Dead Silence, the Consequence of Living Noise

Dead Silence

There should be a name for the spooky phenomenon that occurs after staring at a doll’s face for several minutes. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? After a while, you half-expect the lifeless face to blink, twitch, or otherwise move. What say we call it Dead Silence since it’s so downright disturbing? Ah, no, that’s actually the title of a movie about staring at creepy ventriloquist dummies. Rather, the dummies in Dead Silence stare at you before making you die in a terrible, jaw-dropping way. James Wan, the director of the movie Saw, continues to express his passion for horror with this tale of a vengeful spirit and her creepy, doll-centric haunting.

“Beware the stare of Mary Shaw. She had no children; only dolls. And if you see her in your dreams, be sure you never, ever scream.” In Ravens Fair in the 1940s, there was an aged ventriloquist by the name of Mary Shaw, who supposedly went mad and kidnapped the boy who had called her a fraud during one of her performances. Enraged, the townsfolk cut her tongue out and killed her, burying her with each and every one of her dummies as per her will. Curiously, the families of those who had killed her began to suffer mysterious deaths in the years following…

Dead SilenceJamie (Ryan Kwanten) and Lisa (Laura Regan) Ashen are a happily newlywed couple, content save for the fact that Lisa dies and has her tongue ripped out in the opening scene. What an odd coincidence! One could assign the blame to Billy, the haunted ventriloquist dummy that Jamie received in a package not minutes earlier, but that would be a lot of superstitious nonsense. At least, that’s what Detective Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg) thinks, and lets Jamie know that he’s the top suspect in his wife’s murder investigation. Eager to be proven innocent (or to remove the spiritual executioner’s axe from his neck), Jamie-boy sets off for Ravens Fair.

Only, the closer he gets to his solution, the stronger the haunting becomes. Billy seems to follow him everywhere, and he can’t seem to enjoy alone time without some tongueless apparition appearing to him. Before long, the people who have helped him on his way suffer the same horrific deaths, and Jamie finds himself in a perilous struggle with the spirit of Mary Shaw. If only defeating her was as easy as not screaming; the long-dead ventriloquist’s got quite a few tricks up her sleeves.

Dead SilenceAs far as horror movies go, Dead Silence is above average in all fronts despite being particularly orthodox within the paradigm of the genre. Jump scares galore, of course, yet this is made more tolerable by remembering that little precautionary poem. You’ll even be pleased to notice that Jamie does not scream. At least, not until- Oh, I wouldn’t spoil it for you.

Josh Green of  FirstShowing thoroughly enjoyed Dead Silence’s gimmick, and I can see why. Building tension is a crucial aspect of the horror genre, and the one employed here is both creative and effective. Of course, as Mr. Green says in his review here, telling you any more about it would ruin the fun. So, happy watching, and remember not to scream!

Housebound, but Not Genre-Bound

Housebound

Housebound is brilliant in that it’s never what you’re expecting it to be. A quick glance at the gloomy box art invokes thoughts of the used and abused haunted house genre, yet a closer look reveals that things aren’t thematically absolute. Brutal acts of violence and jump scares are preceded by satirical snippets of humor, making you wonder whether you should laugh or wet your pants. Complimented by an atypical (and wonderful) absence of the “damsel in distress” trope, Housebound’s composition is immaculate; by the end of the film, you’ll feel as if you’ve actually watched a different kind of horror movie.

HouseboundKylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) is nothing but trouble. She’s chasing purple dragons, blowing up ATM machines with homemade explosives for some quick cash, and is generally unapproachable owing to her punkish attitude. Bad luck strikes when one of her robbery attempts falls flat on its ass and she winds up arrested, convicted, and sentenced to a supposedly lenient eight months of home detention, complete with an ankle monitor and a irritatingly chatty mother. The judge hoped to impose some stability on her chaotic life, but as one would expect, Kylie isn’t happy to be home, and she ensures that EVERYONE in the house is aware of this sentiment.

One uneventful evening (and there are many, presumably), Kylie hears her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) on the radio, talking about how her house is haunted. Years back, she witnessed a shadowy figure down in the basement, and the memory spooks her to this day. Kylie initially ridicules her mother for being superstitious, but then begins to experience the symptoms of the haunting firsthand. Funny enough, her corrections officer Amos (Glen-Paul Waru) happens to be a real paranormal enthusiast, and proceeds to give her a hand scoping the place for any unruly spirits. It isn’t long before they discover that they’re digging up something worse than a few spooky ghosts.

HouseboundI won’t spoil the twists and turns for you, but I will tell you that there are a solid few. Twists that involve sociopathic behavior, the revelation of deeply buried secrets, and the possibility of murder. Who knows which order those’re in, eh? You’ll have to find out yourself.

Mike D’Angelo believes that Kylie’s house arrest needed to be a much more pivotal point of the film, but I’m inclined to think that the genius is more evenly dispersed. The spunky, aggressive protagonist and interspersed satirical humor are reason enough to like Housebound; the layered plot and slow-but-steady revelation of the real antagonist is reason to love it. Still, my sense of humor might not be in line with everyone else’s, so you should check out the A.V. Club review right through here.

Paranormal Activity 4 Gave Up

Paranormal Activity 4

Paranormal Activity 4; proof that found footage films can fight to reach double digits in sequels. Now, this one is neither good nor bad, instead falling into the worst possible category, known as uninspired-mediocre. Due to a quality paradox, that makes it the most terrible thing ever. Uninspired-mediocre is the essence of sequels, especially crippling to horror movies since plot comes second to spooks. While the rudimentary plot with Tobi the Demon does carry the slightest bit of weight, mediocre-uninspired sucks this flick in like a singularity.

So, what’s new? Hunter, who Katie kidnapped, has been adopted. He now goes by Wyatt and is the little brother of some girl who has a god-awful annoying boyfriend who is good with computer cameras. Why couldn’t they break the meta and have a cute gay couple or something? Geeze Louise. Anyway, Katie movies in next door to his family with a creepy little smudge named Robbie, who speaks with Tobi. Tobi is barely mentioned, by the way.

Paranormal Activity 4Katie has an unspecified accident which forces Wyatt’s family to put up Robbie until she’s better. Then, to nobody’s surprise, creepy things start happening. Objects start to move around. Technology begins to behave strangely. Ghostly figures appear in the Xbox Kinect motion detection field at night. Oh, right, that’s one of the movie’s primary gimmicks. If you use nightvision to observe your Xbox Kinect in a dark room, you’ll see the light nodes it uses to detect motion. Pretty neat looking if you ask me, but not a saving grace of this sequel of sequels.

Everyone dies. Nobody comes close to figuring out what’s going on with the cult. The protagonists are just punching bags for startles until the movie decides to bump ‘em off. I want- no, need explanations or at the very least some legitimate resistance to the demon shenanigans. Without any twists, secrets, or creativity, all you have is uninspired-mediocre mush that wouldn’t shock a paranoid schizophrenic. At this point in the Paranormal Activity franchise, the directors can’t afford to dig up dead scares and serve them with barely fresh garnish. That isn’t new or exciting.

Paranormal Activity 4Predictability is a murderer of stories, no matter the genre. Telegraph what is going to happen too clearly and predictability will jet through your work like weeds in an unkempt garden. Paranormal Activity 4 is basically planting weeds in that regard because there are no new scares, no new plot, and no surprises. Out of context, 4 might receive a passing grade. As the fourth installment of an until-now quality shockumentary franchise, it’s a blight.

Angie Han of SlashFilm feels the same way about Paranormal Activity 4, describing it as a sequel that feels like a ripoff of a beloved series. While it’s a shame that this might mean the end of Paranormal Activity, it’s good to know that “creative” resources will be aimed in a different direction. Sequels aren’t meant to be vaguely different copies of the original work. They need new perspective, direction, and sincere effort. If those three aspects aren’t readily available, it could very well be time to start on something new. Here’s the link: http://www.slashfilm.com/paranormal-activity-4-review-the-horror-franchise-finally-loses-its-way/

Grave Encounters, Madmen in Mascara

Grave Encounters

Grave Encounters has accomplished something that I haven’t ever seen done in a horror movie: Self-insert cliché-heavy irony. It’s a movie about a movie that claims to be real whilst engaging in a multitude of horror clichés, namely mostly night-time, haunted asylums, and shit jumping out of the walls and yelling at the camera. I’d give a sarcastic tip of my hat to the facial effects used for scares, but the setting wound up making Grave Encounters a fun watch! I wouldn’t watch it again unless I was bored stupid, but nevertheless, it’s tip-top on my list of throwaway scary movies.

They start the movie out by having a character tell you that everything in the movie in the movie is real. Of course, him being in the movie means that the movie in the movie is real only in the movie-universe, so they don’t actually want you to believe that Grave Encounters is an actual documentary gone awry. If you mentally queued an Inception joke, kindly shut your computer down and climb into your dishwasher.

