Shocking Saturday: Grave Encounters

The found-footage 2011 cult horror by The Vicious Brothers lives up to the hype, and offers much more than your typical hand-held camera film.

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Lance Preston is the host of his own paranormal investigation series, and for the sixth episode of the first series him and his crew decide to visit the Riverview Mental Asylum, which is said to have been the source of many ghostly happenings. The team decide to have themselves locked inside the asylum all night until 6am when the caretaker will come let them out. The persona that the team play out on camera is much different to their actual take on the situation, as they believe that they aren’t going to get anything on film. However as the night goes on the asylum seems to come to life, along with its deceased detainees; and the crews persona eventually becomes one…fear. With ghouls and demons chasing them at every corner, they have much more to worry about than just surviving until 6am.

The first thing that I noticed about Grave Encounters was that, even before any of the scares had started, I was enjoying the film. It is a great success when a film from this genre can achieve that, without even needing to use any of their effects. As the film went on it just got better and better, the plot kept you guessing as you tried to work out what was going on just like the characters in the film. Plus, even though we aren’t able to get too in touch with the cast, you still relate to them because they are quite comical in the way they do certain things before they enter the asylum; although you aren’t dying for them to make it out, you certainly do sympathise with them.

The effects and prolonged creepiness are definitely what steal the show here. It’s the not knowing when something is going to pop up when the camera pans around, and the jump-scares that don’t happen when expected but still scare you any way that keep the film going. The casts witty and friendly characteristics force you to put yourself in their positions; imagine stumbling around an abandoned haunted prison in the pitch black on your own; doesn’t sound like something I would want to be doing.

What Grave Encounters really does well is how it keeps you interested in the film, and it does that by swaying from the typical scares and plot of a found-footage horror film. Along with the expected jump-scares that don’t happen, the documentary style photos which were found after the events and the imaginative story, the movie also does something which we barely ever see in horror films these days; and that is keeping the majority of the cast alive for over half of the film. By doing this the audience are able to continue to get in touch with the entire cast, and not, for example, get annoyed by a single cast member who might be the only one left alive.

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Although at some points the acting is slightly wooden, the film gets away with it because of the way that it keeps you watching, all the way up to the end.

A sequel to Grave Encounters was made in 2012 called ‘Grave Encounters 2’, and is about a fan who is so obsessed with the film that he wants to make his own version in the same place. Unfortunately for him it turns out that the film is actually real. The sequel was rather good, however it was let down in the fact that it makes the story too unrealistic. I know it is obviously made up, but where the first film played on your imagination so much and gave you a feeling of claustrophobia, the second tries to achieve this as well but goes so over the top with it.

One of the best found-footage films I have seen in a long time, with some great effects and an atmosphere that will stop you from ever wanted to go explore an abandoned Mental Asylum.

Tag Line: They Were Searching For Proof…They Found It.

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating:

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Shocking Saturday: Megan Is Missing

Let’s return to the found-footage genre with the 2011 film ‘Megan Is Missing’. A film that aims to shock and repulse, which, at times, it does; however it falls short due to a lack of acting from the majority of the cast and by turning into more of a documentary which is trying to promote a message.

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As you can most likely guess, the film is about a girl named Megan who goes missing. However before all that happens we are introduced to Megan and her best friend Amy, who have been friends for years. Although Megan is a very popular girl and Amy is right at the other end of the popularity spectrum, they still hang out all the time. That includes going to parties full of under-age drinking, drugs and sex – most of those by Megan not Amy. Despite loads of people telling Megan that she is too good to be friends with Amy, she takes no notice of them because they believe they’re going to be friends forever. Then the shit hits the fan after Megan begins to chat to a boy named Josh online whose web-cam has supposedly broken; and being a not-knowing-any-better 14-year-old she agrees to meet up with him. What follows afterwards shows a best friend’s determination to uncover what has happened to her friend. However when Amy goes looking for answers, the truth is much worse than she could have ever imagined…and her nightmare doesn’t stop there.

