Thursday, June 13, 2019

Junesploitation 2019 Day 13: New Horror!

Evil awaits!



    STAY ALIVE (2006, 86 min.) on HBO Go
    for the first time.

    Now here's a rare bird worthy of Junesploitation! exposure. Unless I'm mistaken (couldn't find another one outside of Dimension), this is the first 'PG-13' slasher picture released under the banner of a Disney-owned studio (Hollywood Pictures). A group of young gamers in New Orleans get together online to play the favorite survival horror game ("Fatal Frame" meets "Silent Hill 4") that their friend Loomis (a pre-"Rocky Balboa," pre-"Heroes" Milo Ventimiglia) was enthralled by before he was brutally murdered. Predictably and one-by-one, these gamers start dying for real in similar fashion to the way their characters perish in the game. It's a race against time for Loomis' best friend Hutch (Jon Foster, Ben's brother) to put an end to this. And yes, at one point in the story someone actually says 'Oh, my God. The game is playing itself.' No shit! :-P

    "Stay Alive" is a predictably dumb, pandering-to-gamers supernatural slasher (with dated-in-'06 gaming graphics to boot), but it's also an amusing time capsule of mid-2000's pop culture. You know, back when clearance Dreamcasts were still in store shelves next to newly-thin PlayStation 2 consoles. "One Tree Hill's" Sophia Bush (doing her summer hiatus flick), Frankie Muniz (typecast as an uber nerdy gamer), Adam Goldberg (workaholic a-hole) and even Wendell Pierce (playing the same stuck-up law officer he did in "Hackers"), along with neat production touches (Katsuhiro Ôtomo's "Steamboy" plastered on a bedroom wall), are small details that make "Say Alive" worth a look... then quickly deleting that viewing memory from your cinephile drive.

    Eli Roth's KNOCK KNOCK (2015, 99 min.) on HBO Go for the first time.

    Keeping it videogame-related (at least for this intro), Keanu Reeves is having a moment. Besides "John Wick 3" killing it at the box office, he also stole this year's E3 with an in-person reveal at the Microsoft Conference that he'll play a character in the upcoming "Cyperpunk 2077" videogame. Released by Lionsgate (modern purveyor of all things Junesploitation!) a year after the first "John Wick" came out, "Knock Knock" also finds Keanu suffering the humiliating loss of a beloved family dog. Unlike the cathartic release of a hitman going on a rampage, though, Eli Roth wants to wallow in the misery and sorrow that befalls Keanu's middle-aged architect after he opens his home on a rainy night to a couple of attractive women (Ana de Armas and Lorenza 'Mrs. Roth' Izzo). Hey, it's no accident that the Richard Dawson version of "Family Feud" is playing on TV the morning after... you know. ;-)

    Reminding me more of Michael Heneke's "Funny Games" than 1977's "Death Games" (the more direct inspiration for Eli's loose remake), "Knock Knock" succeeds at mixing home invasion, torture porn and psycho sexual tropes into one supremely uncomfortable viewing experience. I can only imagine how apprehensive poor Patrick must have felt watching this. I personally loved seeing how Eli Roth keeps toying with audience expectations for how the situation will resolve itself, only for the ship to not right itself in typical Hollywood fashion. And it's nice for a movie shot in Chile to not be ashamed of constantly dropping Spanish in everyday casual conversation among its English-speaking characters. Recommended with strong reservations since the type of horror (physical and psychological) Eli Roth indulges in won't be for everybody.

  2. Terrified (Aterrados) (2017, dir. Demián Rugna)

    An Argentinian film I stumbled upon on Netflix. Three neighbors are experiencing strange occurences, so three paranormal investigators decide to spend the night, one in each house. Weird shit happens.

    A few scenes are really effective, while others are laughably bad. Plus there's no logic to any of it, nothing to tie the various scares together, and the storytelling is pretty muddled with its time jumps and switching main characters.


    Nothing particularly wrong with it, just wasn't my jam. Always cool to see Lin Shaye, though.

  4. Happy Death Day 2U (2019) - first watch

    Fun little horror that manages to change gears from the original, while keeping the lightness that made the first enjoyable. Jessica Rothe is really good in both the more heart felt scenes and the funny ones. Looking forward to see what she does next.

  5. BRAID (2018)
    Whoa. A group of friends try to pull off a heist by reenacting a childhood game with a madwoman they once knew. At least I think that’s what happens. This movie defies description. It keeps on challenging and provoking the viewer so that you’re exhausted by the end, wondering if really saw what you just saw. Obviously this much weirdness is not for everyone, but boy did I dig it.

    Bonus #Godzillasploitation: GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (1974)
    Mechagodzilla was a quite a stroke of genius -- an enemy who can put up a real fight against the seemingly unstoppable Godzilla. This one also debuts the weird and wacky King Caesar, making one monster advanced technology and the other ancient magic. The alien invasion plot is James Bond-ish, but it gets upstaged by the monsters. This was another of my favorites when I was a kid and I’m glad to see it still holds up.

  6. The Head Hunter (2018) Dir. Jordan Downey

    Small budget, one man show with very little dialog. The cinematography looks amazing with some great practical creature effects but the story doesn't really have much substance. The runtime of just over an hour makes it bearable though.

  7. Nina Forever (2015)

    I'm definitely going to Hell for being as turned on by this as I was. Luckily it actually turned out to be a great movie, so I feel somewhat justified.

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  9. Our House (2018, dir. Anthony Scott Burns)

    A dude accidentally invents a machine that lets him and his young siblings communicate with their recently deceased parents, but... well, what do you think happens next? Yeah, exactly that happens next.

