The Hounds (2013)

The Hounds DVD coverVerdict: 4 ( Avoid )

Premise: Four friends (three guys and one girl) retreat deep into the wilderness for some camping, but after finding a dead body buried near their campsite, they are preyed upon by a shape-shifting, organ-stealing killer.

Mini Review: “The Hounds” rewards those who are patient … very patient. It is a textbook example of a film that has a great concept that is completely undermined by its poor execution. I’ve rated this movie a 4 out of 10: Two points are for its concept (or ultimately, its twist) and two points are for an especially sickening scene where a character’s kidney is ripped out. “The Hounds” reminded me of a Canadian horror film called “Dark Reprieve” (2008), another good idea that was executed terribly. In both movies, the screenplay fails to carry the story to its horrifying conclusion. One brief example: You know your script is weak if you have a character who is alone and has to talk to himself for the benefit of the viewers. The cinema should show, not tell. Plus, this is what good actors are for: conveying emotion without needing to speak. I have to give “The Hounds” credit, though: It is about one of the worst things that could ever happen to a human being (in real life). But you’ve got three characters, a tent and nothing but forest. That could be incredible, but it’s very boring. There’s a secondary story that seems completely unrelated to the primary plot. Naturally, we later learn the correlation, but until we arrive at the end of the movie, it’s very frustrating to watch. And unfortunately, “The Hounds” follows a trend in horror that I really hate, which is, casting multiple actors and only one actress, especially in a one-against-many scenario, where one killer is individually picking off a group of young men and women.

Directed by Maurizio del Piccolo and Roberto del Piccolo. Starring Maddie Moate, Paul Tonkin, David Drew. Sub-genre: Supernatural / Slasher / Mystery. Runtime: 87 min. MPAA rating: Not rated (but would be R). U.S. theater release: January 20, 2013. DVD release: February 26, 2013. Country: UK. Language: English. Mini Review by Jay of the Dead. 0007.

Web site: Horror Movie Podcast.com
On Twitter: @HorrorMovieCast

Dark Skies (2013)

Dark Skies DVD coverVerdict: 4.5 ( Avoid )

Premise: A suburban family of four is terrorized at night by otherworldly visitors with malevolent intentions.

Mini Review: “Dark Skies” is an alien abduction movie, something like “Communion” (1989), “Fire in the Sky” (1993) and “The Fourth Kind” (2009), but it’s inferior to those. In fact, it’s more of a Thriller than a Horror film, and all the creepiest parts of the movie are given away in the trailer. And it has to be said: The appearance of the aliens is weak, both literally and figuratively. But the performances are good, particularly Keri Russell and J.K. Simmons. Only about half the film’s scares work; the other half are duds. “Dark Skies” actually borrows quite a bit from “Signs” (2002) and the screenwriting of M. Night Shyamalan. But aside from a few creepy moments, “Dark Skies” is ultimately underwhelming with an hour and 45 minutes of set-up and not enough pay-off.

Directed by Scott Stewart. Starring Keri Russell, J.K. Simmons, Josh Hamilton. Sub-genre: Alien Abduction / Thriller. Runtime: 105 min. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for violence, terror throughout, sexual material, drug content and language – all involving teens). U.S. theater release: February 22, 2013. DVD release: n/a. Country: U.S. Language: English. Mini Review by Jay of the Dead. 0006.

Web site: Horror Movie Podcast.com
On Twitter: @HorrorMovieCast

The Weekly Horror Movie Podcast Ep. 002: Someone Is Watching

BRIEF EXPLANATION: This podcast is not the Horror Movie Podcast for which this site and feed are dedicated. Horror Movie Podcast is slated to release Episode 001 on October 25, 2013. You can read the full explanation and the background on the re-release of The Weekly Horror Movie Podcast (and of Horror Metropolis) at the bottom of the show notes for this episode.

SHOW NOTES:

Welcome to Episode 002 of The Weekly Horror Movie Podcast, hosted by Jay of the Dead, BillChete, Dr. Shock, Terror Tovey and Midnight Corey. This is a weekly podcast where each host assigns a horror movie to another one of the hosts, round-robin style, with one host sitting out each week. For this episode, it is Terror Tovey’s week off, but he will join us again next week, when Dr. Shock will be off for Episode 003. Continue reading

The Mooring (2013)

The Mooring DVD coverVerdict: 5 ( Rental )

Premise: A group of girls who are too distracted by modern technology are taken on a boating / camping trip into the Idaho wilderness to learn how to live without their mobile devices and social media. Ironically, these girls begin to literally die without their phones when they are attacked by a serial killer couple.

