Tag Archives: United States

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: HELL FEST (major spoilers)

When walking through one of those Six Flags Fright Fest Haunted Houses/Mazes looks better and is scarier than the shit show that is HELL FEST, you know your film has a problem. Hell Fest is a giant step backward in the slasher genre, which honestly could be redeemed and saved in a couple of weeks when the “true sequel” to the original Halloween comes out. This is direct to video schlock at best. How it even managed to get a theatrical release I will never know. Now to be fair, the movie does three things right, but it does about a thousand wrong. And in order to explain why this movie doesn’t work, I have no choice other than to spoil basically the entire movie. So if you don’t want to be spoiled, just know that this slasher movie sucks, isn’t scary, the production design is awful, the kills are not that interesting, there is absolutely no character development, it is mostly bloodless, and the blood we do get is CGI splotches. If I had went to that traveling horror maze road show in real life, I would’ve asked for my money back.

***major spoilers from here on***

Okay, let’s dive in. I want to first start out by describing what the 3 things the film does right:
1. The movie isn’t a mystery who dun it. Don’t start suspecting any of the friends, because it reveals very early that this guy is just a murdering wanderer. We never see the killer’s face throughout the whole film. He is an unknown deadly faceless psychopath, and that makes him more menacing in scarier. Even though his mask looks like the mask from Scream, and Michael Myer’s mask from Halloween, fucked, had a baby, and then that baby was set on fire, I loved that they never reveal who exactly he is, even though they give you a tiny little hint at the end of the movie that made him even scarier.
2. The first death of our core friend group was actually a bit surprising. Once all the friends get together in the film, I had it picked out in my mind which would go first and then so on. Surely the female leads possible love interest would survive the film or up until the very very end trying to save her? Nope, he is the first one offed with a giant hammer you use on those strength test games. At that point I was starting to get into the movie, but then unfortunately my list went back in order, the killer ends up just killing two of the friends in a matter of seconds with knife blows with CGI blood and then the third and the first person end up surviving, when I had predicted all three would. Man, if the film would’ve subverted expectations and really fucked up that order, that would’ve been a lot of fun, instead it shocks you, but then seems satisfied and it is business as normal.
3. The guillotine scene. If you’ve seen the trailers you know that Bex Taylor-Klaus looks like she is going to be killed where she is set to get her head chopped off by a guillotine. The scene goes the way you think it will, but then it doesn’t (basically, it is confirmed to be a fake out with a fake head, part of the show, the curtains are closed, they are alone, the killer actually tried to chop her head off, but the blade isn’t sharp enough, so it hardly goes through , but she manages to escape). I thought that subverting of expectations was good, but then the killer kills her and another part of the group in a matter of seconds about 30 seconds later, so everything goes to shit.

See how all three praises are basically back handed compliments? That’s basically what the movie did the entire time, it set you up thinking it was going to be a smarter film than it actually should be, but then kick you in the balls, says fuck you, and does the cliche anyway. The climax is basically just a chase scene through a maze (called Hell, pffft) that is supposed to be one of the scariest walking haunted houses/mazes in the entire country but is actually the dullest thing I’ve ever seen. Six Flags always does it better. There is no tension, and every cliche imaginable is thrown at you. There is a couple of instances where the movie is extremely utterly unbelievably ridiculous. After the main girl’s love interest is killed, the killer takes his phone and is posing as him for a bit. She is texting him in the bathroom (after he hasn’t been seen by them for an unbelievably laughable period of time), and then his phone of course pings in the bathroom and the killer starts attacking her. She tries to call for help immediately but the phone says her call to 911 failed and no signal. Really? After she was just texting her love interest with no problem two seconds earlier? Fucking please.

