31 Days of Halloween, Day 2 – The kids are NOT alright. KILLER KID WEEK Kick-Off

•October 2, 2011 • 2 Comments

Let’s make the Blog Lagoon’s first week of the
Countdown to Halloween:
Killer Kid Week 

Today’s selection:

The Children (2008)
The Children has no relationship to the 1980 movie of the same name but they would make a great double feature anyway. Both are packed with diabolical tots. But if you see only one killer kids movie this year, make it 2008’s.

Two families, with an impressive polarity of dysfunction to divide them, spend Christmas together in the hosting family’s waaay out-of-the-way, woods-hidden home. The kids are playing and getting along, the adults are throwing back wine in the kitchen, but before they know it: snowbound. Two couples. Several kids. Lots of noise.

Right off the bat we get one curly-haired cherub blowing chunks on arrival. Mom naturally mistakes this for carsickness, but her son’s behavior eludes to something else … if you’re the viewer anyway. None of the adults seem to notice the slow-burn change in their progeny. ( –which seems to send the message that you’d never guess your kid is plagued by some viral strain of single-minded-killing-machine-itis, because kids are already that obnoxious.)

All the kids are coming down with a mutant rabies flu (or something) that’s making them cough up wads of goo and go maim-crazy. Meanwhile their parents are too busy smiling condescendingly at one another and making passive-aggressive innuendo to notice anything but all the cheap-shot parental one-upsmanship happening between the grown-ups.

One by one sweet little rosy-cheeked faces go blank and icy — but the viewer sees something bubbling beneath. The parents remain clueless for awhile. (You know they’re all out to lunch when they fail to notice pasty complexions and eyes with luggage on the mugs of their precious angels.) The sexy teen daughter of the visiting family is noticing though, and from the first scratched face all the way to the final homicide, again and again her furrowed brow proves warranted.

What makes The Children work so well (in addition to being really great-looking …

)… is that these families are familiar. They’re your asshole neighbor or that bitchy PTA mom who won’t shut up about her little prodigy.  And since no one wants to believe that their child is capable of such violent acting out, parental insecurity bubbles to the surface. The home-schooling, outwardly-happy “perfect” mother shows the cracks in that fascade while her sister, the less-confident mother who wears dysfunction on her sleeve, proves to be made of more than she thought.

The other element that makes The Children one of the best of its sub-genre is that it does not pull the punches many killer-kid movies are prone to. Violence against children in movies is pretty taboo, but you wouldn’t know it from watching The Children. I had to think hard to remember the last time I saw a tyke get plowed over by a motor vehicle. (Pet Sematary, 22 years ago, in case you were wondering.) Additionally it’s well-acted and suspenseful, relying heavily on our fear of children’s unpredictability. (Did that kid have too many Cokes with his Sponge-Bob or is he about to go on a killing spree? So hard to tell.) It also benefits from its snowy remote location. And can we get some big ups with a side of lifelong therapy for the young actors who probably wrecked their respective childhoods by even appearing in this movie? I mean, it’s not hard to stare blankly …

… but these kids are really good at it:

I’m not sure whether you’d enjoy The Children more if you’re a parent or if you’re viewing as one who chooses pets over babies. But consider: whether it’s at a Target check-out or standing in line at Cedar Point, everyone has felt capable of killing some loud, mean, brat-faced nose-picker at least once in their lives. Even parents. Especially the ones that think their children are perfect little snowflakes.

*** (out of four)

31 Days of Halloween, Day 1 – Swingin’ at the Seance

•October 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Here’s the best Halloween mix you’re gonna get your bloody little claws on all month…

I’ve cleared the cobwebs from the doorway, pushed the corpses to the corner and flipped on the flickering lights over the haunted dungeon warehouse that is the Lagoon for another October full of spooky shares, reviews and other horror-bull stuff. Welcome to the Halloween season, everybloody. Download this CD-length file of creep-themed shit-kickin’ Transylvania twists. It’s the most danceable of the Blog Lagoon Halloween mixes (of which there’s a veritable catalog now!), if I do say so myself. What are you waiting for?

You’ve got 30 more days to worship this collection of rare, obscure hot boppin’ Hallow-hits from beyond. Act now and you’ll get 32 tracks of cross-n-bone-a-fide party-making monstrosities…with no further obligation on your part! And remember, this is only the first of two 2011 Halloween mixes. Check back every day for more brain-melting, gut-munching madness. Get out the candles, Ouija boards, ball gags and candy corn. This seance is swingin’ so if the coffin is rockin’, don’t come knockin’!



  • Killer Kids
  • Satanic Sounds
  • Unlikely Horror Movies
  • …and morbidly magnificent surprises gore-lore!

Sorority Row (2009)

•May 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’m mostly glad I took a chance on Sorority Row and the bitches of Theta Pi and I’m mostly sorry that I didn’t step away before the last 8 minutes or so. Sorority Row is pretty standard as slasher flicks go, but way above average where REMAKES of slasher flicks (in this case, 1983’s House on Sorority Row) are concerned. (I’ve heard the same about My Bloody Valentine 3D from the same year which I’ll be more likely to see now that I’m primed for more early-80s nostalgi-horror.)

After kicking the party off with a practically sublime “prank-gone-wrong” opening that could teach I Know What You Did Last Summer a thing or two, a surprisingly tight, and mostly plausible, story begins to unspool.

For a movie that centers around the feminine dark side of the college Greek system, you have to give high-fives to a script featuring sorority brats with distinct personalities and motivations, particularly in a genre that rarely makes an effort to distinguish one curvy pile of knife-bait from another. (“Let’s just name them Bitches Numbers 1-6 and be done with it!”) SR actually gives its girls different degrees of bitchiness…aaaand a blubbery, lantern-jawed Rumer Willis who seems to be doing a variation on the same role she played in House Bunny (which–believe me or don’t–is funny).

"Bruce Willis' jaw," isn't exactly "Bette Davis' eyes," is it?

When a “tricked-out” tire-iron-wielding killer (in a black-hooded robe — lame!) starts to systematically ‘off anyone associated with the above-mentioned prank, what develops is a surprisingly clever whodunnit, complete with irony-enhanced zingers, darkly-comic kills, and a well-utilized Carrie Fisher (!) as the Theta-Pi house mother who gets the movie’s best line. (Shotgun-armed Princess Leia to Hooded Killer: “Please don’t think I’m afraid of you. I run a house with fifty crazy bitches!”)

"The emperial senate will not stand for this."

