Tag Archives: Horror

VIFF 2014 Review: Housebound

Housebound is a thriller-comedy from New Zealand that's way better than what you can get from Hollywood.

Housebound is a thriller-comedy from New Zealand that’s put together way better than anything you can get from Hollywood.

Housebound was another one of those 11:30-at-the-Rio films I wanted to check out. It was my first of such. Glad I saw it. Very funny and entertaining.

Kylie Bucknell attempts to commit a robbery on an ATM. The robbery doesn’t work out as her partner is knocked out and she totals her getaway car thanks to driving fast over a big speed bump. The judicial system decides the best thing for her would be house arrest at her mother Miriam’s house. It seems like the right choice to do but the house is old and leaves Kylie with an eerie feeling.

Kylie’s feelings are justified when she hears Miriam call into a radio show talking of how weird it is around there. Then Kylie gets a taste of the eeriness as she notices things like an animated stuffed toy suddenly coming to life and even an old Motorola phone ringing out of nowhere. Even a dental partial has her suspicious. Kylie tries to alert authorities and others but they won’t believe her. Guests and other neighbors around the house are actually pleased at the possibility of a ghost.

Nevertheless Kylie and Miriam are persistent. The only one who believes her is Officer Grayson who knows of past incidents associated with this house such as this being a halfway house for young offenders. In fact the first person who’s the prime suspect in all of this is their shady neighbor. Despite his nasty attitude, he doesn’t register as a positive. However things become more suspicious when a friend of Miriam’s appears suspicious. Eventually the murderer is solved but not without an eerie chase.

For a horror-comedy like that to fly, it had to be done with the right acting, the right direction, and the right story. There have been horror-comedies done before but they would mostly come across as looking ridiculous in the end. Even Hollywood can get it wrong sometimes. This film got it right. From the start with a clumsy robbery attempt to the sense of something wrong in the house to the moment of climax at the end, it was done right. Even the parts intended to be dramatic didn’t come across as ridiculous nor did it dip into sentimentality that was too sappy. Looking back, it would be hard for me to see where the movie did things wrong. Even in terms of the gore, the film didn’t overdo it and it did its most gory part at the right time.

I will admit there were some parts that left me confused about what was happening. However they’d make sense in the end. Simply this is a movie that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Its intent was to deliver a humorous thriller/horror story and it came across as way better than something Hollywood would do. It even had excellent balance between the dramatic parts and the humorous parts. If it didn’t, it would look ridiculous. I would have to watch over and over again to see if it made a false note. Even the death of the perpetrator didn’t come across as ridiculous despite it actually being a ridiculous death.

The comedic acting was just right in order to make this movie work. Morgana O’Reilly needed to deliver a protagonist character that had dimension despite having one that could come across as wooden. Instead she did a good job with Kylie and it came across very well. Rime Te Wiata was the show-stealer as the mother. Her role as the mother added to the comedy to the film thanks to the excellence of the performance. The male actors also did a good job in their roles despite being the supporting players. This is Gerard Johnstone’s first feature -length film and it’s an excellent finished product. Very entertaining and very professional. Another great thing about the script is that it didn’t deliver an awful lot of one-liners and instead delivered more on situational comedy. That worked for the better in this movie.

Housebound is an excellent horror-comedy that both keeps you intrigued and makes you laugh without having ridiculous moments like so many other horror-comedies are prone to do.

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VIFF 2013 Review: Antisocial

Antisocial is a Canadian-made bloody gory teen horror thriller that's very impressively made.

Antisocial is a Canadian-made bloody gory teen horror thriller that’s surprisingly high quality and entertaining.

I’ll admit that I didn’t see as many Canadian films as I hoped to see at the VIFF. Antisocial was one I did see. It was the very last movie of the official Film Festival shown: starting at 11:30pm at the Rio Theatre. It proved to be an ambitious work from Canadians at moviemaking, particularily at horror filmmaking.

