Category Archives: slasher

Review: The Babysitter

Director(s)McG
Principal CastSamara Weaving as Bee
Judah Lewis as Cole
Emily Alyn Lind as Melanie
Robbe Amell as Max
Release Date2017
Running Time 85 minutes

The Babysitter is a mixed experience to say the least. The story follows Cole, your typical bullied nerdy kid and his babysitter, Bee, who acts as his friend, guardian, and confidante. Late one night, he finds out that his beloved Bee is actually the head of a satanic cult and has to find a way to get out of her cult’s clutches.

The setup for the plot isn’t awful . A kid with confidence issues finds out his babysitter, one of the few people he genuinely cares about, is head of a demonic cult and must find a way to survive. It leaves a lot of avenues to be explored. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t make use of any of them. The nature of the satanic cult is never really messed around with. No cool ritual stuff or fun gimmicks. Interactions between cult members hint at a history between them (potentially funny) , but that’s never explored. Characters get no time to breathe or give us a reason to root for or against them.None of the cult members outside of Bee and Max (the crazy jock of the group) feels fleshed out so they come off as annoying caricatures. This second problem spills outside of the cult as well. A lot of the supporting cast feels useless or tacked on. Outside of Melanie, Cole’s best friend, no one is utilized properly.

Direction ranges from strange to slightly better than expected. The score is typical for the type of movie this is, so while it doesn’t distract, it doesn’t lend itself to leaving a big impression. The movie makes use of floating words and pauses to create a strange comic-book feeling. It didn’t really work for me and I thought it was kind of strange. It didn’t add anything thematically and if it was an attempt at satire, it came off strange.

Speaking of satire, the movie is pretty hit-or-miss with its attempts at being funny with the genre. It doesn’t fully embrace the absurdity of camp like Dude Bro Party Massacre III and isn’t as clever as The Cabin in the Woods. It’s pretty on the nose about things, so if you’re looking for subtlety look elsewhere. I thought some of the moments worked, but others felt tacked on. The satire also isn’t properly integrated with the theme at the heart of the story- facing your fears and growing up. If it was, I think a lot of the movie could have been elevated. In fact, the reason I liked Max, is precisely because his absurdity and depiction with Cole directly ties in to the latter’s growth.

You see, despite my criticisms, I do enjoy the story’s exploration with growing up. Cole’s coming-of-age journey is just a more extreme version of things a lot of us have gone through, and I think the movie really nailed it. The relationship between Bee and Cole is actually pretty sweet and well-established so watching him deal with the revelation feels meaningful. Weaving’s performance certainly helps sell the emotional undercurrent of the story . It’s easy to see why Cole would be devastated at the revelation of Bee’s true nature, but on the flip side easy to see how good she was at manipulating him.

Report Card

TLDRThe Babsitter has some interesting ideas but rarely manages to be anything more than average. If you like Samara Weaving or are in the mood for a cheesy teen black comedy , then this movie might hit the spot.
Rating6.3/10
GradeD

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

 

Review: Ready or Not

Director(s)Matt Bettinelli-Olpin
Tyler Gillet
Principal CastSamara Weaving as Grace Le Domas
Mark O’Brien as Alex Le Domas
Adam Brody as Daniel Le Domas
Release Date2019
Running Time 95 minutes

As someone who loved Samara Weaving’s performances in both The Babysitter and Mayhem, I knew I had to watch this movie. I didn’t even watch a trailer – I just went in expecting to see a fun Weaving movie. I got that and so much more. Ready or Not is funny, clever, and brutal all at the same time.

The story follows Grace as she’s made to play a game of hide-and-seek after marrying into the wealthy Le Domas family. Except in this game, getting caught means being killed. What follows is an intense cat and mouse situation where Grace and the Le Domas family constantly seek to out maneuver the other party. What keeps these moments fresh is the circumstance under which the game is played and the family operates. I won’t spoil it, but the movie keeps you guessing on what’s really going to happen the whole time. Up until it was over, I didn’t know what was actually going to happen.

Even after having only seen the movie once in theaters and once for this review, I can remember most of the characters and their personalities fairly well. This movie, unlike a lot of other ones with big casts, doesn’t feel like it wastes any of its characters. There are clear motivations for each member – which is even more impressive when you realize how large the Le Domas family actually is. Yes, some of the arcs or backgrounds aren’t amazing or profound, but the fact that they are there at all is impressive.

Weaving absolutely kills it in her portrayal of Grace. She’s funny, wide-eyed, resolute, bad-ass, desperate, and everything in between. Her energy shines through and makes it really easy to root for Grace. It gives you a reason to care about the story and I found myself invested in the outcome. I think Brody’s performance as Daniel (Grace’s brother-in-law) was also fairly well done. He showed complexity and nuance and has some of the best character moments in the movie.