Rare is the slasher movie with what one might recognize as “production design,” but SR has some beautifully shot scenes and an interesting color palate for a low-rung genre movie. There are some downright aesthetically-pleasing scenes for your eyeballs to soak up in addition to the nicely executed…executions…that don’t skimp on blood or creativity.

SR offers a better mystery than most slasher flicks but it comes unraveled with a wholly dissatisfying reveal in the last reel. Up until then, however, the movie is a good, smartly-written, time with additional high marks for gore and gratuitous nudity.

What really sets SR apart from horror flicks slashed from the same bloody cloth is across-the-board solid performances (…that Audrina Partridge deserves an Oscar for her portrayal of a corpse) and characters that are as interesting as any sorority-girls-in-a-slasher-movie you’re likely to see this side of Black Christmas (1974).
**1/2 – two and a half stars out of four

Scream 4 (2011) Reviewed or “I Scre4m, You Scre4m, We All Scre4m for Scream 4”

•April 30, 2011 • 2 Comments

Quentin Tarantino guest-directs this "characters-look-into-the-trunk-of-a-car" scene from Scream 4.

 SCREAM 4 (aka SCRE4M) (2011)
It took me awhile to decide if I even cared about another Scream sequel. After all, I thought both previous sequels were unimaginative bummers that looked remarkably like the kind of product being shat out to cash in on Scream‘s success. (Pause for a moment and try to remember who even ended up being  Ghostface in 2 and 3. I had to look it up.) Scream begat I Know What You Did Last Summer and things got progressively worse from there — which seemed unimaginable at the time. After all, do you look back on the days of Urban Legend, Valentine, Halloween H20, Fear Dot Com and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer fondly?

It’s a rhetorical question.

Watching the Scream franchise lurch along purposelessly was like watching a badly-wigged, mortally wounded Drew Barrymore trying to yell for help as she crawls across the lawn on her hands and knees. It systematically cut loose everything that made the original cool; most notably its wit, sense of suspense and scares. You may not remember, children, but Scream was scary. If you’re old enough to have seen it in the theater when it was released in 1996, you may remember walking out into the parking lot slowly realizing that you’d seen the first effective mainstream horror movie  in years. No one had really counted on that at the time. Especially not from Wes “People Under the Stairs” Craven. My interest in Scream prior to seeing it had more to do with the Drew Barrymore obsession I was cultivating than anything else. (This was during her “Ima’-get-nekkid-in-Playboy-and-flash-David-Letterman!” phase, which made me think: maybe she’ll get naked.) I hadn’t expected the surprisingly dark opening, the clever script, or the twist ending. Unfortunately kids who grew up on Scream as slumber party entertainment can’t view it in its original context and probably regard it as a horror relic. (God help the thirtysomethings among us.) But children…you must understand…mainstream horror was pretty much dead during the first half of the 90s and Scream was something significantly different and infinitely more entertaining than anything landing the cover of Fangoria back then. At a time when the last horror movie you could remember seeing in a theater was Leprechaun 3 or The Prophecy, Scream was a revelation.

Scream made big bucks and like any successful genre movie, it let loose an avalanche of copy-cat ripoffs. One might suggest that the post-modern horror rut of the 90s is actually Scream‘s fault. Some might even go so far as to say it’s Wes Craven’s fault. Never one to shy away from exploiting a success, he rushed Scream 2 and 3 through production in the same sell-out-now-while-you-still-can fashion that once guided him to shit out a sequel to his (marginally successful) The Hills Have Eyes. (You know, the one where the surviving dog from part one has his own flashbacks to the first movie? Solid stuff.)

Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell watch TV and look hot as they help justify my ticket purchase.

I knew it was inevitable that the Scream franchise would be revived and it makes sense that it was happening now. I was hoping, however, that if Wes Craven’s name was in the credits it would be following words like “Executive Producer” or “Based on Characters Created by Kevin Williamson and–.” Bringing fresh blood in to revitalize the material seemed like a good idea to me.

I thought the series had become head-spinningly self-referential; too “meta” for its own good. I expect many will have the same gripes about S4 but I make a distinction between it and the sequels it follows. For one, I think S4 distinguishes itself right out of the gate with a strong opening that sets a tone that’s pitch perfect. It ends up doing all the things I hoped it wouldn’t, but in a way that’s clever without being cute and violent without being bloodless. Not only is the five-minute prologue meta to the max, it’s also protracted, gory and genuinely surprising. It’s self-referential, but in a smoothly calculated way that I dug. Without spoiling the surprise, the opening almost seems designed to give Scream scribe, Kevin Williamson, the opportunity to show how he’s grown as a writer of teen dialogue as the things being said go from being Dawson’s-Creek cheeky to conceivably human in three easy steps. For me, that smooth calculated approach is what lifts S4 above the rubble of its predecessors.

After the satisfying opening, the plot kicks in and catches us up with the series’ surviving characters Sidney (Neve Campbell), Gale (Courtney Cox) and Dewy (David Arquette). Sidney, the “final girl” of the original trilogy returns to her hometown on the eve of the anniversary of the original “Woodsboro murders,” which have, over the years, become a true-crime book, a movie franchise and more of a celebrated local legend than a stubborn blood stain on town history. She’s there to to hock her new “survivor” autobiography…which you know is just asking for trouble. During her homecoming she’s guest to her aunt (a criminally underused Mary McDonnell) and niece (Emma Roberts), who inexplicably live in Woodsboro despite their family’s disturbing history there.

It’s through Roberts’ niece character, Jill, that we’re introduced to this installment’s buffet of teen flesh: creeper boyfriends, movie dorks, sexy popular girls, nice girls, mean girls, and Hayden Panettiere. (–who, I was surprised to find, can actually act– I never watched Heroes but I really liked her in this.) Marley Shelton is also along for the ride as Sheriff Dewey’s deputy, as are dunderhead cops, Adam Brody and Anthony Anderson. Naturally one of the above characters is (probably) this go-round’s Ghostface — and plot-wise, saying much more would probably be saying too much.

Scream 4 starts with a bang and picks up steam as it unspools, with more red herrings than a Hallmark Channel marathon of Murder, She Wrote. Sideway glances, back-story drama, jealousy, bitterness and suspicious behavior by multiple characters have us looking every which way for clues. After the inventive killer reveal at the end of the first Scream, 2 and 3 dropped the ball with forced “tah-dahs” that left us feeling cheated for anticipating something more surprising. Scream 4 eventually ties up its loose ends with a genuinely twisted resolution that hinges on taking the kind of chance prior installments shied from. As far as murder mysteries go, I liked this wrap-up better than the original’s over-acted, Matthew-Lillard-plagued capper. It takes some risks and they mostly pay off. It’s a strong ending by any standard and a really strong ending for the genre. I’ll even go out on a limb and say it’s the most satisfying ending to anything Craven has ever directed. (Feel free to challenge me on this.) And if Williamson can be given full credit for coming up with S4‘s third-act twists, well, kudos to him too. (What’s the last interesting thing he’s done anyway? *runs to IMDB to check* …turns out Scream is the last interesting thing he’s done.)

