Movie Review – Annabelle: Creation

(Submitted by Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks for the insight, freaky friend! 🙂 xoxo)

(Spoilers, obvi. :))

I just love a good amusement park spook ho-use. If you frequent this site, you likely share that sentiment (and also, THANK YOU, YOU ROCK! 😉 -DP). Spook houses are always immensely popular during the Halloween season, and a good few scare up some good business year-round. They have haunted us since at least 1915, utilizing the same reliable scare tactics for decades. You know the ones I mean… flashing colored lights, hanging sand bags masquerading as the dead, and actors in fright masks jumping from out of a dark corner to deliver a well-timed “BOO”. Most of these attractions employ these ancient tricks, but some do It with more imagination and skill than others. Haunting a house is art like any other.
The same applies to cinematic hauntings. 2014’s Annabelle is pretty mediocre fright fare.  By no means is the film terrible, but it’s out of the mind as soon as you’re out of the theater. All of the classical tools of terror are present, but they aren’t harnessed to their full potential. However, Annabelle: Creation is a fantastic spook house, with similar jolts handled with greater style and a keen eye for horror. There’s hardly anything new about it, but it is perfectly frightful.
As one can deduce from its title, Annabelle: Creation is an origin story of sorts. After the untimely death of their little girl, a toy maker and his wife allow an unknown entity to transpose its essence into one of the toy maker’s dolls, believing it to be the spirit of their daughter. Unfortunately, the entity is not their daughter and is demonic in nature. Twelve years after entrapping the unholy abomination, the couple provide shelter in their home for a nun and six young girls. When one of the girls unwittingly releases the demon, unearthly horrors target the inhabitants of the house in a most ghastly fashion.

Backstories for monsters and madmen can be a tricky business. Horrific beasts  run the risk of losing their ability to inspire fear when they are known to us. Thankfully, this film avoids that by keeping the demon vague and the threat credible. While there aren’t buckets of blood being dumped about, grisly imagery is still abound. My personal favorite bit of macabre madness involves scarecrow that truly understands the first 5 letters of his title.  Of course, Mr. Scarecrow is just one of many eldritch monstrosities that lurk in the shadows of this picture. There’s a horror for all tastes here.

The cast is all-around excellent, but the true stars are young actresses Lulu Wilson and Talitha Bateman. Wilson and Bateman play sisters and they work off of each other in extraordinary fashion. Their performances are a huge part of why this film works so well. Having appeared in this, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Deliver Us from Evil, I’m willing to call 11-year-old Lulu Wilson the world’s youngest Scream Queen. As for Bateman, her performance is truly haunting and to say anymore would ruin the fun.
Annabelle: Creation is an old-fashioned yelp-yarn that proves that the old tricks still have power in the right claws. It is the rare sequel that surpasses the original so completely that one almost forgets that it is a sequel. For lovers of spooks and shock, this film is a beautiful nightmare. This is how you haunt a house.


The Dark Tower Review

(Submitted with utmost sincerity by Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie…As a Stephen King fangirl, I didn’t want to touch this one!! 😉 xoxo)

I’ve not read a single book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.  At best, I have passing familiarity with the basics. However, I am aware of the enormity of its fanbase and the lofty expectations thrust upon this particular picture. For a good many years, Hollywood had attempted to bring this towering (Pun very much intended) series to the cinema, with the project being shuffled from one filmmaker/studio to another.  With each crumb of new information offered on the project, fans expressed extreme excitement. After many false-starts and failed attempts, the film was finally made. And it is because of this wait that my heart goes out to all the Dark Tower fans. Even in my vast ignorance of the series, I can tell that this is not the Dark Tower film readers were clamoring for.