Also, this whole maze is supposed to look and feel real, even though there aren’t really supposed to be major weapons that can hurt or kill people in the park. The guillotine blade would’ve been completely fake in a real park and the fact that it is real, but just dull and only cuts through a little bit of Bex Taylor-Klaus next was unbelievably unrealistic, it would’ve just bounced off. In the climatic scene, the main girl and her main girl best friend are searching for weapons in the maze but can’t find really anything to slash or stab the killer with, but the killer managers to pull a real sharp ax out of one the dummies in the maze…fucking PLEASE. Oh, and at one point in the movie they are taking shots with those you know drink shot things that look like syringes, but the killer manager to find a real syringe with a really sharp needle just lying somewhere behind the scenes. Yeah…RIGHT. I forgot to mention the girls do manage to find like a big fake bone and a long torch thing, and hit the killer with it. In a real thing like that, those most likely would’ve been foam and fake. Trust me, I know, I’ve been to these things earlier and my life and everything is fake so you don’t get hurt. The movie took wayyyy too many liberties.

The movie hangs on the premise that it would be easier to randomly kill people in a place like this and people would just think it is part of the show, but the movie doesn’t really execute or rather say go with that premise very well. The film only a couple of times kills somebody right in front of somebody or leaves a body on a stack of dead bodies, but the movie doesn’t hone in on where it should. If it would’ve had more focus, it could’ve been a lot more clever. The movie makes the fatal mistake of trying to scare you on the screen by a third of the time just watching these characters go through these mazes and they themselves being scared by carnival cheap ass jump scares. Yeah, that doesn’t work. Everything in it looks like the cheapest ass traveling horror road show I have ever seen. Again, this movie should never have been released into theaters. I’m quite curious to watch this other movie called Blood Fest that was released into theater for a day, and then is available to rent or buy like several weeks after ward. It kind of deals with the whole festival thing too, but it got better reviews, and I’m curious to see if the execution is better. But hey you know what? Since the film paused several times in the climax because of technical difficulties, this movie ended up being free anyway. So there’s that…

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ASSASSINATION NATION (no spoilers)

As of right now, I’m probably going to be the only one that you’ve heard of or know that thought ASSASSINATION NATION was a brilliant piece of filmmaking. But I’m not too upset about it. I’m going to give it time. Time to hit home platforms and seep into the minds of those that like to “discover” little art house films like these, and then go off, brag to, and convince their friends that they have to watch it right this second. I can always say that I was there opening night (almost by myself, only two other people in a mostly empty theater) and say they actually saw something ambitious and original. This movie, this movie plays directly to our times, yelling and screaming at us that all it takes is a little push to descend everyone into utter madness, and that we aren’t doing shit about it. It is a film that, at the drop of a time, switches genres, and does it so effectively that each transition blends into the other where you can’t even tell what is happening before it is too late. You have Eli Roth on the last end of his pitiful rope doing a “horror” kids movie that doesn’t look like much fun, you have Michael Moore going around and screaming into a bullhorn at people a bunch of things that you probably already know about or have read on CNN, and you have Life Itself, which is just This Is Us sappy and stupid bukake all over your face. Assassination Nation is the only good work coming out this weekend, and none of you are destined to see it.

I don’t know the outcome of how this movie will be looked upon in the future actually. It’s just a simple guess. Instead of it being really appreciated over time it could fall into the “meh, it was alright” category. You never know how these things will be perceived. I mean, when Austin Powers hit theaters in Summer of 1997, it completely tanked at the box office. But when it hit home video, it exploded into two sequels that made a shit ton of cash and made Mike Myers, albeit briefly, funny and relevant again. And it could be is that I went really deep into this movie, trying to dissect it and convey what it was trying to tell me each moment with images, dialogue, shots, camera angles, etc. I just really really enjoyed it for what it was. There is this tremendous tracking shot that lasts a couple of minutes outside a house a couple of girls are staying in that was mesmerizing to watch. I just…I don’t know…have you ever had one of those films that just hit you, and it has hit no one else, and you feel like you have your own special little movie that no one can or is going to try and take away from you? This is it.

