Goon Review: The Devil’s Dolls (2016)

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks for the warning on this one, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 😉 xoxo)

I’ve talked about cliches before and that sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it can make a film seem like it’s been photocopied from several other things that did the same thing, giving it a very stale taste. It can make a film so bland and uninspired that you barely notice the film and only see the things you’ve seen several dozen times before. That’s what The Devil’s Dolls is. Even though the core concept of the film is interesting, it’s the same film you’ve seen from major studios time and time again and considering this is an independent feature, I’m kinda surprised the film didn’t take any liberties and just played it safe.

Right from the very first moment, you get the feeling you’ve seen this all before. I mean, how many times have you seen a skinny white girl in a tank top tied up and tortured? Far too many. I actually let out an audible groan and rolled my eyes and the only reason I kept watching was because it’s my job. Then I thought, “Well, maybe it’ll get better. Maybe something different will happen,” but nope. Not really. The film then cuts to a serial killer named Henry as he mumbles to some worry dolls and places them inside a wooden box as his captive girl struggles to get free, just in time as he picks up a large gas powered drill and chases her. Aren’t these scenes usually at the end of the movie? It feels like we stepped into a generic modern slasher during the last fifteen minutes. She comes across a cop who of course doesn’t listen to her warnings about leaving immediately and continues on with what he’s saying. It’s like he’s having a conversation with himself and this trope is absolutely frustrating and the only reason this scene exists is to throw in the film’s only really gory moment as he gets drilled through the head. Just as Henry is about to drill this unnamed girl, he’s gunned down by hard boiled Detective Matt off screen that wasn’t there a moment ago and saves her. Already, I feel like I’ve sat through this entire movie. Without seeing the rest of the movie, I can tell you all about these characters.

 

Matt should be celebrating that he just gunned down the serial killer he’s been chasing for years, but he’s not. The job has cost him his marriage and he now drinks and sits in his office, staring at the wall looking lost. You know, typical cop movie stuff. Another thing he does is not really follow police procedures. Rather than have the crime scene investigators haul the wooden box of worry dolls into evidence, Matt just tosses that shit in the back seat of his car which his daughter Chloe ends up taking to her mother’s antique store. Chloe decides to make these worry dolls into her jewelry and wears one herself and instantly becomes pale skinned and seemingly sick. Conveniently for everyone else in the movie and the plot Chloe happens to suffer from epilepsy, so they just pass it off as that. Even after she stabs the family dog to death and winds up at the hospital when she becomes unresponsive, they blame it on her illness. I wasn’t aware that random acts of murder was a side effect of epilepsy.

A young adult whose girlfriend bought him one of Chloe’s worry doll necklaces also goes pale and randomly murders a gas station attendant. Matt is called to the scene, because this case bears a striking resemblance to the one he thought he just closed; a similar marking or drawing that Henry left behind during his crimes. During his investigation, Matt believes that the victim must have had contact with Henry, but his investigation leads him to an old voodoo woman who wants the box, but Henry must first find all the worry dolls and place them back inside the box before sundown. This timeframe is suddenly thrown on you, seeing as how one or two nights have already passed, but the story desperately feels the need to make this seem urgent.

I think I may have just narrowed down the plot a little too much, which has even surprised me, but the more I think about it, there isn’t anything much else to say about the film. I mean, think of most horror movie and cop movie cliches and there ya go. That’s this movie. As the film draws near the end and they are trying hard to making it seem more tense than it actually is, the twists and suspenseful moments that it throws at you can be seen coming a mile away, so it’s very uneffective. I feel like I’m going in circles here, struggling to find something to talk about, but it’s such an unmemorable film that nothing stuck with me… and I just watched it last night and even took notes. I guess I could mention the characters, since I haven’t really talked about them, but they have no chemistry together. They even try the nickname game, always calling each other “buddy,” “Chlo” or what have you, but it comes off as a group of people that just met and feel uncomfortable being around each other and awkwardly and forcefully trying to strike up a conversation.

