Entries in Horror (93)

Monday
Feb272017

Get Out- review

 

“Get Out” (2017)

Directed by Jordan Peele

Starring Daniel Kaluuya,  Allison Williams,  Bradley Whitford

Running Time 103 Minutes, Rated R.

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

There is nothing like a very good horror film to tap into the focused mistreatment of a wronged group or a social dynamic that has been broken in some way.  Whether it be man's controlling of women in “Stepford Wives” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, or South Korea’s passivity to the U.S.A’s bullying in “The Host”, or the rampant Reagan era consumerism in Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead”, these films were spot on with a minority’s view toward their abuse and were damn good scary thrillers on their own.  You can now add Jordan Peele (yes, Peele from the spot on sketch comedy “Key & Peele”) to the list with his racially charged horror/comedy masterstroke “Get Out”.

There's outright hatred racism where a person is attacked only for the color of their skin and that’s how “Get Out” begins as a young black man is snatched up by a masked man who pulls up in a blinding white corvette. Then there’s the ‘thinly veiled’ racism that confuses that when we elected President Obama racism was cured in America.  Ala passive aggressive racism that I saw the other day where at my job a fellow employee who swears not to have anything against black people couldn’t understand why so many blacks were nominated for Oscars this year.  Like this only happened to make up for last years political protests instead of there just being plenty of great contributions from black people in the industry.  It’s that kind of racism that is hiding around every corner for a black person that must make America feel like a real horror film, and that’s where this film truly scares the ‘same colored shit as everyone else on this planet’ out of me. 

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is a black photographer who is doing so well with his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) that it’s time to meet her parents.  With growing trepidation he asks her if her parents know that he’s black.  She laughs off the question saying her father will tell him that he would have voted for President Obama a third term if possible..and he does.  They drive off to her parents house in a tucked away very white suburbia off the lake and even though little insensitivities come along in meeting Rose’s parents (played excellently by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) his reserved demeanor shrugs them off.  

While Rose’s father explains away why they have a black maid and a black gardener, Chris can’t help but notice how odd their demeanor comes off.  More and more Chris shrugs off the signs until the warnings become unshruggable and the horror takes hold.  Peele will have the morally afflicted angered in this film but he will also have the horror fan freaked out.  His tonal shifts are perfect, his editing is so acute, and his actors are so finely tuned that “Get Out” fires on all cylinders.  Don’t want to give anymore away than that but please, ‘get in’ line for this film.      

1 John 2:9

 

Friday
Feb242017

Split- review

 

“Split” (2017)

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Starring James McAvoy,  Anya Taylor-Joy,  Haley Lu Richardson

Running Time 117 Minutes, Rated PG13

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

I held a glimmer of hope for the longest time and then that glimmer had faded.  M. Night Shyamalan was all but dead to me, like “Kevin Smith” dead to me.  After the amazing “The Sixth Sense”, the super underappreciated “Unbreakable”, and the flawed but still very good “Signs”, M. Night’s production value started going south and fast.  To this day, “The Last Airbender” is the only film I’ve given zero stars to, and I consider it the worst the film of all time that I have ever seen.  But then came 2015’s “The Visit”.  It had Shyamalan’s underlying social commentary and was used to be the underlining story propellant while the horror/mystery was the primary, making it a darn fine “B” genre movie.  

 

Shyamalan’s latest, “Split” is also of the “B” movie cloth and totally in a good way.  If you’re gonna do a “B” movie it’s imperative to have some “A” casting and Shyamalan has that with the talented James McAvoy.  Here as a man with 23 separate diagnosed split personalities, McAvoy is utterly tremendous.  Such separation from one personality to the next, it is a different fully realized persona but just under the hood of one actor.  “Split” starts off with one of McAvoy’s personalities abducting three teenagers; Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Witch”), Haley Lu Richardson (“The Young Kieslowski”), and Jessica Sula.  Barricaded and held against their will, the three young ladies are promised that they are going to witness something special, the introduction of The Beast; the higher evolution of man which McAvoy astoundingly delivers.

Instead of split personalities being a disease, Shyamalan asks if it is rather man taking the next evolutionary step.  Not all the psychology mumbo jumbo jargon in the film plays out effectively and scenes with the girls on their own are not always that strong either, but every time McAvoy is on screen he has your full devotion. There is a twist at the end, and it’s not in the way you would think.  The twist has an ongoing development for Shyamalan fans, and as an early Shyamalan fan I am eager to see where this twist plays out.  

That’s two in a row for Shyamalan, I hope the streak continues.  

Jude 1:6

 

Thursday
Dec222016

The Wailing- review

 

“The Wailing (Goksung)” (2016)

Directed by Hong-jin Na

Starring Jun Kunimura,  Jung-min Hwang,  Do Won Kwak

Running Time 156 Minutes, Rated R.

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

This is a hellishly bonkers film and one heck of a treat.

Korean filmmaker Hong-jin Na has expertly crafted a topsy-turvy supernatural thriller that is purposely confusing at times but miraculously never boring for a second in this 156 minute foreign affair.  Continuously building bigger insanity off the previous scene’s insanity, “The Wailing (Goksung)” is a daft mixture of Coen brothers dark inept humor, eye scorching gore, and a mystery worth chasing after.

 

After a slew of homicides in his small mountain village, a not-up-for-the-job police officer named Jong-gu, played with early comedic slapstick that transforms into dramatic tragedy by Do Won Kwak, gets the case. Horrific crimes mixed with a mysterious Japanese man living in the woods could be the work of just mushrooms or something much more sinister.  Eventually Jong-gu’s daughter is possessed, and a shaman is called upon for exorcism.  

