The Saw films and all the images you see in this retrospective are owned by Lionsgate Films
As mentioned in my Jigsaw review, I’ve had a somewhat complicated relationship with Saw franchise as I’m sure is the case with a lot of fans who somehow stuck with this series to the bloody end despite it inarguably getting worse and worse as it went along. Now this is hardly new for horror franchises (just look at the startling sharp drop the Halloween movies took) but to me Saw wasn’t just a series that got BAD or CHEESY as it went along; it got actively toxic. What do I mean by that? Well if you read the review I’ve now referenced twice already (SHARE IT WITH YOUR FRIENDS!!) you probably already know what that is, but let’s go ahead and take a look at this series from the beginning to see just how it managed to change and pervert its core concepts over time. Oh, and we’re going into TOTAL SPOILERS on these films, so only read if you’ve already binged watched them on Netflix or cannot be bothered to ever do so. Let’s get started!!
Two men (Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell) find themselves locked in a room and chained to opposite sides of it with a dead guy right in the middle; presumably having shot his brains out given the blood on the floor and the gun in his hand. Eventually they find a few tapes left for them by the serial killer who locked them up there in the first place known only as Jigsaw. They only have so much time to get out of this trap before the killer starts looking towards their loved ones, and this means they may have to make some really tough decisions; ones that involve the titular saw of the movie.
I haven’t watched this movie in about a decade so going back to where it all started, ESPECIALLY after seeing what the series would ultimately turn into, was quite a shock as the original film has much more in common with Se7en than any of the other movies. To a certain extent it’s a bit unfair to compare this initial entry to the rest of the series as it ends up feeling like an outlier (similar to how the first Friday the 13th doesn’t even have Jason as the killer) but there are qualities to this that are sorely missed in the sequels. For one, Jigsaw isn’t the overwhelming and unstoppable force that he would become in later films and is also a downright sadistic mother fucker with no redeeming qualities. Later films went all in on the cult of Jigsaw which is one of the biggest failings of the entire series; not only because it puts forth a reprehensible world view, but it takes so much menace and danger away from Jigsaw as a character. The Jigsaw in this film (working through a character named Zep) isn’t given a platform to spout his faux-populist agenda and the film takes time to show just how horrific and unjustifiable his actions are; mostly through the extended sequences of Zep having to terrorize a mother and child while the game is going on. Compare this to the later films where even the INNOCENT victims barely get a semblance of humanity before becoming props in a giant shit show of moving parts and sharp metal, and you can see why things got so monotonous and smug as the series went along. Now I’m not about to tell you that this is a perfect movie by any stretch as the editing is rather poor and the performance by Danny Glover is surprisingly awful, but you can see why this first film managed to garner the reputation it did and why Lionsgate was so eager to turn it into a franchise. The only question is, now that we know who the killer is (the guy on the floor played by Tobin Bell was playing dead the whole time) where else could they really go?
Happy Death Day and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures
Directed by Christopher B. Landon
There are very few premises that will get more on board with a film than “like Groundhog’s Day, but…” and honestly I’m not even sure why. That movie is certainly a phenomenally crafted comedy that I revisit from time to time, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s one of my favorite films of all time. I guess it really is just how great of an idea that premise really is as I see it as basically THE perfect interpretation of a Bottle Film (it allows limitless possibilities while also having an enormous constraint) and its one of the few ideas that gets me to eagerly start putting together scenarios of what I would do in that situation. Throw a murder mystery in the middle of it, and you have something that could be not just a GREAT film, but an absolute classic for the genre! Can this movie POSSIBLY reach the lofty goals that it sets for itself, or will this be a bigger waste of time than Before I Fall? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Tree (Jessica Rothe) waking up in an unknown dorm room with a guy she doesn’t really know named Carter (Israel Broussard) and heads back to her sorority so she can ignore the fact that today is her birthday. She ignores calls from her dad (Jason Bayle), brushes off her roommate Lori (Ruby Modine) who’s at least making an attempt to make her birthday a little bit nicer, and just goes through her usual routine as if there’s nothing special about today; even going to see the married professor she’s sleeping with (Charles Aitken). At the end of the day, when she’s heading to her own surprise party, it turns out today is NOT going to be a normal day because someone in a crappy baby mask (the school’s mascot… for some reason) stabs her and she… wakes up in the same dorm room she did that morning. Same guy, same day, same ignored phone calls from dad. Oh, and also the same murder. Clearly she’s doomed to repeat the same day over and over again until she finds out just who it is that’s killing her each night which may not be an easy thing to do considering how many people she manages to piss off on a regular basis, though murder DOES seem to be a bit extreme to be just anyone she knows so she’ll need to narrow down the suspects as each night (and each death) brings her closer to the truth. Will Tree be able to put an end to this endless cycle of misery and stabbings by unmasking the one person on campus who wants her dead? Is every day TRULY a repeat of the last, or does something linger every time the clock goes backwards? Just how many absurd and hilarious ways will Tree have to experience the ice cold hand of death before this is all over!?
