Say Bye-Bye to THE BYE BYE MAN (2017)

1

 

bye_bye_man-poster

While 2017 has been a great year for horror movies so far, it didn’t start out that way. Here’s a look back at one of the year’s earlier efforts, as well as being one of its more forgettable, from January, THE BYE BYE MAN (2017).

THE BYE BYE MAN— what an awful title— opens in the 1960s, when we see an unhinged man with a shotgun chasing his family and neighbors, asking them if they’ve told anyone the name.  Regardless of their answers, he kills them.  He eventually kills himself, all in an effort to prevent the evil of the Bye Bye Man from being spread.  But spread it does!

The story jumps to present day where we meet three college friends about to rent an off campus house together.   There’s Elliot (Douglas Smith) and Sasha (Cressida Bonas), who are dating, and John (Lucien Laviscount), who’s been Elliot’s best friend since childhood. It doesn’t take long before they realize they picked the wrong house to rent.

At their house-warming party, attended by their college friends and Elliot’s older brother Virgil (Michael Trucco) and Virgil’s young daughter Alice (Erica Tremblay), it’s little Alice who discovers a mysterious gold coin in the upstairs bedroom.  This coin later leads Elliott to find the words “Don’t say it!  Don’t think it!” written inside a drawer which eventually leads him to more hidden writing, and this time it’s the name “The Bye Bye Man.”  So, you can’t say it or think it, but I guess it’s okay to write it.

Meanwhile, Sasha’s friend Kim (Jenna Kanell) who is psychic decides to give the house a psychic cleansing, and in an absolutely ridiculous scene in which she must be the most powerful psychic who ever lived because she knows every single answer to every single question naysayer Elliot throws her way, she eventually receives some bad vibes from the Bye Bye Man himself and quicker than you can say séance she makes like the bye bye girl and gets the heck out of there.  Well, sort of.  She does stay long enough to sleep with John.

Anyway, the Bye Bye Man is unleashed and he begins to haunt our three fine college friends who find themselves experiencing strange delusions and having impulses to harm those around them.  And they can’t tell anyone what’s going on because, well, you know, “don’t say it.  don’t think it.”  Say the Bye Bye Man, and it’s curtains for those you say it to.  Whatever.  These folks aren’t that clever.  I mean, they don’t even try to become creative in communicating what’s going on.  There are ways, after all, to get a message across without actually saying a name.  Try “there’s something haunting us which we can’t think about or name” for a start.

THE BYE BYE MAN is a dreadful horror movie that really isn’t worth your time.

The acting is particularly bad.  I thought the two leads, Douglas Smith as Elliot, and Cressida Bonas as Sasha were pretty awful.  I didn’t find them convincing at all, and Smith goes through the whole film with a weird expression on his face, a cross between sadness and fright, regardless of what’s happening around him.

The supporting cast was a bit better.  Lucien Laviscount at least showed some personality as John, and I actually liked Jenna Kanell as Kim, the psychic girl.

Doug Jones plays The Bye Bye Man, and we’ve seen Jones as other monsters as well, in OUIJA:  ORIGIN OF EVIL (2016) and in CRIMSON PEAK (2015).  Jones also played Abe Sapien in the HELLBOY movies.

And in a bizarre bit of casting, Faye Dunaway shows up in a bit part as the Widow Redmon.  Is this the best she can get nowadays?  Very sad.

The direction by Stacy Title isn’t any better.  There are some awkward shots here, almost amateurish, during some scenes of dialogue, where the camera jumps from one character’s face to the other and often lingers there.  It was just odd.  In fact, it was so noticeable that the audience actually laughed a couple of times.  It wasn’t smooth camerawork at all.

In terms of shocks and scares, again, the audience was laughing.  Not a good sign.  In fact, I saw it in a packed theater— which I guess explains why these movies get theatrical releases, because horror movies make money.  Although good horror movies would make more money!—and on the way out I heard several people say it was the worst movie they’ve ever seen.

The script by Jonathen Penner was dull and redundant.  Don’t say it.  Don’t think it.  How about Don’t repeat it?  Over and over again we kept hearing the same phrase, and yet I left that movie not knowing much at all about who the Bye Bye Man was or what he was up to, which I guess is because nobody in the movie could say anything about him.  How convenient.  Let’s create a monster that the characters can’t talk about for fear of death and that way we don’t have to develop him!  Er, no.

