The Implausible: Greta (2019) *spoilers ahead*

Greta is an age old story that we’ve seen trotted out time and time again in thrillers; the big city will eat you alive. In fact this line literally appears in the movie. The issue is no one is as naive as Chloe Grace Moretz’ character which messes with the plot and makes the story far less believable.

The story opens on Moretz’ character Frances McCullen aka Frankie. Frankie is a twenty something, new to New York City, living with her best friend and waitress part time. Her mother recently passed away, which for some reason has led to an argument with her father. We are never sure if it is the fact that her father has moved on, or if there is a third person involved. On her way home from work one night, she finds a forgotten purse. She attempts to turn it in to Lost and Found, but they are closed (As a former New Yorker, I’ve never seen these things actually be open anyway), so she takes the purse home. Her roommate tries to convince her to just steal the money (still the wrong response), and forget about returning it. To be clear there is nothing in the purse aside from $50 worth returning, but Frankie feels it’s her civic duty. She returns the purse, and feels strangely drawn to Greta, the green handbags owner, only to discover when it too late, she cannot get away.

I will give Greta credit; it is fairly fast moving.  We quickly get a view of Frankie’s life; she works as a waitress, her mother recently passed, she doesn’t talk to her father and she lives with her BFF. The problem with the film however is evident even in these shallow looks into her background. Frankie is no naive girl, or at least she shouldn’t be. Her clothing and style of dress shows she’s Manhattan chic, and possibly wealthy (parental money)? The film tries to show her best friend is living the socialite lifestyle, but it doesn’t work to juxtapose the two girls, and we have a hard time seeing Frankie as anything but the characters we’ve witness in other Manhattan based movies and shows (Friends, Sex And The City, Spider Man, etc) that show us that living off of waiting tables is not impossible in movie land.

When Greta appears in the movie, we immediately know something is up. (Well besides the fact that the trailer gave away all the good bits). Frankie falls, hook line and sinker for Greta, and the first few days between them almost seems like a romantic relationship. Is it really possible that someone who you just met, could replace your mother that quickly? Plus it’s New York for cripes sake and 2019. One does not simply go into someone’s house because they seemed nice. At this the movie seems almost out of touch with the current climate in which women reside. With reports of abductions or attempted abductions ever rising, if you found a purse on the subway, and the Lost and Found was closed, would you not just take it to the police?

Unfortunately, she does not, and begins canceling plans with other friends to be with Greta. Her roommate’s request to ignore the strange old lady suddenly becomes the best course of action, when Frankie discovers the lost purse is just a ploy to get suspecting young women to take the place of her daughter.

Let’s stop here for a moment and think about this carefully. Greta, an old woman in her 50s or 60s, is living in a beautiful little home, is placing purses around the city in the hopes of meeting someone. IN MANHATTAN. ARE YOU CRAZY?! Out of the thousands of people who ride the subway daily, she’s hoping that none of them are more crazy than she is. Not only this, but as we find out, she’s gotten plenty of women to come to her home, buying the little old lady act. I realize to some people this is easily dismissed, but I couldn’t believe it. New York? Where people are shoved onto the train tracks by other people they don’t know? Where random racial arguments break out causing violence? New Yorkers are notoriously resilient and are likely to pretend they do not see the purse than not only pick it up, but also return it and become friends with the owner. I just could not buy it.

Another completely untenable scene happens when Greta shows up at Frankie’s work and completely loses it.At this point, Frankie knows Greta is crazy. She has shown up outside her job, has spit gum in her hair, and stalked her on the subway. This time Greta shows makes a reservation at Frankie’s job and proceeds to smashes a glass and overturns a table, showing her full on crazy for the whole world to see. At this point, everyone takes Greta seriously and she is carted off to jail. Worried about how much a reprieve she has before having to face Greta again, Frankie calls the NYPD only to discover that Greta has already been released. And this is where the fatal flaw takes place. Rather than simply leaving the city and giving Greta time to wear herself out, and find someone new to fixate on, FRANKIE MEETS GRETA AGAIN.  She meets again with a CRAZY woman who has threatened her repeatedly, shown up at her job and one who clearly knows where she lives. She tells Greta that the entire situation is her fault and tells her she’s going away for a bit. At this point, we aren’t sure if Frankie fully intends to leave, but she doesn’t manage to make it before Greta kidnaps her.