There’s a lot to unravel in this film, and I’ll gladly give another viewer some other day but a little google research from my wife helped out a bit and I’ve been deciphering it ever since.  I encourage you to decipher it for yourself.

1 Peter 5:8

 

Tuesday
Aug302016

Don't Breathe- review

 

“Don’t Breathe” (2016)

Directed by Fede Alvarez

Starring Stephen Lang,  Jane Levy,  Dylan Minnette

Running Time 88 Minutes, Rated R.

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

“Evil Dead” remake director Fede Alvarez purposely blasts the opening scenes with a posh all white and bright luxury apartment that finds our youth burglar leads Rocky (Jane Levy) and Alex (Dylan Minnette) heisting.  This is done to set the ruse of the film’s lead setting to come being the bleakly dark and run down house of a character awesomely billed as only “The Blind Man”, played by super jacked up (not just old man strength either) and gravelly voiced Stephen Lang (“Avatar”).

 

Not just a cutesy-wutesy nickname, The Blind Man was blinded from shrapnel in the Gulf War and is sitting on a big settlement.  So when Rocky who wants get her and her little sister out of Detroit and to the waves of California, her punk boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto), and Alex decide to hit his house, they’re in for far more they ever imagined.  

Alvarez does not let up this turned table home-invasion tale one bit for its 88 minute runtime.  It is a strong entry into the often disappointing horror genre that dishes some pretty terrifying surprises along the way and one gross-out scene involving a turkey baster that you soon won’t forget.

Definitely a good watch if you’re a horror fan.   

1 Thessalonians 5:2

 

Wednesday
Aug032016

Lights Out- review

 

“Lights Out” (2016)

Directed by David F. Sandberg

Starring Teresa Palmer,  Gabriel Bateman,  Maria Bello

Running Time 81 Minutes, Rated R

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Concise, compact, and straight-forward.  Swedish director David F. Sandberg successfully turns his three minute viral horror short into an 81 minute sensible horror delight that has the audacity to make it’s characters intelligent (well, I never!).  “Lights Out” doesn’t hold up to but smartly goes via “The Babadook” route by producing jump scares that are intertwined with a social issue that most of us may have been a part of or certaintly known someone affected by.  Where “The Babadook” used the hardships of motherhood, especially single motherhood, “Lights Out” tackles mental illness and focus’ more intently on the strains it puts on the loved ones who deal with trying to care for someone suffering  from it.  

 

A little boy named Martin (Gabriel Bateman) doesn’t dare sleep or an evil shadowy female will attack when the lights go out.  His mother Sophie, played by the talented Maria Bello who had a good run in the early aughts, is hitting depression rock bottom again and although knows and befriends this evil in the dark killer can’t rationalize with it to leave her kids alone.  Her other kid, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), now all grown up who left long ago to save her sanity from her own mother fleeting sanity has to step back into the picture for young Martin.

The thrills and chills can be a bit cheap, but they’re effective. What really stands out is Sandberg’s commitment to characters who don’t fall into stupid horror tropes.  Rebecca’s boyfriend who aesthetically looks like all other horror movie jerkoffs actually makes every right decision presented with; morally and rationally.  Even the cops who appear late in the film just to be lights out fodder, at least follow every protocol they’re supposed to, and I appreciate that.

I appreciate “Lights Out”.    

John 1:5

 

Monday
Jul112016

The Shallows- review

 

“The Shallows” (2016)

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring Blake Lively,  Óscar Jaenada,  Angelo Jose

Running Time 86 Minutes, PG-13

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

“Non-Stop”, and “Orphan” director Jaume Collet-Serra knows where his bread is buttered in his latest effort, “The Shallows”.  The socially above adequately looking Blake Lively is shown in circling cut takes stripping down only to get dressed back up in her tight rubber surf suit that one might imply is hot enough to give the sun a tan (not me, I’m married).  Subtly, Collet-Serra eventually puts her through enough peril in this shark infested thriller that bruises her up left and right making her not model ready… but she makes it work.

 

Lively plays Nancy, a recent med-school dropout still mourning the loss of her mother and memorializing her by going to her favorite off the map surf beach in Mexico.  Kudos to “The Shallows” taking a breath with just enough character development before it heads under water for the film’s thriller set piece.  When an MVP of Shark Week sinks its teeth into Nancy’s thigh it’s up to her dropout knowledge to MacGyver the day while she uses the rest of her smarts to outshark the shark.  

This is a pretty decent popcorn flick, on a minimal budget, with minimal plot, but sold with an above average use of well deserved tension.  Lively continues to show me that there is something there waiting to break out, maybe.  It’s not too deep of a film but “The Shallows” is worth visiting.

 

Monday
Jul112016

The Conjuring 2- review

 

“The Conjuring 2” (2016)

Directed by James Wan

Starring Vera Farmiga,  Patrick Wilson,  Madison Wolfe

Running Time 134 Minutes, Rated R.

2.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

How do I describe “Conjuring 2”?

So.. my friend makes me a mixtape of the ultimate collection of the greatest guitarists of all time.  Jimi Hendrix bleeds into some Eric Clapton, from there my mind is melted by my Minnesota’s greatest pride, Prince, throw in some B.B. King, move onto some Richards, Van Halen, and some Stevie Ray Vaughn.  What could be next; maybe some Slash, or even Jack White, or even obviously some Carlos Santana… no…for some reason for which I can’t explain, Kenny G follows.  For one, Kenny G isn’t my jam, if it’s yours, God bless you, I encourage you to keep on keepin’ on.  The more important point is not whether or not I’m a fan of Kenny G that matters, but for some reason my friend really mucked up a sweet guitar mix by putting in a saxophone player.