The characters were also weak, and I wasn’t interested in any of them.

I will say, that the first time we actually see the Bye Bye Man, I thought he looked kinda cool, but sadly, the more we see of him, the less cool he looks.  And, the worst part is, that the Bye Bye Man has a buddy, and it’s, I guess, some huge carnivorous dog.  Whatever he is, he’s the saddest looking CGI creation this side of those god-awful TWILIGHT wolves.

THE BYE BYE MAN is a weak and forgettable horror movie.  In fact, I have no problem with don’t think it, don’t say it, because lucky for me, I’ve already forgotten about it.  You should too.

Say bye-bye to THE BYE BYE MAN.  Good riddance!

—END—

 

 

 

 

Worst Horror Movies 2016

0

Here are my picks for the WORST HORROR MOVIES OF 2016.

While these first two films didn’t make my TOP 5 List, they still deserve honorable mentions:  the literary snooze PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, and the Naomi Watts misfire SHUT IN, a badly written film that wastes a fine performance by Watts.

And now for the TOP 5:

conjuring 2

5.THE CONJURING 2 – Coming in at #5 it’s the dreadful sequel THE CONJURING 2.  I liked the original THE CONJURING (2013)  a lot, but this redundant sequel, in spite of the return of director James Wan and actors Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, who reprise their roles as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, is a dud.  The dialogue here is particularly bad.  Adds nothing new to the original.

 

4. THE DARKNESS-  Another pointless demonic possession movie.  It’s interesting to note that several of my picks for worst horror movies were demonic possession movies, while none of my picks for best horror movies were about demons and hauntings.  That’s no accident.

This one tells a silly story about a demon that haunts a family after they visit the Grand Canyon. For a movie called THE DARKNESS, this one is photographed in lots of bright sunshine.  Go figure.  Stars Kevin Bacon as a dad with fairly young children, and he’s a bit long in the tooth to pull off that type of role successfully.

 

3. THE FOREST (CKF) – This weak horror movie wastes a real place- Japan’s suicide forest- in a poorly written story about an American woman searching Japan’s suicide forest for her missing sister.  Don’t bother joining her on the search.

 

 

2. BLAIR WITCH – Another dreadful sequel, this time to the classic THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999).  Offers nothing new and sheds no light whatsoever on the mysterious events which occurred in the first movie.  A complete waste of time.

 

And now, without anymore fanfare, my pick for the WORST HORROR MOVIE OF 2016.  The envelope please.  And the winner—er, loser, is:

incarnate

1 INCARNATE-  Yup,my pick for the WORST HORROR MOVIE of 2016 is INCARNATE,  a hopelessly bad demonic possession movie starring Aaron Eckhart as a demon hunter who enters people’s minds and battles the demons in their dream worlds.  Sort of like a good guy Freddy Krueger, only without the wit.

Pretty much nothing works in this clinker.

And there you have it, my picks for the WORST HORROR MOVIES OF 2016.

Here’s hoping there are better horror films on the horizon in 2017.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For The Love Of Horror cover

Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.  

 

 

 

 

 

Worst Movies of 2016

1

And here’s a look at my Top 10 List for the worst movies I saw in 2016:

10. HAIL CAESAR!

Coming in at #10 it’s HAIL CAESAR!, a misfire from the Coen brothers.  Don’t get me wrong, this period piece depicting 1950s Hollywood looks terrific.  But the script doesn’t really work.  It has the makings of a screwball comedy, but the Coen brothers opt to play up the drama instead, and so the main character is straight man Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) who goes around getting actors and actresses out of the various messes they’ve gotten themselves into, all in the name of protecting the studio’s image.  And so the screwball tale of lead actor Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) being kidnapped is pushed into the background, downplaying Clooney’s considerable comedic talents. The film is basically a bunch of unfunny vignettes with a serious but dull wraparound story featuring Brolin’s Eddie Mannix.  Should have been much better.

 

9. BATMAN V SUPERMAN:  DAWN OF JUSTICE

batman_v_superman

Easily my pick for the worst superhero movie of the year.  Batman and Superman lock horns in a story that never makes much sense.   The two superheroes hate each other in the first place, which weakens the plot point of villain Lex Luthor’s plan to pit them against each other, and later the moment when the two future superfriends make amends simply doesn’t ring true.  Best part:  Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.  Worst part:  Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.