Ok so what have we learned? Greta is CRAZY, and that Frankie is NAIVE. But what else should we have known? Oh, right, YOU CANNOT NEGOTIATE WITH CRAZY PEOPLE!!! This is the same woman who she has requested a restraining order against, who has embarrassed her at work, who she already knows caused her own daughter’s suicide, the same daughter that she pretended to talk to on the phone. No. No. NOOOOOOOoooo.

Anyway, Frankie is kidnapped and we come to understand that no matter how slight Greta is, she is a force. She kills easily and manages to subdue a woman half her age multiple times. Frankie is not saved until her best friend figures out how to do what no one else can.

Overall, I give Greta a B. Though Moretz’ character is not at all believeable, (and neither is the plot quite frankly), Isabella Huupert as Greta is amazing. She totally nails the crazy woman, which is no surprise considering she also starred in The Piano Teacher, another thriller. Mailka Monroe also does a superb job as the quick acting best friend. The movie fails only the fact that this could not happen in today’s world (maybe 10 years ago) also, as I was leaving the theater, a few patrons were discussing Frankie’s escape attempts and calling bs on it. Yea, me too. A good movie, if you stop using your brain for a bit.


The Possession of Hannah Grace (2018) (some spoilers)

“Why is someone like you working the night shift at a morgue?”

Though The Possession of Hannah Grace posses this question in it’s dialogue, it never quite manages to answer this question for itself. To say this movie is a cliche is to give it a pass. Instead it is a horrible cliche.

We meet Megan, a former cop played by Shay Mitchell of Pretty Little Liars fame (I’ve never seen this show, nor do I know what it’s about), who is struggling to rebuild her world after her partner is shot the line of duty. Megan blames herself, which considering what little the movie lets us see if this, makes total sense because it is in effect, entirely her fault. She is working hard to prove herself and gets a job at Boston Metropolitan Hospital as an intake assistant.

By the time we get to the weirdness surrounding Hannah Grace arrival in the hospital, we know Megan is an alcoholic, pill addicted liar whose boyfriend (also a cop) left her because he couldn’t deal any more. So why in the heck would you take a job working at a morgue by yourself?

It makes no sense,  though the movie strives at every turn to make us fall in love with Megan and believe in her ability to take on the seriously weird shit that goes down on her shift. There are a few redeeming qualities of this film. For one, Hannah Grace is not just a phantom that exists in Megan’s head. She attacks other people and they can see her, though I’m never entirely sure what any one did do deserve her treatment. Also her dad, (Hannah Grace’s actual killer) survives for waaaay too long in the movie, for a girl who kills to heal herself as well is demonically possessed. I believe this was a ploy by the filmmakers to stop us from thinking about why Megan survives as long as she does. But in the end, we don’t get the ending we want or the one we deserve. I have never wanted to see someone’s eye so much in my entire life, but we are in no way rewarded despite having sat through this entire film.

I’ll give in 2 stars out of 5, but I suggest saving your coins until this is on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Changing Format

Hi all. It’s been a really long time since I’ve updated here, but I wanted to give my readers (taps mike, ‘Are you out there?’) an update on some changes that are coming to the blog. This blog has pretty much been Netflix reviews with the occasional Redbox feature. Well, I recently signed up for A-List with AMC stubs and have been seeing quite a few movies. After much back and forth, I’ve decided to start sharing my reviews of those films here. This means that you may see films featured here that are still in theaters, so please beware spoilers. I’ll me sure to mark each entry if this is the case. Also, this means I will occasionally review a movie that is not horror. Please forgive me. All opinions are my own.

Raw (2016)

When I saw the trailer for Raw on Facebook, I was initially thrilled. I knew I wanted to see it, but I thought I would probably miss it in theaters. Lucky for me, it was a foreign film, so I was able to find it on Netflix a few weeks ago. I added it and put it at number one.

I have to admit, at first I was underwhelmed. Justine is a very pretty girl, born into a strict vegetarian family. Other than this little note (an entire family of vegetarians), there is nothing truly remarkable about her or the start of the movie. She is about to start a veterinarian school that her sister already attends. Justine meets her roommate, Adrien, a gay student with no qualms about his sexuality. Soon they are both put through the schools hazing ritual for freshman, and wind up bonding. They are dragged out of their beds in the wee hours of the morning, separated, humiliated, their beds thrown out of the windows, and forced to submit the whims of the older students. In the end, they both survive their first night, and Justine meets up with her sister, Alexia and learns that her parents also attended the same school

The next day, Justine and Adrien pose for their class picture covered in blood dumped on them by the older students. As a final part of their days hazing, they are forced to eat a raw rabbit kidney. Justine objects, as she’s a vegetarian but her sister Alexia forces her saying that she can’t quit and she must prove herself to be like all the other students. Justine bites in. At first you think she’s just holding it in her mouth, but then she retches, and we realize she swallowed.