If there are any positives to take away from The Devil’s Dolls it’s that the performances are actually pretty decent, especially considering there is a child actor who must be possessed and the special effects aren’t half bad. I say half bad because the majority of it is slashed throats and blood spraying, as if the special effects person was only talented at just that effect and didn’t want to step out of their comfort zone. It’s an unfortunate shame, since the head drilling scene at the beginning was pretty cool. I guess you get your big effect out of the way in the first several minutes, hook in the audience and they’ll keep watching thinking they’ll get more of that. Hey, Scanners did something similar, except that movie was phenomenal. It’s kind of a shocker that Scream Factory of all companies released this movie on Blu-ray. I can’t recall if there were any special features included or not, although I can’t imagine you would want to check them out and at a $20 price tag, it’s probably best to skip this one. However, it is on Netflix if you get curious and I noticed it had about a one star rating. Now I know why.

I can’t say that The Devil’s Dolls was a bad film, it’s just not that interesting. It’s not unwatchable, it’s just forgettable. Nothing sticks out and I found myself very bored and since the movie is incredibly predictable, it’s like jumping forward into the future and having seen it before you actually do. I didn’t hate the film. I just don’t care about it.

 

Movie Review: Fantastic Four (by Adam)

(Big ol’ Thank You, Ho-mie Hugs to Adam for this “Not Ho-rror but Suck It” submission. 🙂 xoxoxo)

“Four young outsiders teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy.” (Fox)

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Fantastic Four is the last comic book superhero film of 2015. What that means, is that we are one step closer to seeing Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. If you look on any site that tracks movie reviews, you’ll see that Josh Trank’s reimagining of Marvel’s first family is getting critically panned. Some make it seem like its worse than 1997’s Batman & Robin, or the Halle Berry Catwoman. Those two films are the epitome of film excrement in my opinion, and having seen Fantastic Four, I can’t fathom how anyone would put it in league with those two atrocities. There were elements that I really liked, and elements I really didn’t like. So let’s go through them.

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I really loved that our four heroes were scientific adventurers and explorers. That is a core essential element of Stan Lee’s original creation, which was glossed over in the previous iteration of the film franchise. One of my favourite comic book runs is the Ultimate Fantastic Four. So I was extremely pleased to see the influence of these comic books on this movie. Those influences include the trans-dimensional teleportation, the more youthful representation, Franklin Storm’s increased role, and the government’s involvement with the scientific projects at the Baxter Building. Seeing Reed and Ben Grimm grow up together allowed for their friendship to be believable. Miles Teller and Jamie Bell worked well off of one another. Also, Franklin Storm being the mentor and father figure to these four individuals highlights the familial theme, which again I never bought into in the Tim Story films. By the way, fans freaked out when Michael B. Jordan and Kate Mara were cast opposite each other. I didn’t notice or care about the racial difference from the start, but the minute they mentioned that Sue was adopted, I completely bought into it. The trans dimensional travel offered a believable explanation for the cause, and manifestation of the F4’s powers. When they are in the alternate dimensions, doors on the teleportation device won’t close. As the mysterious green lava kicks up debris into each chamber. The varying debris is specific, leading to the various powers that manifest. That coupled with the transportation, and the energy the device emits gives the quartet their powers.

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The scene where their powers start manifesting looks far less cartoony. In fact, the whole sequence plays out a bit like something out of a horror film. Each character has a panic attack of sorts. Reed’s stretch is particularly grotesque. I felt the worst for Ben Grimm though. His reaction was played like a mix of a panic attack with claustrophobia. Once the team gets their powers, the entire movie is too brisk for its own good. A wasted opportunity came in the relationships between Sue, Johnny, and Franklin. It was hinted that Johnny resented his father for treating Sue and his students better than him. Rather than see this through, the film seemingly has this plot point disappear. Despite this, I thought Kate Mara, did great in her role. Sue was strong, and smart, an equal to Reed in intelligence. That was great to see. Michael B, Jordan, had the cockiness, and attitude. It was a quiet cockiness and attitude. His performance was serviceable but didn’t stand out. Here’s one of the few things the original films did better; Chris Evans was a fantastic (pun intended) Johnny Storm/Human Torch. Granted Chris Evans is a New England Patriots fan, so of course he’s a great Johnny Storm. New England Patriots fans are great in general. (AGREED Xs 1,000,000!!!! -D.P. :))