And there lies my problem with “Conjuring 2”.  For such a deal of time this is a film that lines up fantastic tension propelled horror scene after fantastic tension propelled horror scene and then out of nowhere a scene so distant, so foreign, so alien to every majestically bone-chilling scene before it comes in like an in the dirt curveball that throws this would be masterpiece into the loss column.  So rarely have I been so wooed by a film only to have the malevolent rug pulled from right under my hovering feet.  I can’t understate it enough. Here I am in love, IN LOVE, mind you with what my half-opened eyes can gleefully stomach, and then I’m sucker punched in the nuts and that hurts more than any traditionally bad movie.  “Conjuring 2” is a sucker punch to the nuts.

Wan is very good at filmmaking and more importantly one of the better and solid voices that the horror genre has and desperately needs, but “Conjuring 2” is derailed by that Kenny G scene.  Not for the whole film mind you, and sadly that undercuts the very fine work that Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson who have built some great chemistry and character work with parts one and two.  

“Conjuring 2” will scare you, it scared the heck out of me, but it fell apart as a movie and James Wan is better than that and we deserve his best.  

 

Wednesday
Mar162016

The Witch- review

 

“The Witch” (2016)

Directed by Robert Eggers

Starring Anya Taylor-Joy,  Ralph Ineson,  Kate Dickie

Running Time 93 Minutes, Rated R.

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

There is a movement in horror. It wants to be taken more seriously, and recent entries such as “It Follows”, “Under the Skin”, “The Babadook”, and “The Conjuring” are proving that it can be.  You can now add Robert Eggers directorial debut “The Witch” to that list.  

It may exude the modern movement of respectable and thought provoking horror, but “The Witch”, is set far in the past which Eggers succeeds in with an exquisitely detailed period piece.  Set in mid 17th century New England, a Pilgrim family parented by William (Ralph Ineson) and Katherine (Kate Dickie) are banished by their church for being too devout and pious and soon make a new home by some far off deep and sinister woods.  It doesn’t take long to find out this won’t be the haven they were looking for.

Tragedy strikes very quickly as under eldest daughter Thomasin’s watch, a wonderful debut from the young actress Anya Taylor-Joy, the youngest, an infant, goes missing.  The family unravels all the further as Katherine is inconsolable, and blame is eyed towards Thomasin.  Eldest son, Caleb is troubled by mixed feelings that come with noticing Thomasin’s burgeoning into womanhood.  William is burdened by the lands inability to produce good crops and good hunting conditions, and two toddler twins are just.. a bit off and obnoxious.

      

Yes, there is a Witch in the woods, and Eggers bookends this outward literal evil early on in the film and close to its end. However, the real horrors are the internal self-inflicted kind that fill everything that happens in between.  Eggers shows us how hard early colonial living is, and the dialogue is authentic speech of the time both of which put us all the more there.  With living conditions so hard tragedies were a common occurrence, and when we lean on religion and our miracles don’t come quickly, our faith can be weakened and misused and that is a great tool of the devil.  

The family has been brought up to fear non-stop for their souls entering heaven.  While they acknowledge God’s mercy, they don’t take the time to delight in it. Each of the family members are left with a dark cloud of fear for their souls that takes a foothold over their psyche and paves the way for hell when heaven was so much sought out.  

While I was challenged intellectually, which can spring the trap for deeper scares, those traps at times came up less than full.  I wasn’t shaken to the core while watching as some religious horror films have done for me in the past.  Maybe I could have used a few more scenes of the actual witches, because the ones that are there are quite effective.  But I do find myself, a day past watching, giving the film much thought about how psychologically this can play out for any family in any time period and that is the type of modern horror I’ve come to praise.        

that is the type of modern horror I’ve come to praise.        

Leviticus 19:31 

 

Sunday
Jan242016

The Boy- review

 

“The Boy” (2015)

Directed by William Brent Bell

Starring Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, James Russell

Running Time 97 Minutes, Rated PG-13

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

An American girl, Gretta Evans (played by “The Walking Dead” vet Lauren Cohan), takes a nanny position in the country outskirts in an England mansion.  When the oddly Heelshire parents played by Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle introduce Gretta to their son Braham, Gretta thinks it must be a joke.  Because young Braham is not a real boy but actually just a porcelain doll, but don’t tell his parents that.  Gretta is given a very specific set of rules to follow for her new little glass buddy.  Definitely disturbed by it, Gretta’s sympathy for the weathered old couple and more importantly, her want to get away from a man she has restraining order on back in the states, has her taking the job.

Eventually, little Braham seems to be responsible for things that can’t be explained around the house in a natural way.  If doll Braham is in some way ‘alive’, then it’s probably not for good reasons.  

A horror slash thriller genre ensues…. and one much better than I ever predicted.  

Here’s what works.

Only two weeks ago, “The Forest”, which tried to cash in on the usual horror New Year time slot, had a fellow mega hit tv actress in Natalie Dormer from “Game of Thrones”.  But unlike Dormer who looked overmatched by that film’s silly premise, Lauren Cohan elevates even sillier material, really ridiculous when you think about it, to actual compelling storytelling.  The main two reasons this film is watchable is because of Lauren Cohan’s acting and Stacy Menear’s excellent story and script.  “The Boy” isn’t so much a good movie but more of a really good story that’s acted out pretty darn decently.  Menear, whose unproduced script, “Mixtape, is on the prestigious Black List, really delivers a really excellent slow burn psychological thriller that actually works well in it’s PG-13 confines as it delivers evolving drama that doesn’t just rely on jump scares and cliches (cough.. “The Forest”...cough).

