Movie Reviews

The Void

voidThe Void (2016) – Horror 

Directed by: Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie

Starring: Aaron Poole and Kenneth Welsh

How I Watched: Amazon Instant Video

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

Everyone has their ideal movie in their head. The one they always wished they could make or at least see. Characters that speak on themes that are important to you. The addition of plot twists and full frontal male nudity. Everyone has something they want their favorite movie to be. I want to see an 80;s style cosmic horror film that feels equal part Lovecraft and Cronenberg. I want practical effects and an ending that feels completely batshittingly disconnected from the first act. And folks, I have seemingly found this film. Or so I thought.

The Void is a film that was produced in 2016 and feels very much like a full-length film cousin of Stranger Things. It doesn’t initially try anything too daring, starting with a small town sheriff’s deputy finding a man who has run away from some seemingly bad men. He brings this man to the nearest hospital, which unfortunately is under reconstruction after a recent fire and thus, suffers from a limited staff. And the deputy’s ex-wife works there also, which is the kind of coincidence that happens in films all the fucking time to give emotional depth, but tends to just break down fourth walls.

But forgiving that, shit goes full fucking insanity pretty fast when a whole host of white cloaked figures descend and surround the building, killing anyone who wishes to enter or exit. Their perfectly starched and ironed cloaks look very KKK outside of the black triangle over the face, presumably so they can see. Also, one of the nurses has killed one of the patients and therefore has also decided to cut her own face from her skull. So that’s cool. She is killed, but pretty immediately comes back as a giant bloody tentacle monster which has to be re-killed. It is pretty fucking sweet to watch. And this all happens in the first act. Are you pumped, cause I am fucking pumped.

Then the second act hits and shit slows way the fuck down. It becomes the same dynamic that plays out in every single location horror film. Mistrust, survival runs, and hashing out personal issues that really don’t matter but again, add depth. I really don’t want to ruin the rest of the film for you, because the third act is a masterclass on mind-blowing and face shredding.

So this is the film I wanted to see. It kinda feels like one of those wishes where you wish for something, but some asscracked genie or monkey paw kills everyone on Earth because you asked to be the richest man alive. Turns out, I like a lot of things in films besides which other artists it stole from. Like good acting. The acting in this film was fairly disgusting in many scenes. Also, casting. This is some backwoods community and half the characters look like patrons of some french named coffee bar in Williamsburg. I know actors tend to look like actors, but come on. Does the sheriff’s deputy really need an undercut and skinny jeans? Dialogue was also just kinda boring. We are talking about entering a new plane of existence and reanimating the dead and monsters and shit, and I am just fucking yawning. You have to try so hard to make dialogue with that subject matter boring.

Overall, the film’s strengths can really carry the film. And I am definitely buying it on Blu-Ray or a future as-yet-named format and recommending everyone with the same tastes as me go out and see it. All the weaknesses do is frustrate you with how great it could have been. I love the blood and gore and tentacle porn, but when the characters’ emotions don’t match the tension of the scene, it pulls you out of all that horrible shit. I like that horrible shit. I want to sleep in it. Don’t do that.

The Boy

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The Boy (2016) – Horror 

Directed by: William Brent Bell

Starring: Lauren Cohan and Rupert Evans

How I Watched: Streamed on Showtime

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

There are some ideas that are so fucking stupid, they are actually good. Horror tends to be the genre that best collects these gems that make you think, ‘who the fuck thought this would be good?’ The Boy, which came out in 2016, is one of these films. Quite possibly, the most overused trope of the 2000’s in horror was that of the creepy kid. We saw it in The Ring and The Grudge. The 2010’s saw the return of the creepy doll with Annabelle and the remake of Poltergeist. Yes, the creepy kid and creepy doll are tropes that played out in the 70’s and 80’s as well. We live in a recursive culture, you see. Time is a flat circle or some shit. Anyway, the point I am getting to is that The Boy mixes these tropes to seemingly idiotic effect, until the story actually starts evolving.

