Choices Matter in Would You Rather

Would You Rather

Lately I’ve been noticing a number of horror/thriller movies that revolve around sadistic aristocrats hosting cruel and often demeaning games played by average Joes bogged down in debt. The reward, of course, is always a sum of money large enough to eradicate any and all monetary issues one had prior to playing. However, as many taglines probably say, the price contestants pay to win is greater than the sum they earn. That’s the point of Would You Rather: To watch an assortment of poor folk struggle against each other and their hosts in order to make all their problems go away.

Would You RatherWould You Rather? focuses on the story of Iris (Brittany Snow) and her leukemia-riddled brother Lucas (Enver Gjokaj). While discussing the nonstop barrage of expensive treatment for brother dear with the good Doctor Barden (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), the generous Mr. Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs) steps in and offers her an opportunity to make all the money she’ll ever need, as well as find a bone marrow donor for Lucas. All she must do to earn it is play a game, and after her initial skepticism is assuaged by Mr. Lambrick, she agrees to meet him at his estate.
The remainder of the cast is introduced at Lambrick manor, consisting of Shepard’s sadistic son Julian (Robin Lord Taylor), his equally sadistic former special agent butler Bevans (Johnny Coyne), Bevans’s staff, and a motley crew of people deep enough in debt to have a collectively large threshold for abuse. Abuse that includes making Iris, a vegetarian, eat a piece of foie gras for ten thousand dollars, and Conway, the recovering alcoholic, imbibe in a bottle of scotch for fifty thousand. Unfortunately for them, the game has yet to start, and those quaint payoffs are little but distractions. The real game consists of electrocution, whipping, drowning, eye-slicing (as per the box art), and other assorted party-friendly activities, all intended to reduce the player population to one.

Would You RatherThe progression of the game is rather linear, save for one ambiguous interruption by Dr. Barden. His experience with Lambrick’s game comes to light, along with his apparent distaste for the torment involved. Whether or not he manages to sway the game’s outcome will remain unmentioned, of course, though the movie remains almost comically grim through to the twisted conclusion. You will like the ending, even if you don’t care for the perfunctory mid-game dialogue.

Nathan Rabin of AV Club found Would You Rather’s protagonist tropey and uninspired, the torture scenes dull, and Sasha Grey’s performance comparable to that of a wet paper towel. Frankly, she was only as good as her lines, and being cast as a living PSA for “there’s nothing we can do” favored her nothin’. But hey, Jeffery Combs rocked as much of the movie as he could, and depending on how much you enjoy the end, you may well consider the movie salvaged. Check out the AV Club review here.

Haunter is Horror Evolved

Haunter

Which makes it Gengar. You may not have heard that I was gonna Raichu a review about it, because I’m glad you came and Togepi-k to see what it was all about anyway.

I haven’t seen Groundhog Day in maybe four, five years, but Haunter brought the memory right back. The genres are completely different, Groundhog day being a romantic comedy with Bill Murray, and Haunter being a vaguely psychological horror thriller with Abigail Breslin. You remember Abigail, right? The adorable girl from Little Miss Sunshine? See, there’s no sunshine where she is this time around, but there is plenty of fog. And ghosts. I had trouble transitioning from stripping and dancing to Super Freak, but I digress.

HaunterHaunter’s premise and execution are commendable, making this one of the few horror movies that’s actually worth watching for the plot. In it, Lisa (Breslin) is quite dead, but isn’t aware of it. What she is aware of is the single day that she’s forced to experience over and over again, all variations caused by her actions insignificant and lost when the next loop begins. Her attempts to break free of the cycle incite a medley of strange sounds and voices, all of which serve the dual purpose of startling both you and her while pointing to clues that explain what the heck happened.

That’s when the Pale Man comes. Disguised as a phone line repairman, he politely asks Lisa to ignore the strange happenings in the house and to just act as if everything is normal. There certainly won’t be any problems if she does that. She doesn’t listen, of course, and he doesn’t like it. The more Lisa listens to the whispers, the closer she comes to understanding the nature of her reality. Trying to find where the bodies are buried ends up taking a literal turn and revealing that she isn’t the only one whose spirit has been claimed by the house.

HaunterHaunter is a once-off watch, but that isn’t a bad thing. The intricacies of its plot are unique enough to keep you guessing what’s going to happen, and though it isn’t terribly visceral or full of jump-scares, you’ll find yourself in a perpetual state of unease until the climax. The ending is bland, but as with happiness, the meaning is in the path you walk, not the destination you seek. This film may not be happiness itself, but it’s definitely a fun way to waste an hour and a half.