The movie’s discourse on families is interesting and doesn’t feel ham-fisted. Grace wants to be in the family because she’s always been alone- so for her family is a safe place. Meanwhile, her husband Alex resents his family for the practices they engage in so he wants to run away – but he still feels the need to follow tradition- which highlights just how strong family can influence the ordering of our desires. The way the parents evaluate their children’s’ spouses speaks volumes in what qualities they consider valuable. The perversion of family values is where the movie shines and the way it frames that discussion in relation to wealth adds another layer to think about.

Now for the problems. There are some character decisions in the third act that feel a bit off. They’re not incomprehensible, but they feel like they could have been developed a bit more so they wouldn’t feel as sudden. There are also some procedural issues I had with what knowledge what characters had about the mystery at the core of the plot. It feels like certain people should know things that would radically change their actions, but they don’t. Finally, there are moments where the camera feels/is handheld which takes away from the grandiose aesthetic. I wish the shots were stable throughout/moved only during more action-y scenes. This issue felt even more prominent on my second viewing. None of these problems are enough to make the movie bad, but they do lessen the themes the movie builds towards.

Report Card

TLDRReady or Not is a clever twist on the comedic slasher genre. The plot is well-paced and will keep you guessing about what’s going to happen up till the very end. There are some story issues that creep up in the third act, but they can’t detract from the absurdly fun journey/ending. If you enjoyed Knives Out, you may also like this. It’s weird – but this movie feels like a spiritual horror version of that one.
Rating9.0/10
GradeA

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

 

Review: You're Next

Director(s)Adam Wingard
Principal CastSharni Vinson as Erin
A.J. Bowen as Crispian Davison
Release Date 2013
Running Time94 minutes

I swear after I first saw this movie, I was certain a sequel would drop eventually, but unfortunately it seems like that’s not the case. It’s a shame because You’re Next has all the ingredients necessary for a classic slasher movie: stylish kills, great villain design, a dry perverse black humor, and a wonderfully bad ass main character in Erin. The premise- a rich family is targeted by unknown assailants and have to fight for their lives- is simple enough, but its execution shows a real understanding of the craft.

What immediately set this movie apart from others for me is how thought out the story feels. Character motivations are present even for the bad guys so everything has a human element to it. Erin is immediately likable and is a great protagonist to latch onto. Sharni is a bad ass and from the way she carries herself up to the way her character takes charge, it’s apparent that she’s not going to be a pushover. The killers each have different face masks corresponding to a different animals which represent their personality traits. It’s subtle character work that goes a long way in making the group of villains feel distinct aesthetically. The members of the rich family feel nice and distinct in the few moments they get to interact with each other. I wasn’t expecting so many characters to feel so unique.

The reason the characters feel so memorable is because of how odd they all are. The family might be rich, but that doesn’t mean they’re any more functional than a middle or lower class family. The earlier scenes where they play off each other are great, even if the delivery of some of the lines feels wonky. Someone’s always got something strange enough to say to add a “unique” sense of humor to scenes. I personally thought the movie was hilarious (intentionally). I appreciate dry in-your-face humor that’s predicated on the absurdity of what occurs. I think it’s a more acquired taste so if you don’t think it’s funny watching it, I wouldn’t be surprised. But I think watching it from the point of view of a comedy makes the viewing experience more memorable and might be something you consider trying out.

Despite nailing most of important stuff, the movie suffers from a lack of impact. What I mean is that we barely get a chance to gauge the characters relations among each other, so when people start dropping it doesn’t feel like anything.It’s a shame because the few moments they talk to each other had me laughing, but all of that is pushed to the wayside for immediate action.That might be good if you just want a constant source of action, but that’s not my cup of tea. The movie also struggles to balance its tone at times. It wants to be funny but then acts too seriously at other moments to let the humor breathe. It makes it hard to process, especially when the third act starts.

Report Card

TLDRIf you like weird humor that’s dark and kind of perverse and also enjoy gory slashers, then You’re Next is made for you. There’s a sensible story, aesthetically interesting villains, and a great protagonist waiting to be discovered. Just be wary of strange tonal shifts and bare-bones characterization.
Rating8.2/10
Grade B

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Happy Death Day 2U

Director(s)Christopher Landon
Principal CastJessica Rothe as Tree
Israel Broussard as Carter
Phi Vu as Ryan
Release Date 2019
Running Time100 minutes

I was so happy when I saw that Happy Death Day was getting a sequel. I actually went to this movie on opening week and remember leaving the theater feeling immensely satisfied. After watching it again recently, I’ve come to understand why. It’s like every problem I had with the first movie has been resolved in this one. The movie makes the brave decision to ACTUALLY expand on the ideas (if only all sequels could do this) which help it carve out an interesting little niche.