IT and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Andy Muschietti
MAN this one takes me back! I still have my grandfather’s copy of the book that I read in middle school; torn to shreds naturally considering how much I carried it around. I’ve read a few Stephen King books here and there and I tend to like his style overall, but his movies are some of the most hit and miss films you could imagine; ranging from critically acclaimed masterpieces like The Shining to garbage you’ve never even heard of like Riding the Bullet. IT is one of the weird ones as its one of the most definitive King books out there (not just in popularity but in terms of content as well) but it’s honestly… a little bit… weak. Not saying it’s BAD, but there’ just SO much going on in there that it feels like several novels fighting for control of the narrative. Heck, if The Dark Tower didn’t LITERALLY do this, I’d say it’s almost akin to mashup of everything King had done up to that point only without a single shred of restraint to keep the whole thing manageable; hence why the damn thing is so thick you could beat a man to death with it. Still, we already got one adaptation of this story that everyone seems to like which means that someone EVENTUALLY had to take another crack at it for BRAND NAME RECOGNITION, but they at least had the foresight to make it a hard R movie instead of a PG-13 which works for SOME movies, but not for a story like IT. Will this be the new standard for Stephen King adaptations, or will this be like The Dark Tower where I’m the only one out there who actually enjoyed it? Let’s find out!!
The story of IT is set in the town of Derry (zero points if you can guess what state it’s in) where there’s been an unusual uptick in missing kid reports which has most of the town on edge; especially the kids themselves who fear they’ll be next. We know what’s up though! The first thing we see in the movie is little Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) falling victim to the supernatural menace that has been picking off kids left and right while taking the form of a really creepy looking clown known simply as Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). Everyone believes little Georgie to be dead, but his brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) is convinced that he’s still out there and plans to find him by any means possible; including going into the spooky sewers that may be full of waste but could ALSO be full of answers! His friends Richie, Stan, and Eddie (Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, and Jack Dylan Grazer) are helping him despite their better judgement and this circle of friends increases to include Mike, Ben and Beverly (Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray, and Sophia Lillis); all of whom are outcasts in one way or another and seem to be the only ones even TRYING to figure out what’s going on in their small town. Will they find the answers they seek the further they delve into the town’s cryptic history? What will Pennywise the clown do once he realizes these kids are onto him, and is there more to him than meets the eye? How the heck are they gonna do in two hours what a TV movie couldn’t do in less than three!? AND THEY HAD TIM CURRY TO HELP WITH THAT ONE!!
Annabelle: Creation and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by David F Sandberg
I’m gonna let you all in on a little secret. I absolutely HATE The Conjuring. Seriously, my hatred for that movie may not be on par with something as dreadful as Incarnate, but I was completely miserable while watching it. Even if you ignore the rather gross way it tries to legitimize (or at the very least sensationalize) a pair of “paranormal investigators” who have been bilking people out of money for decades. I mean sure, this is true of ANY of those assholes who purport to be super natural experts (outside of those groups that dress up as Ghostbusters) but it just irks me how a talented cast coupled with a talented director were being wasted on what is essentially propaganda for fraudsters because SPOILER ALERT, GHOSTS AREN’T REAL! I can suspend my disbelief for a movie or basically any work of fiction, but The Conjuring crossed that line by not only claiming to be BASED ON A TRUE STORY, but by doing so in a way that would only boost the supposed validity of people that clearly didn’t deserve it. Anyway, rant over. My hatred over the first movie kept me from seeing the sequel which got GOOD reviews as well as the Annabelle movie which… didn’t. Seemingly realizing the hole they dug themselves into, Warner Bros is trying to pull a Ouija: Origin of Evil; not just because they got the same actress from THAT movie, but by creating a retro prequel that looks to have nothing to do with the other film. Sounds like a good movie as far as I’m concerned. ANYTHING to get us as far away from The Warrens as humanly possible! Does their gamble to distance themselves from the first crappy movie manage to pay off, or was this a bad idea then and an even worse idea now? Let’s find out!!
Back in the good ol’ days before polio vaccines were widely available, there was a little girl named Annabelle (Samara Lee) who got the Pet Semetary treatment, i.e. she got hit by a car that REALLY should have been going a lot slower! Her parents Samuel and Esther (Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto) get very depressed with the latter even suffering from some sort of degenerative disease, but they eventually open their doors to a group of orphans who have nowhere else to go. The two main orphan girls Janice and Linda (Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson) soon realize that weird stuff is going on with the former even finding a mysterious doll in Annabelle’s old room. Okay, not so much her room but what looks to be a War Room that’s been secretly carved into her wall… for some reason. Anyway, we eventually find out that the doll houses some sort of demon that was passing itself off as the ghost of Annabelle, but the parents found out and locked it away! I figure they should have BURNED the damn thing instead, but I guess locking it behind a not-so-secret door and leaving the key out so that practically ANYONE could find it was a good option too! And so Janice spends the rest of the movie trying to convince her fellow orphans as well as Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) that something weird is going on, but no one other than Linda seems to take it seriously which can only mean that things are gonna get worse and worse in the house as Demon Annabelle is free to roam the halls and I guess extract its revenge. Can Janice and Linda survive the near constant onslaught of spookiness brought about by the demon? Will everyone else wise up to what’s going on before it’s too late? How does someone make this doll and the NOT expect it to be a demon magnet!?