The film starts with a nanny played by Lauren Cohan who was in The Walking Dead and still might be. I don’t watch that shit. The nanny, Greta, gets some Craigslist job in England where shit is inherently creepy to watch some child. But when she gets there, the spooky unhinged parents reveal that she will in fact be watching a doll that looks like a boy, but is totally inanimate. The design of the wooden figure is actually quite excellent in that it has a blank expression that simultaneously looks both angelic and menacing. Not like Dead Silence (2007) where it fucking grins maniacally throughout, and then everyone is surprised when it turns out evil.

I mean, of course, the situation in The Boy is fucked up, but what the film tries to hint is that maybe it isn’t, and that’s where the film gains strength. Greta indulges the “parents,” complying with what seems to be their grief, as the doll is meant to represent the boy the couple lost in a fire. They eventually leave on an extended holiday (British for vacation), and she is left alone with the doll. She just throws it on a chair and makes herself a peanut butter & jelly sammich, relaxing. This is where shit is kinda weird for me. Being somewhat neurotic, I’d either assume this was some test and I was on CCTV, or that maybe there is some fucked up reason the parents catered so heavily to the doll, and I would just keep acting like it was a real boy. I would probably fail some social experiment about compliance, but fuck it, I am like 20% sure ghosts don’t exist, but like, 20% afraid of everything. Therefore, what can it hurt? Anyway, the negligence gets to be too much for the doll, and it starts moving and shit when she isn’t in the room.

The strength of the film comes from Greta’s reaction to the movement and supposed life of the doll. Not with fear, but amazement. Too often in horror films, we see characters, especially women, respond with terror when confronted by anything outside of the norm. It is refreshing to see someone experimenting with that which is strange. I mean, the film does come with its own brand of “horror,” in that it turns out the movements are made by the actual adult son that is living in the walls. He then tries to kill people because it is a stupid third act, but for a bit of time, the film is curious and energetic, playing against the shit that usually comes from the “haunted house” story.

In many ways, the film is unremarkable, however it is fun to follow, and the inherent creepiness of seeing people treat a doll like a real human gives legs to the uncanny nature of the story. It sounds stupid to recommend a film like this, but if you are in the mood for a horror film that will tingle your interests, but won’t take up too much brain matter, check it out.

The Eyes of My Mother

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The Eyes of My Mother (2016) – Horror 

Directed by: Nicolas Pesce

Starring: Kika Magalhaes and Olivia Bond

How I Watched: Netflix

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

Opening on a sultry black and white shot of some goddamn trees, that is quite possibly the most beautiful shot of trees I have seen outside of a BBC Planet Earth special, The Eyes of My Mother is almost jarring in its simplicity. I had heard a many creepy story of this film, most notably by my mother, who accidentally turned it on one night and sat through the whole thing. “It’s really dark,” she said. She wasn’t fucking kidding. It is a film about solitude and grief’s effect on the human psyche, blatantly starting off with a mother describing to her child the religious ecstasy of Francis of Assisi, canonized in 1228 after receiving the stigmata after years of loneliness. This connection between solitude and violence is a central theme, I think.

The mother and her daughter are seen cutting out the eye of a cow in a scene that seems to pay homage to the 1929 Surrealist film by Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel, Un Chien Andalou, which uses a cow’s eye as stand-in for a woman’s eye, which is stand-in for the way the clouds seem to cut through the moon. But you’ve seen that film. You know what I’m saying.