The movie picks up immediately after the first one and it’s revealed that the cause of all the time loops is Ryan’s science invention. After a series of mishaps, Tree ends up sent to a parallel dimension and is forced to find a way to escape the baby faced killer again. The sci-fi addition to the franchise gives it some much needed personality and makes the gimmick something more interesting. The way the characters end up reacting to the new knowledge gives us a ton of fun creative scenes that really push the black comedy aspect.

Characters from the past movie get more to do in this one. Because it’s a new universe, everyone shows a different side of themselves which gives Tree a lot of room to navigate and form new opinions. It makes people from the first movie feel more layered and is a fun play on the butterfly effect. It also gives the movie a more poignant emotional core that really made me feel for Tree. Speaking of Tree, Jessica Rothe kills it again in her performance. She’s given more room to have fun in this one and she takes a lot of pleasure in it.

Unfortunately, the one area the movie didn’t really improve on is the horror element of everything. The killer and their motivation in the first movie was pretty whack so I was curious to see how it would play it out in this one, and while it’s believable to an extent, it also feels kind of out there.

The pacing of the movie also feels off- there’s one moment in the third act where it feels like the movie has a natural ending, but then it keeps on going. It’s not that the extension feels bad. In fact, what happens makes a lot of sense- but it feels like it’s missing the polish the rest of the movie had. Maybe a subplot should have been removed and some events should have happened in a different order. I don’t know. It’s just a weird anomaly. The end credit scene does give me hope that the third movie (Please come out) does some crazy stuff, so here’s to that.

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TLDRHappy Death Day 2U takes everything that was good from the first movie and amps it up. There’s a more interesting story, better character building, and even more fun levels of absurdity. The movie is more science fiction that it is horror, so if you’re expecting focused slasher you may want to look elsewhere.
Rating8.4/10
Grade B

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Happy Death Day

Director(s)Christopher Landon
Principal CastJessica Rothe as Tree
Israel Broussard as Carter
Release Date 2017
Running Time96 minutes

Groundhog’s day meets teen-comedy meets slasher movie –Happy Death Day isn’t incredibly original, but what it lacks in creativity it makes up in unabashed fun. The story follows Tree, a troubled sorority girl who finds herself trapped in a sinister loop that restarts every time she’s killed by a baby masked killer. As she desperately tries to figure out who’s coming for her she’s forced to confront her fears – both physical and emotional.

If there’s one reason to watch this movie, it’s Jessica Rothe’s performance. She gives the story a real personality which keeps it feeling spunky and fresh as opposed to tired and outdated. She’s rude, unresponsive, and miserable with herself and everyone around her. Watching her slowly come to realize her situation and adapt is charming because of how expressive and energetic Rothe acts. She sells the story and is why I enjoy the movie so much despite how predictable its story beats feel.

The way the story unfolds is logical and makes sense. The identity of the killer is only revealed to attentive viewers at the hour mark because up till then the misdirection is done fairly well. I was particularly impressed with how layered the second “cycle” was in both story setup and character interaction. The movie knows when to switch it up so the story never feels like it overstays its welcome.

Unfortunately, nothing “interesting” really happens. The story doesn’t really add too much to the die-live again formula. There’s a unique addition that never gets developed a lot, but it plays it by the books which feels like a mixed opportunity. I wish the concept was incorporated with the horror element better. It feels like a psychological twist is missing that could have really elevated some scenes. Furthermore, outside of Tree, every character is kind of one note and uninteresting. They’re fine for the sake of the story – filling in easily identifiable character positions- but don’t do anything outside of that.

Report Card

TLDRHappy Death Day is funny, filled with energy, and has some cute “awuhh” moments. It doesn’t fully utilize the potential of its premise, but it does enough to remain interesting from beginning to end.
Rating7.9/10
Grade C+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Dude Bro Party Massacre III


Director(s)Tomm Jacobsen,Michael Rousselet,Jon Salmon
Principal CastAlec Owen as Brent / Brock
Olivia Taylor Dudley as Motherface
Patton Oswalt as Chief of Police
Release Date 2015
Running Time103 minutes

Despite what its title would imply, Dude Bro Party Massacre III is not a sequel to a well established franchise. Instead, it’s a criticism of privilege and insulation from punishment, an introspective look into frat culture and the social construction of masculinity, a fun satire of horror and slasher tropes, and is dumb and over the top in the best possible way. You can take out your brain and just enjoy the spectacle or you can have fun with the underlying themes- the movie works well for diverse crowds.