    There's all the ghost movie clichés plus silly technobabble that tries to explain it all.

    "Our consciousness has a frequency. Where does all that energy go when we die?" - The quote that broke me.

  10. "Apostle" 2018, Dir. Gareth Evans

    This wasn't as warmly recieved as I believe it should've been. I think time will be kind to it. Gareth Evans directs the fuck out of it and Dan Stevens continues to defy expectations with the roles he chooses. Michael Sheen kills it, as does Paul Higgins and the ferocious Mark Lewis Jones.

    Well worth a watch, especially if you're an Evans fan. Ignore the naysayers and bask in the cold, bloody light of this gruesome gem.

    1. YES. I thought that film was amazing and I cannot understand the reception it got.

  11. Head Count (2018)

    A decent doppelganger movie but not really worth hunting down. There were a few scenes I liked that showed some creativity. This is one of those movies that if I had been involved with, I would be super proud of, but as a casual viewer, it's just one and done. Not great, but not totally inept or stupid. Just kind of a shrug of a movie.

  12. End Trip (2018) Dir. Aaron Jay Rome

    This is that movie that you rent blind from Redbox because nothing looks interesting and you end up saying "you know, that was better than I expected" but you feel like you'll probably never watch it again. Some good performances and solid suspense kept my interest throughout.

  13. Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

    I originally considered watching this for zombies! day but I hadn’t heard enough about it (never saw a trailer, never read a review so as to remain unspoiled) to be sure that this particular apocalypse involved zombies. Boy is my face red (mostly because it’s covered in lots and lots of blood).

    This is an incredibly impressive movie in that not only is it a super-fun musical with incredibly catchy songs, it’s also a deadly serious zombie movie including all of the bleakness that suggests. I tend to not gravitate toward zombie movies because of their inherent bleakness, but watching that tone play out across a rousing Christmas musical is certainly not something I ever expected to see. Great music, fun choreography, real pathos, and enough (practical!) gore to have Tom Savini tapping his toes. Terrific movie.

  14. Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)

    As someone who didn't hate the first Unfriended, I was actually looking forward to this one, especially as the community seemed to like it better than the first. Unfortunately it did nothing for me.

    The first Unfriended, while seriously flawed, at least had a little to say about bullying and its effects on both perpetrators and victims. This has no such ambitions. Instead it's happy to just be an inferior retread of The Den with far less likable characters. Not for me.

    Plus, who doesn't do a full system wipe on a used computer as soon as they turn it on. The entire plan hinges on the lead not even knowing basic computer security.

  15. Apostle (2018)

    Not as big a fan as Louis Viljoen or Daniel Epler, but I enjoyed it overall. Maybe a bit slow and overlong, but the cast was solid and I liked the setting. I don't really expect it to stick with me much though.

    1. We, I tell thee, we... we are free men.

      All good, Ross. We will delay the war... for now.

  16. Hagazussa (2017)

    It's kinda feels like the VVitch, but somehow even slower paced. It's atmospheric though and I liked it well-enough.

    1. I didn't really "enjoy" this movie but the gothic/European/rural/ancient feel of it has stuck with me. I think this may be recognized as a classic someday.

  17. The Hole in the Ground (2019) where I would throw this movie. That's harsh. I would put it right on the edge. Like if someone walked by it they might accidentally knock it in. But maybe they don't. It could go either way. If I see it there later I might give it a nudge.

  18. Inheritance (2017)

    And lastly, to my long lost son, I leave this movie. It isn't much and you won't get any enjoyment from it. Yet, it is yours to do what you must. It's fate lies in your hands, now. I will no longer carry this burden. It is your cross to bear. I am free.

  19. Ma (2019)

    This movie is really hoping you've never seen May.

  20. Close Calls (2017)

    This movie is something else.

  21. Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018, dir. Laguna/Wiklund, First Time Viewing)

    I'm really a fan of S. Craig Zahler. He wrote it, and it feels like something he vomited out in a weekend and it is one of the most entertaining horror-comedies of all time. Really enjoyed it. It's trite and aims low but man is it effective at what it tries to be. Highly Recommended.

  22. Slice (2018, dir. Austin Vesely)

    Not my favorite, does not live up to the talent involved (Chance the Rapper, Zazie Beetz), but kinda fun? Could have been great but also could have been a disaster. For me it ended up somewhere in the middle but did not leave much of an impression.

  23. Perfection (2019)

    A decent little horror/thriller - saying too much would spoil it, but it looks great and though there are certainly a few "Made for Netflix" kinda performances, I thought Allison Williams was fantastic. Check it out!

  24. Mom and Dad (2017)

    The climax is suitably insane, and Cage and Blair are next level great, but I didn’t care too much for the ending, and it takes a little while to really get rolling. Cage and Blair though... wow.

    All Hallows' Eve (2013)

    Uneven, as just about all anthology horror films are; the last segment is pretty great, the second one pretty terrible, the first one somewhere in between. Dug the wraparound segment as well, and Art the Clown is fucking creepy as all hell.

  25. Us (2019)

    It's hard to make a movie. Jordan Peele makes it look easy. I love this movie with my whole heart. If you don't like it...then you're not me. And that's a problem I don't have. Lupita Nyong'o deserves all the awards. She won't get any because this is a horror movie. Get Out was perfect but I like it more. It's an 11:11.

  26. Verotika (2019, dir. Glenn Danzig)

    The Misfits are a good band.