Quick Reviews: Halloween Edition 
Reviews by Mitchell Burns

Movies Reviewed: Carrie, Dark Skies, Aftershock, The Purge, The Conjuring, Evil Dead, Mama, and The Colony.
8 Spoiler free reviews! Enjoy!
Horror movies are generally the worst of the worst, Most of a year’s horror film crop ends up on critics worst of the year list. Rightfully so, the horror genre is very quick to include clichés, bad F/X, terrible dialogue and acting, and all around campiness. Luckily, there are good horror movies out there! Most of these good horror movies came out in the 80’s, but if you’re looking for something new to watch, look no further, as I’m running down a list of 8 horror movies you can rent and watch this Halloween season! 
Director: Kimberly Pierce
Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russel, and Barry Shabaka Henley
Where to watch: In theatres now!

Carrie is a remake of the 1976 original, which is the adaptation of a Stephen King novel, and if you can forget about the previous movies and book, Carrie is actually not a bad movie. 
Yes, it has a lot of little problems, like Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her mother (Julianne Moore) seem as if they’re from different time periods. I understand that the movie has to make them seem this way, but they’re living in a modern world and it’s not exactly believable. While we’re talking about believability, Carrie is such a sweet innocent girl, why would anyone, let alone the whole school, pick on one girl like that? Many of the bullies in Carrie are cartoonish and over the top, so I wouldn’t read too much into it. 
The biggest problem with Carrie is it’s faithfulness to the 1976 original, and that makes it overly predictable to anyone who’s seen the Oscar nominated original. But, it’s not a bad remake; the movies biggest problem is just being a remake. It’s like taking an old car and fixing it up but keeping the same engine.
I’m frustrated with the movies marketing, I know how the movie ends, and so do many, many other people, but shouldn’t Carrie’s marketing team assume many don’t? The posters and the trailers for Carrie give away many of the movies important plot points. It’s completely aggravating! 
Overall though, Carrie is enjoyable. Julianne Moore is perfect for the role of Carrie’s mother, they give her some dialogue that seems to fall flat but that’s not her fault. Chloe Moretz proves that she has what it takes to be the lead in a movie, she basically carried Kick ass 2 but in Carrie she’s the front runner and she does great work. The special effects are great, some really great CGI sequences here. The prom scene is intense; it’s really the only scary scene in the movie. Carrie should change its tagline to “Wait for the prom scene, its good”. 
Grade: C+ 
Dark Skies:
Director: Scott Stewart
Starring: Keri Russel, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, and J.K. Simmons 

Where to watch: On Blu-ray and DVD now

The best review I’ve read for Dark Skies so far is from Ed Whitfield and it says “It {Dark Skies} could be

a case for copyright law”. That made me laugh, but it’s 100% true, Dark skies employs a lot of what other horror films have already done. It has a “Been there, done that” feeling throughout the whole movie. Birds hitting windows, Kids drawing creepy pictures, stupid/useless cops, yepp, Dark Skies has it all and more! Get this, it even has a scene where the father says to the family “If we stay together we’ll be fine” and as soon as shit hits the fan he makes the family split up! I`ll say it again, Dark Skies is dumb!

Dark skies turns even Keri Russel, a respected actor, into a bumbling, incoherent, bra-less horror movie cliché. 
For all of Dark Skies Idiocy, it gets creepy right. It has a few eerie moments; many of these moments are quite palpable and tense. J.K Simmons swoops in at the beginning of the last act, for about one scene, and his character is interesting and his acting is good as always. Keri Russel and Dakota Goyo are the best actors in Dark Skies, picking up Josh Hamilton’s slack. 
Dark Skies will keep you entertained, it might even keep you scared, but it’s not smart, not even close. If you’re going to watch it, you may as well stay until the end, it’s actually unique and terrifying. 
Grade: C-*
*A very reluctant C-, if it wasn’t for the fact that it actually spooked me, it would be a solid D. 

Director: Nicolas Lopez
Starring: Eli Roth, Andrea Osvart, Ariel Levy, Natasha Yarovenko, Nicolas Martinez, Lorenza Izzo and Selena Gomez
Where to Watch: On Blu-ray and DVD now*
In 2010 an 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit Chile; it caused over $60 million in damage and took over 500 lives. The earthquake not only killed hundreds of people, but it caused huge panic and chaos throughout Chile, many areas of the country saw rape, looting, pillaging, curfews set and many other areas of societal breakdown. Director Nicolas Lopez and Writer/star Eli Roth had a discussion about the earthquake and how it affected the country afterwards, they decided to make a movie loosely based on these horrific stories. 
The result isn’t great, but it’s interesting. Aftershock is a very modern movie, it tells the story of a group of tourists as they navigate Chile, tasting wine, meeting girls and visiting many local night clubs. The way these people acted and behaved seemed genuine to the way my generation behaves today and I identified with the group. While I found the buildup to be interesting and funny, there was way too much of it! You watch a horror movie to be scared and thrilled, and there really isn’t any form of thrills or horror until about 45 minutes in. 
Once the earthquake hits, hold on, because it’s a thrill ride, it felt like Final Destination meets a disaster movie, like 2012. I described the last half of the movie to my brother as “bat-shit crazy”; Aftershock does a decent job of showing you some of the chaos that would ensue after a natural disaster like this. Aftershock borders on being campy, and laughable at points, like one character accidentally revealing he has tattoos and another character immediately assuming he’s evil. At a couple points I turned the volume off so I didn’t have to listen to girls scream, cry and whine anymore, there are also hints of some pretty atrocious acting and some bad stereotypes. Also, a completely useless and odd cameo from Disney princess Selena Gomez. 
BUT Aftershock is pretty good, I was thoroughly entertained for the majority of the movie, the graphics weren’t terrible, and it’s mildly scary. Overall it’s a pretty good time; just don’t think about it too much. 
Grade: C+

