Sinister Movie Review!

Just finished seeing Sinister, TWICE.  No It was not THAT good, I was supposed to see another movie with a friend, then see Sinister’s late showing.  So I bought my ticket to Sinister, but then we went to buy the tickets for the other movie (I refuse to name) it was already sold out.

This friend then suggested seeing Sinister, and I didn’t want to tell her I already had my ticket. So I saw it twice, back to back.

I’m a little glad I did my expectations blinded me in the first viewing, and after looking at the second one with a more critical eye I was able to completely change the review I had written in my head.  Anyway, I posted it over on NoTearsPlease.com.  So check it out.

 

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I goofed…  I did the one thing I tell every horror fan never to do.  I broke my own golden rule.

NEVER walk into a theater with any level of high expectations

It may be a harsh realization but as much as I live and breathe for this genre, expectations are the worst enemy to an enjoyable experience because there is very few films that can live up them. Is Sinister an exception?  Am I able to look past what may be a geyser of disappointment?
Click The Pic For The Review

 

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The Horror Genre: The Decline Of Storytelling

“When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth.” – George A Romero,  “We all go a little mad sometimes” – Norman Bates – Psycho
“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti” – Hannibal Lecture
Listen to them, the children of the night. What sweet music they make.” – Dracula
“The power of Christ compels you!” Father Merrin and Damian Karras 

Count Orlok, from Nosferatu 1922

In 1922 Count Orlok was striking fear into the hearts of the audiences that were able to make it to the cinema.  Certainly not the first horror movie ever created, but definitely the first supernatural big bad to become an icon of the genre.

Fast forwarding 60 odd years and we see the film emergence of Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolfman, Zombies, Poltergeists, and so many more iconic creatures have given the horror genre its own identity.  I hold myself to being an avid fan of the culture.  There was something so immersive about the worlds being created before my eyes.

I could tear up at the Old Yeller being put down. You could visibly see my excitement when Superman came flying to the rescue, and I even felt furious at Lando Calrissian for betraying Han to the Empire.

Movies have the ability to draw out an emotional reaction when the story is engaging enough.

The moment I watched my first horror movie, I realized that a movie could actually have a lasting impact on a person, even at such a young age this concept intrigued me. My hatred for Darth Vader subsided when the movie was over and I turned back to my Nintendo, as did my excitement at seeing Superman in action, and my grief over the poor old dog. However, my first true experience in the horror genre made me walk a little faster on my way home at night for weeks.
Embarrassingly enough, that first movie was “Ernest Scared Stupid.”  It is not a masterpiece by any standards. I was young and didn’t see the decent-at-best story it told.

What I do know is that afterwards, walking home from my friends house up the street after dark at the age of 8 was a terrifying experience.  I would just remember seeing the Troll in my head and begin to hear his growl in the distance.  Sometimes I would actually sprint all the way home.

I was smitten by this feeling and literally have been trying recapture it ever since, with minimal success.  Wes Craven, Stephen King, John Carpenter, H.P Lovecraft, George A Romero, there’s so many icons in the genre that I grew up admiring.

Last week I saw “Chernobyl Diaries”… If you are intending on seeing this movie I have two things to say to you.

#1.  Please DON’T.  This kind of cheesy, lazy storytelling with questionably care taken into its production should not yield financial benefits.  Hopefully we can put an end to these kind of movies, but we can’t do that if they keep making money.

#2.  If you ignored #1, then you may want to stop reading because there are  spoilers in this entry.

I can still remember it.  The Blair Witch Project was in Theatres and everyone was petrified because they believed that it was real.  Of course now if you watch it you’ll notice that really it was shot that way to keep the operating costs to a minimum.  I watched it again as an adult and will admit the acting may be a bit on the needs-some-work end, but the movie isn’t all that bad.

The Shaky Cam was a big part of the suspense, making it very difficult to clearly see what was going on to it was up to dialogue, sound effects and brief glimpses to get your heart racing.

Chernobyl Diaries has a shaky cam feel to it, the camera is all over the place.  There really is no reason for it to be shot like this because it’s not shot from the point of view of any character.  One can argue the production value wasn’t all there so they had to shoot it that way to hide flaws and they couldn’t afford decent camera work.  With a budget of a million dollars to work with and very minimum effects that needed to be used, there is no justification.