“The secret order of Cute Things Gone Bad has come to order. Cujo will read the minutes from our last meeting.”
Get Out and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures
Directed by Jordan Peele
2016 turned out to be a fantastic year for horror movies; not just for the ones that ended up on my best of the year list, but also the ones that aimed to be middle of the road seemed to step up their game and try harder than you’d normally expect from the genre. Now sure, 2017 started with The Bye Bye Man, but even 2016 had some low points with The Forest and Incarnate. Plus, we’ve also gotten the excellent, if problematic, Split not too long ago which is already one of the better films this year; horror or otherwise. Now we’ve finally gotten to the BIG one which is Jordan Peele’s directorial debut that’s been getting a lot of positive buzz from when it was first announced all the way up to now with those Fancy Schmancy “professional” critics who are raving about it after they saw the “Critics Screenings”. Well I had to drive thirty miles in the rain AND hail to see this damn thing, so it BETTER be as good as everyone is saying it is! Is this thoughtful and well-crafted horror film that everyone says it is and that we desperately need right now, or did the hype machine get out of control with this movie which admittedly can sometimes happen with horror films? Heck, I wasn’t the biggest fan of You’re Next, and that movie was instantly touted as a classic of the genre! Anyway, let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) heading off to meet her family for the first time in what is sure to be a painfully awkward experience for everyone. Sure enough, Mr. and Mrs. Armitage (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) are just as “down” and “hip with the youngsters” as you’d imagine from older white people, but Chris seems to know what he as getting into and is just taking everything in stride until he get back home after the weekend is over. Of course, things only get worse as Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) enters the picture is an obnoxious dweeb as well as a bunch of the Armitage’s other white friends who are VERY excited to meet Chris. On top of that the Armitage’s have two black servants, Georgina and Walter (Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson), who look to have gotten the Stepford Wives treatment, though only Chris seems to be noticing this. Tensions mount higher and higher as more clues are uncovered by Chris and it’s starting to seem that he may be in more danger than he initially realized. Can he get out before he becomes the victim of whatever these white people have planned? What happened to Georgina and Walter that has them acting so strange? Did we SERIOUSLY get one of the best movies of the year from the guy who co-wrote Keanu? That wasn’t a BAD movie, but god DAMN is this a step up!!
Fucking white people. Not only are we pulling this crazy shit, but we’re doing it in the rumpus room!?
A Cure for Wellness and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Gore Verbinski
You know, Gore Verbinski is a much more versatile director than I think he gets credit for. Sure, he made three Pirates movies and then that Pirates movie in the old west, but he’s also got The Ring, The Weatherman, and Rango under his belt too; all really solid movies. Hell, even his big blockbuster films are at least interesting if not always good! Okay, The Lone Ranger isn’t even that much, but I’ll give credit to those Pirates movies for being fantastically well-crafted even if the story wasn’t always there to back up the designs. Now he seems to be going back to his roots in a way as this is the lowest budget he’s had to work with since The Weatherman, and he’s also heading back to the horror genre which seems like a pretty good idea considering how well that Ring remake turned out. Is this a new benchmark in horror that all others will be compared to, or will this be a catastrophic failure the likes of which we haven’t seen since The Lone Ranger? Or you know, it COULD be somewhere in between those two. Anyway, let’s find out!!
The movie follows an up and coming… business man of some sort named Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) who’s sent to some faraway Wellness Center somewhere in the Swiss Alps to retrieve the owner of the company he works for. You see, the board of directors got a strange letter from their boss Mr. Pembroke (Harry Groener) that he’s found the cure for what ails him at this facility and that he’s never coming back. Of course, if he REALLY didn’t want to be bothered anymore, he would have included official documents removing himself from the company to go along with that letter, but if he did that then Lockhart wouldn’t have a reason to go and we wouldn’t have a movie, now would we? It also helps that Lockhart did some illegal… business stuff I guess that he thought he had kept secret but the board knows ALL about it and is holding that over his head to get him to go to Switzerland. Once Lockhart gets there, its IMMEDIATELY clear that something just isn’t right about this place. Is it the creepy staff that acts like condescending zombie vampires? Is it the strange girl named Hannah (Mia Goth) who’s comes and goes with seemingly little understanding about the world around her? Maybe it’s the fact that the head of the facility is named Dr. Heinreich Volmer (Jason Isaacs) which is probably in the top ten villain names of all time! I’m guessing it’s that. Well any normal person would just bolt it to the airport at this point, but Lockhart JUST SO HAPPENS to get in a nasty car accident on the way back from the Wellness Center and wakes up back at the facility a few days later with a cast on his leg. Well since he isn’t GOING anywhere for now, he might as well try to find Pembroke and see if there’s some shady shit going down in this Wellness Center that puts a little too much emphasis on water and for some reason uses REALLY outdated medical equipment. Will Lockhart get what he needs from Pembroke and save his job? Just what is going on in this creepy facility with so many creepy people and creepy equipment? Is the cure that everyone is looking for… love!?
“I don’t remember them covering THIS is sex ed!” “Hey, which one of us is the doctor here?”