When I heard about Megan Is Missing I was rather excited to see it – and I’m glad that I did – however what I thought really let the film down in parts was the shoddy acting; mostly by Megan (Rachel Quinn). Don’t get me wrong the portrayal of the distraught Amy (Amber Perkins) was terrific, and anyone who has seen the film will know why. But it felt like that you didn’t really connect with the Megan character, she does attempt to tell stories of her troubled past, but the scenes are over so quickly that it hasn’t given time to set in. Don’t get me wrong, what happens to her in the film will definitely send a few shivers down your spine, but in a way it could have happened to anyone and the viewer would have felt the same. The fact that she was, in a way, the main character, didn’t make much of a difference.

What was great about the film was the way the found-footage technique was used. In the same way – but used so much better – that Paranormal Activity 4 tried to make it appeal to today’s audience, Megan Is Missing used cameras on things such as mobile phones and web-cams; in a way that made the story so much more believable, especially with the film being focused around youths. By using these types of video feed the audience is able to perceive a more realistic take on the hand-held camera genre.

What Megan Is Missing came across as more than anything was not a shocking film, but rather a wake up call to parents who allow their young children to live this lifestyle; and the behaviour of the kids just made it frustrating to watch. Now don’t get me wrong, nothing like this is deserved or anyone’s fault – apart from the antagonist – but it was hard to find sympathy for one half of the main cast because the film just shows how bad youth is today. Drinking, doing drugs, having sex and talking to strangers on the internet at 14…how can you not think that something will go wrong? Plus the fact that most of the characters are spoilt little high school brats who need a good kick up the arse in telling them that their lifestyle is terrible made it even harder to watch.

I would definitely recommend Megan Is Missing to any found-footage and horror fans, but be wary when watching…most of the cast are just unbearable. It can’t be a good thing when the best part of a film is what most people would call the worst.

Tag Line: Megan And Amy Are Best Friends. They Share Secrets. They Chat With Guys Online. And In A Few Days They Will Never Be Seen Again.

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating: ☆☆

The Last of Us Film

Any gaming and horror fans out there will most likely have heard about, seen or played the 2013 infectious – literally – survival video game ‘The Last of Us’.

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Right from the mournful beginning to the unexpected end, the game kept players gripped to their screens as they attempted to survive in a world that has been overrun with an infection which turns people into killing machines. The Last of Us offered a lot more than just going around and shooting zombies though, it made the player use skills such as stealth to try to get past, but generally kill, the infected; and on occasions humans. You got to play as Joel – voiced by Troy Baker – whose main goal was protecting Ellie – voiced by Ashley Johnson – a 14 girl who just might be the answer to curing the disease. However as we know with these games, it is never going to be a walk in the park.

Well fans out there will be pleased to hear that plans have been set in motion to create a The Last of Us film. I for one am very excited about this because I think, if they stick to the storyline, it could offer something completely different to what has been seen in the zombie genre in the past years. Although I do love zombie films, at the moment they have been done to death, and are getting slightly repetitive.

Not much is known as of yet about the motion-picture, only that the game’s creative director Neil Druckmann will be writing the script, Screen Gems will be distributing it and the great Sam Raimi (director of the Evil Dead trilogy) is attached to the project.

With The Walking Dead taking the undead reins on TV, we need them to be taken once more for film.

Shocking Saturday: Resident Evil: Retribution

The action-packed fifth edition to the video-game-themed Resident Evil film franchise sees protagonist Alice face off against, not only new enemies, but also old friends.