If you haven’t heard of Assassination Nation, the plot is very simple. In the town of Salem (yes, this movie is a great sort of riff on the Salem Witch Trails), half of the town’s populations information, texts, snapchats, Twitter’s, pictures, Facebook’s are hacked and all released to the masses. Four high school girls find themselves at the heart of it, and start to see the town slowly at first, but then amped up to shit go bat shit crazy, trying to figure out who hacked them all. The movies message is quite clear: how this country is at the brink of chaos and pandemonium, and how that seems to be acceptable as the new norm. Judging by the trailer, it looks as though this movie goes all out once it starts and never lets up until the end credits. Not true, I thought it was a very slow burn type of narrative. It starts out as sort of a meta comedy, transition into a too real episodic drama, then into a horror/thriller, then into a bit of a actioner, and then finally goes full circle with the last six haunting words in the film back into a meta comedy. There are problems in this film, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it is perfect, in fact, I would say that characterization is a huge problem in this film, as there aren’t really many characters arcs, and the ones that are seemed a little too rushed and not fully formed nor realized. There is one scene in the film that I love, where the girls’ principal is accused of being a pedophile because he has a naked picture of his six year old playing in the bathtub and the main character Lily has this whole discussion with her family at the dinner table on what exactly is pornography nowadays. It’s quite eye opening.

But the acting is quite good. Out of the four girls, only Odessa Young and Hari Nef get enough screen time to get some awesome dialogue quippy chewing, scene stealing moments. Abra and Suki Waterhouse (who is a staple of these films produced by Neon, as she was the lead in the recent film I dug The Bad Batch), are in the film a lot but don’t have very much to say or any time to develop at all. You probably don’t know any of those girls, so let’s get to the people in the film you do know. Bella Thorne gets the “and” credit on the poster here, and just like most “and” people on movie posters she isn’t in the film very much, maybe three scenes, one of the scenes though she has a very good little speech about privacy that hits right on the nose with today’s society. Joel McHale and Pennywise himself, Bill Skarsgard, have the “with” titles on the poster but they get actually more screen time than you might think, McHale playing totally out of character with what he usually does, and Bill Skarsgard stepping back in age playing the boyfriend of the main character Lily, and showing us that if given the right role, he could be a tour de force in a film if he ever becomes a leading man.

One that sees this might tell you that the movie ends too soon or doesn’t end on the right moment. I beg to differ. I think it ends exactly where it should, and gives you enough context clues in the very last short scene to tell you what happened. This isn’t a movie like Kill Bill where you see the 4 girls in the trailers just massacring a entire town with bullets. I know that is what the trailer makes it look like where the film is going to go, but writer/director Sam Levinson subverts those expectations to bring something, while still a bit outlandish, a little more realistic. I do know that a message does not make a movie. Look at Sorry To Bother You, it had a huge message, but the execution was way, way, way off and boring. This film has a message and uses filmmaking and its techniques to get that message across in a thought provoking yet exciting way. If you want to say something, you can’t just be Michael Moore with a bullhorn, with some jokes about issues audiences have already heard way too much about, you need to do something outside of the box. Assassination Nation is that something.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: A SIMPLE FAVOR (no spoilers)

A SIMPLE FAVOR is a pretty good movie that could’ve been fantastic if it didn’t stumble in its landing the last five minutes of the film. But it could’ve fell flat on its face, so I’ll be that glass half full film reviewer today. It’s Paul Feig’s third best film, right behind Bridesmaids and Spy, and definitely makes up for the bullshit that was the Ghostbusters remake/reboot a couple of years ago. Almost the whole time during the movie I was like, “Holy shit, Feig has actually stepped up his game as a director” and was really really really into it, but those last five minutes, his Ghostbusters attempt at physical and dreadful one liner humor peaks out with a very unnecessary pre credits summary of what the characters (that survived) are doing currently. But I’m willing to forgive it, because what came before had a almost pitch perfect tone and the dark humor was devilishly, deliciously funny. Oh, and Blake Lively finally showed that she can actually muster up some kind of performance if need be.