The movie begins with an introduction of two girls filming what appears to be a simple video about clothing only for it be one torturing the other and killing her. Later on New Years Eve a college girl named Sam interacts with her boyfriend through a social website called The Social Redroom. It goes bad as he breaks up with her. That leads her to delete her account.

She tries to party it up with her friends to help try to forget the problem. Four of her five friends have active accounts with The Social Redroom. Unknown to them is that an epidemic is spreading outside of them out on just as they’re about to party. The epidemic gets worse and reporters show how this is affecting the world. They even trace it back to The Social Redroom. The founder of The Social Redroom even makes a video of his own warning people of a deadly tumor transmitted to its users. Then Sam and her friends get their first notice when one of their outside friends is a monster infected by this virus. The virus soon spreads throughout the campus. Those of the friends with accounts to The Social Redroom are most at risk. Now the infected are coming after their blood.

There is a way to rid one of this virus but it’s to come out of their bodies. So it’s up to Sam and her friends to try to protect each other. They try to look for everything. First the video of the original two girls to trace its origins. Then the warning video of The Social Redroom founder, in which he commits suicide. Then finding information to rid the tumor being transmitted via The Social Redroom. Then Sam to defend herself and then rid herself of the virus.

I don’t think the filmmakers intended on giving a negative message about social media sites. Anyone who sees this knows that The Social Redroom is a Facebook-like site. In fact looking at this movie, I feel it’s more of just an attempt at trying to make a teen horror movie. That’s it: nothing more than a teen horror movie meant to scare them for their entertainment pleasure. I will have to say this is a very good effort at putting one together. It features many ingredients that would make for your typical entertaining horror movie. There’s the paranormal, the action happening at a college dorm, and the all-too-common phenomenon of social media and giving everyone all the details. The visual effects, horror make-up and even the climactic moments of horror didn’t come across as too cheesy or amateurish. Even the ending didn’t look bad. It ended on the right ridiculous note. The musical score was also a good addition to the horror story as well.

I will admit that it doesn’t have the big-star fuel that Hollywood teen movies have nor does it have the mass marketing given from Hollywood to make it excel at the box office. Oh yeah, it also lacks the shirtless scenes of guys that have been standard ever since the Twilight movies. Nevertheless this is a very entertaining movie that was put together very well and very professionally. I had a hard time trying to find a moment that was very amateurish. I even found it hard to notice a moment from one of the actors that lacked believability. Michelle Mylett was good in what is her first acting role. Also good is Cody Calahan in his first ever direction of a feature-length film as well as co-writing with more experienced writer Chad Archibald. I felt it was kind of like The Ring mixed with 28 Days Later with Night Of The Living Dead mixed in.

Okay I’m sure a lot of you are wondering: “What’s a film like this doing in a Film Festival? Film festival films are supposed to take the art of filmmaking to new lengths.” True but not 100% true. The Vancouver Film Festival is an event that showcases filmmaking quality from around the world including Canada but it’s also an opportunity to have films for further distribution. Some films will go on to the big screen for bigger and better things. Some will find their way on DVD, Digital Movie Websites or movie television networks. And then there are some where the VIFF will be the furthest it gets. Antisocial made its debut at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival. It continues to make appearances at various film festivals. Good buzz for it can help it get picked up for further distribution. We should remember few English language Canadian-made movies make it to the big screen. Nevertheless I see good potential for this film. We’ll have to see.

Antisocial is a teen horror thriller that lacks the star-studded buzz but is excellently put together and goes beyond its modest expectations. All it needs is more film fest buzz to develop a crowd to give it a fair chance.

Movie Review: The Room (2003)

There’s one thing about really bad movies. Most of which get lost into oblivion. Many bad Hollywood movies get to be laughing stocks forever. And then there are some that develop a cult following often as audience participation movies. The most legendary is the Rocky Horror Picture Show: the raunchy musical that made no sense and lives on as an audience participation free-for-all. There hasn’t been a movie that could replace the Rocky Horror Picture Show or even rank well with it. There was an attempt from 1995’s Showgirls many years earlier but it didn’t pan out. The latest one to enter the flock is 2003’s The Room. It has developed a huge cult following too. But will it replace the Rocky Horror Picture Show in terms of being an audience participation phenom?