 

8. THE CONJURING 2

conjuring 2

A major disappointment.  This sequel to the excellent horror movie THE CONJURING (2013) is a bust, even with the return of original director James Wan, and lead stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.  Film offers nothing new.

 

7. THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY

Horribly unfunny comedy by Sacha Baron Cohen about two brothers, one an assassin, the other a full-fledged loser, who team up to take on the bad guys.  This one had a hilarious trailer, but that’s all.

 

6.THE DARKNESS

Another lame horror movie, this one about a demon which haunts a family after they take a trip to the Grand Canyon.  Stars Kevin Bacon.

 

5. MECHANIC:  RESURRECTION

mechanic-resurrection-poster

One of the worst sequels I’ve seen in a long while.  This sequel to one of Jason Statham’s earlier hits, THE MECHANIC (2011), itself a remake of a 1970s Charles Bronson movie, makes no sense and is simply an excuse to have Jason Statham in some action scenes.  I’m a big Statham fan, but not even his presence here could save this turkey.

 

4. THE FOREST

Yet another terrible horror movie.  There are simply too many of these.  This one takes a real place, Japan’s Suicide Forest, with lots of real potential, and reduces it to a mere setting for a silly story about an American woman searching for her missing sister.  This is one forest not worth visiting.

 

3. BLAIR WITCH

Yup, another horror movie, another pointless sequel.  This sequel to the classic THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) drops the ball as its story about the younger brother of the main protagonist in the original film offers nothing new.  Yup, you won’t find any neat revelations here regarding the mysterious events in the first film.  A huge waste of time.

 

2. HARDCORE HENRY

This actioner deployed the gimmick of being shot entirely from the first person perspective of the main character, who we never see since the story unfolds through his eyes.  The result is a movie which plays like a video game, but of course, the viewer isn’t playing this game, so unless you like watching other people play video games, you might want to skip this one.  Not even the presence of the talented Sharlto Copley can save this shallow flick.

 

1. INCARNATE

incarnate

My pick for the Worst Movie of 2016 is a no brainer.  Easily the worst horror movie of the year and the worst movie of the  year, INCARNATE wastes the talents of a fine actor like Aaron Eckhart and sticks him in a ridiculous story about demonic possession.  The gimmick here is Eckhart’s character approaches demonic possession from the psychological standpoint, and enters the victims’ dreams to expel the demons.  Kinda like a heroic version of Freddy Kruger, only without the wit.  A mess from start to finish, this one makes little sense, nor does it try to.

And there you have it, my picks for the Worst Movies of 2016.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For The Love Of Horror cover

Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.  

 

 

 

 

 

INCARNATE (2016) – Dull Horror Movie Doesn’t Resonate

1

incarnate

INCARNATE (2016) is a new horror movie starring Aaron Eckhart, and it’s yet another horror flick about a demon haunting a child.

Blah blah blah.

INCARNATE tells the story of Dr. Seth Ember (Aaron Eckhart) who possesses the ability to enter people’s dreams, and in their dream world he’s able to help these people escape from the demons that possess them.  In the real world, he’s in a wheelchair, the result of a catastrophic car accident which killed his wife and young son and left him paralyzed.  That accident was caused by a demon named Maggie, and so when Seth goes into other people’s dreams, he’s not only trying to save them, he’s also looking for Maggie so he can destroy her once and for all.

Which seriously doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.  Are the dreams of all these people connected, so that the dream world is a real place where all the demons hang out and that’s why Seth believes he’s going to find Maggie there?  Otherwise, why would Maggie be in the dreams of people who are being haunted by other demons?

Or perhaps Maggie just gets around a lot and haunts a whole lot of people?  If not, what are the odds he’s going to find her again?  And if he’s on a quest to search the globe for Maggie, that’s something that’s not made clear in the film.

What we do see in the film is that Seth works with two young assistants, and they go around helping various people.  The latest is a young boy, and that’s what the entire movie is about. Saving the boy and finding and destroying Maggie.

I’ll get right to the point :  this movie bored me to tears, on so many levels.