After the rough first half, which I’ll get into later, all the story’s beats somehow actually work out all right. Gretta’s burgeoning relationship with the Heelshire’s grocer Malcolm (Rupert Evans) plays sweet and even though it’s obvious that Greta’s obsessive old flame Cole mostly serves the film to give some horror release in the third act, there is real weight that this abusive relationship gives to pushing the story along.

The ‘reveal’, which of course I won’t get into, works well, so well that it makes you want to go back and rewatch it so you can look for all the clues.  The reveal isn’t perfect execution (director’s fault), but in the end, it makes sense, and does what so many horror films don’t accomplish- moving the story forward.  

 

Here’s what doesn’t work.   

“The Boy” is overdirected.  At the helm is William Brent Bell, who definitely didn’t impress with the exorcism retread “The Devil Inside” a few years ago.  Bell has a way of adding too much with his cuts and zooms that don’t add to the story but just play superfluous.  An example would be cutting to taxidermied animal heads mounted on the wall which have absolutely nothing to do with the story.   Bell can’t help but put a steamy shower scene in the film, but he tries to justify it by thinking he can reinvent it as his camera moves way more than it should.  Bell’s film is saved over and over by Menear’s script.  As I said earlier, “The Boy” isn’t so much a good movie (Bell’s fault), but a really good story that’s acted pretty darn decently (Meear and Cohan’s praise).  

The film starts off bad.  The heroine, Greta Evans (played by “The Walking Dead’s vet Lauren Cohan), briefly wakes up from her nap and notices that her perv old man driver is checking her out through the rear view mirror.  This scene has no purpose, this perv driver never reenters the story, and if it was supposed to convey some foundation of uneasiness, then it failed.  From there, “The Boy” really takes a while to get it’s porcelain feet off the ground, in retrospect, it works but maybe not as efficiently as would be with a surer director in charge.  

Plot holes.  How did Gretta hear about this nanny position?  Craigslist?  I don’t think so.  The Heelshires make a point of it that they have to give the ok as she’s being interviewed on the spot when Gretta first arrives, pointing out that they that they’ve interviewed many before her.  So what would of happened if she didn’t get it?  Would she of just hopped back on a plane and quickly tried to find a new way to avoid Cole?  Just saying  
I was quite surprised I liked this film.  For the third time, “The Boy” is not a good film but I still think it’s worth a watch.    

I still think "this" is worth a watch.    

Proverbs 22:6

 

Tuesday
Jan192016

The Forest- review

 

“The Forest” (2016)

Directed by Jason Zada

Starring Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney

Running Time 93 Minutes, Rated PG-13

1.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

I love going to the first release of the new year.  I’ve usually just come off of stuffing myself with Oscar hopefuls, that for the most part, end up being the cream of the year’s best crop.  So the first film of January, traditionally the dumping ground for very poor quality films, isn’t the chore you’d think but weirdly a nice change of pace from the The Big Short’s and Carol critical darlings of the world.  2016 is cracked open with the first weeks most abused genre, horror, and a pg-13 horror film at that with Jason Zada’s directorial debut (and it shows) “The Forest”.  I was not disappointed by how disappointing this film was, and so the crappy first film of the year tradition lives on.    

“The Forest” refers to the Aokigahara Forest in Japan, better known as Sucide Forest, due to the very real amount of people who have wandered into the giant forest to commit suicide.  Now that’s a real life horror that is ripe with possibility, but Jason Zada can’t see the forest from the horror cliche trees, that include terrible dialogue, pointless jump scares that don’t contribute anything to the story, and, coincidentally, no story.  Zada and his three screenwriters trip over the story just like its unsympathetic heroine does in the night cast treescape.  

 

Game of Throne’s Natalie Dormer stars as the well demeanored Sara and as her troubled grunge twin sister, Jess.  Jess has gone missing and was last seen heading into the Suicide Forest.  This is a five alarm problem, because most do not survive more overnight in the forest and Sara has been gone for 48hrs, but it turns out that Natalie has super twin sister powers and the humming beacon device they have for each other hasn’t gone mute, so Jess believes he must be alive, and so she must enter the forest herself and be subjected to countless horror tropes I mentioned as well as a ghostly giggling Japanese girl in a school uniform.      

The dialogue might have been inherently bad, but Dormer didn’t do otherwise to impress.  Sadly, she looked quite overwhelmed by the material, and her performance is best described as ‘January Acting’.  Never once did “The Forest” scare me, and never once did “The Forest” not deserve its first week of January release.  

never once did “This” not deserve its first week of January release.  

Ecclesiastes 7:17

 

Saturday
Oct242015

Crimson Peak- review

 

“Crimson Peak” (2015)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Starring Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston

Running Time 119 Minutes, Rated R

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com


Beware of Crimson Peak.  This is a ghostly warning to Mia Wasikowska throughout the film.  I too have a warning for people who don’t want to attend poorly written would-be horror films:

Beware of Crimson Peak.