The film was written, directed and produced by Tommy Wiseau who also plays the lead character Johnny. The film stars as Johnny comes home to his fiancee Lisa. He’s a successful banker with a loving relationship with Lisa who’s a successful real estate agent. His young friend Denny, an orphaned kid with a troubled upbringing, comes to visit but has to leave because of… you get the idea. After Johnny leaves, we learn Lisa is bored with Johnny and is more interested in Mark, his best friend. Lisa and Mark end up making more than love, so to speak. Lisa’s mother insists that she marries Johnny because of his stability. Later Johnny doesn’t get the promotion promised to him. Johnny later learns of talk from Lisa’s best friend that things aren’t going right and start suspecting things. Johnny soon finds out that Denny has been getting into drugs. Not even Johnny’s friend Peter, a psychologist, can help him with his issues. Finally Johnny’s surprise birthday party happens and the truth comes out. At the end Johnny commits suicide and Mark tells Lisa how selfish she is over Johnny’s dead bloody body.

Okay you can draw out your own conclusion through my description of the movie. But the key ingredient towards its awfulness has to be the lines. Laughing moments happen more often than they should. Playing football happens at the most awkward times. ‘Future wife’ is said instead of ‘fiancee.’ “Everything’s going to to be fine” is uttered more often than it should. But the real creme de la creme of lousiness comes with the lines uttered only once: “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!” “I feel like I’m sitting on an atomic bomb waiting for it to go off.” “Everybody betrayed me! I fed up with the world.” “You betrayed me… you that good… you, you’re just a chicken, chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp, cheep, cheep.” “Why Lisa, why? Please talk to me! Please!” Yeah, that bad. If the bad lines weren’t enough, there were also fight scenes that looked like they weren’t coordinated at all, cinematography that was bad, story lines that made no sense at all, and love-making scenes set to R&B music that came across as cheesy as hell. Even the end scene as people cry over Johnny’s dead body leaves the audience laughing. All this made over a budget of $6,000,000? And to think Tommy first tried to market it as a drama but then marketed it as a black comedy. That adds to its weirdness it’s already garnered.

You’d think a movie like that would be too insufferable to watch, right? Well some people somewhere sometime ago turned this into an audience participation movie and that’s where its success came. People dress up as their favorite characters. People throw things around like spoons, food and footballs during certain scenes.  People say “Hi…” and “Bye…” whenever a character enters or exits. People hurl insults and lewd comments during the scenes. People shout “Go, go, go!” during the landscape shots. People also reenact the cheesy lines as they come during the movie. It’s a lot like Rocky Horror. Over at the screening I saw at Vancouver’s Rio Theatre, there was one host dressed up as Tommy Wiseau reenacting his voice and holding an impression contest before the movie was aired. The theatre was filled with mostly twentysomethings; some dressed up as the characters. In the end, the movie is not the same without the audience participation. Sure you could watch it alone on your DVD and laugh but it’s not as fun without the crowd.

It’s already garnered a cult following in the last few years. Will The Room ever achieve the same cult status as Rocky Horror? I doubt it. It hasn’t stood the test of time that Rocky Horror has. The Room’s test of time is something only the future will tell. Also while I’ve never heard of any cast or crew from Rocky Horror often showing up at screenings, occasionallyTommy Wiseau will make a guest appearance at certain screenings of The Room. He wasn’t here in Vancouver, at least this time.

In conclusion, it’s no wonder that The Room is labeled the Citizen Kane of bad movies. The cult following of audience participation is a celebration of its lousiness and makes for a fun night out at the movies. Prepare to laugh like you never laughed before.