As directed by Brad Peyton, it’s not scary, it’s not stylish, it’s not suspenseful.  The screenplay by Ronnie Christensen isn’t any better.  The plot is a snooze, and the characters aren’t developed at all.  They don’t even attempt any character development in this movie.  We know nothing about the mom and son who Seth is helping, nothing about his assistants, and we know very little about Seth.

In the lead role as Dr. Seth Ember, Aaron Eckhart is okay, but like the rest of the movie, he’s pretty boring.  Eckhart is a good actor who’s made a lot of good movies, but he’s also made some clinkers.  This is one of the worst.  I thought this film was even worse than I, FRANKENSTEIN (2014), and that film was pretty bad.

The possessed boy is played by David Mazouz, and he’s probably the least interesting possessed child I’ve ever seen in a movie.  We know so little about him— let’s put it this way, he’s possessed within the first few minutes of the film.

That’s another problem I had with this movie.  It really struggles to tell a story.  The pacing doesn’t work, there are long scenes where nothing happens, and when stuff does happen it’s sloppily handled.

Emjay Anthony, who was very enjoyable in CHEF (2014), is wasted here, appearing only in flashbacks as Seth’s deceased son.

Catalina Sandino Moreno plays a woman working for the Vatican who recruits Seth for his latest case.  It’s a role that was originally offered to Rosario Dawson.  She’s lucky she turned it down.

The demon Maggie was played by Mark Steger, who among other things played the Monster in STRANGER THINGS earlier this year.

Actually some of the supporting characters fare better here.  I thought Matt Nable did a good job as the boy’s abusive father Dan.  And Keir O’Donnell and Breanne Hill who played Seth’s young assistants weren’t half bad either.  Hill, by the way, is originally from New Hampshire and later attended Boston University, which is both my alma mater and where my sons are attending college.  Yup, that’s about as interesting as things get with this movie.

INCARNATE bored me throughout, so unless you’re a fan of dull movies, you might want to skip this one.

—END—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Movie Turkeys 2016

0

turkey

Welcome to a special THANKSGIVING column!  Happy Turkey Day!

On that note, I know that I don’t usually post my BEST OF  and WORST OF movie lists till after December 31, but all this turkey has got me to thinking about— well, turkeys!  As in the worst movies of the year so far.

I won’t make any final picks until the 2016 calendar year comes to a close, but in the meantime, here’s a look at some nominees for the Worst Movies of 2016 so far.  Happy reading, and while you’re at it, please pass the stuffing!

THE FOREST- This weak horror movie wastes a potential frightening setting:  Japan’s Suicide Forest, a real place with real history, but this movie is about as far away from real as you can get.  Contrived and dull.

HAIL CAESAR! – A misfire from the Coen brothers.  This period piece about 1950s Hollywood looks great but the story is not cohesive nor are the laughs.  George Clooney’s comic timing is not taken advantage of, and Josh Brolin’s lead role is that of the straight man, so he doesn’t add to the laughs either.  Best scene features Scarlett Johansson and Jonah Hill.

THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY – Terribly unfunny comedy by Sacha Baron Cohen.  Nuff said about this turkey.

BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE –  That’s right.  This big budget DC superhero romp is one of the worst movies of the year. Neither the conflict between Batman and Superman nor its resolution ever become believable.  A very forced contrived story.  Best part:  Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.  Worst part:  Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.

HARDCORE HENRY – Gimmick sci fi actioner with the entire film shot from the protagonists point of view just doesn’t work.  Ulitmately a very boring movie.

THE DARKNESS – Horror film starring Kevin Bacon just isn’t very dark.  Yet another demonic entity proving bothersome to a once happy family.  This demon showed up when the family was on vacation at the Grand Canyon!

THE CONJURING 2 – Sadly, this sequel to THE CONJURING doesn’t come close to the original, in spite of the presence of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.  A particularly awful script. Director James Wan needs to move on to some new material.

MECHANIC:  RESURRECTION – pointless sequel to the Jason Statham actioner.  Statham returns as hitman Arthur Bishop, wasted in a completely ridiculous story.

BLAIR WITCH – Awful, awful sequel to THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999). The less said about this one the better.

SHUT IN – Despite a terrific performance by Naomi Watts, this wannabe thriller is marred by a ridiculous story with one of the least satisfying and most unbelievable twists I’ve seen in a while.