Ghostface serenades Emma Roberts with R Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet."

Per usual, there are too many pop references that will have the movie feeling dated before it hits DVD, but that just sort of goes with the Scream territory. For better or worse it’s what Scream does, and at least this time references to other horror movies seem to serve a more legit purpose, unlike the context-free riffs in 2 and 3 which made those two feel like self parodies rather than sequels– like Scary Movie joints with the jokes removed. (And God help the screenwriter who can’t illicit more laughs than the Wayans-brothers’ anti-comedies that make up that inexplicably profitable series.)

That said, we do come to the Scream franchise expecting a few laughs, and by my count S4 has fewer gags than the previous three combined. But at the end of the day, I’m so totally okay with that because Scream humor only ever worked about a quarter of the time anyway. There are some solid laugh lines in S4 but nothing that reeks of “horror comedy” which most movies never get right…save exceptions like Shawn of the Dead, which gets a nice little nod in S4‘s final reel. (Incidentally, my favorite visual gag goes by so fast I barely caught it: *minor spoiler ahoy* In a high school hallway scene watch for a memorial bust of Henry Winkler; who played the ill-fated Woodsboro high school principal in the first movie.)

Where scares are concerned, admittedly, there’s nothing here that’s going to make you sleep with the lights on. But shocks and suspense are provided in generous helpings. Additionally, gorehounds should be pleased with a nice-sized body count and murders far more graphic than in previous entries. (I mean, ENTRAILS! Who doesn’t love entrails?!) Even the requisite “jump” scenes aren’t so gratuitous as to become grating.

Another check in the plus column that I had no reason to expect? Legitimate character development. Campbell’s Sidney is still kind of weepy and flat for a “final girl” but that’s not necessarily Campbell’s fault. I think she’s doing the best she can with the what she’s given and even though she’s still a little bland, it’s clear that Sidney has grown up since we last saw her…and it’s not just the big-girl bangs. Instead, it’s Courtney Cox’s Gale Weathers who walks away with S4 as its most interesting character. What started out as a shrill, TV-news glory hound has become a character of considerable depth and cunning. I found it far easier to root for Gale than any of the other knife bait on hand.

Craven’s handling of S4′s teen actors seems more confident than ever too. Panettiere’s line readings alone are enough to make you forget she’s being directed by the same man who guided Heather Langenkamp through her “FRED KRUGER, MOM! FRED KRUGER!” dialogue. (Or remember Rose McGowan’s “Bam! Bitch goes down!” bit from Scream? There’s nothing nearly that annoying to be found here.)

Despite some self-conscious, killer’s-POV, video-camera gimmickry — the only element that smacks of the previous sequels– the dialogue is less forced, less hokey and closer to the way real people talk than you typically get from this franchise. Maybe it’s a sign that the Craven-Williamson partnership is worth resurrecting after all. (Something that would have sounded absolutely bonkers after a screening of Cursed.) –but then, during my little jaunt over to IMDB, I see that Scream 5 has been announced for 2013 and that Scream 4 has already been pitched as the start of a new trilogy…and I get that familiar, sinking, The-Hills-Have-Eyes-Part-II feeling.

*** – 3 stars out of 4

"--but if you'd let me explain -- we're selling knives door to door to fund the senior class trip to Orlando!"

“I Finally Watched Human Centipede” -OR- “[Insert Ass-to-Mouth Joke Here]”

•March 29, 2011 • 3 Comments

There’s a reason it’s taken me awhile to sit down and say what I wanted to about Human Centipede (First Sequence). For one thing,  writing about it means thinking about it, and thinking about it means…well, THINKING ABOUT IT. Secondly, I have a complicated relationship with this movie, which begins when some friends and I saw it as the trailer attached to Kick-Ass. (I have a complicated history with it as well.) The opening of the trailer gives immediate indication that it is a preview for something of the “thriller/horror/parody of either” persuasion: Rainy night. Pretty girls. Broke-down car. Seeking refuge from a stranger. This all looks familiar enough. But then…something begins to change.

"...so lonely, I am. If only I had some visitors to turn into ze monsta'."

Cut by cut the trailer is breaking down the story for me. (But this can’t be what the WHOLE movie is about, can it? This is just one of many atrocities the movie has to offer, right? Like a Saw trap; there’s probably more crazy torture coming and they’re just showing us the most inventive and revolting in the trailer…Please tell me I’m right.) But it’s true – HC is a whole movie about THIS; this concept that someone actually sculpted into an entire screenplay. A screenplay that was directed by someone whose nine-to-five job was living in this world…someone with a mother, no doubt! A movie featuring actors (each with their own mother, let’s not forget) who were happy enough to add a starring indie role to their resume, even if it meant having to explain said big break to their families and showing up to premiers where afterwards people ask, “now, were you the middle one or the back one?” A movie in which a mad German doctor abducts subjects for his “ultimate” experiment.  MAKING a Siamese triplet!

The story, or as much as I can stomach telling you, goes like this: Two girls, lost and broke down abroad, find their way to a house on a dark rainy night. Their host seems happy they’ve arrived, like he’s been waiting for them his whole life. “What luck!” his face seems to say. [Now, let’s pause here for some quick advice: If your car breaks down and you find your way to the door of a man looking like the one above, with slicked back hair, and sporting a thick German accent, just move along to the next house. Even if it’s five miles away. However, if you are so stupid as to enter, and you see gigantic living-room wall art depicting conjoined fetuses, don’t come crawling to me on 12 legs crying that he roofied your drink.]

"I see a raw uncooked turkey. You?" "I see an awkward conversation with my parents about taking this role."

This particular host is an ex- (we can only assume why “ex-“) surgeon who was once at the top of his field (which we infer is separating conjoined twins). In fact, he’s so obsessed with conjoined-ation(?) that he’s already conducted one experiment on his dog….er dogs…er, tri-dog. We know this because he sadly carries around a snapshot of his late, beloved, K9x3.

The man knows a Kodak moment when he sees one.

So his NEW up-the-ante experiment is conjoined human triplets…but not connected hip to hip, or even head to head. Think about it. Don’t make me say it. Christ, how can you not have heard at least THIS much about HC, that I have to come out and say it?

ASS-TO-MOUTH-TO-ASS-TO-MOUTH-TO-ASS! One mouth, one butt, three people! There! Satisfied!?