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(Sorry…I had to. Back to biz now. 😉 xo -DP)

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I really like the approach the creative team and actor Toby Kebbell took with Victor Von Doom. He helped fund the trans dimensional project and was smart enough and in the thick of it scientifically. His animosity and eventual turn to villainy comes about because of his distrust of the military appropriating, and taking the trans dimensional teleportation device. His lust and desire for power and notoriety is present, by urging Reed, and Johnny to go to the alternate dimension before the government can co-opt the project and take credit for any potential discovery. I even like the explanation of his armor and mask. He fell off a cliff into the green lava in the alternate dimension, causing his containment suit to melt and fuse with his body. I thought it was a good way to distinguish this film from the other films. I though he even looked menacing and creepy! His debut as Dr. Doom was great. It was very creepy, and the way he killed the doctors and military personnel was horror-esque. My problems with Dr. Doom come in the form of his powers. Apparently he can control things with his mind. He also has energy blasts. The problem with this, is we never understand the how and why’s of his powers. Furthermore, it annoyed me how he was an expert on how to use his powers, despite being alone on Planet Zero, or whatever this movie decided to call the Negative Zone!

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Now, let’s turn our attention to the action and visual effects. Regarding action, there virtually is none. Aside from a brief shot of Johnny in full flame mode chasing a drone, an equally brief scene involving Reed taking on soldiers in a forest, and the final fight with Doom that is. So technically there are 3, but seeing as they’re all so short, they add up to about one big set piece. This film could have helped itself by including scenes of the team adjusting and learning to use their powers. This would have made the film flow better, and added some excitement. Instead, the creative team stupidly decided on jumping forward a year, and showing them in full control of their powers. Did the studio forget that superhero films require a certain amount of action? I get that with origin films you need to go through plenty of exposition, but you still need action. There are a plethora of superhero films that have the same amount of explaining to do, but they still have plenty of action. And to take out the “coping and adjusting to powers scene”, a staple of superhero films I love, is blasphemy. The visual effects, when actually employed, looked very good. I already mentioned Reed’s elasticity. This film proved without doubt, that the combo of CGI and motion capture is the way to go for The Thing. He looked great, and Jamie Bell sold the performance with his movement and his eyes. The voice sounded good. Slight voice modulation was used, but they didn’t go overboard with it. Honestly, Johnny Storm engulfed in flames, didn’t look too different from the 2005 version, but I never had a problem with that the first time around. Sue Storms invisibility was handled much better visually, and seeing her levitate the whole team, minus Johnny in her force field looked cool.

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If my review seems all over the place with positive commentary and negative commentary, that’s because it mirrors the film. For the first half of the film, we were watching something leaning towards the sci-fi genre with a sprinkling of the horror genre thrown in. Then the film suddenly becomes a truly generic superhero film that can’t stand out amongst the bevy of great superhero movies out there. Word is that Fox micro managed this filmed to death, and hijacked the film in the editing bay. When you see the tonal shift once the Fantastic Four get their powers, these claims become validated. Despite my several problems, I found quite a bit of good in this film. Though, with the horde of negative reviews, and pitiful box-office numbers, I can’t see Fox taking another crack at this. Here’s what I see happening. Fox will sell the movie rights to Fantastic 4 back to Marvel, in exchange for the green light to go ahead with Fox’s planned X-Men live action TV series. Marvel will then take the Fantastic Four to television via ABC or Netflix. Given the tone of the Fantastic Four, ABC would be a good fit. And seeing the visual effects The Flash pulls off every week, Marvel’s first family could definitely work as a live action television series.