Unfortunately, thus begins Justine’s bad time at college. She is hazed by the older students, determined to be too smart for her own good by her teachers, and hated by the rest of the students in her class. On top of it all, she begins to have a severe reaction to either the animal blood that has been dumped on her or the rabbit kidney. She finds herself at the nurse, where she is prescribed a cream.

Over time Justine begins to find herself drawn to meat. At lunch she can’t help but eat it. She winds up going out with Adrien to a pitstop where they both indulge in meat pies. In the middle of the night, she finds herself eating raw meat out of her fridge. It seems to quell the feeling in her stomach, but she doesn’t share with anyone how badly she craves meat.

Justine manages to trudge through the rest of her week, and finally makes time to make up with her stoic, rebellious sister. They drink, swap stories and return to Alexia’s room. Once there, Justine discovers her sister has the same cream she was prescribed. She thinks it’s weird, but doesn’t ask, probably because her sister was a vegetarian prior to coming to school, so it almost makes sense that they both would have the same reaction. Things take a weird turn however when in the name of a little sisterly bonding, Alexia tries to give Justine a bikini wax. It goes as expected, and the wax becomes stuck and in the fracas, Alexia accidentally cuts off her finger. When she passes out from shock, Justine retrieves the finger and while waiting for the ambulance, takes a nibble of her sisters finger. Before she can stop herself, she’s pulled the flesh off of must of the finger. Alexia wakes up and finds her, eating her finger. There is no question about what is going on, and the two sisters just stare at each other.

Eventually Alexia gets to the hospital with her parents and her sister. The hospital can’t do much, but they patch her up and discharge her. When her mother asks if they reattached the finger, Alexia tells them her dog ate it before the paramedics arrived. When their parents return them to the university, we expect Alexia to ream her sister for eating her finger, or for how she had to cover for her with their parents. None of this happens. Instead, Alexia takes her sister to a deserted road near the school, where she causes a car accident. When she begins to feed on the brains on one of the injured passengers, Justine learns the horrible secret about her and her sister.

The rest of the film follows the tug of war between the two sisters. They both despise each other, Alexia because Justine won’t eat, and Justine because her sister chooses to eat. They act out their drama while centering on Justine’s roommate, Adrien, who she inexplicably has fallen in love with. Justine appears to be the more forgiving sister, and attempts to make up with her but is exposed when Alexia shows the entire school her secret. They get into a very public fight in front of all of their schoolmates, biting and ripping at each other. When two other students try to intervene, they unite and protect each other.

Back in Justine’s room, the sisters try to make up without actually saying anything, but the audience can tell Justine has had enough. She attempts to lock Alexia in her room to keep her there, but in the end decides against it. Justine, exhausted from her night, tries to spend the night with her gay boyfriend. When she awakes the next morning, she smiles and holds him near, only to discover he is dead. She panics, ripping the covers off, only to discover there is a huge piece of his thigh missing. She becomes hysterical, believing she is the cause of Adrien’s injuries. She gets even more upset that he didn’t defend himself against her, until she spots a wound in his back. At this point she realizes that they are not alone. Alexia is in the corner, covered in blood. At this point we think Justine is finally going to enact revenge, but again her sweet nature wins over. She cleans her sister up by dragging her into the shower and getting rid of every drop of blood.

At this point the film flashes forward. We find Justine and her parents visiting Alexia in jail. Its a bit sobering and she seems to have all of her prettiness and rebelliousness taken away behind the glass partition. She still seems a bit like Alexia though, even though she’s a bit hollow. The camera follows Justine back home with her parents, where her mother, still angry from their visit with Alexia, takes out her anger on Justine. After she leaves the room, Justine’s father tries to explain her mother’s reaction. It’s not her fault:

Le père: Your mum was tough at first. Kept saying I was her best friend at school. It drove me nuts! It’s not like she had a boyfriend. Just me. And then we had our first kiss. And I understood…

At this point, we remember Justine’s kiss with an unfortunate gentleman earlier in the film, and it all makes sense. As if to confirm the our suspicions (the audience and Justine’s), Justine’s father unbuttons his shirt and shows his heavily scared chest. We understand what Alexia has been trying to tell Justine all along. This isn’t just a secret between the girls; it’s a family secret.