*Hard to find

The Purge
Director: James DeMonaco 
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane, Edwin Hodge, and Rhys Wakefield
Where to find: On Blu-ray and DVD now
This year is a milestone for me, I finally watched the “Before” series, the critically acclaimed romance movies Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, all three starring Mr. Ethan Hawke. He’s GREAT in these amazing movies, and I think I would almost call myself an Ethan Hawke fan, but not if he keeps making crap like The Purge! 
The Purge is set in the year 2022, at some point before 2022, the crime rate in America was so bad that the Country instituted an annual 12 hour period called “The Purge”. The Purge allows for all of America to do whatever they want for 12 hours, all criminal activity is legalized for these 12 hours so that people won’t feel the need to commit crimes any other time of the year. Supposedly it works because the crime rate is at an all-time low. 
Ethan Hawke stars as a rich father of two and husband; he installs security systems that protect people during The Purge. Ethan Hawkes wife is played by Game of Thrones Lena Headey; she is by far the best part of this movie. 
The Purge has way too much buildup, about 50 minutes of it, and when you know almost exactly where a story is headed, buildup isn’t fun. The idea is smart, and the movie hints at some really smart concepts and themes, but it never gets it right. The Purge’s subject matter should be able to give some sort of social commentary; it should have been more psychological, smart and interesting. Instead it goes in the opposite direction and falls for stupid horror movie clichés and is a very bland and unentertaining movie.
Okay, let me nitpick even deeper for a minute here. This movie has about EIGHT scenes where an “evil” character is slowly creeping up on a character, about to kill them with some sort of weapon. The “evil” character raises their weapon (very slowly), utters some stupid line, then raises their weapon some more. THEN at the last moment, they’re interrupted, usually by a gunshot. HOW SHOCKING….NOT!!!! It might have been slightly shocking the first time if I hadn’t seen it in a hundred other movies, but to do this about 8 times is just plain aggravating and unoriginal. 
Also, you’ll probably end up hating the kids in this movie as much as I did; the kids are played by Max Burkholder and Adelaide Kane. Bad acting and stereotypes make them more unlikeable than Carl from The Walking Dead. Yep, movies just can’t get kids right. 
But Finally, this movie has ONE really great scene; the final scene in the movie is great! It showcases Lena Headey’s great acting; it’s funny, and tense. Unfortunately, this scene seems to belong in another movie.
Grade: D
The Conjuring
Director: James Wan
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, John Brotherton, Shannon Kook
The Conjuring: On Blu-ray and DVD now
The Conjuring is based on true events, it focuses on the Perron’s, a real family of 7, mother, father and 5 daughters who move into a new house that is believed to have some ghostly or demonic presence. The Conjuring also involves The Warrens, two real life Paranormal Investigators who investigated many cases, including the cases depicted in the films Amityville Horror, The Haunting in Connecticut and more. I’ve read up on the real life case of the Perron family and The Conjuring gets a lot of things right, but a lot of what is in the movie seems to be an exaggeration of actual events. Should that matter when reviewing a movie? No. Why did I do my research? Because this movie freaked me the F**k out and I couldn’t live with myself assuming that everything in it actually happened.
The Conjuring is the first movie in a really long time to scare me this badly, the whole movie has a looming sense of dread and tension that almost drips off of every scene. The director James Wan knows how to make everything seem creepy, like wardrobes, dolls, 60’s clothing and even little girls. The Conjuring has typical scares you’ve come to expect from the horror genre, but the movie is ultimately heightened by a number of factors you don’t usually expect to see in a horror movie. For one, the acting is great, especially the two remarkable female leads, Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel) and Lili Taylor (Six Feet Under). Second, the camera work is impeccable, it makes me happy to see someone working on a horror movie and not just shooting it, they actually bring some artistic value to the filming. Lastly, the way the characters act are completely rational, there aren’t any points where you questions a characters motives or behaviours, which is so refreshing to see in a horror movie. No dumb blonde’s waving frantically with low cut tops in this movie people!
The Conjuring is genuinely scary and interesting, I was very pleased with it and honestly, it could be one of the best horror movies in the last ten years.
Grade: A
Evil Dead
Director: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, and Elizabeth Blackmore

