Double Trouble: US (2019) Review

The film opens with a young girl attending a carnival with her parents, who clearly have tension with one another. The girl wonders off onto the beach where she discovers a fun house with a room of mirrors. It is there that she comes face to face with a girl who looks just like her. Years later, the girl, Addie, is grown up with a husband and two kids and are on vacation heading to her childhood vacation home. That night, four strangers appear outside their home and look exactly like them. The doppelgängers now seeks to torment and eventually the family who must fight back.

After the success of Get Out, Jordan Peele returns to the horror genre with this more straightforward horror film. While there is much to enjoy with his follow-up film, there was a lot of aspects that I really didn’t care for that pales it compared to get out. The best part of this film is that it offers us an excellent concept. On the surface we have the opposite/evil version of our protagonists who want to take and take over their lives. That itself is a pretty chilling idea. For those who want to dig deeper, there are different themes to unpack with it that also can add a sense of creepiness and real-life applications to the story, and that’s fine, and clearly what Peele is wanting people to do. The surface story story offers a couple of intense and well-orchestrated scenes to bring tension to the film. The initial home invasion being one of them, and a cat mouse game with the daughter being the other. Like Get Out, we do root for the protagonist to come out alive and we love seeing them fight back. However, I feel like they don’t do nearly as much with the horror elements as much as they could and seeing this family being tormented. A lot of this is due to some of the biggest flaws of the film. One such flaw being that the pacing is very long and drawn on out. There are times where it seems like they’re getting the ball rolling, but then it will halt with too much conversation and much of it feel repetitive. Towards the end I found myself waiting for it to finally be over, there never seemed to have a consistency in tone, which leads to my next issue with the film, and definitely the biggest.

Instead of keeping us consistently on edge, Peele has chosen to insert moments of humor that feel very out of place and unrealistic given their situation. The father and the children are making comedic comments that completely make it seem like they’re not worried about the situation they are in. At least Addie is consistently the one on edge but also in full protective mode to save her family. There’s also a moment in a character’s death scene where their Alexa type device named Ophelia is misunderstanding the character’s demands (for example, they ask Ophelia to call the police, to which Ophelia replies, “Okay, now playing “Fuck the Police”). This is something you would expect from a Scary Movie entry, along with the other jokes the film has. I’m all for comedy in a horror film, but only if it’s warranted, makes sense, and not over-used (I had the same issue with last year’s Halloween). Get Out perfectly used its comedy sparsely and didn’t over-stay it’s welcome, and it also perfectly balanced it and the horror, everything felt consistent and well-paced. Some of the comedic elements also came in the form of the sounds the doppelgängers make that are laughable more than creepy.

Finally, at the very end of the movie we are given a terrible twist that is so pointless, makes no sense, and just brings up more questions and plot holes than there would be if we didn’t have it. We do still have some questions left by the end of the film anyway, but nothing too frustrating. This is even after we have received two huge scenes of exposition of showing why the doubles are doing what they’re doing. What we don’t get (and what the most important aspect would be) are the “how” questions. Those are really the flaws I had with the film, which seems like a lot, but really it’s just the pacing, humor, and the final twist that I only had major issues with. Other than that I did enjoy everything else it had to offer. One other thing includes an excellent performance from Lupita Nyong’o as our lead playing dual roles, and it’s great watching these two sides of her. Now, people are saying she deserves an Oscar for this and she deserves to make horror history with it, but I think that’s kind of a stretch. She’s definitely great in the roles though. In addition we also have a very creepy and stunning score, and it’s very well-filmed, two scenes in particular stand out involving the murder of a family that is super well-done and then the fight scene towards the end.

While I do prefer Get Out as a horror film and as a film in general over this, and despite the issues I have with this movie, I would still recommend the movie just for the concept alone, Lupita’s great performance, and the intense moments we do have are great.