I loved, loved, loved this film. I felt bad for not giving it my undivided attention at the beginning and for thinking that Justine’s quest for meat was not that interesting. I am so glad it went deeper than I was expecting. I thoroughly enjoyed peeling back the layers and discovering the truth at the same time Justine did.

Warning, it is a french film, and thank goodness there is no dubbing but instead subtitles. You have to pay attention to every little thing so I suggest not attempting to multitask.

I give it five out five stars for it’s originality.

The Green Inferno (2013)

Don’t think. Act.

The Green Inferno opens on an idyllic campus in  New York City The main character, Justine is woken early on a Sunday morning by protestors on her campus quad. The protestors threaten to starve themselves until campus agrees to provide health insurance to janitors. The group seems big on campus, but seems to be ignored by most of campus.

Justine is a normal college student who finds herself like most, in a new world. She is learning new things that she finds disturbing, but finds herself unable to make any noticeable changes.

When the campus protestors are finally able to make a difference and get the aforementioned health care, Justine is curious. She finds that the members of the group have what she lacks: action. She soon agrees to go with them into the Peruvian jungle to stop an unreached tribe from being destroyed by developers. Despite being warned by her father and her down to earth friend, Justine boards a plane and descends into the jungle. The film does not do anything to hide the obvious truth; these are young naive college students who believe they can change the world. They are not yet old enough to realize this is a bad idea.

After they arrive, reality hits. They soon realize their only defense against the Peruvian militia is their numbers and their sleek camera phones. Alejandro, their leader manages to keep them in line however though guilt. Guilt is a huge character in this film. He uses guilt of their American lifestyle, their naiveté. to get them into the jungle with him to fight against the perceived evil.

The college students soon find themselves in the Amazon jungle on their way to camp. There a few incidents along the way, including Lars being forced to defend himself against a giant tarantula but none of the students seem to see these as a problem. In fact, even the sight of a lethal killing machine is taken as a good omen.

Once they reach their destination, they dress up as the other workers, and chain themselves to the equipment and the trees while the workers are on lunch. A bomb goes off and the protest begins. Unfortunately plans quickly go awry, when Justin’s lock fails to engage.  Little does she realize, that her new friends are using her and that she is there intended martyr. They are aware her farther works for the UN, and are using her as a bargaining chip.

Things work out quickly however, and they are released. Justine is of course upset, but Alejandro guilts her into letting it go. Their actions have caused a ripple effect and they are being broadcast by all the major television and news stations. The students were able to stop the trees from being cut down and stop the encroachment of the builders, and are soon homebound. However, something goes wrong and the plane comes down into the forest.

At this point, the students begin to appreciate what situation they are in. A few students are die in the crash, and no one escapes injury. Just as they begin to formulate a plan, they are attacked by the very tribe they were attempting to protect. The survivors are quickly knocked out by poisoned blow darts and taken back to the tribe’s camp.

A quick stroll into camp, the students begin to understand exactly why this tribe has been uncontacted. There are bodies on pikes and remains all over the place. The group is herded into a pen, but Jonah, one of their group, is given something to drink and tied to a rock. The high priestess of the tribe, then begins to eat him. Because the film was directed by Eli Roth, there is really no shying away from the gore. He is disarticulated and while the other tribe members and his friends look on in horror and fascination.  This act confirms what we (the audience) believed from the moment the students were captured. The tribe are cannibals.

Despite their efforts to save this Peruvian tribe, the students find themselves being lumped in with the enemy.  They are witnessing the culture they think they know from school lessons and lectures. When they learn that the very actions that brought them there were a PR stunt, all hope is lost. At this point, Alejandro delivers the unabashed truth for the first time. This is how the real world works; everything is connected, the good guys and the bad guys.

Director and writer Eli Roth spares no expense. We witness blood, gore and defecation. It is no surprise then, when we the girls find themselves raped in front of the villagers. Justine is taken after she is found to be a virgin. When one of their group escapes, there is a slight hope, until the captives realize they are being fed her remains. Unable to take the thought of what is happening to them, Samantha a lovely co-ed with extreme IBS, commits suicide. She becomes the next meal for the villagers. Unbeknownst to them, she comes with an extra ingredient: weed.