See, I like Blake Lively as a human being (I think her relationship ((so far)) with Ryan Reynolds is perfect and they are a truly happily married Hollywood couple), but I can’t stand her as an actress. The closest she has ever become to actually doing something of note was her small bit in The Town, which even then I didn’t believe her so much a drug addicted stripper/prostitute/whatever the fuck her character was supposed to be in that. But here, she sinks into an abnormally prideful spoiled rich housewife that befriends a quirky widowed Anna Kendrick so that their sons can have play dates. To not spoil the rest of the movie, I’ll just say that Blake Lively goes missing and Anna Kendrick tries to find out what happened to her new found friend, while trying to make sure Lively’s son and husband are okay in the process. Anybody that ruins this movie for you is a monster. It has revelation upon revelation until the end credits roll. There are double crosses, triple crosses, and I think maybe even a quadruple cross? The movie keeps you guessing, which I appreciated. I could compare this movie to another movie and that movies book that it is based on, but if I reveal the title, I reveal all. I don’t think it rips off that book/movie per say, especially with the multiple different revelations, but some of the plotting is very, VERY similar. You’ll know exactly which book/movie I’m talking about when you see it, but if you don’t, just message me and I’ll give you a “ah-ha!” kind of moment.

What makes the movie really work first and foremost is Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick. Oh, and I can’t get away with not mentioning Henry Golding either(he plays Lively’s husband in this and he was just one of the leads in a breakout film, you might’ve heard of it: Crazy Rich Asians). But this is Kendrick and Lively’s show, and their chemistry is palpable, they just play off each other like a perfect acting pair that every director and screenwriter probably dreams of. This is Anna Kendrick’s best work since Up In The Air and Pitch Perfect. Kendrick, while fantastic, her role is a little familiar to people that like her and watch all of her filmography. She’s still that overly quirky and awkward character that you can’t help but adore, however this film really uses that aspect of her to its advantage, and turns it into something a little different and definitely more delightful. Blake Lively is in command here, where whenever she’s on screen you can’t help by being fascinated with what comes out of her mouth and what she is going to do or say next. All three of them turn what are already well rounded written characters into something you can’t take your eyes or ears off of.

And the tone is brilliant too for the most part. The first half of this film is near perfect. It’s a dark comedy that walks that fine line but is smart enough know to not cross over too much on either side. The film has bright, vibrant cinematography and that feel any director or screenwriter wants of a eerie suburbia is gloriously executed here, and never tries to be what it isn’t. Many films have gotten it wrong in the past, most recently the awfully executed Surburbicon from George Clooney. Now in the last five minutes, that fine line the film was walking must’ve tripped on a shoe lace that had impeccable timing to be untied right when the film was about to end. It stumbled into a straight comedy with none of that pinch of darkness that we got throughout the other 1 and 50 minutes. But I don’t know, I may need to do some research, because if the book ends exactly like that, with a physical moment and a stupid lame one liner that is played for forced laughs, then I won’t blame Feig. But it just felt like 2016 Ghostbusters Feig, and if true, he should’ve known better than to try and lighten the tone at near the very last moment of the film. And like I said, those title cards of what the characters were doing after the events that took fold before the end credits hit was unnecessary and should’ve been cut or re written as something else. And while I did like some of the revelations, there is one that I wish it would’ve stuck to, it would’ve been ingenious to end on that note and made for a savory little treat that you could talk with people at the water cooler, but the movie took it further, and I’m willing to be the book did too, so I can’t nit pick too much.

But yes, I did enjoy Paul Feig’s new movie, until the movie started playing I was mainly shrugging it off because of that disaster of a Ghostbusters reboot. But Feig shows here he might have some untapped talent in that weird noggin of his, maybe someday it will bring us something that can be considered a masterpiece. This is a very good film with a couple of problems that keep it from achieving that benchmark.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE PREDATOR (very minor spoilers)

THE PREDATOR is exactly what I wanted earlier this summer’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom to be: A big, dumb, fun, fast-paced action movie that didn’t put me to sleep. And by dumb, I don’t mean insulting to my intelligence like doing yet another fucking hybrid dinosaur. And by fun and not putting me to sleep, I don’t mean selling dinosaurs and trying to turn a monster franchise into a haunted house movie. Those of you going in there expecting the grittiness or seriousness of the first one, you are going to be disappointed. Tone wise it is somewhere around Predators, but maybe a little more lighthearted and with a pinch of that Shane Black dialogue and humor we know so well. This was definitely more fun than Predators, and it didn’t try to rip off the first movie like Predator 2 basically did. Let’s not even talk about the abysmal pile of shit that are the AVP movies.