The mother is a surgeon, or was in Portugal, and is seemingly teaching her young daughter the family craft. Soon, a stranger arrives at the home played amazingly to creeptastic effect by Will Brill, who played that methy prisoner in The OA if you watched that. He smiles and his eyes bulge like a Peter Lorre impressionist. He looks like a fucking evangelist with his white shirt and black slacks, but presents an almost immediately ominous tone. He is an animal and they his prey. They regard him with the same poise and caution one would present a rabid wolf. But by the time the Father arrives, the mother is no more. The discovery of her demise is pitch perfectly played with the camera following the Father and the audience hoping to press the brakes for fear of the barbaric sounds coming from the bathroom. The animal is subdued and like any animal, chained in the barn. Perhaps the Father has more torturous plans for the stranger. Maybe he just doesn’t have the ability to kill another human being. But his daughter steps in, ten years old at the most, and after seeing her Father’s agitation toward his screams for help, the girl decides to cut out the eyes and vocal cords of the creature, but not before he relays to her the secret behind why he kills. Because it feels so good.

The film then follows as the girl, Francisca, is now an adult woman. She is played by Kika Magalhaes in a mixture of intense angst and far-off stares. She is beautiful and slender and sports the jet black hairstyle of Chantal Goya in Masculin Feminin. Her father has died and she still yearns for her mother, while tenderly caring for the blind and mute stranger locked in her barn. The film turns to story of a young monster while she preys on locals in a pursuit to regain the family she has lost. The final impact of her life comes in a gunshot heard from a drone filming above the familial home.

I like this film and would recommend it to anyone, but for reasons outside of it being a great film. It is honestly one of the more stunning hour and twenty minutes you will find within the horror genre. The subject matter is dark and disturbing on every count as you ride along on very stark journey into the mind of a killer. Scenes are complex with many layers and alternative viewpoints to be gleaned. But the story in and of itself doesn’t have much to say. I found myself constantly amazed by what I was watching, yet questioning, what the fuck is the point? Should I just be shocked or is this film saying something outside of the context of the film?

It feels like it relies so much on the momentum of the callous way that Francisca destroys her fellow humans in the search of a connection, that it doesn’t collect anything worth saying about the human condition. The film never stands up for the protagonist or makes excuse for why she acts the ways she does, and in another film, this could be seen as a strong point, but in this one, it feels like a cop out. The entire third act feels rushed and devoid of the very relationship building it needs in order for the audience to feel the full weight of the climax. It just ends.

Ultimately, go see it. Turn it on Netflix and revel in its beauty. Think about it for days but don’t be surprised if you find nothing of value on the other side of all that thinking.

The Fast Franchise: Volume 8 – ‘The Fate of the Furious’

The Fate of the Furious (2017) – Action | Drama

Directed by: F. Gary Gray

Starring: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Vin Diesel

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

So I recently went through and watched and reviewed every Fast and Furious film (go back and check those articles if you are inclined). Now that there is a new F&F flick to whet my tingly parts, I have decided to write a review. This is the first of the series I have seen in the theater and also the first one I have seen sober. F8 is not the best film in the franchise, but it is pretty damn close. That distinction falls to Furious 7, which packed in tons of action and a great plot. It also features a heart-raping final ode to Paul Walker RIP. F8 has a ton of action and the best plot of the series, but is stalled by its two-hour twenty minute runtime.

So the film opens once more with booties and exotic locales as we travel to Havana, Cuba for Dom and Letty’s honeymoon. Dom is approached by a mysterious woman whom we know by the trailer to be the film’s main antagonist, Cipher, played amazingly by Charlize Theron. After this film and Fury Road, and the trailer for the upcoming Atomic Blonde, Theron is proving to be one of Hollywood’s most reliable ass-kicking action stars, and just like Mad Max, she steals the show. She somehow gets Dom to forsake his family, which if you’ve seen any of these films, you know there are like three things Dom loves; fast cars, family, and Corona beer.

So the most inexplicably badass motherfucker in F&F universe has turned on his wife and heist crew for some unknown reason, stealing an EMP and nuke plans for Cipher. Twist time: Dom has a son with Elena from a couple films ago and they are being held hostage and will die if Dom don’t comply (RHYMES ARE BACK!). The final battle set-piece takes place at a frozen sea in Russia and a nuclear submarine and some badass fucking stunts that do make everything the team has endured worth it. Dom must not only save his son and ex-lover, but save the world from a cyber terrorist. He succeeds.