With the villagers either unconscious or high out of their minds, two manage to escape: a student named Daniel and Justine. Unfortunately, Justine soon finds herself battling for her life in the swift moving Amazon.  Once they are able to get free, they journey back to the plane’s crash site. A frantic search for the a working phone begins. They finally manage to find one, but then are quickly recaptured. Justine is then forced to undergo FGM. Daniel is killed by fire ants.

Just as the villagers are about to cut into Justine, they are distracted by their village being invaded by the workers who are after the trees. Justine sizes this moment and is able to escape. Her escape route unfortunately takes her right into the conflict with the militia. For some reason, she stops speaking clear English and begins to shout like a crazy person. She is taken away by the militia (again). When given the option of saving Alejandro, who at this point has proven himself to be the worlds biggest asshole, she pretends she is the only surviving member of the group.

In the end Justine, chooses to make the natives the hero of the story. She claims they showed no hostility, and that all of the students were killed in the crash. In this way, she does what she set out to do, and finally takes action.

At the end of the film, I found myself asking, what is the point? Green Inferno does not hide exactly what it is at any point. It is an honest film of what happens when guilt meets inaction. Forced to do something, anything, because they cannot stand to stand by and be idle, the students find themselves learning the cold hard truth about the world and its inhabitants. The world is not waiting around to be saved, so in some cases (as in the case of cannibals) it is best to leave them alone. I still however found the entire thing pointless, as the truly evil one in the entire film was Alejandro. Unfortunately, he becomes a martyr and a new leader for his group quickly springs up in absence. So why? Unfortunately there is no real answer. I think Eli Roth wanted to make a cannibal flick and got his wish.

I really have nothing to say about the throw away ending.

My favorite character was Jonah. Oh, and the kid from Spy Kids makes an awesome appearance. Both meet an unfortunate end.

I give this three out of five stars.






The Invoked

This movie should have been called “Messing” or “Continual Screaming”. A found footage film, it centers on 5 friends who decide to visit an off the beaten track hostel for Halloween.

The film starts where it ends, with the police breaking into the hostel where they are staying, saying there had been some weird noises and they were going to investigate with the innkeeper. The place is abandoned and a mess, but they find a camera and so we are introduced to the friends. Keira, Lynn, Aaron, Paddy and Craig are driving to a youth hostel. They seem like young kids, possibly college aged. Craig and Kiera are dating and Lynn and Craig are just starting out. Aaron just appears to be a 5th wheel to be honest. I think he may have been related to one of the couples, but I think I may have missed it.

Anyway, they arrive at their destination late at night, and have to take a boat to get to the hostel. They arrive and let themselves in. I was never quite sure if they broke in or if for some weird reason Paddy had a key, but they get in and theres no power. Soon they set up, and decide to start telling horror stories about their location. It turns out, they are near a burial ground that has some not so fascinating, unoriginal story attached to it. Drunk and careless, the group decides to fashion a homemade ouija board and summon the spirits. This turns out to be a really bad idea, as they summon a ghost who just wants her kids back. Admittedly super scary (not), but Lynn spends most of this time screaming unintelligibly. I get that she was creeped out, but her hysterics soon become annoying. The group finally decides to go to bed, but then the next day begin their stupid antics again.

They drink too much, party too hard, tell stupid stories, and visit the burial ground. Despite her hysteria from the night before, Lynn goes with. If she was truly terrified, why not stay back? In fact, she was the one who suggests they go to the burial ground in the first place. It is at this point the film becomes great. With the shaky cam, we begin to see the ghosts, while the kids remain blissfully unaware. When they get back to the hostel, drunk and high, Aaron finds the first ghost. Of course no one takes him seriously, but the pace of the film picks up dramatically. As they are Irish, everyone initially believes that someone off camera is just “messing”. It becomes annoying after a bit, because this word is used so much in  10 minute sequence, you actually want to yell at the television, “NO THEY ARE NOT MESSING!!!” Between questions, Lynn keeps screaming and Kiera joins in as well.

This film is not original in its theme, or even it’s cast, though I do have to say, their ghosts are pretty interesting. They appear to be a cross between American and Japanese horror with their quick movements and incredibly flowing hair. I think if the film wasn’t FF, it may have been a bit better. There are a lot of solid scares though, that more than make up for the fact that Lynn won’t stop screaming.


3 out of 5.