Where to find: On Blu-ray and DVD now

Yes, I had to watch the original Evil Dead trilogy this year before I could see this Evil Dead reboot (sequel?), because I am somewhat of a completionist. I now own the original trilogy because I loved them that much and I will be watching them this Halloween for sure! I think it’s good to have some love or respect for an original before seeing remakes, reboots or sequels.
Evil Dead tells the story of a group of teenagers who venture to a cabin in the woods in order to assist their friend Mia, in recovering from a heroin addiction. Once inside the cabin they find a book in the cellar that one member of the group reads out loud from which horrors are unleashed. 
This Evil Dead reboot had its work cut out for it, it had to evolve from its predecessors over the top horror and humor, become something unique but all the while never forgetting the original movies. Evil Dead handles this pretty well, it completely ditches any form of humor, which is a huge difference but almost necessary, today’s audiences don’t generally like to mix humor with horror. 
I enjoyed Evil Dead because it walked a fine line of gore and actual scares, without the cheap scares we’ve come to expect from recent horror films. What I didn’t like about the movie, was the first 20 minutes. Last year’s Cabin in the Woods did a great job at skewering the horror movie genre and making fun of movies a lot like Evil Dead and its characters. Unfortunately, Evil Dead came out almost exactly a year after Cabin in the Woods, and that makes the characters in Evil Dead almost laughable. The characters are the only weak part of Evil Dead, the characters actions are often nonsensical and laughable, and the acting is pretty bad as well. I was never heartbroken to see a character killed, and the only real good actor and likable character is… umm… we’ll say incapacitated for most of the movie. 
Overall, I would recomend this movie to fans of the orignals, to fans of horror movies and fans of movies in general because it’s pretty great. The production value, effects, story and makeup make this movie scary and awesome. 
Grade: A-
Directed by: Andres Muschietti 
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, and Isabelle Nelisse 
Where to watch: On Blu-ray and DVD now
Mama is different from any movie you’ll see this year, it’s not really an American movie by any means and that probably has a lot to do with its uniqueness. Mama was filmed in Canada and has a huge Spanish cast and crew. 
I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this movie and I would never say I liked it, but I enjoyed it, I was thoroughly entertained and found at least 6 or 7 good scares throughout the film. For that alone I can assume many people will enjoy Mama, and I know they did, because I know this movie was far to hyped up by friends and critics alike. If I had gone into this movie without hearing any hype I probably would have liked it a lot more and picked it apart less. 
The writers of the movie seemed to have a good story and great ideas written around the two young girls, and then when they went about writing the story of the protagonists they completely half assed it. Jessica Chastain’s character is completely unlikeable (bitch would be a good way to describe her). While she does somewhat redeem herself, I still hated her for most of the movie. Jessica Chastain’s husband in the movie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, feels completely out of place in the script. Without getting into spoilers I’ll just say that the script does almost nothing with him, and many of his plot points are confusing and odd. Also, the main couple (Chastain and Waldau) seem so different it’s hard to believe they would ever be together in real life. 
Although the acting is good, Chastain does well, it’s Megan Charpentier who really shines as young Victoria. Charpentier has to display a whole rainbow of emotions, her character develops as the story continues and it’s interesting to watch her act her way through this movie. With the right movie vehicle I think Charpentier could get her due one day.
Mama isn’t a bad movie; it has a lot going for it; an interesting script, unique story and creepy tone.
Grade: B- 
The Colony
Directed by: Jeff Renfroe
Starring: Kevin Zegers, Laurence Fishburne, Bill Paxton, and Charlotte Sullivan
Where to watch: On Blu-ray and DVD now
By the year 2045, in order to battle the warming climate, humans have built machines that can control the weather. Unfortunately, the machines break down, it begins to snow and it never stops, the world is thrust into almost ice age like conditions. Now, the remaining survivors have been driven underground and live in colony’s, with strict rules and sickness running rampant. 
It sounds like a great idea, unfortunately this is a B movie, if it’s on TV and you’re bored, it’s not a bad watch, but I wouldn’t seek it out. The Colony is well shot, Fishburne and Paxton try to help, but clunky dialogue, a weak script and an overall blandness make this movie one you can definitely skip. 
Grade: D+
Bonus Review:

Hell Baby
Directed by: Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon
Starring: Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb, Alex Berg, Keegan Michael Key, Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel, and David Pasquesi 

Where to watch: On Blu-ray and DVD now

This is more comedy than it is horror, but I figured I would include it, to warn people if anything. Hell Baby isn’t good people; it’s full of slap stick, gross out humor that never gets it right. 
Rob Corddry plays the nice guy, a family man, and it’s the worst time for him to playing this type. You’ve never seen Corddry so nice and sweet, but shouldn’t he be trying to be funny? His character doesn’t belong in this movie. The only character able to put any form of a smile on my face was F’resnel, played by the energetic Keegan Michael Key.
It’s not scary, and it’s not funny… it’s actually scary how unfunny it is. 
Grade: F

Thanks for Reading,

Mitch Burns, The Hollywood Persona

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