Okie-dokie, that about does it so far.  Will any of these movies make my pick for the Worst Movie of 2016?  Or are there Worse Turkeys yet to come?

For the answer to that question, you’ll have to check back in January 2017.

Thanks for reading!

Gobble, gobble!

—Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL (2016) Well-Crafted But Unoriginal Retread of Demon Movies

1

ouijaoriginofevil

For some reason, there are slim pickings at the box office this 2016 Halloween season. There just aren’t a whole lot of horror movies opening this month.

One film that has opened in October 2016, is OUIJA:  ORIGIN OF EVIL (2016), a prequel of sorts to the dreadful OUIJA (2014).  Surprisingly, this film really isn’t all that bad, and it’s much better than its horrible predecessor.  In fact, the worst thing going for it is that it’s another movie built around a popular board game, in this case the ouija board.  Sure, ouija boards have been in existence long before they were marketed as a fun night in for the kids, but it’s the popular toy store version that’s the centerpiece of these movies, and as such, they do play like glorified commercials, and I just don’t like commercials.

That being said, OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL does have some good things going for it.

OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL takes place in 1965.  I’m not exactly sure why the movie takes place in the 1960s.  At first, I thought the initial 1965 setting was going to be just for the opening scene, and the rest of the film would take place during present day, but this wasn’t the case.  Then I thought that perhaps the story would tie into 1960s popular culture, but this really wasn’t the case either.  While the 1960s setting does add some charm to the proceedings, that’s all it does, unless I’m missing some historical connection to the ouija board, but I’m pretty sure I’m not.  Plus nothing of historical significance about the ouija board is mentioned in the film.  Long story short, this movie could have easily taken place today.

Widowed mom Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) runs a seance scam business with her two daughters, Lina (Annalise Basso), who’s in high school, and Doris (Lulu Wilson) who’s in grade school.  It’s Lina and Doris who help their mom with the secret effects that make their clients believe they are speaking with the dead.  And while it is fake, Alice doesn’t see their business as hurting people.  In fact, she sees it as the opposite, as she constantly gives hope and encouragement to her clients, providing them with positive messages from beyond— their deceased loved ones forgive them, they’re free from pain, they still love them, etc.

And Alice and her daughters are familiar with this pain because her husband and the girl’s father was killed by a drunk driver.  In addition to dealing with the emotional trauma of his death, they are also constantly struggling to make ends meet.

After playing with a ouija board at a friend’s house, Lina suggests to her mom that they get one to add to their act.  Alice does indeed purchase one, but unbeknownst to her or Lina, it turns out that young Doris has a heightened ability to contact spirits from beyond, and the ouija board acts as a perfect conduit for her abilities.  She attracts the attention of a sinister demon which enters her body, and the next thing we know, little Doris is quite possessed and doing all the nasty things that possessed children do.

To help combat this unwelcomed evil which has violated their family, they turn to the principal of the girls’ Catholic School, Father Tom (Henry Thomas).  The battle lines have been drawn. Let the exorcisms begin!

Actually, there aren’t any exorcisms here.  Just ouija boards.

There are three things I really liked about OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL, and combined they almost—almost!—compensate for the two major things I didn’t like about this movie.

First and foremost, OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL has some terrific acting.  Elizabeth Reaser is solid in the lead as the mother of this family, Alice Zander.    She’s sincere, she’s believable, and in spite of being a scam artist, she’s likable.  You care about her and her daughters.

As teen daughter Lina, Annalise Basso delivers an even stronger performance.  There’s a moment near the end of the film where she expresses awful grief that is as powerful and effective a moment as you’re going to see in a horror movie.  She nails it.

And Lulu Wilson is absolutely creepy as the possessed little child Doris.  In fact, she has most of the best scenes in the film, from the way she delivers her unsettling dialogue, like when she talks to Lina’s boyfriend about what it feels like to be strangled to death, to the special effects-enhanced scenes where she’s crawling across walls and ceilings.  Wilson is no stranger to this kind of role.  She played a similar part in DELIVER US FROM EVIL (2014). In that movie, she was a police detective’s daughter who also was the target of sinister supernatual forces.

