"Insidious: Chapter 2" Takes you into the Further


You can see my review of the original "Insidious"
*This review Contain Spoilers from both movies*

Director James Wan, the creator of the "Saw" Franchise, had quite the summer in 2013.  His two films were released about a month apart and both made over $100 million.  With "The Conjuring" being the biggest hit of the summer and launching yet another horror franchise.  "Insidious Chapter 2" although not as successful as the original still will see many more Chapters.

Unlike a lot of horror sequels "Insidious: Chapter 2" has the entire cast back and continues the story of the Lambert family and their battle with the ghosts, spirits, and demons that lurk in the further.  The further being a purgatory like place for evil sprits looking return to the land of the living.  The first film saw their son Dalton become lost in the further and now it his father Josh (played by Patrick Wilson) who must escape.  The sequel definitely has it's inventive and creative good points, but its flaws are a little more visible than they were in the first film.

After the events of the first film, the Lambert family is now living with Josh's mother (Barbara

Hershey), hoping the worst is behind them they try to resume their lives.  The plot is heavy on back story with Josh's experiences with the Further as an 8 year old boy and the origins of his nemesis the bride in black.  Back in the present more strange happenings continue to frighten his wife Renai (Rose Byrne).  Josh also has been acting strange and not really himself.  After a few scary incidents she contacts the paranormal hunters from the first film Tucker and Specs, one of them played by script writer Leigh Whannel.  These two morons almost single handedly destroy the film with there terribly cheesy one liners and hammy acting that stopped any tension as soon as they appear.  We find out that the real Josh is trapped in the further, while his eathly body is being taken over by a serial killer named Parker Crane, who also has some pretty shocking ties to the bride in black.  The group of ghost hunters and his family have to battle some pretty nasty forces to get him back.  The medium Elise (Lin Shaye) is back, but only as a helper in the further, as she was murdered at the end of the first movie.  She gave the paranormal hunters the credibility it needed in the original, and is sorely missed here.

In a bit of creative genius while Josh tries to escape the further the filmmakers manage to work in and explain a lot of the noises and scenes from the first film through a different perspective.  All while making it relevant to this film and not just used as filler as a lot of other movies do.  The creepy scares are still there and its a very accomplished sequel but still not as good as the first.  A third film the series is guaranteed with the final scene being ghost Elise, Tucker, and Specs visiting a new family and her staring into a corner of the house, her mouth wide open "Oh my God" Indeed.

"Broken (2006)" British Torture Porn That's Rusty and Dull


Not to be confused with the other film called "Broken" I reviewed back in April of this year.  This "Broken" was released by Dimension Extreme back in 2006 at the height of the torture porn craze.  Riding the coattails of the "Saw" and "Hostel" Movies, this low budget British import is all kinds of nasty, but in the end is not all that interesting.  The film is also supposedly based on a true story. 

Like a lot of horror movies were given a gruesome opening scene that gives you a taste of what's to come.  We are then introduced to Hope (quite the metaphorical name), a young woman out on a date having a good time.  She returns home to say goodnight to her 6 year old daughter and goes to sleep only to wake up buried underground.  The story is then structured into days she is held captive my a mysterious psychopath.  After Day 2 she is dug up and tied to a tree, similar to another victim from the opening scene.  A razor blade has been sewn up in her abdomen leaving her not choice but to dig it out, and cut her self free from the tree. The make-up and effects are supremely disgusting all through the film and are the main reason to watch it in the first place.  Unfortunately like a lot of horror movies the story and characters are weak and poorly drawn.  The plot is very thin and predictable with only the final scenes being somewhat original.

The unnamed male psychopath takes his victims into the woods and sets up camp.  He chains Hope to a tree and trains her to be his slave but not in any sexual way.  After a few days he tests her loyalty and another few times she tries to escape but all things lead back to the camp and Hope being physically and mentally beaten and abused.  About 10 days in the Man brings back another girl, a teenager who won't stop whining and crying, she really tests the viewers patience.  This is kind of strange in that you really want the girl to die, just so she would shut the hell up.  The man does gets fed up with her and cuts her tongue out.  It's only a matter of time before the women hatch a plan to escape and the Man's reign of terror come to an end.  Like I mentioned before the ending is a little different that what you'd expect, as it takes an extremely cruel twist in the spirit an extremely cruel movie.

Peter Dinklage Shines in the "Station Agent"


One of the great independent films of 2003 and one of my personal favorites, "The Station Agent" introduces us to the exceptionally talented Peter Dinklage.  Although upon first impression most people will only notice his 4 foot 5 inch frame, his deeply brooding and thoughtful performances rival any actor working today. 

Finbar McBride, or Fin, is a solitary man who works at a hobby shop repairing and working with model trains.  One day his friend and the stores owner Henry falls over dead, presumably of a heart attack.  Fin is lost in despair, Henry however has left him a small but abandoned depot station to him in his will.  With nothing tying him down Fin moves into to the Newfoundland depot station.  Just across the way is an oddly placed food truck called Gorgeous Franks and its lone operator Joe, played by Bobby Cannavale.  Joe is a friendly and energetic man who's intrigued by Fin arrival.  Although not looking to make friends Fin eventually comes around and allows him to hang around with him.  Also upon arrival Fin has a few run ins with Olivia, played by Patricia Clarkson.  She doesn't make that good a first or second impression for that matter as she almost runs him over with her car, twice.  Olivia is a friendly but slightly frantic, painter who is separated from her rich husband, Joe however has had his eye on her for quite some time.