The casting in this film is top-fucking-notch. Theron is a dream. Kurt Russell is back in Jack Burton form with sly smiles and amazing one-liners. Scott Eastwood is an excellent addition to the team, playing Russell’s assistant. The old standbys return as well; Tyrese is at his most hilarious in all the films. Jason Statham returns, working with the team in order to save his brother from some black site prison. His banter with The Rock is truly a highlight. Helen Mirren plays the foul-mouthed mother of Deckard Shaw and is beautiful in the role. F. Gary Gray gets the best acting out of the whole series in this one and his camera work is fun and fluid, leading to some truly magnificent sequences.

The action is really one of the let downs in this one, however. While the fight scenes are well choreographed and the final act of the film delights endlessly, there is a bit of a slog getting to this point. The plot is captivating, but not mindblowing enough to make up for action sequences we have seen in previous installments in the series. Overall, definitely check out the film. It is a solid flick worth seeing, but realize that there is better fare out in the franchise. 

Sloppy Saturdays: Volume 3 – ‘Arachnophobia’

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What is ‘Sloppy Saturdays’?

I realized that I own over 300 movies, many of which I have not watched a second time. Whether on Blu-Ray, DVD, or the legendary LaserDisc, I have a lot of films I need to watch again. So, I’ve decided I should probably go through these and justify why I own them, and perhaps, why you should too. I put them all into a database and will randomly mix them up once a week. Come back every Saturday for a new review. 

-Nick, Editor of CinemAbysmal

 

Sloppy Saturdays – Volume Three

Arachnophobia (1990) – Comedy |Thriller

Directed by: Frank Marshall

Starring: Jeff Daniels and John Goodman

Format I Own: LaserDisc

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Synopsis

Arachnophobia begins like a lot of other movies in the ’90’s: Big city doctor (Jeff Daniels) moves to a small town with the intention of taking over the town’s only medical practice. Little does he know, a spider-bitten corpse from Venezuela was just dropped off and the carcass brought a huge and aggressive, 8-legged freak with him. Somehow, this baseball mitt-sized tarantula mates with a spider in this tiny farm town, and soon all Gremlinsesque hell breaks loose.

What I Love

I think love might be too strong of a word to describe how I feel about this movie, but I did love it as a kid and it’s definitely got some nostalgic value to it. By no means, though, is it a great movie. The effects are dated, they tried really hard to make it funny, which comes off as unnatural, and it’s hard to have Jeff Daniels carry your movie. Every scene with John Goodman is pretty damn good, but really, there’s not quite enough. The musical score is goofy as all hell, as well. But really, if you saw this as a kid, you’ll probably enjoy it merely for nostalgic reasons like I did.

My Favorite Scene

For almost the entire movie, Marshall and crew dog hard on this couple that really likes food. This guy is the town mortician and is constantly eating Ruffles around the corpses, and at a dinner party, he and his wife take full paper plates of food home. Well, when it’s time for the outbreak of spiders upon the town, one climbs into a disgustingly buttery bowl of popcorn that the portly couple is eating out of while watching Wheel of Fortune. It’s standard ‘it’s funny ’cause he’s fat’ fodder, but I still enjoyed it, especially when the murdering spider crawls out of the mortician’s nose after killing him.

 

What You Might Not Like

I think based on the title, it’s pretty obvious why a lot of people would not be able to handle this film. From the beginning, the spiders are big, they’re aggressive, and their actions play on everyone’s basic fears of spiders that bite. While watching, I admittedly lifted my feet off the floor a few times in momentary fear of some scuttling beings. They hiss, they jump and fly through the air, they have dripping, black fangs and they really couldn’t be more frightening.

