in 1999’s teen thriller Teaching Mrs. Tingle.

To this day, Teaching Mrs. Tingle remains Kevin Williamson’s only directorial film. This film has many flaws (especially the convenience of the extremely unrealistic ending). But as Williamson has shown with the Scream films, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and even Cursed, no matter the quality of the movie (good or bad), his scripts are extremely fun. And that’s what Teaching Mrs. Tingle is. It’s a fun, late 90s teen thriller. But back to Mirren. At the start of the film Mirren plays Mrs. Tingle as this very bitchy and catty teacher. Seriously, she’s horrible, but Mirren plays her in a way where you love to hate her. She is most vicious towards the protagonist played by Katie Holmes (the good and brainy girl), but we have really no idea why just yet. But she’s pretty nasty towards everyone she teaches, maybe not so much the prissy snob Trudie in the movie. But it’s not even her students, it’s the whole faculty as well, minus the gym teacher whom she is doing the dirty with. As I said, Mirren plays this horrible and bitchy teacher in a very unique way. You know she’s evil and you wanna punch her in the face but yet you still can’t help but love the bitchiness. Later, when Holmes’ character, her best friend, and another classmate confront Mrs. Tingle about wrongfully accusing Holmes of cheating, things go out of hand they inadvertently nearly kill their teacher. So what do they do? They tie her to her bed and hold her captive and blackmail her in order to get her to cooperate with their demands.

But little do they know, Mrs. Tingle is one tricky bitch. Prior to this we only saw her as a bitch, and now we see much more of Mrs. Tingle’s personality. At this point in the film Mirren switches gears to wear she not only screws with the three friends’ minds, but even the audience. She keep her bitchiness slightly toned down, but even worse than the bitchiness is how she’s able to get into the mind. Think of her as playing Hannibal Lecter-type tricks. Mirren actually brings a great amount of creepy to the role and how much power she has despite being tied up. There’s a scene where she reveals some of her background to one of the characters, and not only she, but us an audience seem unsure whether we are to believe this. And this is because Mirren expertly manages to almost make us sympathize with her in this scene, but we also feel like this is what she wants. There’s so much ambiguity in Mirren’s performance in this scene that it’s one of, if not the best moment of hers in the film. And it’s one of many scenes where she plays mind games like this. On top of this, Mirren sure can play creepy and scary by just mere facial expressions. She can stare daggers into you through the screen, it’s that affecting. It’s in the final act where Mirren finally gets to have fun and really show how crazy and deranged Tingle can be as she is threating Holmes’ character with a crossbow and full on attacks on (throwing her against walls, hitting and strangling her). The thing with this performance is that it’s one that quite honestly could have been make a joke out of. The average actress would have gone completely over-the-top and hokey. Mirren knocked it out of the park and made it her own. She gave Mrs. Tingle more character, depth, and personality than was really needed. The ambiguity and feeling of unease she brings to this role is incredible, and even if hate the movie, you have to love this performance.

In some ways I would say this role was a female equivalency to Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter. Now granted this was the first Helen Mirren film/role I’d ever seen and it made me a fan of hers, so that’s one reason why it’s my most memorable for her. The other reason is that this role is such a rarity for Mirren compared to the other films she’s done. And for the reasons mentioned above, she took a role that could have been so simple and hokey, and made it something so much more. I would go so far as to say that it was a much better performance than the movie deserved. Mirren definitely has more superior roles under her belt, but this one will always stay with me and will remain my favorite performance of hers.

–Cody Landman

Celebrate a DISMEMBERING CHRISTMAS in July on DVD & VHS

Celebrate Christmas in July with Dismembering Christmas on DVD & limited edition VHS! Who says you can’t celebrate holiday horror all year round? If you love holiday horror, Slasher Studios’ Dismembering Christmas is the movie for you. A tribute to the glory days of holiday horror. Featuring all practical effects in our second slasher feature, it’s the perfect way to run some ice cold blood into these hot summer months!