Remember, I garnered almost all of the above from the TRAILER, in which Dr. A-t-M informs his victims, who are tied to gurneys, of their fate with the help of a dry erase marker and an overhead projector. High school biology was never like this! (…holy shit, that’s an awesome tag line for this movie.)

"I'm not much of a arteest, but trust me -- a magician with zee scalpel!"

A few fleeting minutes of unsavory visual bursts later, the trailer is over and if you’re a NORMAL person, you’re a little unnerved. By a trailer! By the context! By all that it implies! My immediate reaction was to turn to my movie-going companions and say something like “i wouldn’t watch that with a loaded gun in my face.” It reminded of me of what the trailer for Mommy, Dearest did to me when my dad took the six-year-old version of me to see Popeye. What it did to my childhood!

Despite the douche bag in our party who “can’t wait to see it” I was relieved when the preview for some dumb-ass comedy came next to help push away the memory of what I’d just seen…what I’d been made to think about. But I knew it would take nothing less than a full-length feature to scrub away the memory (too bad it had to be Kick-Ass). Unfortunately, the preview for HC was the first thing we started talking about as soon as we left the theater (which should probably tell you a little about Kick-Ass). But I stood my ground. I’ll watch a lot, but I won’t watch people surgically forced to ____ into someone’s ____.  See? I can’t even say it.

Yes. The movie goes THERE.

Well, it turns out the guy in our party who REALLY wanted to see HC wasn’t even a horror fan and was kind of a douche to boot. Having already suspected his douchiness I wondered, if he can take it, so can I. Right? Then it just became this topic that came up from time to time. I waffled. I wondered. I downloaded it. I told people they could watch it at my place and we’d experience it together, like that would have made it more …fun? I talked to people who’d seen it. I’d pretty much let the movie’s main conceit fizzle away into an abstraction in my subconscious. And then finally, I watched it at home alone.

As I had originally suspected I left the experience wishing I could get my hands on some Silkwood-style wire brushes to scrub away the lingering afterthoughts from my horror-ready, yet still rather sensitive, brain.

What's got 3 heads, 12 legs, and is hiding under this sheet?

To anyone who’s said this movie isn’t as gross as you’d think: you should have your imagination checked for blown fuses or shorted wires. I don’t have to SEE “2 girls/1 cup” to know that I don’t want to see it. I guess what these “isn’t-as-gross-as-you-think” people meant is that a lot of the gore is implied. To that I say: so what?! Am I still aware that that poor girl’s jaw is being removed so that it makes it easier to attach her face to her friend’s hinder? Yup. Am I still aware of the price the girls are going to pay when the starved “head” of the centipede (the third victim of Dr. A-t-M, a young Chinese man who speaks in subtitles only) starts scarfing down food? Yup.  I don’t need to see shit or knives gouging skin to know that there is shit present and the gouging of skin going on. Gore might have actually softened some of the lingering ick-factor from the HC experience because when there are blood and guts flying around, it kinda’ helps you get into the spirit of things. It helps reinforce the “it’s-only-a-movie” wall you’ve built around your psyche which allows you to enjoy things like David Cronenberg movies and crazy shit like HC.


All of that said, you may be shocked to hear me say that HC is not a bad movie. It looks sharp, is competently directed, acted, and paced –and really, when you think about it, it’s a fairly unique take on the old “mad scientist” movie. So kudos for all of that I guess. But a well-made movie does not necessarily rate a Facebook “like” from me. This is not a recommendation. I recognize that the first Lord of the Rings is an amazing technological and artistic feat that (probably?) does right by its literary source material, but that didn’t keep me from seeing it and knowing immediately that I would never see it again or any of its sequels ever. HC, for its part, is at least an engaging experience, insofar that you WILL be paying attention to what is going on. It’s not even the most offensive movie I’ve seen this year. (That honor goes to the appalling Dead Girl which I’ll review soon) but I don’t ever want to watch HC again. Please don’t make me.  I don’t want my mind to revisit those places. I don’t want to to think about those things again. And now that I’ve finally written this all down, I guess I won’t have to. *cleansing sigh*

"Before I turn you into ze monsta', first I share mein secret gingerbread man recipe."

Of course, you may have noticed the cheeky “(First Sequence)” part of the title which, natch, implies sequels. But you know what they say: Make me watch a human-ass-to-mouth-freak-show once, shame on you. Make me watch a human-ass-to-mouth-freakshow twice, shame on me.

For freaking out friends, ending bad dates, or sending lingering relatives home: ***
For all other movie-watching circumstances: ** – two out of four stars

“Could it be…oh, I don’t know…SATAN!?”

•February 28, 2011 • 1 Comment

Five characters in search of a bigger set.

DEVIL (2010)
I don’t have the strong feelings a lot of people seem to have about M. Night Shyamalan, in large part due to that I’ve only seen about half of his oeuvre and have half-liked about half of that. It doesn’t really beg repeat viewings but you have to admit that The Sixth Sense was a functional and fun mind-fuck when it swept us all away on a wisp of Bruce Willis’ hair, Haley Joel Osmet’s trembling lower lip, and some economical ghost effects. After that I saw the laughable crop-circle (!) alien/farm fable, Signs, the interestingly premised but poorly executed Unbreakable (perhaps the dreariest superhero movie ever made), and finally the last fifteen minutes of The Village (which did not inspire me to go back and catch the rest of it). So yeah, maybe MNS is a one-hit wonder and maybe that’s the reason Devil was outright rejected by the public with a wide release that came and went with almost no notice. Too bad for John Erick Dowdle, director of Quarantine (which I liked) and The Poughkeepsie Tapes (which I REALLY liked), that Devil had the misfortune of being saddled with MNS’s name: he produced it and gets a story (but not script) credit, because anyone who’s seen one of MNS’s “visions” (you just get the feeling that’s how he thinks of his movies, and I don’t begrudge him that; everything I’ve seen from him does manage to sustain some sort of signature dopey mysticism) will realize five minutes in that this isn’t really an MNS joint and therefore doesn’t suffer from the same stilted prosy dialogue or those gaping expressions of utter disbelief. (Oh, wait–scratch that.)

Third floor, ladies cosmetics. Second floor, sporting goods. First floor...HELL.