How You Can Watch

  • Rent for $2.99 on Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu

 

Final Score: 2.5/4

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Similar Films: Gremlins, The Mist, Eight Legged Freaks

Sloppy Saturdays: Volume 2 – ‘Junior’

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What is ‘Sloppy Saturdays’?

I realized that I own over 300 movies, many of which I have not watched a second time. Whether on Blu-Ray, DVD, or the legendary LaserDisc, I have a lot of films I need to watch again. So, I’ve decided I should probably go through these and justify why I own them, and perhaps, why you should too. I put them all into a database and will randomly mix them up once a week. Come back every Saturday for a new review. 

-Nick, Editor of CinemAbysmal

 

Sloppy Saturdays – Volume Two

Junior (1994) – Comedy | Absolutely Insane

Directed by: Ivan Reitman

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Format I Own: LaserDisc

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Synopsis

OK. Bare with me. Junior is about Arnold Schwarzenegger, who plays some kind of scientist that deals in pregnancies, with his OBGYN partner Frank Reynol…Danny DeVito (if you’re not already gagging at the thought of this, you might need to reevaluate your life) in San Francisco. They create a drug that supposedly induces healthy pregnancies in women after they tested it on chimps or some shit, but the FDA turns them down and they lose their funding. It’s basically the setup for Ghostbusters, but about two dudes that want to get women pregnant instead of chasing spectral entities through New York. Anyway, DeVito convinces Schwarzenegger that he should carry the baby in some kind of abdominal cavity, sans anything that would biologically allow a baby to grow or thrive, but yeah. Guess what happens by the end of the movie?

What I Love

I have absolutely no reservations in calling this movie a huge fucking turd. Honestly, it’s an insult to film and really should never have been made. That being said, I love and respect a lot of what Ivan Reitman has done as a director, and most are allowed their misfires (I’m looking at you, Tom McCarthy’s The Cobbler). Reitman is responsible for GhostbustersMeatballsStripes, and more. However, he’s also at fault for a lot of shit, so whatever.

If you saw 1988’s Twins (also with Schwarzenegger and DeVito), well, you know what you’re getting. So in a way, this falls along the same lines as that film and his other Schwarzenegger-helmed flick, Kindergarten Cop. This movie has an absolutely fucking batshit plot in which a god damn baby grows inside of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscly abs. If you don’t love that a movie was made strictly around that nuthouse premise, you need to learn how to enjoy this weird thing called reality. Because, guess what? This movie actually, really exists.

My Favorite Scene

About 80 minutes into the film (yes, this shit factory is nearly two hours long), Arnold goes full drag at about eight months pregnant. He and DeVito show up at some kind of compound for expecting mothers to find shelter from the evil dicks at the college that want to steal her…er, his baby away from him as it was experimental, so belongs to them. At this point, the estrogen has completely taken hold of Arnold and he and DeVito hug as the James Newton Howard score intensifies. He even starts speaking like a woman, and it’s so insultingly bad, I couldn’t help but giggle like a little kid.

THEN, holy shit. A god damned montage in which Arnold does Lamas and races other pregnant women down stairs and cries to doctors and shovels food into his mouth. It is so spectacularly out of control and really saved this movie for me.

 

What You Might Not Like

What really bothered me about the film was my now current familiarity with perhaps Danny DeVito’s most iconic character in his career: Frank Reynolds from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Now, I realize this film was made in 1994, but holy shit, all I can think about is Frank alone in a room with a woman doing gawd knows what down there, and it just does not work. Other than that, the film really is just shit. Arnold is practically yawning the whole film and the story is laughable, at best. I couldn’t imagine watching this with anyone that had a trace of a Medical education or even faintly studied Biology. It’s so ridiculous.

Honestly, the last time I watched this movie was over 20 years ago. I remembered liking it, so swooped up the LaserDisc copy and have just had it sitting there for years. Will I watch it again? Eh, maybe? If I want to show someone how not to make a movie, I’ll definitely show them this. But did I enjoy it again? Oh, hell no.