Mini Review: “The Mooring” has all the makings of a great slasher-in-the-woods movie, and it’s heart-breakingly close to being an incredible film. The recipe is simple: All you need is a crazed killer (or two), stalking and slashing undeserving campers in the woods. “The Mooring” has this part of the equation right, but after an attention-getting opening scene, this film turns into an after-school special for the first 25 minutes, until it remembers that it’s a horror film again. “The Mooring” is a tonal mess: It has sappy music, heart-to-heart moments between the girls and their leaders and creative montages. And when the killing begins, the film doesn’t keep the pace and build on its suspense. It loses steam and momentum and therefore, our attention. I suspect the filmmakers were attempting to make something more than a run-of-the-mill horror film, which I admire, but in their failed attempt, they’ve ended up with a sub-par run-of-the-mill horror film. Even so, “The Mooring” still has teeth; a few kills are brutal, but the first one is my favorite. I would also note that the best performance in the film is by the camp director named Nancy, played by Hallie Todd, who was also one of the screenwriters. “The Mooring” is worth checking out, but prepare to be heart-broken by its potential.

Directed by Glenn Withrow. Starring Hallie Todd, Thomas Wilson Brown, Karli Blalock. Sub-genre: Slasher / Thriller. Runtime: 90 min. MPAA rating: R (for violence and terror). U.S. theater release: N/A. DVD release: February 12, 2013. Country: U.S. Language: English. Mini Review by Jay of the Dead. 0005.

Web site: Horror Movie Podcast.com
On Twitter: @HorrorMovieCast

Citadel (2013)

Citadel DVD coverVerdict: 3.5 ( Avoid )

Premise: When three mysterious youths attack an expectant mother, the woman’s husband is left to care for their surviving baby while he struggles with his newly developed agoraphobia and additional attacks from the mysterious assailants.

Mini Review: “Citadel” looks atmospheric and brooding, but its “monsters” show up so seldom, this film plays more like a psychological drama than a horror film. By the time the monsters are finally revealed and explained, the storyline has fallen apart and doesn’t make sense. There are a couple of darkly memorable moments, but lead actor, Aneurin Barnard, resembles Elijah Wood and his Frodo Baggins performance so much that it’s distracting. There’s a much better, 7-rated zombie flick called “The Horde” (2009) that features a similar scenario (giant apartment high-rise infested with monsters) that I’d recommend instead.

Directed by Ciaran Foy. Starring Aneurin Barnard, James Cosmo, Jake Wilson. Sub-genre: Suspense / Thriller. Runtime: 84 min. MPAA rating: R (for disturbing violent content, and language). U.S. theater release: November 9, 2012 [limited]. DVD release: January 29, 2013. Country: Ireland. Language: English. Mini Review by Jay of the Dead. 0004.

Web site: Horror Movie Podcast.com
On Twitter: @HorrorMovieCast

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

Verdict: 5 ( Rental )

Premise: A modernized spin on the witch-whipping siblings in the woods, “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” is about two orphaned children who grow up to become professional witch-killers for hire.

Mini Review: “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” is a tongue-in-cheek action horror flick that’s three times more enjoyable than it has any right to be. Yes, it’s akin to Van Helsing (2004) or “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (2012), except better. These witches are quite ferocious and fearsome. Famke Janssen (“X-Men”) is cast as the lead, wickedest witch. Jeremy Renner plays his role as Hansel just as straight and dead serious as his bomb expert in “The Hurt Locker.” Gemma Arterton chews the scenery and steals the show as Gretel; I was shocked by her screen presence. And Derek Mears (“Friday the 13th”) is wasted as an unrecognizable troll. (Peter Stormare is also wasted as a dim-witted sheriff.) “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” is fairly fast-paced and has a good number of bloody witch battles with a lot of indistinguishable action, but I personally prefer my horror flicks to be set more in reality and much less fantastical.

Directed by Tommy Wirkola. Starring Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Peter Stormare. Sub-genre: Action-Horror. Runtime: 88 min. MPAA rating: R (for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality / nudity and language). U.S. theater release: January 25, 2013. DVD release: n/a. Country: U.S. Language: English. Mini Review by Jay of the Dead. 0003.