–Cody Landman

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“That’s My Purse! I Don’t Know You!” GRETA (2019) Review

After finding a purse on the subway, a young woman tracks down the owner and returns it to her. Discovering that the woman is pretty lonely, and having lost her own mom, Frances develops a friendship with Greta. But she soon discovers that Greta is harboring a twisted secret, and she’s not ready to let go of Frances.

Greta serves as a watchable, but also average and forgettable stalker flick. The biggest strength of the film lies in the cast. Chloe Grace Moretz, whom I normally don’t find a very good actress is actually very serviceable here. She captures the naivety and sincerity of Frances well, and she pulls off her fear and dramatic scenes without doing technique of over-acting like she typically does. Isabelle Huppert as the titular character is fantastic and brings the great amount of creepiness to her role with how subtle she can be. She does have her outburst moments that work well too, but it’s the lighter moments that are the most effective. And then we have Maika Monroe as the voice of reason as Frances’ roommate and best friend Erica. Erica is easily the most likable character because of not only being the sensible one, but she’s also the fun and pretty reliable friend, and she definitely has her bad ass moments in this movie. Monroe nails the comedic elements, and when she gets into defensive mode when she has to face Greta and defend Frances, you are hardcore rooting for her. This is ironic because you find yourself rooting for Erica more than caring about Frances, but this isn’t entirely uncommon for horror/thriller films.

The movie does feature some fairly intense and creepy moments, one being a chase scene involving Erica, and then towards the end when you find yourself worrying about the well-being of a particular character. Other than that however, much of the movie you’re mentally shouting at some of the characters for the poor decisions they’re making. Along with that it also feels tonally confused. Initially it comes off a more “serious” thriller, but lacking a lot of the thrills. And then at some points it switches gears to become campy and goofy, one scene in particular involves a dance that Greta does. This comes off as more as more comedic than anything and not in a good way. When it comes to stalker films you have two options, make it creepy and thrilling like Cape Fear, Fatal Attraction or Fear, or go full-on camp like The Boy Next Door, Obsessed, or The Roommate. You really can’t do both without making it look ridiculous. In all honesty, this was a rather dull stalker film that’s only backed by strong performances and just a couple of intense scenes, and it’s very well-filmed. The most unforgivable thing about the movie is the fact that it basically includes a dog that only exists just to have the “harm the pet” cliche. Which is not okay. And the fact that the dog is adopted by Greta, whom Frances helps select, is next on the pound’s list to be put down. Animal deaths like this are cruel enough in film, but under circumstances like this is just mean-spirited and senseless. Okay, rant done. By the end of Greta, it leaves us with an unsatisfied and ambiguous ending that makes you groan. And on top of that we have Frances’ father who becomes a prominent figure as the story progresses, but then he’s literally forgotten about with no real closure between them.

Overall, I’d say Greta is worth watching if you are into films like it. It’s not particularly thrilling, nor is particularly fun, but it’s a decent enough time-killer if you happen to find it on Netflix or want to rent it for two bucks at Redbox. It at least has the saving grace of solid performances, so if you’re a fan of the cast then I do highly recommend it in that case.

–Cody Landman

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This weekend only at Slasher Studios, all Slasher Studios films are just $10 each! This includes both DVD as well as limited edition bluray and limited edition VHS. Shipping worldwide, all copies are region free and limited edition copies have each been hand numbered. This half price sale ends on Sunday so don’t miss out on your chance to own some killer slashers!

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Another Killer Birthday: HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U (2019) Review

After thinking she broke the time loop by defeating her killer, Tree discovers that time has come back again for her. Only this time she’s in a different dimension where everything is different. Now she must save those around her, reveal the new killer, and decide whether she wants to return to her reality or not.