The Forest (2016)

Looking for some Horror fare (Horrorween is almost upon us), I found this on OnDemand. This movie employs a lot of cheap tricks, and I have to admit, I expected more.

The basic premise of the movie, is that woman goes in search of her twin in Japan after learning she entered Aokigahara, the suicide forest. First off, the women are twins.  Sara is normal. She has a fiance and seems to have chosen the good path. Of course the ‘bad’ twin, Jess goes missing. As most Americanized Japanese films, Sara does not fit in in Japan and is a fish out of water. She of course stumbles across a perfect speaking American expat, Aiden. Within minutes the two are happily talking and swapping stories. Things quickly turn serious. The two have a shared goal; she wants to find her a sister and he is willing to exploit the situation to write a story. Soon, they are connected with a guard who does off the books, suicide hikes. The three agree to go into the woods together.

Despite being warned time and time again, that the forest is dangerous, Sara is determined to find Jess. She just knows that her sister is alive. Being identical twins, she cites some mystical twin connection. Mystical twin connection? Really? The facts are, even if her sister did not commit suicide, two weeks lost in a forest, does not bode well for anyone.

The trip into the forest, actually starts off well. Aokigahara looks like any forest one would find in the US to take a good hike. It isn’t long however before the ghostly whispers begin. When the three break the horror movie rules (crossing a fence that clearly says no entry), things begin to get weird. Their guide reminds them that anything weird that is spotted, is all in their head. But no one ever listens to the guide right?

Aiden ignores scruples and begins to ask Sara prying questions. We learn her sister has tried to commit suicide before. Her willingness to believe that this isn’t one of those times is almost laughable. When they find the body of someone who has committed suicide recently, Sara is unwilling to help them cut it down or even look at the body.

Before long, they find Jess’s tent, but no sign of Jess. Unfortunately it is at the end of their hiking day. Then begins the battle of should they stay and wait for Jess. Michi had earlier relayed that if someone brings a tent, it means they are not sure. Sara willingly sacrifices herself, rather foolishly to stay and wait for her sister to return. Aiden decides to join her because why not? If we are making stupid decisions, why don’t we both do it?

In the middle of the night, Sara finds a teenager, apparently intent on suicide. This changes things a bit, and she and Aiden decide to go get help. At this point, they both become lost, each seeing completely different things that get them confused on their heading. They soon become confused about their own motives. Sara realizes Aiden has been lying and it just now occurs to her that she is in the woods with a strange man she barely knows. She begins to doubt him and his story and of course, takes off into the woods. Smart.

Sara is now lost, with her sister’s spirit and her incredibly messed up childhood tormenting her. This causes her to make even more bad decisions and hurt herself. Now she’s lost and hurt in the woods by herself. At this point Michi has returned and cannot find her or Aiden. A search group is formed and more people plunge into the woods because of the sisters stupidity.

The film alternates between two bad guys, the Forest itself and Aiden. We are not quite sure who to trust. Having two bad guys at least keeps it interesting. In the end, with one bad guy defeated, Jess is finally found. But where is Sara? In her quest to free herself from the Forest, Sara sadly commits suicide meaning that she is lost, while her sister remains free. Jess reconnects with Rob and leaves and the forest claims its victims. What haunts us, eventually gets us.

The upsetting part of the film is that we are never really sure if Aiden was a bad guy? It appears he was an innocent victim which a clear violation of horror movie rules. Also, I really wish this movie had been done with an asian cast. I realize that is shitty of me, but I think it could have been done so much better. Good if you are bored on a Sunday night, but I would pass if there are more interesting options.


2 out of 5.

Celluloid Zeroes Presents: The Beast Within 1982 [Adult Onset Lycanthropy]

FB_IMG_1443200946010The Beast Within opens on a young couple, just married, seeking directions. They are on their way to their honeymoon, and have gotten turned around. According to the directions from the gas station attendant, their location is before they hit the sign for Nioba, but young and and in love, they miss their turn off. A few seconds later, they wind up in the ditch because they decide to make out while driving. As the husband goes for a tow, the wife is attacked and raped.  Seventeen years later, they have new problem arising from the attack, their son Michael.