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Resident Evil: Retribution begins straight after where the previous film – Resident Evil: Afterlife – left off, with Alice (Milla Jovovich) and a group of survivors being attacked on the Arcadia ship. Alice has been captured by the Umbrella Corporation – who for some reason still want to conduct tests with the virus – who were led by the still brain-washed Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory); and is interrogated by them until a computer malfunction allows her to escape. It turns out that the previously villainous character Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) is now against Umbrella and needs Alice’s help to win the war against the undead in the outside world. So with the help of ex-Umbrella agent Ada Wong (Li Bingbing) Alice begins to make her way out of the Umbrella structure, on the way meeting up with an extraction team who have planted charges to destroy the base of operations. But this is a Resident Evil film, so obviously getting out is not going to be a walk in the park. The heroes go up against hoards of undead, giant Axemen, giant Uber-Lickers and trained Umbrella agents. This film basically gives everything from the previous films and adds more. Do not go thinking that this is just a typical Resident Evil film though, as there is a significant plot point which changes the entire idea of the franchise, quite a clever one actually. This twist makes it more imperative for Alice to destroy the Umbrella Corporation once and for all.

All of the previous films in the franchise have offered something slightly different. Resident Evil (2002), although loosely based on the video-games, was more of a straight up zombie-horror film, Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) carried on in sort of the same story line; as it was based in the undead over-run Raccoon City. However at the end of this sequel supernatural elements were added in. The lowest point in the franchise – in my opinion – was the third film Resident Evil: Extinction (2007). Although it explained more about the Umbrella Corporation and linked in better with the games. It just didn’t grip like the previous films. Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) brought the enjoyment back by adding in more elements of the video-games and by adding exceptional action/fighting sequences. Resident Evil: Retribution took the same route and added an original plot twist.

Director Paul W. S. Anderson basically took what it was from the previous films that the audience enjoyed and then put it all together: rabid zombies, mutated monsters, action-packed fight sequences and returning characters from the other movies. Including: Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), Luther West (Boris Kudjoe) and James ‘One’ Shade (Colin Salmon). Unfortunately for Alice not all of her allies remember their friendship.

Milla Jovovich once again brings her great portrayal of Alice to the screen; it can be said that there is some shoddy acting in the film, but thanks to Jovovich’s role the movie stays together. With every addition to the series there are more and more aspects of the games being added, so hopefully the creators have learnt that this needs to continue with the sixth installment which is currently in the works.

There is always a chance with a horror series that spans five movies that the enjoyment can begin to fizzle out, and although it began to in the middle, it has definitely got its buzz back.

Not the best edition to the franchise, but certainly a great one.

Tag Line: Evil Goes Global.

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating:

Shocking Saturday: Troll Hunter

The week’s Shocking Saturday is not really a shocking film all round, and some would probably class it more as fantasy than horror, however I though that the plot was rather original and that it showed off the incredible special effects which made Cloverfield Spectacular.

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The film centres around a Norwegian college camera crew who are following a story of a hunter who is killing bears all over the country. After they finally track him down, and he allows them to experience first hand what he is actually doing, they realise that he is hunting something much larger, and much more mythological…trolls. However he is not the villain in all of this as he explains that is not his choice to kill them, it is just the orders which he has been given; to ensure the public don’t find out about them. The crew begin to capture everything they can on film so that they can show it to the world, however with the Wildlife Board on their tail at every turn and trying not to get eaten by trolls, that becomes quite a hard task.

As I said before, what was great about this found-footage film was how they put the trolls on to the screen. Instead of using cheap thrills like in Paranormal Activity, the film makers actually had to create the trolls using CGI; just as the monster was created Cloverfield. Although I do really love hand-held camera films that barely show you anything and let your imagination take control of your fears, with Troll Hunter you just need to let the film and the fun take control; don’t worry about the effects being amazing, because it is the ride of the story that you are on that you’ll enjoy the most.

The film is quite clever really as it mixes together some fresh ideas of trolls and some from ancient folklore. We get the facts which everyone knows; trolls turn to stone when exposed to sunlight and live under bridges. However the story also portrays the trolls as endangered animals themselves and has them being inspected by veterinarians; they are not made to come across as monsters as we were once led to believe but just dangerous creatures like lions or bears.

Troll Hunter takes its audience on a journey across the Norwegian landscape, and offers an original story line, some dedicated acting mixed in with a bit of light humour.

Not amazing but definitely enjoyable.

