FARSIGHTED FRIDAY FIGHTS “THE GUEST”

ANOTHER ALL OUT BRAWL FROM THE GREAT TEAM OF WRITERS AT FARSIGHTED (INCLUDING MYSELF, OF COURSE).  GET AT ME IN THE COMMENTS SECTION!

http://farsightedblog.com/2017/01/27/our-first-guest-joins-us-to-fight-about-the-guest/

OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL (2016)

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

I will be the first to admit that I chuckled when I first heard Universal was making a sequel to the Board Game based movie, Ouija.  The first film wasn’t my thing and I never bothered checking it out. Most of the trailers for the first film looked like it was geared for much younger viewers, so I just decided to skip it.  Once the trailers emerged for Origin of Evil I was surprised by the quality and more impressed by the Director attached, Mike Flanagan (Absentia, Oculus).  I have seen most of his films and neither of his features connected with me, but I could tell that he had the potential for a great film inside him.  Who would have ever thought that great film would be Ouija: Origin of Evil?

It starts in Los Angeles in the mid 1960’s and we meet the Zander family.  A recently widowed mother and her 2 daughters who run a bogus psychic business that relies on clever gags and theatrics to sell its authenticity.  Once they decide to add a new prop (the titular Ouija Board), it awakens a strange ability in the youngest daughter.  When it first starts it seems like a blessing, but quickly turns sinister and places the family in grave danger.

It seems odd to be praising this film. I did not expect much, but I was humbled to go to a screening (with other cynical bastards) with snarky comments and come out completely jazzed.  The scares are a plenty, but the greatest achievement is the way it is made.  The film could have been a lot of things, but Flanagan was skilled enough to make an old fashioned ghost story and breathe new life into it.  Mike Flanagan draws you in with fantastic mechanics and camera work, then envelops you into the life of this family turned on its head with grief.  Ouija: Origin of Evil is a masterclass in elevating your source material into something great and original.  The acting is solid all around and the script is fine.  In all honesty, the story itself is derivative but you won’t care once you are sucked into the film.  There are only a few instances (one long scene of exposition towards the end) where the story gets in the way, but (once again) it is forgivable.  I know a lot of jaded horror fans are never going to give it a chance, but the few who are not “too school for school” will be able to have a great theatrical experience just in time for Halloween!  Ouija: Origin of Evil opens wide in theaters 10/21.

[usr 4.5]

 

 

LIGHTS OUT (2016)

BY BLAINE MCLARENIt seems that every year we have a horror film that endures months and months of hype.  The hype is usually created by horror sites who tout “scariest movie of the year” and “will change the face of horror…forever”.  I would like to say that I am above this kind of hyperbole, but I am just as bad as the next guy.  These films are usually above average and seen in that perfect environment of a film fest, which instantly boosts its rating by at least a star or two.  By the time it makes its way to us, it is hard to not be excited and (even the most self controlled) expect more than your average studio horror film.  This was definitely the case with Lights Out and after watching it, giving it some time to process, I am still on the fence.  It offers some great moments of tension, but very little else.  Maybe I am just burned out on this kind of film, but I just expected a lot more than a one-dimensional jump scare flick.

The film begins with an introduction to the family in peril.  There is the son (Martin, played by Gabriel Bateman) and his mother (Sophie, played by a frazzled-as-hell Maria Bello) who are already squaring off with the supernatural, while mourning the loss of their father/husband.  After we meet them, we meet the Daughter (Rebecca, played by Teresa Palmer) who is portayed as troubled based on her heavy metal posters and rebel attitude.  She is fighting with her saint of a boyfriend and worried about her family.  After the son is caught sleeping in class, we find out that this supernatural force lives in the dark and can kill you.  This is where our gang starts their cliché adventure and try to survive while fighting this “dark” force in their home.

Supernatural horror has been quickly turning into a parody of itself.  This film is no exception, but when they do amp up the tension it works.  The only problem is that there are long, drawn out scenes that rely on the characters and they are hollow, boring caricatures.  Horror movies should be scary (which this film can be, at times), but doesn’t the audience deserve a little more substance?  Every interaction only exists to set up the next big jump scare, but after a while you stop caring.  The filmmaking is competent, but there is very little risked here (as well).  I believe that if this film was made five years ago I would be more forgiving, but we have seen this all before and if you wait another two weeks you will see (at least something very similar) it again.  LIGHTS OUT is currently in theaters everywhere. 

