The Last Exorcism Part II (2013)

The Last Exorcism Part II DVD coverVerdict: 1 ( Avoid )

Premise: Immediately following the events of “The Last Exorcism” (2010), this sequel picks up with Nell disoriented and on-the-run. She is placed in a girls’ home, where she tries to believe that her seemingly absent demonic possession was never real.

Mini Review: I can’t remember the last time I saw a major, theatrical horror release that was this terrible. “The Last Exorcism Part II” may very well be the most boring horror movie I have ever seen — and that’s saying a lot, because I’ve seen “Suspiria” (1977)! Honestly, this movie is more of a drama than anything else. One problem is that this sequel has absolutely no story. And what little semblance of a story it tries to muster doesn’t make one bit of sense. Another problem is that this horror film is rated PG-13, so kills are either non-existent or shown off-screen. (It’s rare that a PG-13-rated horror film can be effective; “The Uninvited” is one exception.) Ashley Bell is a talented actress whose contortionist abilities made the first film creepy. Inexplicably, they barely use those talents at all in this sequel! Anyone could have played this role. “The Last Exorcism Part II” has five or six cheap jump scares, which didn’t even make my friend jump in the theater (and he doesn’t do well at horror movies). We were the only people in the theater, and we actually started laughing out loud at this movie. At one point, my friends decided this movie should be titled “An EKG and a Chicken,” because yes, it features an EKG and a chicken… I like the first film. It has a great premise. I rated it a 5 out of 10 and called it a Rental. This sequel falls into the “Let’s Pretend This Doesn’t Even Exist” category. It’s a 1 out of 10. Avoid — even if it’s free.

Directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly. Starring Ashley Bell, Louis Herthum, Spencer Treat Clark. Sub-genre: Possession / Supernatural. Runtime: 88 min. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for horror violence, terror and brief language). U.S. theater release: March 1, 2013. DVD release: n/a. Country: U.S. Language: English. Mini Review by Jay of the Dead. 0008.

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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
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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.

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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.

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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
On Twitter: @HorrorMovieCast