Very early on in the film, our lead character, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), an inspiring writer clarifies that her novel is not a ghost story and that the ghosts are just metaphors for the past.  The very good director Guillermo del Toro very obviously points out to us that his film, “Crimson Peak”, isn’t a horror film, and by doing this, he also points out that his film isn’t a good film either.  Window dressed as a horror film, “Crimson Peak” is supposed to be a gothic romance, but I was not romanced, I was not frightened, and I was not entertained.

After lady Edith loses her father to a gruesome unsolved murder which is later revealed to you by the letter Duh and the number So What, she marries the mysterious Sir Thomas Sharpe who is never too far away from his angsty goth sister played by Jessica Chastain and is whisked away to their crumbling family mansion on the other side of the pond.  

 

The house is ghoulish as it’s set upon a crimson colored foundation of clay that literally seeps into the haunted house.  While I must give del Toro and company high praise for prettying things up highly Victorian, I was not happy with the CGI ghost fare.  I’m not happy with the ghosts at all to be honest.  If you took out all the ghosts of the story, then it would change zero to anything that happens in this film.  Did del Toro not trust his script (which he shouldn’t have), so he fancied it up with the dead?  Who knows, and who cares?  Better luck next time del Toro.

Better luck next time del “thiso”.

Job 7:9-10

 

Tuesday
Oct132015

The Visit- review

 

“The Visit” (2015)

Directed b y  M. Night Shyamalan

Starring  Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan

Running Time 94 Minutes, Rated PG-13

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Not too shabby M. Night, not too shabby.  These are phrases “the twist” director, M. Night Shyamalan, hasn’t heard for quite some time now.  After dazzling the masses with “The Sixth Sense”, knocking out his second feature in the very underrated “Unbreakable”, and making a crap load of money with “Signs”, the Philly born director went on a decade long slump that gave us a crap load of crappers with “Lady in the Water”, “The Happening”, and what is legitimately my least favorite film of ALL TIME in “The Last Airbender” (motherfluggers do I hate that movie!).  But alas, Shyamalan went the super indie route, scaled back his budget, and delivers a film that doesn’t let his imagination drown his characters’ for once in the creepy good “The Visit”.

 

Teens Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) visit their grandparents whom they’ve never met due to a fallout from their single mother (the wonderful Kathryn Hahn) when she left at a young age for a man that her parents didn’t approve of.  Here is a premise that is wonderfully simplistic.  With that, Shyamalan constructs an intelligent commentary about the youth’s fear of the elderly, and the  emotional ramifications of abandonment.  He finds terror in that, but interestingly mixes in a lot of humor that creates a nice off balance for the viewer.

For the most part Shyamalan uses the found footage theme without annoying me, but still, why have it?  While the script is both smart and funny, his dialogue can’t help but have a few rotten apples in it as adjectives such as “deep darkies” stick out like a sore thumb.  Shyamalan also has to hit every single point he set up in obvious successive order in the film’s climax that comes off pretty heavy handed, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that “The Visit” is pretty decent and worth an actual visit to the theaters.        

…”this” is worth an actual visit to the theaters.  

Psalm 71:9  

 

Monday
Jun012015

Unfriended- review

 

 “Unfriended” (2015)

Directed by Levan Gabriadze

Starring Heather Sossaman, Matthew Bohrer, Courtney Halverson

Running Time 83 Minutes, Rated R.

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

I still remember when ads for websites first came on the scene before a film, and I was like, “good luck throwing away your advertising money on this new crazed computer fad.”  Well, turns out that the internet is here to stay and less appealingly so, found footage films are as well.  Knowing that found footage films have as much too offer as an ametuer movie critic with a barely read blog, I went in with a heavy dread.  Like the internet, the newly released technological horror film “Unfriended” surprised me with its entertainment value, but much unlike the intraweb, this would-be fright fest does not have the gigs for staying power.

I really want to give this film credit.  Director Levan Gabriadze establishes the style he wants to tell his story in and doesn’t dumb it down.  Practically the whole film is told on a computer screen as five high schoolers video chat, following the navigation of the sweet Blaire (Shelley Hennig) as she goes back and forth messaging her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Storm), to conversing with the rest, and her google searches and music playlist.  If you’re older than 25, it may take a second to get adjusted, it did for me, but after a few minutes Gabriadze’s flow is very competent.    

 

Conflict arrives when another guest joins the group’s chat claiming to be Laura Barnes.  That wouldn’t be a big deal except that Laura committed suicide exactly one year earlier after a video went viral of being very drunk and eventually passed out with her bowels evacuated.  The group obviously think its a hacker/ internet troll, but the uninvited guest won’t leave until someone admits who was responsible for making and putting the video online.  Eventually they get the hint that it’s not a hacker when supernatural mischief starts killing them off one by one.  

Now while the film wasn’t overly scary, I still found myself enjoying it, that was until the third act climax that bludgeoned me silly and left me not only obnoxiously annoyed but in one of those film going experiences that literally gave me a headache.  The Laura Barnes internet ghost makes everyone play a game of “never have I ever” that of course is meant to turn everyone against each other and show how rotten they all are.  Rotten for sure, but what really stunk up the film is that for over 20 minutes all the teenagers do is yell, scream, and cry at each other.  Over, and over, and over again they just call out secrets and yell at each other.  It was relentless to the point of making a new rule for myself that I must always bring Ibuprofen with me wherever I go to the movies.

I was amigos with this movie up until that point, and then, sadly, it got unfriended (yes I know it is a bad pun.)

and, then, sadly, “this” got unfriended (yes I know “this” is a bad pun.)

Proverbs 18:24

 

Thursday
Apr022015

It Follows- review

 

“It Follows” (2015)

Directed by David Robert Mitchell

Starring  Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi

Running Time 100 Minutes, Rated R.