Web site: Horror Movie Podcast.com
On Twitter: @HorrorMovieCast

Mama (2013)

Mama DVD coverVerdict: 6.5 ( Rental )

Premise: When their criminal-on-the-run father strands them at a cabin in the woods, two little girls spend years holed up inside with only a supernatural and malevolent being attending to them. But when the feral girls are discovered five years later and adopted by their aunt and uncle, their new “mama” is jealous and doesn’t want to share her guardianship.

Mini Review: “Mama” is another rare case of a PG-13-rated horror movie that’s actually scary — not horrifyingly scary — but it has its moments. There’s a scene early in the film where a distraught father prepares to kill his daughters before committing suicide, and this bleak moment is more upsetting than any monster-related aspect of the film. The “Mama” character is largely a CGI creation and though passably creepy during the film, she seems rather cartoonish as I reflect on her in retrospect. The young actresses that play the daughters give exceptional performances — especially Isabelle Nélisse as Lilly. There is a tug-of-war scene in this movie that will chill your spine, but the best part of “Mama” is its sound design: “Mama” makes terrifying noises. Unfortunately, the script is overly convoluted (particularly Mama’s back story), so the scenes don’t flow into one another. And as far as horror movies go, “Mama” is a little too long and too slow for my tastes.

Directed by Andres Muschietti. Starring Jessica Chastain, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse. Sub-genre: Supernatural / Ghost. Runtime: 100 min. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for violence and terror, some disturbing images and thematic elements). U.S. theater release: January 18, 2013. DVD release: n/a. Country: U.S. Language: English. Mini Review by Jay of the Dead. 0002.

Web site: Horror Movie Podcast.com
On Twitter: @HorrorMovieCast

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

Verdict: 5.5 ( Rental )

Premise: “Texas Chainsaw 3D” is an alternate sequel to the original, Tobe Hooper masterpiece, “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” from 1974. After the lone survivor of the primary film escapes and reports her ordeal to the police, the Sawyer family is under siege. And in the process of the community’s attack, baby girl Sawyer is kidnapped and raised elsewhere. Then the film jumps forward nearly 40 years later to present-day 2012, where this now grown, adopted Sawyer girl receives the Sawyer homestead as an inheritance. But when she and her friends visit her new home, they find themselves in danger of Leatherface.

Mini Review: Laying aside some nonsensical inconsistencies, such as this almost 40-year-old lead character appearing to be half that age, “Texas Chainsaw” is a passable horror film that does nothing to expand upon the other entries in the franchise, but at least it’s better than “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation” (1994). The biggest problem with this latest installment is that it shifts from having Leatherface be a formidable monster to transforming him into a sympathetic anti-hero. Another huge mistake this film makes is the way it opens with all the greatest hits highlights from the 1974 version, setting the bar unreachably high for everything that follows. There are a couple of notable kills, but in the end, “Texas Chainsaw 3D” is a low-priority rental, even for fans of the franchise.

Directed by John Luessenhop. Starring Alexandra Daddario, Dan Yeager, Tania Raymonde. Sub-genre: Slasher. Runtime: 92 min. MPAA rating: R (for strong grisly violence and language throughout). U.S. theater release: January 4, 2013. DVD release: n/a. Country: U.S. Language: English. Mini Review by Jay of the Dead. 0001.

Web site: Horror Movie Podcast.com
On Twitter: @HorrorMovieCast

The Weekly Horror Movie Podcast Ep. 001: Yeah I Killed My Mama

BRIEF EXPLANATION: This podcast is not the Horror Movie Podcast for which this site and feed are dedicated. Horror Movie Podcast is slated to release Episode 001 on October 25, 2013. You can read the full explanation and the background on the re-release of The Weekly Horror Movie Podcast (and of Horror Metropolis) at the bottom of the show notes for this episode.

SHOW NOTES:

Welcome to Episode 001 of The Weekly Horror Movie Podcast, hosted by Jay of the Dead, BillChete, Dr. Shock, Terror Tovey and Midnight Corey. This is a weekly podcast where each host assigns a horror movie to another one of the hosts, round-robin style, with one host sitting out each week. For this first episode it is Midnight Corey’s week off. But he will join us next week, and Terror Tovey will be off for Episode 002. Continue reading