Writer and director Tom McCarthy creates this world for these characters that is based in small town reality.  Fin has a number of encounters with a curious little African American girl as well as a possible girlfriend in the form of the young and beautiful librarian, played by Michelle Williams.  Although the heart of the story is the relationship between the three friend Fin, Joe, and Olivia.  All are damaged in their own way and looking for something real.  Finn fights with loneliness and alienation, while the return of Olivia's husband throws her life into an angry spiral.  Joe is full of life and charisma, but misses his son, who lives with his mother. "The Station Agent" is a wonderful film, skillfully acted on all fronts with a deeply heartfelt story of a marginalized man trying to find his place in the world.

Although a lot of people now know Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister on "Game of Thrones", please take a moment to watch "The Station Agent".  It is currently available on Netflix Streaming.

"Shaun of the Dead" The Best Zombie Comedy Ever Made!


It has been nearly 10 years since the release of one of the greatest zombie movies ever made.  This film started the infectious zombie craze that still lingers today.  I'm taking about Edgar Wright's "Shaun of the Dead" starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.  A cult fan boy film from the start "Shaun's" mix of dry British humor and graphic zombie violence has made it's claim as one of the best.  Its a romantic comedy with zombies.  It's a buddy picture with zombies.  It's many things to many people, but above all it's just a fun movie.

Simon Pegg plays Shaun, a regular guy who likes nothing more that to spend time with his friends at the local pub called The Winchester.  His best mate is Ed an overweight and crude but harmless schlub who has been friends with Shaun since primary school.  Liz is Shaun's way to hot girlfriend who is fed up with there stale and predictable relationship.  Shaun also lives with his older and more put together brother who tells him to "Get your shit together!".   Shaun works as a supervisor at an electronics store with a bunch of unmotivated chowder heads who don't pay any attention to him or what he has to say.  To round out Shaun's circle of people is his kind but spacey mum and  cold and stern step father Phillip, played by Bill Nighy.

After a long night of drinking at the Winchester, Shaun's usual surroundings start to look a little off. Unknown to him and Ed it seems that the zombie apocalypse has struck.  It's kind of hard to notice these things when everybody acts like zombies in their everyday lives.  Shaun and Ed finally come to the conclusion that something is not right and hatch a plan to rescue their friends and family and find a safe place to wait out this annoying apocalypse thing.  The premise is simple but extremely well done.   The script is packed with several memorable one liners and gags that make it fun for multiple viewings.

With their true to life characters and the smart insightful dialogue, filmmaker Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, seem to be channeling Kevin Smith and his debut film "Clerks".  Along with 2007's "Hot Fuzz" and 2013's "The World's End" these three film created the "Cornetto Trilogy". A Cornetto being an ice cream cone something like a Drumstick, that appears in each film.  If it isn't already obvious "Shaun" is a movie that should be bought and watched regularly.

"Maniac" The 80's Horror Remake Starring Elijah Wood

The grimy and disturbing 80s horror classic gets a new look with help from modern horror icon Alexandre Aja.  Adding to the intrigue is the casting of Frodo himself, Elijah Wood, in the role of the disturbed knife wielding manic Frank.

The story is relocated from the streets of New York to Los Angeles and Frank is more of a presentable and attractive guy than the sweaty overweight version played by Joe Spinell in the original. Another major difference from the original is that the whole film is shot entirely from Frank's point of view.  Although we do see his face a number of times in reflections.  All of these changes work in the retelling of a man who stalks the streets murdering and scalping women.  The up close and graphic opening scene sets the tone for what shapes up to be a quality remake.

Like a lot of severely deranged killers Frank has some unresolved mommy issues and takes it out on his victims.  With his mother now dead he owns and operates her Mannequin store.  This is where he meets Anna, a photographer who conveniently enough is shooting mannequins for an up coming exhibit.  Like in the original Frank see's Anna as his last chance to live a somewhat normal life.  Although it doesn't take long before he is back on the streets stalking his next victim.  The P.O.V shooting style gets us a glimpse into Frank's disturbed mind, from his hallucinations and anxieties to his loneliness and despair.  Director Franck Khalfoun's use of mirrors and reflections, and the way his shots are composed are rare for a horror movie.  For its budget and everything that could go wrong, they really made quite the film.

Elijah Wood's portrayal of Frank also gets high marks as he doesn't force anything, and doesn't play "insane" but is just a normal guy, who just happens to murder people.  A lot like Anthony Perkins in "Psycho".  He is a frightened and lonely guy who suffered terrible emotional and physical abuse from his mother as a child.  All of this repressed anger and rage surfaces at night when he must go out and kill his "mother" over and over again.  After every kill he takes their scalp and some piece of clothing and puts it on one of the mannequins in his bedroom. In the end his thin cover of sanity is blown with Anna, and his mannequin friends want a piece of him too.  

This version of "Maniac" is currently available on Netflix Streaming.  You can read my review of the original film Maniac (1980).