As a man simply looking for a good time at the movies, I wasn’t entirely displeased. The film had some small delights to offer and was mostly competent. Sure, it was riddled with cliche, but that’s something I can stomach. For the casual viewer, this film might be a pleasantly forgettable romp. It’s a lean, mean fantasy adventure with a few thrills and chills to offer, if nothing truly special. But audiences expected more from this material, and I certainly don’t blame them for doing so. When you’re drawing from a story told in eight volumes, a 95 minute film just isn’t  likely to do the trick.
From what I’ve gathered, the movie picks bits and pieces from various books in the series for its plot. I’ve also heard it said it that, outside of those cherry-picked elements, has very little to do with the series.  As it is, the film’s plot concerns the last Gunslinger and his quest for revenge the Man in Black,  a devilish sorcerer out to destroy existence. The Gunslinger is joined by Jake, a young man with the gift of the “Shine”, first seen in King’s The Shining. With The Gunslinger’s skill and Jake’s Shine, they must stop the mad magician before it’s too late.

The primary reason to watch this film are for the performances by the actors. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t allow them to utilize their full potential, but they’re still rather good. Idris Elba is always a fantastic addition to any film and his gruff demeanor suits the Gunslinger well. Tom Taylor as the young Jake is very likable and his performance brings to mind some of the great family fantasies of the ’80s. Matthew McConaughey steals the show with a hammy portrayal of evil that’s delicious in its daffy depiction of deviltry.

The Dark Tower is far from the epic people had hoped for. As agreeable popcorn nonsense, it’s perfectly serviceable. As an adaptation, I feel that fans will likely be disappointed. However, a TV series is still in development, so perhaps that will put the franchise back on the right trail. Let’s hope that the Gunslinger’s next ride is a glorious one.

Goon Review: Antibirth (2016)

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-meboy!! 😉 xoxo)

Very few movies will leave me feeling left in the middle of the road, meaning I’m not entirely sure if I liked it or disliked it or the film just happened to have a really good scene or two that I thoroughly enjoyed. Welcome to that short list, Antibirth, a film released in the conjunction of IFC Midnight and Scream Factory, who I both love, but between this and The Devil’s Dolls I am seriously considering their judgement of the films they are releasing. Alright, maybe I’m being a little hard on Antibirth, I mean, it’s not like I hate the movie, but I was incredibly disappointed by it. After saying that, I should point out that it’s not ineptly made or stupid, it just wasn’t what I was expecting and seemed to move at a snail’s pace and I found it hard to keep my interest.

I know I talk about slow burns, movies that take their time setting up a plot, a lot of times, but Antibirth takes its sweet time getting there. I seriously think it was about halfway through the movie before I noticed any resemblance of a plot. Not that the film was confusing, mind you, but at multiple times I asked myself, “what the hell am I watching?” Not in a confused kind of way, but why I’m supposed to take long scenes of nothing but a stoner getting wasted interesting. It’s not all interesting as there are a few scenes that are noteworthy, but they are so far and few inbetween that it’s hard to recommend a movie just for a scene or two.

Natasha Lyonne plays the trashy, party monster Lou, and on a side note, it took me several moments to realize that this was the disco chick from Detroit Rock City. I gotta say, it does not look like she has aged a day in nearly twenty years. She kinda plays the same character (or maybe it’s just the Jersey accent throwing me off), except dirtier and trashier which is somehow more sexy. Then again, I’ve always had a thing for Natasha Lyonne. Anyway, Lou spends her days drinking, doing drugs, whatever it takes to get high. She occasionally refers to her father who apparently lost it during the Vietnam War and it’s alluded to that he killed himself, but this or what effect it had on Lou is never really explored. It’s brought up and dropped a few times, but nothing comes of it other than maybe this is why she is constantly in an altered state. Lou is not by far a likable character. When she isn’t doing drugs, she’s a foul mouthed chain smoker who eats pizza out of the garbage and lives in a hoarders dream trailer. It’s like she’s trying to be a cartoon version of a Rob Zombie character and honestly speaking, I didn’t want to spend a whole movie with this character, as she has no redeemable qualities and from what you will see in the movie, you have to wonder why she was chosen to be the center. To be fair, it does fit into the plot. There is a reason given to why we are following her, but at no point do I really want to. Lou wakes up one day with no recollection of what happened the previous night, which is what we see in flashy quick cuts wherein a shifty looking bearded man is leading her away from the party, where we can only think the unimaginable will happen.