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Horror isn’t dead, it’s finally becoming deadly good to watch again.  Like last year’s “The Babadook”, “It Follows”, written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, chooses to create suspense and frights from very well built up tension instead of the brain numbing shaky cam POV craze of the last too many years accompanied by a the Blumhouse myriad of jump cuts to get you to scream.  “It Follows” is a legitimately terrifying film, and David Robert Mitchell is a name now to be reckoned with.

One of the long standing rules of the horror genre is that you’ll meet your sure demise if you have sex.  In other words: if you get some, death is sure to come.  Here, however, Mitchell takes the old trope and puts it on its stomach.  In “It Follows”, sex transmits an STD, a sexually transmitted demon.  Well, maybe not technically a demon but at least a deadly curse that passes from sexual partner to sexual partner.

After an vague but terrifying scene that shows the effects of the curse on one doomed girl, we meet 19 year old Jay played by the up and coming Maika Monroe.  When Jay finally gets to know her summer fling Hugh (Jake Weary) in the biblical sense, she isn’t met with sweet pillow talk.  The nice enough but paranoid Hugh drastically tries to make Jay aware that he was cursed and that the only way to get rid of it is to have sex with someone else before “It” gets him. He goes on to explain that she should have sex with someone else as soon as possible to pass it along and that if the curse gets to her it will kill her and then revert back to him.  

 

The curse is a shape shifting anyone that may be slow coming at you, but it is relentless and not dumb.  It could be an old woman, and next a tall man, or even a little gawking boy.  Eventually Jay comes to believe her fate as the slow but ever coming pursuit yields terror after terror.    

Mitchell litters the film with oddities and tributes.  Besides a shell shaped Kindle ebook type handheld device, the rest of the film is new-tech free, as if to point out that the film is set today.  Set in Detroit, both in suburbia and the abandoned ghetto (that was also so well utilized in Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Behind”), besides a recent Nissan Sentra model you’d have a very hard time not thinking this to be placed in the 80’s or early 90’s.  Any films that pop up are monster movies from the 50’s and a viewing of the 1963 classic “Charade”. Parents are nowhere to be found but in the background giving sole responsibility to the haunted youth to break free from the curse.  You can also watch Mitchell pay homage to horror giants such as Brian De Palma with a very “Carrie” like dreamscene of Jay getting ready for her big date with Hugh.  The slow walk of whatever “It” is comes in the vein of the great John Carpenter.    

This is one of those wonderful viewing experiences where the rules are established, and you can’t help but try to navigate your own escape if the situation were presented to you.  Besides the chilling camera work that teases your senses, you’re also rooted in a very good story of young love where once again Mitchell gets extra credit with his exceptional work with the details.  When you’re sitting on a couch next to the pretty girl who you’ve been pining for quite some time and she nudges her toes an inch closer to you, it means the world.  

Much like the monster of “It Follows”, the scares are relentless and they are not dumb.  

the scares are relentless and they are not “this”.

Hebrews 13:8

 

Thursday
Mar052015

The Lazarus Effect- review

 

“The Lazarus Effect” (2015)

Directed by David Gelb

Starring Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Evan Peters

Running Time 83 Minutes, PG-13

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

I told my wife going into this film that it’s very hard for a PG-13 horror film to succeed in the the genre, not impossible, but the odds are definitely against it.  For two thirds of “The Lazarus Effect” I was pleasantly eating my crow, but I had to spit it right back out as the third act descended into horror drab garbage that quickly and effectively wiped out all the good it was accomplishing.  

“The Lazarus Effect” is the cousin film to the pretty decent 1990 horror film “Flatliners”.  A group of scientists are concocting a serum that will hopefully bring the recently deceased out of their newly shuffled off coil and back for another round.  After many defeats, they finally breakthrough with a dog that after coming back is found with a sense of heightened aggression.  After a lab experiment gone wrong, the team hastily moves from a dog to one of their own and that’s when things get good...for about five minutes… and then get really dumb… and ruin everything that was good.

 

Made for only 5 million dollars with the super prolific producer Jason Blum and you can see why.  Keeping the last half of the film in one setting of their lab keeps the film bottled up lacking in imagination with nowhere to go.  Wasted is a really decent cast Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Evan Peters, and Donald Glover who have so little to do you can see the horror of their boredom.  You can tell that the director of this film, documentary director David Gelb who gave us the delightful “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”, is insanely overwhelmed with his first narrative piece, taking what started off as decent slow little burner with actual interesting questions being presented about the here, the now, and consequences of playing God to it and then sloppily resorting into throwing the cliche horror book at us as quick jump cuts and levitating objects are meant to frighten us.    

There is neat conversation where the Catholic raised scientist Zoe (Olivia Wilde) offers up the argument of science being able to support religious ideals and unknown phenomenon.  Why Gelb, Blum, and their hack writers so quickly ditched this and the other interesting aspects of the film is a mystery, a bummer, and quite frankly the scariest thing about “The Lazarus Effect”.

quite frankly the scariest thing about “This”.

John 11:1-44

 

Saturday
Dec202014

The Babadook- review

 

“The Babadook” (2014)

Directed by Jennifer Kent

Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman

Running Time 93 Minutes, Rated R.

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent’s directorial debut “The Babadook” is easily the best horror film of 2014. Dressed up as a monster movie that disguises the real horrors of grief and parenthood.