The plot is structured like a VHS tape- with an overarching slasher film and a series of advertisements in between- like someone recorded the movie as it ran on TV. The main story line follows the notorious Motherface, a killer who targets fraternities. The story is absolutely bonkers and goes in places I never expected. I can say with absolute certainty that most of ya’ll haven’t seen anything like it. The ad portions are fun, short, and to the point and never feel like they takeaway from the main movie.The absolute chaos of the movie also keeps repeated viewings fresh. If you like unique and interesting kills in an 80’s fashion, this movie has them in spades. The practical effects are great and I loved the ingenuity behind certain executions. You can tell there’s a lot of love that went into this.

Though the film intentionally tries to fail the Bechdel test, it absolutely feels like a feminist movie. Yes, the main characters are the brothers in the feature fraternity, but the movie makes it painfully obvious that all the members have participated in pretty horrendous stuff, despite how comical it all plays off. Motherface’s journey as such almost feels justified. It’s a slasher movie where you simultaneously for and against the “villain”. However, the movie still takes time to explore the nuance of a fraternity and the ideas of brotherhood related to it. Despite their problems, the frat members aren’t all malicious dudes. Some of them enjoy the experience because it gives them a sense of bonding that helps them feel less alone and isolated. It keeps the movie from ever feeling preachy.

Despite how much I love the chaos of the movie- at times it feels like misdirection for midsdirection’s sake. There are moments that are ominous and meant to trick a first time viewer, but they never feel like they pay off in the themes. So their fun but feel pointless. The movie also kind of drags on in the end. Don’t get me wrong – I love the ending. It’s amazing. But it also had me going why? These aren’t huge issues but I feel like they kind of muddled the point.

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TLDRDespite being too absurd for it’s own good at times, Dude Bro Party Massacre III is a surprisingly topical satire that’s sure to leave you smiling by the end of it.If you want a fun movie to watch with friends put this on (as long as people are okay with gore). It should delight a lot of audiences. It’s smart, unexpected, and feels like a roller coaster in the absurd.
Rating8.8/10
Grade B+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Black Christmas (2019)

Theatrical Review Poster

Earlier this October, I ended up watching Green Room for my horror movie marathon . I loved Imogen Poots performance in the movie (it stood out to me), so when I saw that she was going to lead a fun looking slasher flick, I had to go ahead and watch it. When the movie started I was enthusiastic and don’t get me wrong- I liked a lot of moments. However, I was left disappointed by the ending and the abundance of missed opportunities. This movie had real potential and squanders it by throwing nuance and subtlety out of the window in favor of an absurd resolution that actively hurts the movies themes and renders character arcs dissatisfying.

Poots plays Riley, a sorority member who’s recovering from trauma. The film is incredibly topical and deals with a lot of issues regarding rape culture and the treatment of assault on campuses. The look into sorority life and mixed feelings about what sisterhood entailed are interesting and well established at the beginning of the film. Poots is great and portrays the struggle she faces with a genuine sincerity that makes rooting for Riley natural. Cary Elwes is hilarious in his campy over the top role as Professor Gelson. His introduction is great ( in an awful kind of way) and I liked it. He’s also the only redeemable part about the third act so credit is due.

Early kills are also shot well. Yes, they’re obvious and the set up doesn’t feel unique or awe inspiring, but they’re well executed. The first death in the movie, set my expectations high with how aesthetically nice it was in both the manner of kill and the way the body was placed versus the environment. The deaths that follow are well set up but never reach the same highs as the first one. The film does a great job of establishing the real fear women face everyday. The fear of walking down a street with an innocuous fellow coming down behind you. Even if he’s just out and about and doesn’t mean anything, there’s a palpable fear about the “what if”. Moments like this are littered in the first two acts of the movie and present a horror story grounded in a real kind of feminist critique.

Unfortunately, all this subtlety is thrown away by the third act and the interesting themes about empowerment vs martyrdom vs autonomy get completely sidelined. It’s disappointing because it feels like the movie wants to be and feel “woke” in the most neoliberal way, so it sacrifices nuance to just preach common and boring tropes. This is a topic that requires nuance and subtlety – something I thought the beginning of the movie hinted at, but I was woefully off. To say I was sad with how everything ended is an understatement.

Rating

TLDR: A bag of missed opportunities that settles for being just above mediocre. I didn’t hate watching this movie, but the ending definitely took me out of a lot of it , which is a shame because I actually enjoyed a few moments early on.

Final Rating: 6.6/10. If you want an okay slasher with some nuanced and nice moments , I’d give this movie a check out. The third act is a huge disappointment but I still had an okay enough time in spite of it.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!