Along with her friend Sadie (Chloe Sevigny), they try to get to the root of the problem, which is seemingly a pregnancy only there is one minor little problem; Lou claims that she hasn’t had sex in a really long time, after an abortion about a year ago and if you were worrying that the film wouldn’t show it, well let me ease your doubts. It’s a pretty disgusting scene, which I am sure some of you will get a kick out of. Figuring out with Lou is just a stop in this sideshow. It’s mentioned here and there, but the film would rather show you more scenes of her getting drunk and Sadie bitching at her for it. Along the way, Lou happens upon a mysterious woman, Lorna, played by Meg Tilly who looks like a combination of Winona Ryder and Charlie Heaton’s characters from Stranger Things. Lorna seems to have some answers, but Lou is resistant and goes about her debauchery lifestyle until further in the film when she tracks Lou down in her trailer and talks about her past with the Army and how she became a clairvoyant. Finally during the final act, things pick up and Lorna and Lou are on the path to realization that what may by inside Lou may not be human, especially seeing as she is growing in size rapidly. They track down Lou’s friends and Sadie’s ex-Marine drug dealing boyfriend to solve this riddle, which I won’t spoil just incase you want to check out the movie. I will say that it’s quite interesting, but unfortunately getting there takes a lot of patience and sitting through various subplots that barely tie together.

Antibirth is as if writer/director Danny Perez wanted to mimic the drug fueled, nightmare inducing style of Terry Gilliam with hints of a grungy David Fincher mystery and the trailer trash characters and dialogue of Rob Zombie while trying to make the birthing scene from Xtro, but got lost in just letting the camera run about a girl getting stoned and talking about nothing and the shift in tone between performances and tone make the movie feel confused. It’s not sure what it wants to be, so it’s hoping to use the drug fueled theme as a mask and play it off to be cool. At times it feels like it’s supposed to be body horror, other times it feels a bit sci-fi and then there is a mix of a stoner drama. There’s nothing wrong with mixing genres, Antibirth just feels muddled while it’s trying to decide what it’s trying to do and this shows with the actor’s performance. Natasha Lyonne seems to be in a comedy, while the supporting cast is in some kind of serious drama, then Meg Tilly steps in and almost crosses the line into campy territory.

As I’ve stated, I don’t think it’s a poorly made film. In fact, Danny Perez does seem to have an eye to tell the story, but I don’t think he quite understood how to tell it. There are several subplots to the overall story, none of which tie together really well and some seemingly drop out altogether only to be brought up again later, far after the point where I forgot about it. I could also mention the special effects that are done really well, minus the notable CG parts and offer up a pretty tripping viewing, especially when they are watching commercials or at a Chucky Cheeze style pizza place where people in furry animal-esque costumes dance around, mostly in front of lava lamp looking backgrounds. Another good thing about the film is the pop and punk rock soundtrack that I’m sure the targeted audience will get a kick out of.

As I mentioned in the beginning of the review, the film was released by Scream Factory in conjunction with IFC Midnight, who up until recently, I’ve been questioning their decisions. Possibly looking for new and different films for their audience, to which I can’t begrudge them for. The Blu-ray has a few special features, like shorts, storyboards and a trailer. Not much to really justify a $20 price tag, but some people may dig the film for what it is. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’m that target audience, as much as I do love seeing Natasha Lyonne. Surprised there’s not even a commentary track, as I think director Danny Perez really could have shed some light on the movie.
If I were to sum up Antibirth, it’s an 80 minute set up to a ten minute joke. I don’t mean the film itself is a joke, but rather the film takes a long, long time drawn out time getting to the punchline that does pay off, but doesn’t make the journey worth the trip. To make a more accurate comparison, the movie is like that really immature friend you had in highschool and you don’t see them for ten years and then out of the blue, they call you to hang out. You go over there and they are still the same. Living in a mess, getting wasted and just acting like they don’t care. It’s no longer cool and you feel uncomfortable, so you are just waiting for the appropriate time to leave.