If you think that being a parent is pure bliss all the time and that it can’t be horrific, then you and I strongly disagree.  I remember that look on my mother’s face when my two younger brothers and I were putting in overtime at be exasperating, and that look scared me to the bone.  She would admit that our difficulties made her want to do bad things, and I’m sure just about every parent goes through that. Now good parents don’t go through with it, but that doesn’t mean certain thoughts never crossed their mind.  “The Babadook” chillingly explores the madness that can seep in when those lines get blurred.

Amelia (Essie Davis) is a single mother to her young son Sam (Noah Wiseman).  Sam’s father died on the car ride bringing Amelia to the hospital to give birth, and their lives are defined by this event.  Amelia is weathered by continuous building grief while simply beaten down by the non stop challenge that is raising the extremely hyperactive and downright obnoxious Sam.  Sam’s the type of child that will continue to scream “Mommy, Mommy” until you look over,  and whose vividly detailed imagination, or is it, to monsters lurking cause for sleepless nights.  A hobby of Sam’s that involves creating elaborate weapons made from household items has made him too much for his school faculty to handle.

 

Amelia’s sleep deprived sanity takes a further turn for the worse when a mysterious and extremely dark children’s book titled “Mr. Babadook” shows up in the house.  Mr. Babadook promises to be doom for anyone who reads it, and soon the tophatted and fang toothed grim character starts to slowly invade Amelia’s existence.  Is there a real Mr. Babadook or is Amelia going mad? Either way I was definitely scared in trying to figure out.

I was delighted to actually feel a real sense of fear while watching “The Babadook”. The closest I come to feeling that in the cinema this year was while watching  Zac Efron trying to be funny in the horrible “That Awkward Moment”.  Instead of relying on jump cut scare after tired jump cut scare, Kent actually builds a sympathetic understanding of what her characters’ are going through and the ratcheting tension that builds from their relatable but heightened situations.  What a concept right?!  Kent draws from the likes of Roman Polanski to German expressionism, and it all works.

“The Babadook” has put Kent on the map as one of the rare storytellers to actually have a grasp of what is needed to tell a truly scary story.  Bravo.

“The This” has put Kent on the map as one of the rare storytellers to actually have a grasp of what is needed to tell tell a truly scary story.  Bravo.

Isaiah 49:15

 

Monday
Nov242014

Oh What Teeth You Have- review

 

“Oh What Big Teeth You Have” (2014)

Directed by Jillian Cantwell

Starring Clint Carnahan, Pierce Forsythe, Morgan Greising

Running Time 11 Minutes

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmithc.com

 

As of recent, people are wary to be out in NYC’s spacious Central Park late at night.  Four people have met their gruesome demise by the hands of a serial killer only to be linked by being dog owners.  Some park goers are panicked, some are going about their daily routines, while others are taking it upon themselves to police the wrongdoings of anyone out and about.  

First time director Jillian Cantwell crafts a horror treat in the short film “Oh What Big Teeth You Have” and proves that behind the camera she has some real bite.  Cantwell’s short clocks in at 11 minutes and utilizes excellent color schemes, a strong score that’s a must have for a horror film, a twisted twisty ending, and most importantly it’s moneyshot gore scene won’t disappoint.   

I wasn’t 100 percent behind the choices of Clint Carnahan.  I was confused if there was supposed to be a possible attraction between male lead Patrick, played effeminately by Carnahan, and the female lead, played by Rylie J. Neale.  Regardless, Cantwell delivers the goods with “Oh What Big Teeth You Have” and is a talent to keep your eye out for.  

 

 

Thursday
Oct232014

V/H/S: Viral- review

 

“V/H/S: Viral” (2014)

Directed by Justin Benson, Gregg Bishop, 4 more credits

Starring Emmy Argo, Amanda Baker, Rim Basma

Running Time 97 Minutes, Rated R.

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

“V/H/S: Viral” is the third installment in the V/H/S horror series anthology that allows horror talented storytellers to showcase their scary gifts in a smaller format.  I for one am a horror fan, guess I can’t call myself an aficionado  because I haven’t seen the first two V/H/S films, not that they are legends among horror film lore, but you gotta respect the format.  

There are three shorts connected by a thru line story all meant to scare you crapless and some do better than others.  The thru line is a about a young L.A. boy who records everything along with his pretty girlfriend trying to make it viral so that he can be more than supposed would be parts.  A maniacal ice cream truck comes through his neighborhood, somehow snatches his ladyfriend, and snatches up a death count along the way.  Sadly, this is the weakest link for me, you wanna know where its going in between the three shorts, but style is crazy shaky cam with lots of annoyingly loud instersplice static shots that almost tore off my ear drums.  Since this is a collection of films I give the thru line 2 MItch Heads.

 

The first short is titled “Dante the Great” directed by Greg Bishop (Dance of the Dead).  A wannabe struggling magician comes across a magically powered cape that Houdini wouldn’t touch and basically becomes the equivalent of Chris Angel.  A slow starter, one that made me question the ability to actually scare and truly bring out tension in a non feature length, but I was decently surprised by some very effective kills in a low budget affair that were quite pleasing. Decent acting, decent story, better than good directing.  3.5 Mitch Heads.

Nacho Vigalondo’s “Parallel Monsters” starts off very interesting and creepy.  A man has invented a contraption in his basement that connects with a parallel universe.  Quickly and exuberantly he finds finds himself on the other and his bizarro self agrees to spend 15 minutes in others realm.  Things aren’t the same for very long and there’s an interesting cross pollination between sci-fi and occult, but Vigalondo isn’t able to bridge the genre divide leaving an uneasy and unflattering end half of the short that divided this viewer.  2.5 Mitch Heads.