How You Can Watch

  • Streaming on HBO Now as of 04/07/2017
  • Rent for $2.99 on Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu

 

Final Score: 1.5/4

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Similar Films: Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Any Movie that a Dude is Pregnant in…

The Fast Franchise: Volume 7 – ‘Furious 7’

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Furious 7 (2015) – Action | Drama

Directed by: James Wan

Starring: Paul Walker RIP and Vin Diesel

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

So I mentioned in the past, The Fast & Furious tends to have a formula that has become a bit stale. Nothing that a new director can’t fix. Furious 7 brings on James Wan to replace Justin Lin, and he brings on the fucking pain. Not only is Furious 7 the best of the franchise, it is easily one of the best action films I have ever seen. James Wan ups the action and films some of the most giddyingly experimental shots I have ever seen. Again, these films feel built around high action stunts and this one does not disappoint with every scene relying on tension.

The plot is simple enough, with Jason Statham coming on as the brother of Luke Evans who wants to avenge his brother, who now rests in a coma. He is a super awesome rogue British operative who has decided to wage war on the Torretto clan. We got Dom still trying to seduce an amnesiac Letty and Brian still trying to come to terms with his role as a father. The Rock is attacked by Statham early in the film and breaks his arm and leg in a fall from a building onto a vehicle, and you know that moment they put the cast on The Rock, how that motherfucker is coming off. So this random fucking government agency led by Kurt Russell in his coolest role since Death Proof asks the Torretto team to recover a hacker who has hidden a device called The God’s Eye, which is essentially Eagle Eye from the Eagle Eye movie; a device which composites all digital surveillance devices (CCTVs and Iphones). If they recover it for the government, the government in turn will let them use it to track and kill Statham. Actually a cool fucking plot comparatively. They recover the device and lose it again in an ambush by Statham and return to LA to recover it. How the fuck do you beat The God’s Eye, a device you can’t escape from? Well, if you are fast and/or furious, you outrun it (and hack it). The Rock returns flexing his arm which causes the cast to break then proceeds to fly an ambulance into a drone!   

Cameos abound in this one. We get a creepy call back to Sean from Tokyo Drift that is supposed to take place immediately after the events of the third film, despite the fact that the actor has aged almost ten years since. Ronda Rousey plays a bodyguard that speaks like a statue learning to play a sassy black lady, but is very cool in the fight scenes. This is a film that feels like a cultural event, adding as many well known celebs as possible. It feels like they are taking a page out of The Expendables book, but rounding out the action in a way reminiscent of super spy thrillers like MI:Whatever, instead of campy 80’s bullet slingers.

Let’s get back to the stunts. There is seriously a scene in which Paul Walker RIP is inside a bus edging off a cliff. He ends up on top of it as it starts to teeter downward and he must run the full length of the tilting bus and jump off, only to catch the spoiler of Letty who is Tokyo-fucking-drifting around the edge of the cliff in order to catch him. So that’s awesome, and then they try to steal a car from the penthouse of a high rise and when shit hits the fan, they drive the car out the window into another skyscraper next door. When the brakes go out, they drive the car through that window and into ANOTHER skyscraper. Holy fuck. Seriously, check this movie out.

So on a somber note, this is the film that was in production when Paul Walker RIP passed. They apparently had to finish up his scenes with his two brothers as stand-ins, which is very noticeable in certain shots with that shitty CGI facial shit they do. They also had to rewrite an ending that had Brian decide to be a father instead of continuing to do Torretto missions. There is a sappy goodbye which is clearly intended for Walker RIP, and not Brian (cause everyone in the film lives next door to each other). It was a nice touch. I talked a lot of shit about Walker RIP, especially in early reviews, but as the series continued, Walker RIP became a highlight. I teared up. My wife all out bawled. But I can seriously say that Brian and Walker RIP’s absence will be felt throughout subsequent films.

Thank you for following me on this strange journey and be sure to check out Fate of the Furious when it hits theaters April 14th.