Henry Thomas makes for a sincere and credible Father Tom. Thomas of course is famous for his childhood role as Elliott in E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982).  Oftentimes in the movies, priests are portrayed as over-the-top ministers, going on about hellfire and brimstone and saying things like “my child,” and “my son.”  Here, Thomas makes Father Tom a rather level-headed cinematic clergyman.

I was also impressed that three of the main characters in OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL were women.  While this is happening more often in the movies, it’s still not happening enough.

Which leads me to the second thing I enjoyed about this one, the screenplay by director Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard.  Flanagan and Howard create sincere and believable characters, and so we care what happens to these folks.

And as a director, Mike Flanagan also does a nice job here.  The film looks good and captures the 1965 setting nicely.  Flanagan also gets the scares and suspense scenes right.  There are plenty of creative scary scenes, enough to make the audience jump on occasion.  Flanagan also directed HUSH (2016), a low-budget horror movie that earned only a small release which I reviewed earlier this year.  While not a masterpiece, HUSH was a very stylish thriller about a deaf woman terrorized by a violent killer stalking her isolated home.  Mike Flanagan is definitely a director to watch.

So, with all these positives, why didn’t I absolutely love OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL?

For the simple reason that I didn’t believe any of it.  Now, while Flanagan and Howard and the actors created believable characters, the story they found themselves in was not believable.  Not even close.

First of all, it’s about a ouija board.  Like most everyone else, as a kid, I played with a ouija board.  Did anything sinister happen?  Nope.  So, the idea that a ouija board packaged as a family game bought at a store is something sinister just doesn’t work for me.  Not on its own.  Could a well-written script make me believe otherwise?  Certainly!  But as strong as this screenplay was in terms of character development, no effort seems to have gone into making the ouija board stand out as a conduit of evil.  The idea by its lonesome doesn’t cut it.   Perhaps if there was something special about this particular ouija board which Alice and her family purchased, but that’s not the case here.

Also, at times, with its blatant product placement, the film plays like a glorified commercial for Hasbro.  I don’t like commercials, and so if your movie plays like one, chances are I’m not going to like it.

The other strike against OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL is that once it enters its demon storyline, it becomes a straighforward retread of films like INSIDIOUS (2010) and THE CONJURING (2013).  OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL offers nothing new in the demon department. In spite of some creative scare scenes, it’s another case of been there, done that.  

At the end of the day, OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL is a well-acted, creatively directed horror movie that suffers from its tie-in with a popular board game, the ouija board, and from the unoriginal path it takes once it enters its demon storyline.

It has its moments, but the bottom line is there’s not much original or evil about it.

—END—

 

 

 

 

LIGHTS OUT (2016) Scary But Ordinary

1

lights out poster

LIGHTS OUT (2016) is well-acted, smartly directed, and contains jump scares in all the right places.  I should have loved this movie.

I did not.

And that’s because at the end of the day, it’s missing something important.  In spite of all the things it has going for it, it just never gets all that interesting.  It’s all kind of a snooze.

It opens with a chilling pre-credit sequence, and if you’ve seen the film’s trailer, you know what I’m talking about.  It’s the scene where the woman shuts the light off and sees a creepy figure standing in the darkness.  She puts the light on and the figure is gone.  Back off, there’s the figure again.  Creepy!

She tries to tell her boss Paul (Billy Burke) that she just saw something weird, but he’s too busy on the phone and tells her it’s fine and to just go home.  Should have listened to your employee, Paul.  When Paul closes up shop for the night, the same phenomenon happens to him, but only worse, because this time the shadowy figure is out for blood and kills him.

Flash forward to Paul’s young son Martin (Gabriel Bateman) who is devastated by his father’s death, especially because he now lives alone with his mentally ill mother Sophie (Maria Bello), who’s skipping her medication and keeping the house in the dark.  Worse yet, she keeps talking to someone who’s not there, someone she calls Diana.

Unable to sleep because he’s afraid, Martin seeks out his adult step-sister, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) who knows all about their mother’s mental illness.  It’s why she left home in the first place.  She tells Martin that Diana isn’t real, and that he should not be worried.

But when Diana shows up and attacks them, Rebecca changes her tune and decides with the help of her boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia) to confront her mother and demand answers, a decision that doesn’t make Diana very happy.