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PLOT:
It was supposed to be a holiday vacation they would never forget, not a holiday vacation they would never survive. When Mark and his friends go up to his fathers new vacation home for Christmas vacation, they were ready for a fun time. Out in the middle of nowhere, the house is cheerfully decorated for Christmas. But an unknown visitor is there, and one by one they are murdered. Its Christmas and not a creature is stirring except the killer in the house…

DVD EXTRAS:
Audio commentary with Actor/Director Austin Bosley
Audio commentary with Writer/Producer Kevin Sommerfield
Bloopers
Fly on the Set: Making Of Dismembering Christmas
Theatrical Trailer
Teaser Trailer

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Dismembering Christmas DVD





Dismembering Christmas VHS Options




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Limited Edition DON’T GO TO THE REUNION Blu-Ray Set To Sell Out

Here’s your LAST chance to own our very first slasher feature in HD! Our Don’t Go to the Reunion limited edition blu-rays are now shipping and they are going fast! We started with a limited, hand numbered run of just 200 blurays and now we are down to a mere handful of copies. Each bluray has been hand numbered to make sure each collector gets their own unique slasher piece. This is the first (and only) time Don’t Go to the Reunion has ever been released in HD and we have a bunch of brand new extras packed on this special edition.

Three options to purchase:
Blu-Ray standalone, with 11×17 limited edition Dismembering Christmas poster, or with poster & Dismembering Christmas DVD. Region free & shipping worldwide, order your limited edition, hand numbered bluray today.

Brand new special features include:
* All three Slasher Studios short films (Teddy, Popularity Killer, and Blood Brothers) in HD for the very first time.
* Filmmakers commentary
* Exclusive cast & crew interviews on the making of Don’t Go to the Reunion
* Don’t Go to the Reunion Video Review
* Don’t Go to the Reunion promo video
* Don’t Go to the Reunion trailer
* Don’t Go to the Reunion teaser trailer
* Dismembering Christmas trailer
* Theatrical World Premiere Interview With Director Steve Goltz & Writer Kevin Sommerfield
* Slasher Studios Horror Podcast audio feature (A Look Back at Don’t Go to the Reunion)
and MUCH MORE!


Don’t Go to the Reunion




Terror Down Below: 47 METERS DOWN (2017) Review

After being dumped by her boyfriend claiming she’s too “boring”, Lisa (Mandy Moore) invites her sister Kate (Claire Holt) along with her, hoping to prove to him that she can be fun. The two are then invited to go cage diving with some very large sharks. Upon descent, their cage drops to the ocean floor. Eventually the sisters find they’re not safe inside the cage as their oxygen runs low, and they aren’t safe outside because of the sharks. It’s a race against time as the sisters fight to survive.

After the success of The Shallows, 47 Meters Down was pulled from it’s straight to DVD and digital release (it was very close to its release date), and the new plan was to release it in theaters. I’m really happy about this move, because this is one shark movie that deserves to be seen in a theatrical setting. At the same time however, while the sharks are a huge threat, even more so, the ocean itself is a threat. The film is so well-done and suspenseful with how it’s directed and filmed. It also uses the setting to its advantage. The film succeeds at making us feel trapped with these characters in this small space, and we feel our breaths growing as short as theirs because of how much we’re holding it. This occurs as the intensity builds. The intensity in question all starts and can be felt right when we see the girls climbing into the cage. Most of the film is completely underwater and it brilliantly makes us feel like we are there. The way cinematography captures the surroundings and as well as what could be hiding in the dark waters is nerve-wracking and really makes you hold your breath. This is only worse when the shark scenes come about. The sharks are used the perfect amount without using the same tropes and tricks over and over. This only further causes you to be on edge, and it contains some extremely well-done jump scares. In terms of characters, they feel pretty genuine, smart, and relatable. Lisa is the more reserved character and the first to really panic, but she also has a solid character arc watching her having to get over her fears and panic in order to survive. Kate is the more adventurous and brave one trying to be there for her sister. But what’s interesting is how at certain points, their roles seem to flip and they equally need to help each other. Some of the actions they commit may not be the smartest from an outer perspective, but situation-wise, these decisions come off as necessary because of the dire circumstances. Mandy Moore does really well with her performance and really sells her character’s fear and gradual changes. Of the two though Claire Holt turns in the strongest as we see her balancing bravery and fear along with her strength and concern for Moore’s character. The pair however are very believable as sisters and have strong chemistry to really help you care for and root for them.

47 Meters Down is a hard-core heart-pounding thriller that really does have you gasping for breath. This is more than a shark film, it is a hardcore survival film where the stakes are off the charts. Thanks to brilliant direction and cinematography, you are trapped with these two characters and really feel the terror and tension rising.


–Cody Landman