[usr 2]

THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR (2016)

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

There has never been a more aptly titled and timed film than the most recent entry in The Purge series.  The U.S. is currently suffering through a real “Election Year”, enduring our way through two power hungry assholes that don’t seem that far off from the film’s fictional “new founding fathers”.  The concept of an annual purge has been a pretty high concept idea from the beginning, but I don’t think the creators had any idea of what they were starting.  The series had a pretty rocky start, but really found its footing with the release of its sequel “The Purge: Anarchy”.  This film took us into the streets and became an ultra violent homage to films like The Warriors and other action/exploitation films of the 70s and 80s.  The streets seemed as dangerous as you would imagine, allowing for some very interesting set pieces that were more than satisfying.  What I never expected was the introduction of a not-so-subtle message of class warfare.  We followed the lower class this time and we were tossed into a gritty world of survival that showed the true nature of why The Purge (actually) exists.  The big question going into this follow up (at least,for me) was “Is this going to just be Anarchy all over again or will this build on this concept and offer something new?” and I am glad to say it did!

The story picks up two years after the events of “Anarchy” and we are reintroduced to Leo, our unlikely hero from the last film.  He is currently working as bodyguard for a controversial senator who is currently running for president.  Her entire platform is built around outlawing The Purge and restoring the lower classes of this alternate America.  As you can imagine, this prompts the New Founding Fathers to attack her, setting off a series of events where our protagonists end up back on the city streets on Purge night.  From here we meet a slew of good guys and baddies hunting and surviving on the streets of Washington D.C.

The biggest difference with this film is the shift in tone.  This time around, the writing is much tighter and allows for more humor and humanity.  The comic relief is subtle and does not take away from the tension.  The streets feel even more dangerous this time around and the bad guys are even worse than before.  Some of the actors may be a little too exaggerated for some movie goers, but I feel their bigger than life performances fit this film perfectly.  The overall vibe has more in common with classic blacksploitaion films and this is (once again) because of the excellent script they are working with.  The only thing that can be grating is this series’ obsession with its “white crusaders”.  The events seem to be constantly surrounding Senator Roan and her every action seems out of place in this world.  She is given a compelling backstory, but every word from her mouth seems phony and incredibly cringe-worthy.  That aside, The Purge: Election Year is better than it has any right to be and I will be ready to fork over my next fifteen bucks when the inevitable sequel is released.  The Purge: Election Year is currently playing in theaters everywhere.

[usr 4]

 

THE BOY (2016)

 

 

Here we go again, another PG-13 horror flick that is mildly creepy, but lazy and inoffensive.  I keep finding myself sitting in the dark each week, hoping to find that occasional gem.  Unfortunately The Boy is not that one-in-ten that shines, but is just spooky enough to be fun.  Although this film is enjoyable, I am not sure why it received a theatrical release.  Given its limited budget and setting, this film would probably play better on the small screen and would be great for a Netflix release.  Before I get too deep into my opinion, lets talk about the story.

A young American woman named Greta takes a job for an elderly, British couple and agrees to look after their child.  Once she meets the geriatric couple, she realizes that the child is actually a doll that is kept like a real boy.  She is given a list of silly rules, told to follow them and then the two wisk away on vacation.  Once they leave, she goes back to treating the boy as a doll until things take a more sinister turn for the worse,

As I stated before, this is neither great nor terrible.  It falls right into that mediocre spot that most of these theatrical horror releases do.  There is just not a lot to say about this movie.  The acting and script is okay, the cinematography is pretty standard and the sets are appropriately creepy.  The third act does take a 180 degree turn that is fun and goes in a direction that is both entertaining and unexpected.  All in all, I do not suggest going to the cinema to see this flick but could be enjoyable if rented out of the Redbox on a boring Thursday night.  The Boy is currently playing in theaters everywhere.