Michael is ill. He went from being a normal boy to a teen being kept alive by machines because he cannot get enough nourishment. The doctors are at a loss. They know it’s not genetic, since his parents are fine. But are they his parents? We learn that Michael is born from the attack 17 years ago. Believing the answers lie with him, they return to the small town of Nioba, Mississippi . Almost immediately they confront a cove up. Everyone seems to know something about what attacked Mrs. Clearly, but no one is telling. Mrs. Clearly is able to locate an article from about the same time of her attack about a Lionel Curwin. They are finally able to get some answers from the town sherriff, who tells them Mr. Curwin was murdered and his house burned down.

Michael, in the meantime, driven by an insatiable need, drives to Nioba and goes to a house he’s been dreaming about. We aren’t let in on what he sees, but immediately afterward he drives to Edwin Curwin’s house. Curwin is a drunk and has no idea what is going on. This makes his death easy. Unfortunately it is not painless. The thing of it is, Michael does not transform. I was sitting at the edge of my seat, and besides looking demented, he simply lunges at Edwin and bites into his neck.

His family, discovering he is missing, mounts a search. Before they can locate him however, Michael stumbles into the life Edwin’s neighbor Amanda and is returned to the hospital. The next day, despite his late night shenanigans, Michael appears to be fine and doing much better than he was previously. Unfortunately, he has now fallen for his savior Amanda and refuses to be transferred to Houston for treatment. Going to visit Amanda, he gets her to take a walk with him with ends in a make out session in the woods. In true horror movie fashion however, Amanda’s dog finds a human hand and the good time is interrupted. Once the kids summon the cops, their parents show up. Unfortunately, Amanda’s father does not like Michael’s interest in his daughter and threatens to kill him.

At this point we start to learn a bit about Michael. For one, how does he know so much? He seems to know exactly where Nioba is, and how to get there, despite having never being there except for the day of his conception. Also, he knows the town and the people in it. His parents however, don’t realize what’s going on, and assume their son is being a normal 18 year old and hunting tail. As more body parts are found in the Nioba swamp, we realize that there is something going on in the town besides just a rapist running loose.

The Beast Within is not your average monster tale. Instead of casually being bitten by a werewolf and changed or attacked by a beast and eaten, Michael was birthed from one. And he isn’t just any old shapeshifter, he is a monster, who is the embodiment of his father’s soul, Billy Connors. Creepy right? Around this time, the investigators start to realize that the bones were previously buried in other places around town and were moved to to the swamp. Since no one has any knowledge of any missing bodies, we realize that someone else must be reburying the caskets.

One by one, members of the town start to die in gruesome ways. Edwin is killed in house and his neck bitten into. Dexter is embalmed alive and Tom is killed by being dropped on top of a transformer. Though Tom was not a Curwin, we come to understand that Michael/Billy is after all of the Curwin’s and has no discriminating tastes for leaving any of them alive. As we reach the final night of Michael’s transformation, we get the big reveal. I don’t know why I came into this film thinking he was a werewolf, but what he transforms into is anything but. It was terrifying. You have to love 80’s movies for their unflinching look at gore and skin shedding. It is through Judge Curwin that we finally get the story of what’s going on. Billy Connors slept with Lionel Curwin’s wife. As punishment he tied him up in the basement and fed him human body parts until he finally escapes and attacks Mrs. Cleary. I really didn’t like this explanation, as it seemed to be grasping at straws. It isn’t out of left field, it just…doesn’t make sense. Why not just kill your wife’s lover? Keeping him alive and starving him is a special kind of demented. And getting a free pass because of your last name? Though I’ve seen this in movies before, taking it to this kind of extreme seems a bit weird.

Now that he has transformed, Michael is on the run again trying to kill off the remaining Curwins. Though he told Amanda to leave to save herself (She’s a Curwin), she winds up lost and then has an accident that leaves her unconscious in the woods. It is here that the story comes full circle, as Michael rapes her and is later killed by his mother. I loved this movie. I loved that it was a twist on other monster films I’ve seen in the past and is by far the most original. The movie ends rather abruptly, but this perfect because after the rape of Amanda, we pretty much know how the story is going to go. Now to wait for another 17 years?

This review is brought to you by the Celluloid Zeroes Roundtable discussion. Like what you read here? (Even if you hate it, visit the links below to read more reviews on monster transformations.