And it could be that I just had a weird and exhausting day beforehand and needed an escape out of reality. And it could be that I read a lot of critics abysmal reviews (nothing spoilery) and I was expecting a train wreck of epic proportions. But I had a lot of fun to be honest and was very entertained for the tight 1 hr and 40 minute film. And I see what Shane Black was trying to do. He was trying to create an original story that would expand the Predator mythos a little bit, while also not trying to create just a fan service film with too many references to the past films (there are a couple but it isn’t Force Awakens ridiculous). He and fellow co-screenwriter Fred Dekker also tried to actually create characters with personalities in this as well. The two standouts are definitely Treante Rhodes and Sterling K. Brown. I also liked Boyd Holbrook, Jacob Tremblay, Thomas Jane, and Keegan-Michael Key. I actually cared when some of them are eventually offed.

The story develops as you go, but it starts out with the same title font letters and same music as the original, a crash, a soldier getting some alien tech and sending it to a PO Box to keep out of government hands, which somehow his son gets a hold of, with that predator, and another, bigger predator want back, because they both have alternate agendas. That’s as vague as I’m going to get. The film has a MacGuffin, and has an interesting idea of where the sequels can go, but the last three minutes of the film, including the shaky CGI, I’m not so sure it could work but who knows. Anyway, the story cares about the characters while also trying to move the action and story along.

Now the film does have its problems. And some of the problems are bigger than others. Olivia Munn has to be the most unbelievable scientist since Denise Richards in The World Is Not Enough, and when she is firing weapons and spouting off Shane Black dialogue, she is definitely out of her league. The Preddogs, yes you read that right, are in theory a good idea, but in execution are a complete CGI mess. So is the giant ultimate Predator you have seen in the movie. There is a lot of good CGI work as well though, and the good stuff does outweigh the bad.

The semi-finale in the woods has a couple of problems. The editing is extremely chopping and some characters that I thought had died, hadn’t, and I was trying to keep up who was where and what they were doing. Needless to say the first half of the film is infinitely better than the second. And that scene Olivia Munn had cut because of that sexual deviant guy that was in the scene with her, I wish they would’ve re-filmed that with someone else because Olivia Munn kind of just shows up in the film with no real introduction.

But the action is 80s/early 90s B movie solid. The Predator kills are some of the best of the series. I enjoyed the fact that Shane Black acknowledges that the other films exist and didn’t try to do a straight up remake or sequel. He was trying to do something different. He actually cared about the story and where it could go. And while the final 3 minutes are CGI shoddy as fuck, I could see where they could take it if the effects get a little bit better. At first I thought this MacGuffin, I promise I won’t spoil what it is, was going to reveal to be something else. Something bigger, more WTF, more throwback cameo, and more shocking. If you’ve seen the movie message me privately and I’ll tell you what I thought. If what I thought came to fruition, I think it would’ve been much better than what came out. Still, I give it points for trying.

This is the perfect movie this weekend to just shut off your brain and get lost into. I had a lot of fun. The film is action packed, it’s humor works, mostly, and I enjoyed the Predator kills, technology, and weaponry. Next time, Black should focus on really polishing the script and he could give us something really, truly special. But for now, we have this, and hey, I know it’s not saying much, but it is the best since the first, and at least it won’t make you want to Predator laser cannon your own head to never have to experience AVP again…

My Rank of Predator Films:
1. Predator
2. The Predator
3. Predator 2
4. Predators
5. Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem
6. Aliens Vs. Predator