2/5 STARS

THE FOREST (2016)

Its officially January and it is time to dig through the dumping ground of Hollywood.  It is no secret that January and February is the black hole of theater releases, allowing us the chance to watch whatever studio execs have lying around.  When I saw the trailer for The Forest and its January release date I wasn’t overly excited to see it, but one thing grabbed my eye…no Jason Blum.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not hating on the guy but I just can’t trust his name (on a film) anymore.  After seeing this supernatural thriller I can say that The Forest is much better than it has any right to be.  It is a strange blend of great cinematography and terrible CGI that is entertaining up to its lackluster ending.  It is a great example of enjoying the ride, but not necessarily liking the final destination.

The story begins with a young woman having an feeling that her twin sister is in danger.  She wakes up from her dream and immediately leaves for Tokyo to try and help her sister.  She does a little digging and finds out that she has ventured into the “Suicide Forest” at the base of Mt. Fuji.  Through her ESP-like superpower, she can sense that her sister is still alive and fenagles her way into a guided tour to find her twin.  Once she is there she finds out that the forest is a sinister and dangerous place full of spirits.

The best part of the film is the setting and the amazing camerawork.  There is little to no shaky cam and nothing ever seems static or boring.  The actors are passable and the script seems like it may have had a lot of last minute changes.  Some of the red herrings are less than brilliant and there are major clues that are either ignored or abandoned.  The film does best at building up tension and there were more than a few scenes that had me on the edge of my seat.  The biggest problem was how the filmmakers decided to wrap up the story.  I won’t go into any spoilers, but the last 10 minutes do not seem to gel with what we had seen up to this point.  All in all, this adds up to a serviceable (and sometimes exciting) popcorn flick that you will probably forget about a few days later.  The Forest will be available 1/8 in theaters everywhere.

2.5/5 STARS

THE GREEN INFERNO (2013)

Cannibal films have always held a very special place in my heart.  These sleazy, gory films always resonated with me and in the early 2000’s I made it a point to hunt down as many as possible.  From the great (Cannibal Holocaust, Man From Deep River) to the nearly unwatchable (Mondo Cannibal, Zombie Holocaust), I enjoyed the hell out of them all.  Each movie had its own strange charm, mixing old school adventure with extreme violence.  I would spend my time and money tracking down any italian movie with the word “Cannibal” in its title and wait for whatever bad VHS rip to come in the mail.  Each film had its own take, but they all shared a structure that felt like home.  Each would present a situation to get people in the jungle, a reason they would be captured and (most importantly) a reason to be eaten.

The obtuse dubbing and paint-red blood only added to my newly found obsession.  But, like all obsessions, you eventually drain the well.  I checked out a handful of recent movies that attempted to mine these ideas, but most failed and just presented neutered interpretations of what we had seen many times before. It was only a matter of time before someone was going to do it right and luckily Eli Roth came along and fulfilled my hopes.  I am happy to say that The Green Inferno is the real deal!  His premise is familiar, but avoids being just a cash in on nostalgia.  Mr. Roth contextualizes and updates the subject matter without losing the spirit of those early Italian films.  Its not perfect, but neither are those classic Amazon flicks of the late seventies and early eighties.

The movie is set in the modern world of armchair activists and introduces us to Justine (Lorenza Izzo).  She is a freshman in college who is looking for where she fits in the world and falls in with a group of activists with big plans.  The group’s leader, played brilliantly by Ariel Levy, puts together a plan to go to Peru and defend an isolated tribe that is being threatened by oil companies.  Once there, things go awry and the group eventually falls into the hands (and teeth) of brutal cannibals.

The standout of this movie is the unrelenting violence and I was surprised to see this kind of visceral action on a big screen.  The kills are brutal and funny, hitting that sweet spot that avoids being too mean-spirited or ugly.  The director is familiar enough with the genre to understand what makes it great.  You have to be allowed to laugh when presented with such grim situations or it becomes a chore to watch.  The gags are nihilistic, but in a way that feels therapeutic and liberating,

With all that said, I do have a couple small quibbles with Roth’s latest movie. The camera work (especially in the first act) is shaky and full of quick cuts that can be a little exhausting to watch.  The biggest issue that I had was with some of the digital effects.  The realism and complete immersion is interrupted a couple of times by terrible CGI that looks unpolished and sloppy.  But like I said, its not perfect but it is a lot fun.  I know the horror fanboys love to hate Eli Roth, but The Green Inferno should shut them up, at least for a while.  Its been a long time since Hostel 2, but this one was worth the wait.  It is currently available in wide release.

4/5 STARS