No, Devil suffers from problems all its own. The story—Five strangers trapped on a broke-down high-rise elevator (by fate? by an evil mastermind? by the title character?) are fearfully pitted against one another when it becomes clear they’re sharing a little steel box with a homicidal maniac who kills when the lights go out — feels more like straight-up horror than what one expects from MNS. But the horror elements ultimately fail to materialize the way I’d hoped they would. Part of the problem is that the plot is laid out like a police mystery and spends way too much of its scant running time outside of the stuck elevator, with blue-collar building security and a police detective (Chris Messina) chasing down red herrings that distract from drama that could be occurring in the movie’s primary set piece.  It doesn’t take long, however, for us to realize we’re being led down a familiar path to the certain, impending MNS Twist Ending (TM) …and only then do his grubby little fingerprints become apparent. But hey — fair enough. It’s a comfortingly familiar high-concept premise. (The sort of premise from which Hitchcock could have spun gold.) The problem is that everything, and I mean everything, is undercooked and feels rushed. When the finale’ twist finally rears its demonic head, it’s hardly satisfying, is pretty ineffective and, worse still, damn silly. What’s most disappointing though is that for a movie that mostly takes place in a stopped elevator, Dowdle doesn’t even come close to tapping into the same sense of chest-grabbing claustrophobia he pulled off so effectively in Quarantine. How can that be?

One suspects this visual is supposed scare you when it flashes across the screen.

There are no stand-out performances (though familiar character actor Jenny O’Hara does have her moments) or directorial flourishes that distinguish Devil from a lower-budget, straight-to-cable thriller, but it does get points for being competent and short (a mere 80 minutes) – which makes it a painless experience, but also contributes to the aforementioned rushed feeling. Tension doesn’t build so much as hysteria erupts. Ultimately, too many things about the script never gel. None of the characters, save some outside-the-elevator observers, are very likable and nothing here is even remotely scary…or even close to being as effective as this notable Six Feet Under “opening death” scene. Devil is more of a Twilight Zone episode than a movie, and even then, not classic Twilight Zone, but the crappy 80s-revival version.

As an evening’s diversion, Devil is serviceable. You won’t hate yourself in the morning for having watched it, but by next week you’ll have forgotten about it altogether.

** – two stars out of four

Jennifer’s Body (2009) Reviewed

•February 21, 2011 • 1 Comment

Megan Fox Acting Face #6

Discussing Jennifer’s Body with Jennifer’s Body:

ME: Jennifer’s Body is about a popular teenage cheerleader who is turned into a demon in a satanic ritual performed by a boy band (which is easily the funniest joke in the whole thing). That’s the plot. A good start, right? Sure! I’m with ya. Now what?

JENNIFER’S BODY: Look here!…Megan Fox! Can you say hottie?

ME: Yeah, I see that she’s Megan Fox and Megan Fox is supposedly the hottest thing since…the last generically hot, vapid Hollywood “it” girl. But can she act?

JB: Well…

ME: Sounds like a no. Okay – what else ya’ got? [JB shows Amanda Seyfried kissing Megan Fox] A lesbian kiss? Oh, that’s fine, thanks. Let’s see. [I watch sexless, passionless, pointless, wedged-in semi-girl-on-girl make-out.] …That’s it? Yeah, I see that’s Amanda Seyfried, who I loved on Veronica Mars, as the put-upon wallflower best friend.

JB: Isn’t she-?

ME: Yeah, she’s real cute. And her name is…Needy? Oh. Because she’s a wallflower (–even though she still looks like Amanda Seyfried). I get it.

JB: Isn’t that funn–

ME: No, I don’t think that’s particularly clever. Does she have a nude scene? [JB shakes head] And neither does Fox? [JB continues shaking head.] This is rated R, right?

JB: But the kiss–

ME: Yeah, you already mentioned the kiss.

JB's reason for existing...not much of a reason at all.

JB: And you like this guy, right?

ME: J.K. Simmons? Oh sure, I like him! -and Amy Sedaris? Cool! Let’s see what they can bring to–…what do you mean, I missed them? I only blinked! Well, what else ya got?

JB: This!

ME: Violence and gore? Awesome. Show me. …Yeah, okay. So you obviously had a nice budget. Congrats.

JB:and an Oscar-winning screenwriter!

ME: Oh, wow! Reall-…Oh…her. No, I didn’t see Juno. And yeah, everyone says I should. Allow me to ask, do the characters in Juno talk like they do in this? All…quippy…and clever?

JB: Dude, it’s like ALL they do. Love it? Amiright?

ME: Well, I guess I won’t be seeing Juno then. So who directed this thing I’m lookin’ at?

JB: [inaudible mumbling]

ME: Who?…No, I’ve never heard of her. What else has she done?

JB: [hands me director’s resume]

ME: Okay…let’s see here…Aeon Flux? Oh, my.

JB: Did you–?

ME: Yeah, I saw that. What else has she done? [consults resume] The L Word?

JB: Do you know what that–?

ME: Yeah, I’m familiar. Look, you’re not helping your case but this is all starting to make sense. Show me something else.

JB: Like this?!

ME: Yeah, that’s kinda’ cool, but I saw that in the trailer. Anything else?

JB: Like this?!

ME: Yeah. That was in the trailer too. So what happens after she becomes a demon?

JB: She kills people. [begins unspooling footage]

ME: Well, this should at least be– Hey. That’s not scary.

JB: But was it–?

ME: Funny? Was it supposed to be? No, it wasn’t funny either.

JB: Heeeyyyy, did you just–?

ME: No, I wasn’t checking my watch. Um…are we done here?

Megan Fox Acting Face #3

JB: Just give me a little more of your time.

ME: Okay [sighs]– she kills people. And then what?

JB: There’s the ki–

ME: Yeah, they kiss. You’ve already pitched the damn kiss. We covered that. It’s out of place, adds nothing to the story and generally makes no sense!

JB: How about the hip toe-tappin’ emo soundtra–?

ME: No, I hate your soundtrack too. Look, I gotta’ run. I thought you had something to show me but I think you have me confused with–

JB: Aren’t you 14? All the kids love Good Charlotte!

ME: Fourteen?! No! I’m in my thirties! Who’s Good Charlotte?

JB: And isn’t Diablo Cody a hip screenwrit–?

ME: No, I’m pretty sure now that I hate Diablo Cody! …and Megan Fox has six facial expressions — which is probably being generous–and two types of line delivery … and I’m going to say it one more time; no one gives a shit about your Penthouse-Forum-for-Tweens kiss … Leave me alone! … Stop following me! ….I hate you!

* one star out of four

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) Reviewed

•February 16, 2011 • 1 Comment

I can’t think of any other case of a sequel to a movie making the original movie better. Can you? Let me know if you can. Sequels that are better than originals are a dime-a-dozen, so to be clear: we’re not in Bride of Frankenstein/ALIENS/Evil Dead II territory here. What I’m asking is: how does a sequel pull off the amazing feat of not only bettering the source material, but also giving it a boost by enhancing the franchise mythology? In other words, how can it be that Paranormal Activity 2 makes me want to go back and watch a movie I didn’t care for at all? Oh, I see you looking at me with the incredulous face of a non-believer.

The incredulous face of PA2's non-believer, Daniel.

But I’ll be damned if that’s not exactly what’s happening here.

What didn’t I like about the first PA? Glad you asked! –and actually that’s a nice place to start the review, because the nature of this type of movie makes it inherently difficult to review without blowing the best twists. So let’s compare the two in lieu of a spoil-y plot breakdown.

My primary beef with PA is that for most of its running time, nothing much happens. Subtlety can surely be a source of genuine scares, so it’s not like I’m saying it should have been beefed up with Poltergeist-style ILM effects or some kind of loose-end-uniting big finale. I like ambiguity in my horror movies and find that I’m often more scared by what I don’t know. (What are The Strangers‘ motives?! Where do the creatures from The Mist come from?!) What I am saying is: make me give a shit. Insist that I give a shit by presenting me with decent actors portraying believable characters. The characters in a movie like PA should be full-on empathy magnets.  Instead, PA gives us assholes I grow weary of about five minutes in. Oh right — and they can’t act their way out of a wet paper bag. I don’t necessarily have to like a story’s characters, but if your premise is wobbly and your execution dull, it sure as hell helps if the characters with whom you’re making me spend 90 minutes are people I can stand to be around for at least five.

Just how the heck do you suppose he got out of his crib? ...Uh-oh.

In PA numero uno, I actually felt dissatisfied that the young suburbanite primaries didn’t have enough terrible things done to them. I wanted them to suffer more and perhaps a part of me was rooting for the demon in question to get down to business and start really effing things up. Instead of spontaneously combustible board games, foley clanks, and moving sheets, howabout…i dunno…making the walls bleed or something? Again, I don’t normally ask for these things, but in the absence of anything more interesting, I guess you’d better give me the ILM light show.

I’m not supposed to hate the protagonists. I’m supposed to find them relatable and believable. And believability takes a major hit when the acting sucks. In a pseudo-doc/found-footage flick like PA believability is paramount and I just didn’t buy what they were selling. Luckily for the makers of Paranormal Activity, plenty others did. And lucky for us that success begat a highly entertaining, infinitely better sequel.

Here’s what PA2 gets right, in contrast to the things that PA1 did wrong:
-Instead of an obnoxious young couple portrayed by non-actors, PA2 presents a believable, mostly likable family portrayed by good actors. (How do you know a good actor when you see one? You can’t TELL that they’re acting!) The parents, Kristi and Daniel, have a toddler named Hunter and a teen daughter named Ali. The ho-hum concept of putting a nuclear family at the center of the spooky goings on is given an appreciated dimension when it’s revealed early on that Kristi is Ali’s step-mom, and her biological mother is dead.  When unexplainable things begin to happen it makes sense that initially Ali is stoked at the idea of living in a haunted house. “What if it’s Mom,” she asks Daniel, who angrily refuses to believe anything paranormal is going down — perhaps for the same reason.  It creates an interesting dynamic between Kristi and Ali, between Ali and Daniel, and finally between Kristi and Daniel. It’s something that might not register immediately but provides food for thought as things go from creepy to horrific. Already we’re knee-deep in the type of subtle characterization absent from PA1. What’s more, the performances are good across the board; from the least likable character (probably Daniel) all the way down the line to the set of twins that play little Hunter. Especially impressive is Molly Ephaim as Ali. The kid just seemed real to me and PA2‘s believability owes a lot to her performance.

...not since the Poltergeist's "stacked-chairs" sequence...

PA2 relies less on “jump scares” than its predecessor, which is not to say that it doesn’t have a few of its own. But they feel well-earned and essential. If we’re jumping, chances are, the characters are too. No one is cranking up the sound effects for the sole purpose of startling us. We’re being startled right along with the people we’re watching, which helps us identify with their predicament and fear for them.

-The use of video cameras feels far more natural and organic to the story. When an early disturbance, not captured on video, occurs while the family is out, they jump to the same conclusion we would; that they’ve been victims of a break-in. Since they clearly have the means, surveillance cameras are installed in key points of the house. This, for me, works far better than watching an amateur videographer annoying people with his new toy, and then employing that toy to play amateur Ghost Hunter. There is some camcorder play in PA2, but it’s used judiciously, and most often by the teen daughter, which somehow makes it far less annoying. (While we’re on the topic of props, note that PA2 has its own Ouija board scene, and it’s a masterstroke of subtlety that makes the flaming OB in PA1 seem even more ridiculous than it already does.)

How many demons must be released before Parker Brothers recalls its most notorious game?

-The most notable special effect in PA1 happens at the end of the movie, appears in the trailer, and was included as an afterthought. The original, pre-Paramount cut doesn’t have it and for the little it’s worth, the original ending worked better without it. There are some impressive special effects in PA2 and they almost all work because they’re not in your face or showy. In fact, the scene in PA2 that I find the most chilling and effective, features special effects that could be either CGI or practical stunt work. I have no idea which — and think about it, when was the last time a special effect made you think “how did they do that?!”

All of the above improvements aside, PA2‘s greatest accomplishment is how it ties itself to the original movie without cheating or forcing unnatural connections. It’s fucking masterful actually and should be the envy of any screenwriter saddled with the task of writing a sequel to a movie as self-contained as PA. (Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, which I actually kinda’ like, was a noble attempt that doesn’t come close to pulling off what PA2 is able to achieve without even breaking a sweat.) I’ll tell you this much, and it’s no more than you would find out by looking at the cast list on IMDB: both Katie and Micah from PA1 appear in PA2. And they appear without any cheesy flashbacks or contrived posthumously viewed messages from the beyond — both of which are the only strategies the Saw franchise could think of to keep Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw in the sequels after killing him off. (Dude, what is your deal with hating on Saw?!…I know. I know. It’s just…six sequels?! Seriously?) It just works. And as previously stated, it somehow performs the magic trick of making PA1 a good candidate for a second viewing. You’ll know what I mean when you see it and I’ll be happy to argue about it with you if you think I’m wrong.


That about does it for a (essentially) spoil-free review of PA2, because the less you know going in, the more likely you are to enjoy its surprises. Many said the same thing about PA1. The difference is, I’m telling the truth.

*** – three out of four stars

[Kudos and thanks to John Stockdale for pointing out a HUGE error in this review in time for me to correct it before I had too much time to embarrass myself.]

I Spit On Your Grave: Unrated (2010) Reviewed

•February 11, 2011 • 1 Comment

As someone who attests to hate-hate-hating horror movies that can be filed under (the admittedly somewhat reductive and overused classification) “torture porn,” I’m not quite sure what made me want to take the I Spit on Your Grave remake for a spin. It’s not like I’m a fan of the original. In fact, I recently gave THAT another look as well, just for comparison’s sake, and was not shocked to find that it still doesn’t really work for me at all, leaving me cold in the same way that the original Last House on the Left did. (More on the Last House remake later.) So let’s toss out the TP term once and for all because for me, I guess things are a little more complicated than that.

Perhaps what I really hate is carnage for carnage’s sake. It’s a crime that the over-appreciated Saw franchise, Rob Zombie’s entire filmography, and Eli Roth’s instincts are all guilty of and I for one would like to throw the book at the lot of them so that they never again lower my opinion of the modern mainstream horror fan (the ones that make it possible for SEVEN–count ’em!– Saws to even exist…the ones that fill up the comments sections on BloodyDisgusting.com with grammatically abominable fanboy idiocy… the ones that won’t stop talking about the “awesome” “bad-assness” of zombie movies, etc., etc.) or make me weep for the general state of the human condition. I don’t dig watching people being disemboweled by what amounts to a serial killer’s version of Hasbro’s Mouse Trap, nor do get off on prolonged scenes of people suffering and begging for their life. And rape scenes? -the kind that make you ask yourself “why on Earth am I still watching this!?” — I find them equally cheap and unpalatable shock tactics that, depending on how they’re presented, seem to say more about the filmmaker than the movie itself.

But now, I realize, I have to amend all of that. Because the truth is, I do enjoy violent suffering… IF the one suffering deserves it. That, for me, is an important distinction and the saving grace of the Last House remake, the second half of Hostel, and now I Spit on Your Grave 2.0…which I liked. A lot.

I guess the bottom line is, if I can call it a “revenge movie” I don’t classify it as “torture por– oh, right…we threw that term out.  Some might argue that both types of movies are equally abhorrent and appeal to the most unappealing of humankind’s base instincts. That may be true. But I know what I like and I like watching the bad guy get his, preferably in a way that’s either ironic, surprising or equally as horrific as what was dished out by the antagonist in the first half of the movie. Bad things happening to good (or even benign) characters? Kind of a drag, and the primary reason I can’t wrap my loving arms around Human Centipede and pucker up to give it a big mouth-to-ass kiss like so many others have. On the other hand: bad things happening to reeeeally bad people?…like rapists, sadists, and violent thrill-seekers? LET ‘EM HAVE IT! I’ll gleefully gobble it up and it won’t even upset my stomach. And gobble ISoYG I did, and I’m not afraid to admit it was deeeelish.

ISoYG begs comparison to LHotL for many reasons: First, and most significantly, their original incarnations were both prime candidates for a remake. (In a world where good horror movies like The Fog and The Stepfather are being spit-shined for mall audiences, it’s an important distinction.) Gritty, grindhouse aesthetics are fine. In fact, some of my best friends are bottom-of-the-barrel, exploitive, 42nd-Street trash flicks. But to me Last House and Spit are both movies that took the germ of good ideas and turned them into long, rape-heavy bummers. Revenge figures largely into both titles’ second halves, but not in a way that washes away the ick factor of what came before. So despite low expectations, I was at least curious to see if new versions could squeeze something a little more substantial from both b-movie premises.

Secondly, both originals are poorly acted, poorly produced (with the exception of a few eye-catching Wes Craven flourishes here and there in LHotL), and ineffective at producing anything other than a general queasiness.

Finally, in many ways, Last House and Spit are variations on an identical theme: innocence brutally stolen, followed by a surprising turn of events, followed by wall-to-wall deviant-ass-kicking REVENGE! The remakes would make a helluva’ double feature for anyone who could stomach such an evening…and, for better or worse, I’m beginning to think I probably could.

Because the plot to Spit is so stripped down and uncomplicated, telling too much would surely ruin some of the fun. And yes, for some sickos (like me evidently) there is fun to be had. Suffice to say that young author, Jennifer, has decided to leave the city to start writing her next novel in a secluded country cabin (three words that should strike fear in any horror movie character). She gets lost and stops at one of those gas stations you only see in movies like this (see below) to tank up and ask a trio of backwoods gas-station attendants for directions.

See what I mean?

This is bad move #1 — telegraphing that she’ll be alone in a secluded cabin that they already know about. Bad move #2 comes in the form of a sexual rebuff that damages the delicate masculine ego of the head creep. When she finally finds her way to her pastoral getaway– well, what do you expect to happen? Even if you haven’t seen the original, you already have a good idea of what’s next, and let me be clear: it isn’t easy to watch. Humiliation, rape, baseball bats, video cameras, an escape gone wrong, and the added horror of having a possible hero turn on a sadistic whim…rough stuff indeed.

And just when you think the poor girl has had it (unless you check your watch and see that there still must be plenty of movie left) Jennifer cleverly fakes her death and disappears without having the decency to leave behind a corpse, meaning her tormentors are left to wonder if they can close the book on their crimes and move on to the “looking back fondly” stage of their evil behavior. For months they’re left to stew in their own guilt, and this is where the movie reveals that there’s more to it than meets the eye. Seeing these pricks bicker, worry and point fingers at one another is satisfying, and a sickly entertaining prologue to what happens next: REVENGE!

We’re not talking about your basic eye-for-an-eye revenge. Nor are we talking about a quickly conceived and briskly administered death sentence. No. This shit is complicated. Jennifer did some planning since her last visit to Cabin Carnage.  We’re not  talking Nancy-rigging-a-sledgehammer-to-smash-Freddy-in-the-chest booby traps. We’re talking, well – lets just say, Jigsaw would be proud.

It’s definitely squirm-inducing. One comeuppance in particular involving a video camera, some fish hooks and a dead rat, had me watching through my fingers. But it’s damn effective, clever, and ironic. Scenes like this make ISoYG impossible to dismiss as brutal garbage because there’s significantly more going on than paybacks.

All of that would be enough to recommend Spit, but imagine my surprise to find it’s also well acted, perfectly paced, and sharply written (the dialogue really brings the monsters to life). Also, this movie features some of the most convincing gore I’ve seen in a long time. No (evident anyway) CGI blood, and no showy Fangoria-centerfold latex, but–you know, effective effects. The kind that make you think, I bet that’s exactly what it would look like if someone did that with fishhooks.

If you can stomach it, I Spit on Your Grave is, for my money, an instant classic of its kind. But I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you should have anything to do with its kind.

***1/2 – three and a half stars out of four

Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2009) Reviewed

•February 4, 2011 • 1 Comment


Blistered lips that touch prom punch will never touch mine.

Since you asked, I do regret my date with Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever. Oh sure, when our eyes met, she was all gussied up with enough gore to fill the high school’s multi-purpose room and enough sick silliness to fill a John Waters fever dream. Maybe it could make for a fun night out, I thought at the time. In fact, at first glance you can probably see why I thought I may have stumbled upon a very eligible prom date. “Take a chance on me,” CF2 seemed to say. “I may not be popular, but you have to admit, I’m kinda’ cute,” it continued. Blame She’s All That, but how could I be sure there wasn’t a Rachel Leigh Cook hiding under the paint-spattered overalls? But then…

I remembered my last go-round with this franchise, when CF2‘s older sister, Cabin Fever, offered to take me on a super-fun, gore-crazy, flesh-dissolving camping trip with director Eli Roth. Would you believe that movie had the audacity to abandon me in the woods with not so much as a shrug. I was forced to walk back to civilization which gave me plenty of time to wonder why I’d wasted nearly two hours in the wilderness with a crude asshole of a movie whose campfire stories weren’t scary or surprising, but just kinda’ gross and mean-spirited. Oh, I know it was years ago and yes, I’m mostly over it. And no, I shouldn’t jump to conclusions about a movie just because it’s related to a creep. I mean, who knows? CF2 might have lots to offer as an individual. Like characterization! Or suspense! Or a story! Or boobs! (One out of four ain’t bad…oh wait…yes it is.) Yet, there I was;  sitting on the porch in my rented tux waiting for a movie that finally rolls up in a limo, flashes its titties from the sunroof and drives away laughing at me.

Can your really blame me though for adding this dark horse to my evening’s dance card? Ty West, who directed House of the Devil (really good!) also directed CF2…technically. Then he had his name removed from the movie (really bad!), allegedly because of studio tinkering. (I’d like to mention here that I have a difficult time imagining what kind of “tinkering” results in a final cut like the one I watched. What changes were made to make CF2 more financially viable? And should they have changed more?) We’ll never know for sure but I’m guessing it was West and not the studio whose vision for this project included seeping genitals and a girls room miscarriage?  …aaaand those last seven words should be enough of a litmus test to determine whether a movie like CF2 is something you could (or should) watch.

Though it spends a lot more time than CF1 on the characterization, CF2 is every bit as mean-spirited and gross-for-gross’ sake. I’m a firm believer that being gross can often be a good thing. I’m reminded, for example, of David Cronenberg’s The Fly remake, a (Okay, I’ll say it:) modern classic that presents a great story, respectable acting and well-defined characters before gleefully throwing ladles of yuck all over everything. Think about it: what would The Fly be without Jeff Goldblum’s teeth and fingernails falling out and off? Or the baboon turned inside-out? Or Brundle-Fly puking flesh-melting fly vomit all over John Getz’s hand? CF2 has lots of moments like these, but haphazardly sprays them against the wall like the bloody projectile vomit that shoots from every orifice of its teen cast to see what, if anything, sticks.

Panic at the disco.

Some things, it turns out, DO stick. The chunk-blowing effects in CF2 are nothing if not creative, and I can even get behind the movie’s general premise: The flesh-eating virus that devoured CF1’s handful of unlikable teenagers (including Rider Strong, who makes an early appearance in CF2 to forcibly tie the two movies together and is the closest thing this franchise has to a legitimate “star.”) finds its way into a shipment of bottled water used to make one unfortunate high school’s prom punch. Not a shabby set up for the sequel to a piece of shit! It’s a premise that has great potential because who doesn’t like seeing bad things happen to teenagers? And who doesn’t like watching an inspired shit-finally-hits-the-fan scene? (-like the spring-break feeding frenzy in Piranha 3D…perfect example.) That’s why CF2‘s prom-gone-wrong centerpiece is admirable. There’s something to be said for watching every teen’s “big night” being ruined by a fast-acting skin disease. There’s not enough Proactiv in the world to save these kids. School dances are an 80s-movie staple and CF2‘s  hysteria, screaming, dying, lighting and frantic camera movement seem to indicate a respectful hat-tip to Prom Night and Carrie –and in a good way. Unlike its predecessor which paid horror homage by referencing (and in some cases, strip mining) better movies, CF2 seems to take inspiration from classic moments like Carrie‘s flaming-teenage finale without making you want to kick the director (whomever that may be) in the shins.

Somebody run to the janitor's closet and get the bucket of saw dust. This could take awhile.

Before long it’s made pretty clear that if you attended this prom, you’re fucked. When the authorities put the whole school on lockdown to keep the fast-acting fungus from spreading to another sequel, the teens, in addition to some faculty, the janitor and the school mascot(!) are trapped, inadvertently infecting each other with every dance, drink, kiss and blow job. (You heard me.)  But by locking everyone up about half-way through, the movie rubs out any hope you may have had for clever story or suspense. The second half spends most of its time making its primaries run around the school, trying to figure out what happened, while watching their peers die in all sorts of gruesome ways. That’s fun for a while but it doesn’t take too long before it feels predictable, redundant, and completely ineffective.

Gorehounds will appreciate the full buffet of pus-drenched atrocities but most everyone else will find CF2 a grating and ugly experience. Its comedic tone doesn’t do it any favors either. (Isn’t it totally conceivable that someone like Frank Henenlotter could make a clever “deadly infection” movie with blistered tongue in rotting cheek? I think it is!)  CF2‘s sense of humor is just sort of demented, in your face, and only funny in the “I can’t believe they went there” kind of way. And if you ask me, that gets old fast. You know that sour face you make when a coworker tells you an inappropriately dirty joke at an inappropriate time in an inappropriate place and your brow wrinkles as a crude attempt at a polite smile barely manages to turn up the corners of your mouth? Well, you’ll be making that face a LOT during CF2 — and that’s probably your best case scenario. All others will be spending the night with their head in the toilet with a post-prom hangover or reaching for their Netflix return envelope at the sight of the first peeled-off fingernail.

CF2 is certainly better than CF1, but in the same way that Leprechaun 5: Leprechaun in the Hood is more watchable than Leprechaun. It might be fun for teens hoping to gross out their friends at slumber parties, but watching it alone probably means you’ll be stuck making that sour face until you’re able to scrub some of its nastier moments from your memory. Speaking of nastier moments,  I should thank CF2 for reminding me why the introduction of a pregnant woman in a horror movie is never a good sign.

* 1/2 – one and a half stars out of four