The impression I got from this movie is just lazy storytelling. The characters were bland, unlikable, and just poorly written (and poorly acted to boot).  The use of shaky cam seems more like a decision of “humm.. how can we make this scary.  Oh I got It!! We’ll have the camera move all of the place.”  Shaky Cam is NOT scary in an of itself, you need to proper atmosphere.. Chernobyl does NOT have this

This is all cosmetic problems I have with this movie.  My main concern is that this movie is the ideal example I can think of to explain that Horror movie writers these days just don’t seem to care.

1. Drop random people in strange location after VERY minimal introduction.  (In Chernobyl’s case literally there are two people that come along that have 2 lines of dialogue to explain who they are)

2. Pick them off one by one while they run away.

3. Just when you think the sole one or two survivors finally make it out, surprise twist they die!

….

It’s depressing really.

Michael Myers, & Jason Voorhees, basically all followed a very similiar formula.  Strong, slow yet always ahead of you, masked man chasing victims to kill them.  Myers terrorized a neighborhood, and Voorhees terrorized a camp.

The difference is you can see the care in the writing of these beasts.  Voorhees backstory of being a young, innocent, deformed camper that drowned and no one cared… then his mother is killed while seeking vengeance.  And Myers was simply born as an evil incarnate, there was never really a soul in this monster and violence was always his only priority.

Chernobyl Diaries attempts to compensate for lack of originality by throwing clichés at the audience.  The little girl distracting the group while the big guy takes one of the group away.  In context this makes no sense, these are escaped radiation victims, they are feral and eat raw flesh.. why set up a distraction and take one when they have the numbers to just overwhelm the whole group.

If they were smart enough for this rouse… there’s no reason any of the characters should’ve made it to the end.

Sir Anthony Hopkins play Van Helsing in Dracula 1992

Anyway, what gets me is the ending.  I’ll admit that the first couple of movies I saw that had a total party wipe out.. as in no survivors, was a very cool and refreshing Idea.  But it has been taken to such extremes now that I feel like writers don’t even feel they need to write an ending any more.

Can writers come up with a way to have their character actually succeed? What story exactly are you trying to tell about a group that goes to Chernobyl and gets picked off one by one by monsters until they are dead?  It’s so unnecessary and now that this novelty has been shot to death the little appeal that a total party wipe out once held in the film industry is gone.

I long for the days when a horror writer is able to put a group of people in a seemingly hopeless situation and finds a way to endure it and survive, not stagger in the dark until they are all dead.

Maybe that’s what I’m getting at.  Horror movies now have been reduced to a competition of who can implement the most jump scares that require no previous thought or atmosphere (other than just making things really quiet for a second or two), and who can use the most elaborate special effects.

We are living in an age that has no horror heroes.  Our Van Helsings (Bram Stoker’s NOT Hugh Jackman’s)… Nancy Thompsons… Kirsty Cottons… Laurie Strodes… hell even our Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell FTW)…

I was so hopeful for this concept when I first saw the trailer.  With the radiation of the area and the mysteries behind the Chernobyl incident there’s a lot to work with here in way of a compelling narrative, it pains me that the ball was dropped so hard.

Come on “The Apparition” … it’s up to you to redeem the genre.

The Devil Inside – Can it dethrone “The Exorcist” as best in genre?

For those of you that know me, you understand that the horror genre is my baby.  I hold no other genre in the entertainment industry close to the heights of horror.  This comes at quite a price because as much as I adore this particular style of film making it is very rare that it is done right.

Is The Exorcist Still Champion??

It is very disappointing when the only examples I can give for good horror movies have no representation in the last 10-15 years.  When I talk about horror done right I talk about A Nightmare on Elm Street (NOT the sequels),  I talk about Friday The 13th (Pre Jason Vorhees..albeit I don’t mind Jason as a concept), and of course no listing would be complete without a mention of The Exorcist.  I can talk George Romero, Alfred Hitchcock, Wes Craven.. the list is endless, but it is The Exorcist that needs to be address for this review.

The Exorcist is notorious for being one of the scariest movies of all time.  Of course you need to keep in mind the era in which it was released.  Although the special effects may seem a bit dated by todays standards the movie still holds up at being a pretty damn good scary flick to watch, but back in 1973 religion played a much larger role in day-to-day life.

Faithful church goers would go see this movie of Lucifer possessing a child named Regan played by a young Linda Blair.  This movie put the fear of god in a large number of people, literally.  Linda Blair required bodyguards due to death threats against her for her portrayal of Regan.

This movie is one of the most famous horror movies of all times and, if adjusted for inflation, would be the highest grossing R-rated film of all time.  It’s almost 40 years later and there is still yet to be a better movie about exorcism.

Nothing has been able to recapture the allure of the original film and that is perfectly okay in my books.  The problem is that people continue to try to that’s how we got stuck with this “film”

So the earlier question remains.  Can “The Devil Inside” dethrone The Exorcist?
This is my review of The Devil Inside(2012)

Owned By Paramount Pictures

The Devil Inside starts in 1989 with a 911 call from a woman named Maria Rossi.  In a very cryptic way of speaking she admits to killing three people.  This scene is followed up with police arriving at her home and documenting the crime scene.  This leads to a predicable  jump scare and eventually segways into various news coverage of the murders.

We then meet our protagonist Isabella Rossi, Maria’s daughter.  It is only at this point that I realized that the entire movie is shot documentary style through the point of view of Isabella and her friend Michael.  I am not going to instantly dismiss this movie because of this fact though, I mean Troll Hunter was an incredible film and it was done with a similar style… but it didn’t take long to realize that this film was definitely NOT Troll Hunter.

Owned By Paramount Pictures

Isabella sits in on a class at “Exorcism school.”  I do not recall the name they officially used but that is how she referred  to it, and when they sit in class there is a lot of exposition from the priest teaching about how to determine possession.  I am unsure if I am mistaken about this but I’m pretty certain that modern-day vatican do not wish for any evidence of exorcism to be made public.  Exorcisms even in the 70’s were somewhat shunned by an increasing non-belief in Catholicism.  So why would a teacher of exorcism class allow a girl to sit in making a documentary, and then go on to be interviewed by her?

It is at this point I realized that if I try to look at this movie from a realistic standpoint I will drive myself mad.  So I decided to just take it at face value and start looking more at the story telling and character development.

Wait, character development?  Oh foolish me.  There is absolutely none in this film.  The characters you meet are the characters you end up with… of course near the end they have seen some messed up stuff and are more panicked, but there is no growth at all.

I will give credit where credit is due, the exorcism that the two priests perform in the movie is top-notch.  Good effects, the cinematography was done pretty good as well.  Also, the diagnosis that the priests do on Isabella’s mother  is pretty intense too.

In the final act when everything starts to go absolutely bonkers there are a couple of decent jump scares and some eerie moments but it isn’t enough to save this movie.

This movie drags through useless exposition and does not offer any sort of realistic and believable story.  Whether you believe in the devil or not, when you see Linda Blair and you hear everyone describing the procedure in The Exorcist, you get a much better feel that this is the actual church, and an actual priest trying to expunge a demon… in Devil Inside it just seems like some college kids over budget attempt at a scary movie.

****SPOILERS, if you don’t want to have a scene in the last part of the movie spoiled skip this following paragraph******

There is a scene at the end of the movie where Father David (one of the priests) is really upset about the events that happened at the mental hospital with Isabella’s mother and then in the middle of speaking he states that he has a baptism to go to.  Then we hear Michael (the cameraman for most of the movie) say that he was supposed to go with him too… This comes right out of left field and bares no significance to the story.  The only reason Michael was going to film that baptism is to give the film maker an excuse to show David going completely inside.. which is essentially when everything starts to get intense.

But on a documentary about exorcism, why would he need footage of a baptism of the priest.  I mean it can be argued that it would be used as B Roll, to establish David as a priest when the went to do their final cut of their documentary, but that’s a tough pill to swallow, especially when you consider what just finished happening at the hospital, AND this has not been done with any other priest up to this point.  I know its validity can be justified, but not without a stretch and it is just a needless scene.

************SPOILERS OVER************

So, does Devil Inside dethrone The Exorcist as best in genre??

Devil Inside can barely polish the boots of the Exorcist.  It’s one of the few times I went to a movie in the theatre and could not find some redeeming quality to make me feel like the price of admission was worth it.  I mean I did see this with a pretty great girl.. but other than that it was not worth the money.

If you want to see a decent modern-day exorcist movie, go check out “The Exorcism of Emily Rose“, The Devil Inside is an hour and half that will feel like 4 hours and will be time you can never get back.

Final Verdict?
The Devil Inside 3/10 –   Pass on this movie if you have the option to.  Even if you can see if for free, you will overpay!