Dee Rudebeck of TheGuardian mentions Groundhog Day as well, which makes me a little sad inside because I’m not the unique butterfly I thought I was. Also according to the speaker of the guardian, Haunter is a bit slow and uninspired, which I COMPLETELY DISAGREE WITH GO WATCH THE MOVIE. Ahem. Here’s the link to the alt review: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/apr/03/haunter-review-horror-abigail-breslin#start-of-comments

Devil, the Hellevator

Devil

The movie I’m about to tell you about is called Devil, but it should have been called Hellevator or had a tagline like that. “Devil,” psh. That’s about as creative as naming your pet hamster Rodent. As far as Satanic horror movies go, it’s not actually very scary. It gets super tense at parts through utilization of flickering lights coupled with unusual deaths, but never really steps into that jump-scare territory. That’s what happens when the entire movie occurs in a malfunctioning elevator and you’re not allowed to know who the one making trouble is, I suppose. Not a lot to work with.

Devil begins with a priest dying by falling out of a rather tall building, and a narration describing a priest dying and how that kind of thing usually means Satan is up to shenanigans. Then, five people get into an elevator and it enters inspection mode. Then, the lights flicker and someone gets bit. You may be hoping they turn into a demon zombie, but they don’t, for which I am profoundly sorry. The security guards watching via the elevator’s camera call the police to defuse the situation, which brings Detective Bowden to the scene.

DevilBowden is a recovering alcoholic who lost his wife and daughter in a hit and run car accident several years prior. That might seem irrelevant, but it plays an important role later on, so hush. He’s the one who doesn’t believe in the Devil because he thinks people are bad enough on their own. Ramirez, the religious security guard and narrator of the beginning of the film, gives him some guff for it, though they eventually join forces to take on Satan in a loose, moralistic sense. You can’t actually fight Satan, I don’t think.

Anyway, here’s the lineup of people trapped in the elevator in case you want to sleuth who the devil is before you watch the movie, if you even plan on it:

  • Ben Larson, a temp security guard.
  • Jane Cowski, an old woman.
  • Vince McCormick, a scumbag mattress salesman.
  • Tony, a former mechanic and Afghanistan veteran.
  • Sarah Caraway, a rich and tricky young woman.

DevilBy the way, Sarah Caraway is played by Bojana Novakovic. That’s a name I haven’t heard since Drag Me to Hell. That one and Devil are similar, though the latter lacks a sense of humor and focuses more on being a moral lesson, the lesson being “you better not do nasty shit or the Devil gon’ come round and kill you dead.”

Josh Tyler of CinemaBlend is quickly becoming my favorite movie reviewer around. According to him, Ramirez knows the secret of the Devil. He knows it super good-like because his grandma told him. He just doesn’t tell anyone until everybody’s already dead. You should read this other review because it’s silly and clever and I like it: http://www.cinemablend.com/reviews/Devil-4849.html

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/

9 A Grim Kind of Happy

9

9’s a VERY short movie title. I think I’ll call it Tim Burton’s 9. But as it were, Timur Bekmambetov is a producer of this movie, too. Their initials (middle names exempt) are the same, so the title is now Double TB’s 9. Teebeenine? With all that unrelated crap out of the way, I’m sure you’d actually like a review.

9’s not your typical post-apocalyptic movie. Where another director might use zombies or gun-toting mercenaries, Tim Burton would use dolls animated by a fragment of a human soul. The plot isn’t terribly complicated, but it still manages to fill 80 minutes without any major lulls. Considering it was based off of an 11 minute short, that’s particularly impressive.

The story begins with 9 waking up in the room of the scientist, confused and alone. He meets 2, who gives him his voice and is inadvertently captured by the “Beast,” a giant dog-like creature left behind after the world-ending war. A little backstory: The scientist created a highly intelligent and creative A.I., which was seized by the military government and forced to make war machines. Long story short, the machines went berserk and shrouded the Earth in a deadly poison gas.

9The first struggle is with the Beast. 9 and 2  face off, resulting in the elderly 2 being whisked away to the factory, along with a mysterious little device. After 9 unites with the rest of the numbered crew (1-8), 9, 6, and 7 set out to rescue 2.

You know what, let’s make this easier. Identities to names, GO:

  • 1: The elderly control freak that is scared of everything.
  • 2: The elderly inventor who explores and collects stuff.
  • 3-4: The mute twins that capture images with their eyes.
  • 5: The good natured, one eyed doll that helps 9 repeatedly.
  • 6: The oddball that has the most knowledge about the “device.”
  • 7: The lady-warrior that has too many moments of badass.
  • 8: The big beefy jerk with all the weapons. Also 1’s bitch.
  • 9: The curious protagonist. Creative and clever on the spot.

9The final struggle is with the scientist’s A.I., brought back to life after 9 connected the device to it. It begins to develop more war machines, trapped in its volatile cycle even without soldiers to fight. Then again, 1-9 could be seen as the enemy soldiers.

My issue is, the dolls all harbor a piece of the scientist’s soul. The scientist claimed that the Machine was incomplete because it lacked a human soul. Throughout the movie, the Machine tries desperately to absorb the fragments of the scientist’s soul to complete itself. Even though you’re meant to empathize with the doll people, you kind of wonder what would happen if the Machine acquired all nine pieces. Would it gain a higher intelligence? Would it give up on the imaginary war and try to repopulate the planet with machines? Wait for it… 9 2, the Machine’s Story.

9 isn’t a movie you’d want to miss if you’re into Tim Burton’s stuff. Josh Tyler of Cinemablend thinks that 9 isn’t up to scale, regarding proportions and distance. He could be going a little harsh, since the movie is based off an eleven minute short. If the focus was on them walking, there would be lulls. The terrible kind that I was talking about. But still, it’s a fair point. Here’s the review link: http://www.cinemablend.com/reviews/9-4159.html

Misery Deserves Company

Misery

And by that I mean a bigger fanbase. Yes, it’s another Stephen King horror film featuring a mediocre writer as a main character, but it’s got some solid themes going for it. Helplessness, a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” antagonist, and some sudden but slightly predictable twists. I won’t say it’s a high-grade movie, but I will tell you that it’s a fun watch when you’re in the mood for a classic horror flick.

Paul Sheldon is our protagonist here, finishing up the latest of his best-selling Misery books in his Colorado lodge. He’s going through his novel-finishing ritual, then ends up crashing his car in a blizzard and being saved by retired nurse Annie Wilkes, who just so happens to be his self-proclaimed number one fan. She takes him into her home, sets him up in one of her beds, and seems generally pleasant at first. She gives Paul Novril, a painkiller, and tells him about how much she loves his books.

MiseryTHEN she finds out that he’s ending the series and killing Misery with the latest book. That’s when she starts tormenting the poor crippled writer. She makes him burn another novel, one about his decadent childhood, though not before threatening to burn him if he refused. She uses a sledgehammer to break both of his ankles when he makes his first wheelchair escape attempt.

Paul’s publisher stirs up the subplot when she calls the local sheriff to ask where her writer lad has been. Sheriff Buster manages to locate the car and discern that someone used a crowbar to pry the door open. Dead end from there until he connects Annie to Paul’s disappearance by reading Misery and finding that the crazed nurse quoted the books for her trial. I say “crazed” because Paul checks her photo/newspaper article album and finds out that she murdered patients and babies back in her old job.

Buster creates one of the better close calls by locating Paul, but doesn’t last long enough to do anything with it. With the inevitability of being discovered by the police growing closer, Annie decides to “be with Paul forever” and shoot him before shooting herself. Some quick thinking saves his life; he says they can’t die together until Misery’s been made immortal. That way, he has time to think of an escape plan while writing “Misery’s Return.” The plan winds up devolving into beating the living crap out of Annie after distracting her by burning his book.

MiseryKathy Bates does a wonderful job of portraying Annie Wilkes though her use of saccharine sadism and childish cuss words. I’m not sure if playing an obsessive homicidal stalker extremely well is something to pride yourself on, but I thoroughly enjoyed her performance regardless.

So should you see this movie? That depends on two things, really. One, if you can stomach Stephen King movies. This one doesn’t contain as much of the Kingly charm, so it should be easier to like than Dreamcatcher. Two, if you don’t mind a little softcore unconventional horror. There isn’t much violence, save for a gaping buckshot wound, some crappy eye-gouging, and several severe head injuries. If you’re game, then by all means.

This lovely review on EricChrist.com better covers the plot and subtle messages that construct this movie. It says Misery is heavy with anti-Christian subtleties, specifically linked to Annie’s psychosis and her religious paraphernalia. I honestly can’t agree with that, because ole Stephie King doesn’t typically touch on many profound topics when he does horror; it’s all viewer extrapolation. Here’s the link, anyway: http://www.ericchrist.com/non-fiction/moviereview.htm