They really did save the best for last.  Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead direct the delightfully horrific “Bonestorm”.  Straightforward and never boring, some skaters head down to Tijuana, Mexico to film their Jackass stunt video only to come across some freaky Dia de los Muertos killers after their souls.  There’s nothing more explained than that, and I loved it!  Filmed in a videogame fast paced and very funny manner, this was the real victor for me.  4 Mitch Heads.

I saw “V/H/S: Viral” because I like horror films and it was at the Twin Cities Film Fest - my biggest compliment would be that this film will make me watch the first two installments of the series.  

my biggest compliment would be that this “this” will make me watch the first two installments of the series.  

Romans 12:21

 

Wednesday
Oct222014

Annabelle- review

 

“Annabelle” (2014)

Directed by John R. Leonetti

Starring Ward Horton, Annabelle Wallis, Alfre Woodard

Running Time 98 Minutes, Rated R.

2.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Be a doll Chucky, and let the little lady have her moment.

Remember that creepy porcelain doll locked up in that “Friday the 13th” the television series style basement kept guard by true life evil fighting married couple Lorraine and Ed Warren in last year’s stellar hit horror film “The Conjuring”?  That doll, name Annabelle, had to get captured somehow, and I bet there’s an origin story that Warner Bros. is willing to capitalize on and be nice enough to fast track for us.  Fortunately Warner Bros. absolutely obliged, unfortunately though “Annabelle” is nowhere near a complete and chilling experience that “The Conjuring” conjured up.  A horror starved film audience will no doubt eat this up opening weekend, but it won’t have the staying power of its predecessor.

Taking over for “The Conjuring” director Justin Wan is that films cinematographer John R. Leonetti.  Leonetti, as expected, has an eye for taking an era’s drab, in this case the 1960’s suburban life, but fails to open and close his film with the thunder that Wan accomplished.  Honestly, it’s a much harder task to set up a prolonged and sustained terror with merely a doll as The Conjuring utilized real life Salem Witches with human sacrifices that turned into hauntings and possessions of an unsuspecting family.  

The opening setup has the ingredients, but underwhelms, almost too restrained.  John Gordon (Ward Horton) and his pregnant wife Mia (Annabelle Wallis) barely survive a home invasion attack from a mad Manson cult type couple.  The female hippy cult member named Annabelle ends her life over one of Mia’s collector dolls, which of course you know leads to some sort of soul transference.

  

The film cuts to John and Mia now as parents of a baby girl with Mia trying to still get over the ordeal.  Soon odd things start to occur with the doll in near in proximity, as Mia gets wise she has her vanilla husband get rid of it but as evil would have it, it doesn’t take.  After an incident with burning popcorn Mia asks John to move and without a blink John says yes, (in this film John is the perfect husband who does everything his wife asks, I on the other hand would remind my wife that the evil of mortgage payments outweighs the evil of any doll) and they meet a neighbor played by Alfre Woodard who serves as the obligatory new acquaintance who not only instantly believes of the existence of any and all supernatural but has detailed information of such evil so to move the story forward.  

There is an excellent scene in the middle of the film where Mia gets stuck in her new residence storage basement and where Leonetti’s strength for the visual makes you pee a little with fear, but it stands alone in “Annabelle” where there are at least five of those pee pants moments in “The Conjuring”.  The end of “Annabelle” has just as little impact as the beggining did, and then the credits rolled, as if the film was put back into its secure box so not to disappoint anyone ever again.     

“this” was put back into its secure box so not to disappoint anyone ever again.

James 4:7

 

Thursday
Sep042014

As Above, So Below- review

 

“As Above, So Below” (2014)

Directed by John Erick Dowdle

Starring Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge

Running Time 93 Minutes, Rated R.

1.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

The shake, shake, shake found footage stylings of the small horror film “As Above, So Below” didn’t just figuratively give me a headache, it literally did as well.  The Dowdle Brothers, John and Drew waste there decent horror premise by taking camera lessons from a broken washing machine, as the frantic and incomprehensible shaking is among the most annoying of it’s genre so far.

It’s too bad because as the horror fan that I am, I was intrigued by Dowdle’s interesting story.  Basically “As Above, So Below” wants to be Indiana Jones meets Neil Marshall’s masterful “The Descent” as a young wunderkind archeologist named Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) and her insatiable yet reckless quest for The Philosopher's Stone lead her to the underground Catacombs of Paris that are the graves of six million souls with their bones lining the walls.  Along for the ride and each accompanied with a camera attached to their head is her fellow thrill seeker George (Ben Feldman) who warily joins to help translate, Benji (Edwin Hodge) who brings another camera into the mix as Scarlett’s documentarian, along with three spelunking Parisian hipsters who know their way around the Catacombs.  I dig the idea of a literal expedition to the physical gates of hell, and I can’t wait till another movie steals that idea and actually makes it watchable.

  

The story moves at a snails pace, and when the creepiness starts I already need to pop four Ibuprofen to deal with the shaky cam.  There could have been so much more inventiveness with the horror here instead at one point we get Scarlett giving an NFL stiff arm to some sort of demon made out of rock not once but twice- I’m throwing down a penalty flag for that.  I think I might be at my fill for found footage horror as I long for the previously mentioned “The Descent” which really knew how to create a dreadful sense of claustrophobia.  “As Above, So Below” is more below the standards of a productive use of your time.    

“This” is more below the standards of a productive use of your time.  

Matthew 16:18