The Terrible Claw reviews Sssssssss

Checkpoint Telstar picks on The Bat People

Psychoplasmics reviews American Werewolf in London

Big Damn Spiders hits Summer School

Microbrewed Reviews takes a look at The Curse of the Black Widow

Cinemasochist Apocolypse Kibakichi

And finally at Tomb of Anubis, Romasata

247 Degrees

“I just love you so.”- Jenna

Any time someone is deeply in truly in love, that spells bad news in a horror movie. Sure enough, moments later, there is a car crash, and her fiance is dead and poor Jenna trapped with his body. Flash forward three years, and Jenna is out with her best friend Renee, her boyfriend Michael and a cutie named Ian. This movie sets a familiar scene; a girl with severe emotional damage begins to open herself up again. They choose a secluded spot to do their get together and trouble falls them. After alternating between dips in a cold lake and intense sauna sessions, three of the four friends find themselves trapped the sauna with the temperature set at 187 degrees and rising.

My main issue is that this was based on a true event. I have hard time accepting that an event based on true events can actually be anything besides drama which is exactly what this film delivers. There are no bad guys just one stupid series of events after another. The issue is horror movies need a bad guy. The film tries several times to paint various characters into this box. It does not work unfortunately. First there is Michael, a party boy who likes to get high and drink a little too much. We eventually learn that he it is his fault they are locked in the sauna. He drunkenly stumbles into a ladder and places it directly in front of the sauna door. All it takes is two gentle pushes on the door and the ladder slides into place effectively sealing their fate. Michael then passes out from his combination of weed smoking and booze and has no memory of leaving his friends in the sauna.

Then there is Renee. She is whiny and annoying and seems like an overgrown child. She has aspirations of being a grown up, the reasoning she gives to Jenna for abandoning her in her time of need, but gives no evidence in the movie’s hour and a half run time of having any of these qualities. She keeps screaming that she wants to get out and is finally silenced by Jenna when she is hit in the head with a rock. So much for being best friends huh?

Ian does not seem to fit this film. He’s smart, almost too smart for what befalls him. He tries to be the voice of reason through out their sauna saga, telling them to avoid killing the thermometer, stay away from the gas and even burns himself trying to get a rock to break the small window on the sauna door. Nothing he does or says is greeted as good news. He does not fit the film because we know so little about him. He isn’t part of the original group; just an old friend of Michael’s but is virtually unknown to Renee and Jenna. Despite his sacrifices, the girls ignore him making bad choice after bad choice. I almost feel bad for him, going mad in the last minutes of the film and killing himself in an explosion.

And Jenna? I do not know what we are supposed to learn from her. We cannot hate her because of what she’s been through. We understand her choice to hit her best friend in the face with the rock; the chick had it coming. What’s wrong with Jenna is what’s wrong with the majority of the film. It violates the basic horror movie rules. No one technically does any thing wrong, they simply are in the wrong place at the wrong time and can’t be held responsible for their actions. If they had all gone to the party like they were supposed to, they wouldn’t have gone into the sauna. If Michael hadn’t gotten the weed from Uncle Wade, he wouldn’t have passed out and forgotten about his friends in the Sauna. Had Jenna listened to Ian, she wouldn’t have broken the thermometer and caused the heat to go up again. Had Uncle Wade checked on the group at all during the movie (or figured out what Beau was barking at) he would have been there in time to save them.

I felt this movie was trying to decide what it was for most of my viewing. Since there are no boogeymen there are no scares only eye rolls as the situation goes from bad to worst. When the movie ends, you aren’t left feeling bad for anyone, you are just grateful it’s over. The best part of the entire movie is the hallucination of Jenna getting out of the sauna alive. It seems so real, that you almost believe it happens and miss vital clues that it is all in her head. Now if the rest of the movie could have been rescued, I would have given it more stars.

two out of five stars.

Archivo 253 (2015)

I am a sucker for haunted asylum movies. After weeks without internet, I was ready to see what Netflix had begun to offer in my absence. After a few minutes, I found. I was initially turned off, because I didn’t realize it was foreign language film. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s happening, and I have to wait for my  captions to catch up. I will admit, I did not give this film enough credit when I began to watch. There were a few months I missed, and some things were simply unexplained to me. If you’ve seen any of this type of film before, you understand the basic premise. Four friends go into a haunted asylum and are never seen or heard from again. This is the found footage. The only reason I am reviewing this, is once I started paying attention, I was terrified. The scares are legit and it is haunting. The filmmaker manages to pull off scaring the audience by never fully explaining what it is that is after them or fully showing the apparition. And just when you think it’s over, a sudden movement gets your attention and your heart rate increases. I would not watch again, but I would definitely recommend if you are looking for a solid scare.

Two out of five stars.