LIGHTS OUT was written and directed by David F. Sandberg, and it’s based on his short film of the same name.  Sandberg really does a fine job here, both with the writing and the directing.  On the surface, there really isn’t much wrong with this movie.

There are plenty of jump scares, although take away the insanely loud soundtrack and they wouldn’t be as effecitive.  But they’re there, and I can’t argue that this movie won’t make you jump.

And the story, in a screenplay that Sandberg co-wrote with Eric Heisserer, is halfway decent. It also deviates from the normal ghost/demon territory which similar films of this type have been stuck in lately.  Diana, the supernatural entity, is something different, and it’s a refreshing take on the haunting trope.  Unfortunately, this revelation doesn’t happen until the end of the movie, and so for most of the film Diana is just another variation of similar threats we’ve seen in films like INSIDIOUS (2008) and THE CONJURING (2013).

Co-writer Eric Heisserer also wrote the screenplays for the remake of  A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010), FINAL DESTINATION 5 (2011), and THE THING (2011), the prequel to the John Carpenter classic of the same name.  None of these movies did all that much for me.  His screenplay here for LIGHTS OUT is on par with these other movies, perhaps slightly better.

The acting is fine.  Teresa Palmer handles the lead role of big sister Rebecca with ease.  The best thing about her performance is she makes Rebecca seem like a real person, not just a heroine in a horror movie.  Young Gabriel Bateman is okay as little brother Martin.  As child characters go, I’ve seen better, and I’ve seen worse.

I’ve been a fan of Maria Bello’s for years now, and she’s terrific here as the tormented mentally ill mom Sophie.  She makes Sophie such a sad sympathetic character, a real character, that one could argue that the true horror here isn’t Diana but what’s going on inside Sophie’s head.

I was actually happy that Billy Burke’s character of father/husband Paul was killed off in the opening moments of the movie.  Seeing him playing a dad only reminded me of the TWILIGHT movies.  Shiver!

Probably the best peformance in the film belongs to Alexander DiPersia as Rebecca’s boyfriend Bret.  He’s yet another character who comes off as a real genuine person.  There’s a sincerity about him that is like a breath of fresh air for a character in a horror movie.  I wish he had been in the movie even more.

And a shout out goes to Alicia Vela-Bailey who played Diana and made her frightening and creepy.   That’s another positive about this movie, that director Sandberg chose to avoid as many CGI effects as possible.  The film is better for it.

And there are some well crafted scare scenes here as well.

The theme of LIGHTS OUT is abandonment.  All the central characters either fear or experience having been abandoned by someone they love.  Young Martin lost his dad.  Sophie’s first husband left her, and her second was murdered.  Rebecca’s dad walked out on her and her mom, which is why throughout the film she refuses to commit to her boyfriend Bret since she doesn’t trust people in relationships.

So, with all these things going for it, why didn’t I absolutely love LIGHTS OUT?  For the simple reason that in this case we have a film where the sum of its parts doesn’t equal a whole, and that’s because the filmmakers forgot one important ingredient:  they forgot to make this movie interesting.

I liked the characters, I liked the scares, but the story?  All it would take would be one conversation between Rebecca and Sophie early on to set the tone and get to the bottom of what’s going on. It shouldn’t take an entire movie.  The story is very thin.

Explain who Diana is from the outset and then take it from there.  Why is Diana doing these things?  Tell us immediately and take it from there.  Because who and what Diana is, is a fascinating idea that is worthy of an entire movie rather than just a last reel revelation.

LIGHTS OUT also suffers from being a by-the-numbers horror movie.  I wasn’t surprised by anything I saw.  I wasn’t intrigued, nor was I captivated.  I felt like I was walking through a funhouse which was scary for sure, but was the “same scary” as every other funhouse I had walked through.

All the rage right now is the new Netflix TV series STRANGER THINGS.  I watched the first episode and was blown away by its style, its characters, its writing, and its oomph.  It had me within the first few minutes.  It’s the kind of storytelling missing from a movie like LIGHTS OUT.

But that’s a television show, some will argue.  It has more time to develop characters.  True, but that’s never stopped the great filmmakers from making captivating thought-provoking movies.

The bar for horror movies should be held high.  I expect the same quality from horror movies as other genres.  Why should we ask for anything less?

LIGHTS OUT, for what it is, is fine.

But what it is, is just another ordinary horror movie.

—END—