Contrary to what the trailer gives off, not everyone is fair game in this sequel, and that’s one of the issues I had with the film. However, I did have a blast with this film and had just as much fun with it as I did the first film, but the first is still much better. To start with the pros, as mentioned, this movie is a ton of funny, and this is mostly due to the fact that the laughs are on full-blast this time and they really work. This is mostly thanks to Jessica Rothe’s brilliant comedic timing as Tree. When she wakes up back in her loop again, this whole sequence following her from Carter’s dorm to her sorority house is one laugh after another from Tree’s outbursts, to even just the facial expressions she has throughout the scene. Rachel Matthews once again also delivers some laughs as Tree’s snobby sorority sister Danielle, and she’s given even more to do in this film. We are also treated to a comedic montage of Tree having to kill herself over and over. Another thing I enjoyed was that it wasn’t a total rehash of the first film. We do get some great fight/chase sequences with the Baby Face killer, but these and the horror itself takes the backseat for the comedy and sci-fi angle it chooses to take instead.

In some ways I think this is a wise decision so it wouldn’t be a total copy of the first film, so when the horror scenes do happen, they have a more welcoming effect. To circle back to Jessica Rothe, she hardcore establishes her versatility as an actress. She does such an amazing job of showing her comedic chops, her bad ass female side, and her dramatic/emotional side. That’s another thing this sequel has more of, it gives us a bit more dramatic depth by giving Tree a pretty emotional scene with a particular character. And she shares some sweet moments with Israel Broussard as Carter. The whodunit angle is still present, and you do guess of who it is, however, this is a decent segue into the cons. The reveal of the killer isn’t so much shocking as it’s more like, “huh, okay”, but then that just gets completely ruined when a 2nd killer is revealed and it makes absolutely no sense for them to be a part of it. Circling back to earlier, the script is a bit over the place and leaves questions. Why involve Ryan’s character in getting killed (as shown in the trailer) and later say that everyone is fair game to the killer, when in the end it’s really only Tree and one other character who become the killer’s targets? It would have been great if Tree actually had to save the lives of those around her by having to kill herself over and over (as hinted in the trailer), when in the actual movie, she really has no reason to be doing so. The other question that it left me with was why was it Tree who was caught in the loop? We received the explanation of HOW she got into it, but not the why. Why was Tree caught in it, and not someone like Carter? In my experience with films involving time travel and other dimensions, I do try not to question things too much because it just leads to frustration.

Happy Death Day 2U does have some plot holes issues and leaves you questioning about certain events and choices, but in the end, it’s a hell of a fun and serviceable sequel that really benefits from the brilliant performance by Jessica Rothe.

-Cody Landman

Evil Kiddie Horror: THE PRODIGY (2019) Review

Following the birth of their son Miles, a married couple notices that Miles is developing at an astounding rate and he’s deemed gifted. But soon, they notice that along with his intelligence, Miles is also developing some dark and twisted behavior.

The film begins with an opening scene that reveals right away of what’s up with Miles. So unless you’re pretty clueless, the audience knows long before the couple of why Miles is the way he is. This kind of jumps the shark, admittedly, but doesn’t make the concept any less interesting and fresh enough for the evil kid genre. It does often make it pretty creepy though in certain situations involving Miles and other characters, especially his mom. Despite the fresher concept, being an evil kid movie, it does have the typical tropes you would expect. Creepy stares, the killing of animals, creepy comments. However, each of these are still pretty damn effective. And the reason why a lot of this works is due to the performance of Jackson Robert Scott. This kid crushes the role of Miles and does an excellent job of switching between evil and innocent. The other scare factors involved though do not work and it doesn’t help that they’re repetitive. We have many moments of the mom wandering around in the dark with the occasional jump scare involved.

And then we have the ending, I was fine with it enough, but it was essentially the same ending as another particular evil kid movie, which is the only issue I had with it. Some may not like the ending, but it’s nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest flaws with the movie for me involve the roles of the parents. They are so dull and uninteresting, and I really didn’t care about them. The performances of Taylor Schilling and Peter Mooney as Miles’ parents were…okay, but they were also very one-note, especially from Schilling who goes through the whole moving with a shocked, but bordering sour look on her face. However, I like that the husband/dad knew well enough to haul ass when shit started getting too crazy instead of being the super disbelieving father character.

The Prodigy isn’t a great horror movie, but if you’re into evil kid horror, you’ll definitely enjoy this one, especially due to the newer concept. But it does owe major credit to films like The Omen, Orphan, and My Soul to Take.

–Cody Landman

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DVD Artwork created by David GIron.

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Worth Checking In: ESCAPE ROOM (2019) Review

A group of strangers are invited to a building that houses an escape room in hopes of winning $10,000. What they think might be an ordinary escape room turns out to be all too real and all too deadly. 

Going into Escape Room, my expectations were pretty low, but by the time I left, I was pleasantly surprised. At first when the opening scene ended, I was a little apprehensive that it missed out on being R rated and bloodier. However, at the movie progressed, it wore its PG-13 rating really well and didn’t bring itself into territory where blood and gore wasn’t needed, this isn’t Saw or even Cube, despite having similarities to the latter. It may not reach the levels of those two films, but Escape Room manages to stand on its own two feet as its own thing. The film is actually a blast of a film with enough intensity that really drives the film. Each escape room is really well-designed as a set and the way the rooms work are pretty crazy. What adds to the fun is trying to figure out the clues along with the characters and hope that the characters you like make it out alive. As for the characters, I actually liked all of them except for two of the six. The cast themselves all did a fantastic job, especially Taylor Russell as (essentially the lead character) Zoey, Logan Miller as Ben, and Deborah Ann Woll as Amanda. Each of the six characters have their own backstory and are actually fleshed out better than I expected, and all of them are really well-established before they are killed. The reveal in the middle of the movie that reveals their connection felt legitimate and served the plot well, however, there were some elements involving the twist that felt a little farfetched.

There was one turn in the film that I really enjoyed even if I should have seen it coming, it felt like a nice surprise. It does bring emphasis on who the game maker is and that ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere or reveal anything that could have, so by the end of the movie I was expecting another shocker at the reveal of the game maker, but it didn’t reveal anything interesting. Speaking of the ending, we have an additional 7 minutes of movie left after what should have been where the movie ended. These extra 7 minutes felt extremely tacked on, stupid, cheesy, and unnecessary. 

Escape Room might not end up being remembered by the end of the year, or even end up being one of the best horror films of the year, but damn this was a blast of a movie and a fun one to start the new year.

–Cody Landman

Top 10 Horror Movies of 2018

1) A Quiet Place

This is a brilliant film as well as a horror film that brings a huge amount of terror and drama together in such a perfect way. The movie has very little dialogue and highly relies on the senses and the mind to bring on the heart-pounding terror. The scary and intense scenes are so well-done that they had me holding my breath. You genuinely care about this family and want to see them survive. Emily Blunt and John Kraskinski are brilliant in their roles as the parents who will do anything to protect their children and each other. 

2) Annihilation

Part sci-fi, part horror, part drama, this movie perfectly combines these elements and balances them out in a mind-bending, intense, and often emotional film. The visuals are amazing, the monsters are fantastic, the score is excellent, and the setting of the Shimmer is so well established and provides so much mystery of what it is and how it affects people. This is a very cerebral film that may not work for some, but truly is probably the most under-appreciated and almost forgotten horror film of the year. 

3) The Strangers: Prey At Night

This sequel is a huge tonal change from the original slow-burn thriller. This one is first and foremost a slasher. The titular villains are more vicious than ever and you are just itching for them to get what’s coming to them. The film features many homages to classic horror films and even how its filmed has a great retro Carpenter-esque feel, and then you have the excellent soundtrack (the pool scene involving Total Eclipse of the Heart is one of the best horror scenes of the year). The cast does a fine job and you care for them, even if they could have used a little more development. By the end of the film I felt a huge rush of adrenaline released. Of all the horror films to come out this year, this one is easily the most fun and entertaining.

4) Suspiria

This remake pays an excellent tribute to the original film while telling it’s own story. This is definitely a slow-burn film that is sprinkled with haunting and twisted moments. In the big dance scene towards the end, it’s so intense and well-done, and the addition of how it intercuts during the chase scene of one character is great. This movie succeeds in keeping you wondering just what is going to happen next. The pay off in the final act as well as its twist is excellent. The epilogue scene however definitely could have been cut out, but it wasn’t exactly terrible either. Tilda Swinton is great playing three different characters, Mia Goth shines in a role that involves her character growing from a side character to one who’s more in the forefront. Unfortunately Dakota Johnson just didn’t have much to do in her lead role, she did fine with what she had, her physical performance was great, but she deserved a character with more persona and depth. That said, I consider this to be one of the best and more successful remakes ever made. 

5) Hereditary 

I admit I didn’t love this movie nearly as much as others. I thought the pacing was too slow, and that it could have been shorter because some of it felt repetitive and dragging. But my biggest issue is that when the real in your face horror comes in in the final act, I was not sold by that at all. Sure some brutal and shocking stuff happens, but to me, it felt way too familiar and been done before. Everything in the final act felt too familiar and even done in the Paranormal Activity franchise. Now all of that is where my issues end. Everything prior to the final act was brilliant. Had this kept the same tone throughout the film instead of going balls to the wall horror, I would have loved it much more. The constant feeling of dread and intensity throughout the film and between the family was so tangible and perfect, and often felt like a punch in the gut. Toni Collette is just plain amazing and Oscar-worthy at the mother/wife of the family desperately trying to hold herself and her family together, and you see the anguish she’s trying to hold in and the desperation of trying not to appear crazy to her family when shit gets real. If there is any horror performance in years that deserves award recognition it is definitely Toni who owns this movie.

6) Hell Fest

This is a plain, simple, and fun slasher that hits all the right notes. I personally really liked the characters and had fun with them, I didn’t want any of them to die. The setting was excellent and well-used and made for some great intense scenes and well-executed jump scares. The killer was pretty basic and not the most original, the kills could have been gorier, and the transition to the final act felt so clearly rushed they killed off two characters in the most boring way at the same time in a clear attempt to cut to the chase. More than anything, the final scene wasn’t necessary and felt pretty tacked on. Still, it was great to see a fun slasher like this in the theater this year along with Strangers Prey At Night.

7) Halloween

Jamie Lee Curtis is amazing in her return as Laurie in this reimagining of the series. She shows Laurie’s trauma very well makes you feel her pain, and she’s great in her bad ass moments. Her traumatic scenes could have been fleshed out more (despite my disbelief of her being this traumatized after just those short few minutes with Michael in the original). Michael has never been more menacing or terrifying and I loved it. My biggest issue lies in the script. There were too many undeveloped characters and some that were only used as plot devices. We also have a plot twist the felt out of place, and ending that felt underwhelming due to its ambiguity. I was also not a fan of the humor in it, it ruined a kill scene that should have been intense and scary but was ruined by just one comedic line. This film had flaws, but it definitely was a good and serviceable film to fans by giving us a new version with great callbacks to the original series, and good cat and mouse sequence with Laurie and Michael in the final act.

8) The Ritual

This lost in the woods horror movie perfectly uses the woods setting and the fear of the unknown to deliver and intense and suspenseful movie. It’s in the same vein of Blair Witch Project where less is more. When we get to the final act, we are given more physical horror, and that works well-enough. But it’s only when the movie shows our films’ villain that it becomes a letdown. If we had only seen bits of the monster at the end, that would have been fine, but to show the whole things was disappointing. 

9) Mandy

This revenge horror films takes its sweet time during the first hour to introduce us to our characters, and it is very testing of patience during this hour. However, the gorgeous but haunting cinematography and visuals seem to keep you gripped until the main revenge plot of the film begins. From there’s it’s a blood bath with a fantasically unhinged performance from Nicolas Cage. The whole films is a trippy and bloody fever dream you can’t look away from.

10) Bird Box

This film doesn’t have as much scares or intensity as A Quiet Place with its similar plot (instead sound this involves sight), and it definitely aims to be more of a drama with horror elements than an actual horror. That said, it’s still a good and occasionally intense movie with some crazy moments. Sandra Bullock is fantastic as the hard mother who is hell bent on saving her kids. What I admired about the movie is that we don’t get to see these monsters, instead we get the feel of what happens when they are around, and that’s just as chilling. The film alternates between the past and present, but it manages to come off as if we are watching two separate stories, which I thought was a nice little tactic. 

–Cody Landman

The Worst Horror Movies of 2018

1) Slender Man

How is it possible to screw up a Slender Man movie? This movie shows it’s possible. Completely boring, no effort involved whatsoever, a script that’s all over that place, no scares at all, un-engaging and boring and stupid characters, weak acting, cutting out all of the good and violent stuff from the trailer, plot holes galore, characters that are just left forgotten, cringeworthy teen drama. The only good thing I can say about this movie is that it did have some creepy imagery and Joey King delivered a decent enough performance. The Bye Bye Man is a better Slender Man movie than Slender Man.

2) Cynthia

This movie is pure garbage. The horror is terrible, the humor is terrible, the characters are terrible, the story is dumb as hell, and the creature is laughable and ridiculous. There was no point to this movie whatsoever. Most I can say about it is that Scout Taylor-Compton is at least sort of trying to work with the script and character.

3) Open House

Despite a solid performance from Dylan Minnette, this is another boring horror movie that goes nowhere and ultimately leaves us with nothing but a grim and tasteless ending that just doesn’t feel warranted. This is a terrible slow burn film where nothing happens during and no pay off at all in the end and we are left no answers to anything. Everything we just saw just feels pointless.

4) Inside

This watered down remake of the grim and brutal original French film feels like a dramatic Lifetime movie and even ends like a Lifetime movie. This film shows zero respect to the original. Rachel Nichols and Laura Harring however do a good job with their roles despite lacking the grit the actresses in the original had to express.

5) Winchester

This a boring and laughable haunted house film with cheap jump scares and a propaganda anti-gun film. It doesn’t do NEARLY as much as it could have with the ghosts and the setting of the house, as good as the production design is. This hardly even feels like a horror movie, it’s just a drama with more talking than there is anything scary or suspenseful. This is just a dull movie with an uninteresting story and even more uninteresting characters. Even Helen Mirren feels like this movie is a chore to do. 

6) Cloverfield Paradox

On a production standpoint, this movie isn’t bad and I admit I did like the final shot of the film. But the script is a huge and confusing mess where nothing makes any sense. It tires way too hard to be a new Event Horizon, and how it connects to the Cloverfield universe is terrible and way too forced and hokey. The trailer that premiered during the super bowl the night the film itself premiered looked like the film was going to be great with how it was edited together and would be things full circle. Instead we get an overstuffed mess.

7) Demon House

This could have had so much potential, and some elements of the film are creepy, but what this movie fails to do is make you believe that what you’re watching is real. How the movie was filmed just made everything look staged and fake. Maybe I’m not just not enough of a believer, but in the end this movie didn’t offer anything for me.

8) Slice

While I give the movie credit to try be ambitious and retro, the story was just boring with too much going on, and it just wasn’t funny. The characters didn’t do anything for me and felt really bland. The cast was fine and seemed dedicated, but for a movie that was supposed to be a cheesy comedy horror, it was just boring. 

9) Ruin Me

Initially the movie had a solid concept and I enjoyed the first part of it, but once the mid-point twist came about it went downhill for me there. I was hoping for a fun slasher but it just became a different movie entirely that I didn’t want, and the final act twist was just the final nail in the coffin. 

10) Unfriended: Dark Web

To its credit, this sequel is much darker and the characters are more likable, but this is also a sequel that was boring, and despite the characters being likable, they were also really boring and stupid. They also didn’t do nearly as much with the dark web as they could have, and the stuff they did do without felt way too over the top and unbelievable. I felt more terror and realism from similar movies like The Den and Ratter. It’s also worth mentioning that the ending I got was so stupid involving a countdown and a van. The other ending that was released in theaters sounded so much better.