Grave EncountersThe general idea is that the crew of Grave Encounters  investigates an abandoned asylum in order to theatrically hunt for ghosts and then actually find some. If done in a different way, perhaps more simply, I would have branded this flick a steaming pile o’ poop. The aspect that really kept my interest was the inescapable nature of the asylum. I’ll avoid spoiling anything, but suffice it to say that their attempt at breaking down the main doors in order to escape will probably blow your mind at least a little.

If I had to boil everything down to straight ratings, they would be as follows:

  • Characters – 4/10, horror movie wallpaper.
  • Setting – 10/10, inescapable asylum. Yes indeed.
  • Eerie Factor – 6/10, lots of hallways and noises and tension.
  • Jump Factor – 8/10, you know it’s coming. And then it does.
  • Effects – 3/10, only points coming from the ghost movement crap.
  • Sequel – 2/1 in quantity, not quality; should’ve stopped.

Grave EncountersHell, I’m pretty bad at numeric ratings. I prefer adjectives. The adjective that comes to mind when thinking of Grave Encounters is “almost good.” I like what they did with their scare-floor, but it isn’t new territory overall. Good laughs in the beginning, though, despite the Herman Munster looking guy’s corn. So should you see it? Yeah, it’s worth a shot. Admittedly, it will be a once-off, but that’s one shot put to good use!

Steve Pulaski of Letterboxd took a shine to Grave Encounters, appreciating the lack of satire surrounding paranormal TV shows, which in this instance means the characters don’t say, “It’s actually real!” over and over again until you fire back with, “YEAH WE GET IT.” I’m glad I haven’t come across to many of those movies, or if I have, I’m glad I don’t remember them at all. Check out the review here: http://letterboxd.com/stevepulaski/film/grave-encounters/

Stephen King’s IT is the Bane of Clown-Phobics

Or the bane of people who hate crappy movies.Stephen King's "It"

There are several things you should know about Stephen King before you read this article. One, just because he writes a truckload of horror books and movies does NOT mean that he’s a good writer. Two, there is ALWAYS a mantra. Storm of the Century: “Give me what I want, and I’ll go away.” Dreamcatcher: “Same shit, different day.” So on, so forth. This time around it’s “I’m the eater of worlds… and children.” Three: The children are always suffering from some form of mental deficit, making them completely stupid, easily excited, and terrible actors.

So let’s talk about IT. A classic, right? I hope you don’t mind if I tear it a new asshole. Stephen King’s IT is a movie about a ghost clown that haunted a group of obnoxious children for some reason, and left them scarred subsequently. Pennywise (clown man) appears every thirty years to feed on souls, spiriting people who believe in him away to his magical world of clowns.

The movie starts off by looking at the lives of the group of kids, all grown up. They’re all very successful, very normal, and pretty happy. And then the only black guy remembers Pennywise, and starts calling everyone to remind them as well. Since they all forgot that sinister clown, he couldn’t hurt them. But not anymore! Hurrah? So they all have to go back to Derry, Maine (the setting for quite possible every single one of Stephen King’s books) and somehow defeat this imaginary circus entertainer.

Stephen King's "It"But not before flashing back to their childhoods and eating up half of the movie with bad acting and deliberate plights for empathy! You see, in this movie, everyone’s life sucked. Their parents abused them, they were picked on by bullies, and/or everyone just went out of their way to slap them in the face and would gladly piss on their graves. The mantra for this movie really should be “Everyone is an abusive mentally handicapped asshole, and one of them happens to be a clown that wants to kill you.”

Half of the movie didn’t even need to happen. I’m sure Stephie just wanted to achieve some sort of milestone for making use of the double-sided DVD. Here’s the ultra abridged version, in bullet point form:

  • The protagonists are living successful lives.
  • They’re reminded of past trauma that must be dealt with.
  • Flashback to past trauma for half the movie.
  • They congregate in, guess where, Derry, Maine.
  • They go underground to the old sewer where they first fought Pennywise.
  • Turns out Pennywise is a giant spider that needs to be stabbed in his glowing weak point. And the movie says, “Fuck you for watching.”

Stephen King's "It"Need I go on? I suppose the main point to draw from all this is that Stephen King movies are only good if you have virtually nothing else to do and boredom has lowered your standards. Stephen King’s IT is by no means a good movie, because it’s dull, repetitive, far too long, and the horror to filler ratio is 1:10.  Go do something else that isn’t watching this compendium of utter crap.

RottenTomatoes has a fair selection of user and admin reviews that should offer a wider perspective. Most people who saw this when they were kids wound up liking it and still do for nostalgic reasons. I am not a kid at the moment, so I bloody hated it. Here’s a cluster of different perspectives. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/stephen-kings-it1990/