Tag Line: You’ll Believe It When You See It!

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Devil’s Due Demon Baby Prank

The soon to be released demon seed themed horror film ‘Devil’s Due’ has been literally jumping off the screen recently. As the creators have been scaring passers-by in New York with an animatronic demon baby.

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The prank started off quite simple; a baby’s carriage was left unattended in a busy street. After a while an unsuspecting person would walk over to investigate and be greeted by a demon child jumping up in its pram, the reactions from some of the people are quite amusing. However it is what happens later in the video which makes this prank special.

Not only does the baby jump up, but the pram is remote-controlled and it begins to shoot off down the busy streets; knocking over signs and stalls as it goes. On top of all that the child starts spewing fake vomit from its mouth and raising its middle finger to the police. The video is underneath, give it a watch as I’m sure you will get a laugh out of it.

Devil’s Due centres around a couple who are thrilled when they find out that a baby is on the way when they return from their honeymoon. That is until certain things start to go a bit pear-shaped, and it seems as though the wife is getting ready to give birth to a demon. It looks as though the creators might be trying to create an up to date Rosemary’s Baby film, even though the Rosemary’s Baby TV show is in the works. The film doesn’t look too bad though, check out the trailer underneath.

Devil’s Due is released January 17th 2014

Shocking Saturday: The Fourth Kind

Most people have that one film which hits all your nerve endings and sends more shivers down your spine than anything else you have seen before or since. For me that film is the sci-fi/horror/documentary alien abduction themed film, The Fourth Kind.

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The film opens with an interview from the director of the film – Olatunde Osunsanmi – and the real Dr. Abigail Emily Tyler, who the film is based upon. As we proceed further we learn that Dr. Tyler’s husband was murdered a few months earlier, and she has decided to carry on his work. Which unfortunately consists of interviewing various town’s people from Nome, Alaska. They have all been suffering the same night terrors. Every night they will wake up and see an owl starring through the window at them, however after she puts them under hypnosis it becomes clear that it is not in fact an owl but something much more sinister. As Dr. Tyler gets deeper into what is happening in this isolated town, she begins to think that she is also connected, and that herself and her children are in danger. Not from who, but from what.

The film brings an amazing way of telling the story to the screen. Although most of it is made up of actors playing out the events that happened – with the talented Milla Jovovich as the lead protagonist – part of the film plays the archive (supposedly real) footage that Dr. Tyler collected while she was conducting her investigation right alongside the actors interpretation. This way of showing the story keeps you gripped as your eyes begin to dart back and forth between the two screens. What is included in these videos is quite disturbing at times – depending on what you believe, and will leave you thinking that you aren’t even safe in your own room, no matter where you live.

Of all the things in the horror genre which have been created to scare and shock its audiences, the one for me is definitely aliens. Give me slashers, blood, guts and make-up so realistic that you think you’re watching a snuff film any day. But as soon as you throw aliens in to the equation my arm hair will be standing straight up. What it is that gives me that feeling is that it’s a look in to the unknown, we don’t really know what is out there and what they are capable of doing. Humans may have searched parts of space and supposedly found no hard evidence as of yet – and I’m not saying that aliens have even visited Earth – but to say that we are the only life in the whole universe, with all of the galaxies and solar systems out there is quite an ignorant statement in my opinion. We have barely scraped the surface of space so we can’t debunk the theory that we are not alone.

With this film audiences can go either way, as I think it all depends on how open-minded the viewer is. There is always the possibility with films like this, that attempt to prove the footage is real, that they are complete hoaxes. If that is the case with The Fourth Kind then it is one of the best found-footage films I have ever seen, and if is not the case then I really don’t feel safe on Earth any more.

In the end what you believe is down to you.

Encounters:

First Kind – Sighting
Second Kind – Evidence
Third Kind – Contact
Fourth Kind – Abduction

Tag Line: There Are Four Kinds Of Alien Encounters. The Fourth Kind Is Abduction.

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O) (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating: