Truth or Dare (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Truth or Dare (2018)

Film: It seems that Wes Craven’s Scream didn’t just save the horror industry in the 90s, it also gave young’s tv stars an opportunity to find their way to the big screen… via horror movies. Every time a new Scream-derivative film was announced, it’s cast was led by someone from a popular Tv show. To be fair, some of the teen comedies were these gateways for these people as well.

Horror Movies, which in the 80s seemed to be the place that either a) people at the end of their careers turned up or b) those prepared to do nudity killed their careers, became a place that soap or drama stars could wind up on the road to a cinema career.

It now seems to be the done thing by actors on the off-season of their TV shows, sometimes to little effect, but other times to some degree of success.

Truth or Dare, co-written and directed by Kick Ass 2’s Jeff Wadlow, features a bevy of these young stars from shows like Pretty Little Liars, Teen Wolf, The Flash and Grey’s Anatomy.

Our story is of YouTuber/ Snapchatter, Olivia (Lucy Hale), who is coerced by her friend’s to go to Mexico for Spring Break, and whilst there meets Carter (London Liboiron) who convinced them all to make their way to an abandoned convent and play a game of Truth or Dare.

The problem is, the game is not what it seems, and anyone that plays it becomes haunted by a demon who forces them into horrible, friend-destroying truths, or self-destructive and violent dares which, if they don’t commit to, will result in them being killed by the demon.

Once stuck in the game though, how can they get out? Is there a way to get rid of the demon, or are they cursed forever?

This film is pretty good, though the ‘thing’ that’s haunting them has a very It Follows way of ‘infecting’ the characters. The actors are all great and likeable and Wadlow’s direction tells the story with a minimum of effects but it still looks great, except for when people are possessed by the demon and their faces just look like a lame Snapchat filter, which is a shame. I think something even lower-tech, like coloured contacts and a voice changer, would have been more effective.

Basically this is an enjoyable film with a good cast that will be forgotten almost as soon as you finish watching it, until in two years time a completely unassociated sequel made by studio guns-for-hire will remind you it exists.

Score: **1/2

Format: Truth or Dare was reviewed with the Australian R4 DVD which runs for approximately 97 minutes. The image is presented in 2.39:1 with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which is perfect.

Score: *****

Extras: Before the menu starts, there are trailers for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Tremors: A Cold Day In Hell and Pacific Rim Uprising.

Game On: The Making Of Truth or Dare isn’t really a proper ‘making of’ but instead is a 6 minutes overview of what the movie is about, it’s origins and a few comments from the cast.

Directing the Deaths is an even SHORTER piece which really just describes a couple of deaths in minor detail.

There is a commentary with Wadlow and Hale which is really interesting as each scene is described from the two pints of view and provides a nice overview of what is going on between cast and crew.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I’m pretty sure this is gonna be a one and done for me.

Eloise (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

Eloise (2017)

Film: If I am totally honest, I have very little faith in post millennial horror films, particularly the ghost stories. I don’t want to be one of those guys who nay says stuff because it’s new, and I’m not quite doing that, but I think that very few horror movies made since the year 2000 have been made for me.

The real tragedy is the lack of a lack of quality in the straight-to-home-video market. In the 80s, the low budget stuff looked rough, was occasionally filled with has-beens and never-wases and usually sported a bunch of nudity… at the very least a boobie or two, but at least it was entertaining. Now it’s just about barely-audible scores set to scare and boring generic ghost stories that have NO surprises or original ideas in their stories and barely entertain in anyway. I guess companies are looking to make the next franchise.

This film, Eloise, stars Chance Crawford (ex-Gossip Girl), Eliza Dushku (ex-Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and P.J. Byrne (ex-Big Little Lies), and the fact that the three biggest names are ex-TV stars should immediately ring alarm bells… but what this film needs is a famous star from a big film who never really did anything else of note.

‘Hello, Robert Patrick, are you busy this weekend?’

Eloise tells of Jacob (Crawford) who has discovered his father has committed suicide and that he has inherited over a million dollars on the condition he can obtain the death certificate of his only other relative, his aunt who died in a mental institution called Eloise in the 80s.

Obtaining this certificate is going to take several months, but as a deus ex machina of improbable proportions, a friend of Jacob’s, Dell (Brandon T. Jackson), desperately needs $20,000 to pay off a debt, so they devise a plan to break into Eloise utilising the help of Eloise expert, Scott (Byrne) who also is a special needs person, and his sister/ carer, Pia (Dushku), whose mother worked there before she mysteriously disappeared.

What they find there is ghosts that offer nothing but horror and torture that shows that the writer probably watched the remake of House on Haunted Hill and thought they could do better with the aesthetic of the flashback sequences, which are so anachronistic that it destroys any credibility the story might gave at all, and that’s not to mention the improbable coincidences of the story.

Seriously, this film is just terrible, apart from some actual good performances from those TV cast members I mentioned, though Byrne’s character gets constantly on your nerves with his frenetic behaviour, but that’s probably the point.

Normally no matter how bad a film is, I can get through it in one sitting: this took 4.

I’m afraid that’s not a sign of quality.

Honestly, the only good thing about this film is that it shares a name with the Damned awesome 80s cover of Barry Ryan’s song. Avoid at all costs.

Score: *

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian DVD which runs for approximately 88 minutes and is presented in a 2.40 image with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, both of which are of a high quality.

Score: ****

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: If I ever watch this film again, it will be on a dare. Avoid at all costs.

Dead Awake (2016)

One from the to watch pile…

Dead Awake (2016)

Film: This film shouted out at me from the shelves of my local store for one reason: how absolutely stupid the title is. I get that throwing the word ‘Dead’ into a title will make most younger (and this older) horror fan stop and check something out, and if it were a term that was actually used in the English language, you know, like Dead End, Dead Stop, Dead Tired, I’d be impressed, but Dead Awake was such a stupid combination I had to check it out.

Then I read the back of the Bluray slick and I find that it’s about sleep paralysis, which is something I find both horrible to think of, and an interesting idea for a horror film, especially when it’s mixed with a little American-styled post-millennial ghost story like Grudge/ Ring/ Darkness Falls/ Boogeyman films that haunted the cinemas in the early 2000s. I’m not really a fan of many films of this period, but for some reason I find I revisit these films occasionally.

This film was written by Jeffrey Reddick, the guy who came up with the concept of the Final Destination movies so it has some positive providence , and directed by Phillip Guzman, who directed A Kiss and a Promise.

When Kate Bowman’s (Jocelyn Donahue) recovering drug-addict sister Beth dies during a sleep paralysis episode, she discovers that perhaps her sister was being haunted by a creature who kills people in their sleep during these episodes.

She meets Beth’s doctor, Dr Davies (Jesse Borego) and at first isn’t convinced of this weird malevolent being bent on killing that he tries to tell her about, until she starts having episodes herself, as does her sister’s boyfriend, Evan (Jesse Bradford… remember Cliff Pantone from Bring It On? THAT guy!).

So Kate and Evan start a trail that starts at a sleep hospital run by Dr. Sykes (Lori Petty) to try and defeat whatever it is that haunts them, but how many people will die along the way, and can this creature, that appears to have existed for centuries, even be destroyed at all?

I really wanted to like this film. The cast are all really well picked, it’s filmed beautifully, the script is ok, but the premise is just so generic.

Dead Awake is a bizarre 80s-nightclub styled megamix of A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Grudge and Ring, that is, the male and female lead of Ring versus a dream monster, who moves like the ghost from The Grudge. It’s not that this is a bad film, it’s just been done before by other films that did it far better. Emulating something is fine, but doing so with no point of originality is detrimental to your product.

To provide a metaphor, this film is the nerd who desperately wants to be a cool kid, but ends up being the kid from the Pretty Fly for a White Guy film clip.

Score: **

Format: Dead Awake was reviewed with the Australian region B Bluray which runs for 99 minutes and is presented in a 2.0:1 image and a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Audio, both of which are immaculate.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Revolt, Faults, Eat Local and 13 Sins.unfortunately, that is it for the extras, but those last three films I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for… Revolt, not so much.

Score: *

WISIA: Probably not.

Annabelle Creation (2017)

One from the to watch pile…
Annabelle Creation (2017)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release of Annabelle Creation (2017)


Film: If there is one thing I can say about post-millennium ghost stories it’s that I have so much ennui towards them that I actually end up being occasionally surprised by aspects of them that may show off a small bit of quality. That is, the stories are awfully generic and don’t bring anything new to the ghost sub-genre, but occasionally I’ll find an amazing actor, like Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring films, or just a filmic quality from the production that will make them stand above being absolute drivel.

Not by much, but a single redeeming feature is a redeeming feature, and I can’t deny that.

Of all these ghost stories though, for me the worst has been the ‘Annabelle’ film. It was seemingly driven on by the genpop’s love of creepy dolls, but I didn’t find it to be particularly entertaining, and was surprised that a subplot from a different series should get its own. Even worse, this film is an ‘origin’ film, and I find that when you demystify a character you weaken it, somehow. I like Rob Zombie’s Halloween but I find Myers to be more a tragic figure than a force of nature in his films.

Esther’s (Miranda Otto) scars aren’t all mental.


This film, Annabelle Creation, tells the tale of dollmaker, Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife, Esther (Miranda Otto) whose lives horribly changed after the tragic loss of their daughter, Bee (Samara Lee).

Several years later, the couple take in a nun, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and a small group of orphaned girls, including the crippled by polio, Jan (Talitha Eliana Bateman) as an act of charity, but very quickly the girls discover that there is something in the house… something evil…

… and boring. It’s redeeming feature is it finally does pick up almost at the end, but that’s only if you manage to overcome the terrible pacing. To its credit it did end on a clever note, leading to the previous film.

Carol (Grace Fulton) in a scene lifted from one of Sandberg’s short films.


It’s one thing to make a film that is made for the mass populous that has nothing original, but to make it boring as well is a crime that I just can’t get by. There is no doubt David F. Sandberg, who previously gave us the wonderful Lights Out, gets amazing performances from such a young cast and the film looks hot and dry, but the script, by It’s Gary Dauberman, stinks of generic.

You could play ‘ghost movie lotto’ with this film: creepy doll, tick! Floaty black mist, tick! Weird old guy, tick! I could go on… but that’s not the worst of it. For the most part it feels like there is no threat and nothing seems to happen for the longest time. The worst crime a horror film can commit is being boring, so for that, this film should get life imprisonment.

Score: *

The menu for the Australian Bd release of Annabelle Creation (2017)


Format: This Australian Bluray release of the film runs for approximately 109 minutes and is presented in an immaculate 2.40:1 image with a matching Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: There a a few extras on this disc.

The Conjuring Universe is a short look at the universe that the Conjuring and Annabelle films exist within.

There are two horror shorts, Attic Panic and Coffer, both by Sandberg and his partner Lotta Losten, both of which are far more effective than (and whose scenes are borrowed for) this film.

There’s a bunch of deleted scenes that can be watched with a commentary by the director which discuss how the film would have been well over 2 hours long without some trimming, and is an interesting discussion about the importance of editing.

Directing Annabelle Creation is an excellent discussion with Sandberg about directing films. He discusses how he became a filmmaker and how he used DVD extras as ‘training’ videos for his own skill. It’s extraordinarily fascinating and a real insight into the act of direction and possibly an inspiration to those of us who do the same thing.

There is an interesting director’s commentary too, and it’s totally worth it. Sandberg is a guy who loves his craft of movie making and it really shows.

Score: ****

WISIA: Nup, nope, never. Though I might put it on for the two shorts on the extras.

The ‘eyes’ have it… eh, eh?

The Super Nintendo Mini for Horror Fans!

So today I grabbed one of these beauties:


The Super Nintendo Mini! I preordered it several weeks ago, actually upon announcement, as this was my favourite video game system of all time.


I’ve only hooked it up to a little Sonic TV and I’ve played almost all of the 21 games, I leave the RPGs to a later date, but the unit is cute, about ten cm square and 5 or 6 cm high, but the controllers feel like they are the same size as the old ones. I bought it so I could play Super Mario and Mario Kart again, but was thrilled to find that a couple of frustrating old favs in the horror/ science fiction genre have made it on as well.


The awesome sideways scrolling…. actually, these three all are…. beat em up/ shoot em up Castlevania IV where you are making your way through a map slowly taking on harder and harder villains and obstacles.


Next is Super Ghouls and Ghosts:


Super Ghouls n Ghosts was a classic arcade game and it’s still fun and frustrating and features a brave knight in a fight against zombies, werewolves and other supernatural beasties.


Last but not least was the game Contra III: The Alien Wars


Contra III is another similar style of game but can be for two players simultaneously as two tough guys are up against an alien invasion.

So what did I think of the unit? Well, I’m not a retro gamer in the slightest and even though I appreciate the look back at the past and the fun that I had with these games, especially things like Starfox and Street Fighter in addition to the ones I mentioned above, but I’d rather super cool, realistic graphics and online connectivity with my gaming. Sure this was fun, but we certainly live in a better time for gaming now!

It’s a fun distraction, but I don’t see myself playing it for a great deal of time.

The Fog (1980) Review

One from the re watch pile…
The Fog (1980)

The Australian Bluray cover


Film: There’s several people who are real heroes of cinema for me: Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento are amongst them, and John Carpenter really stands up there. He is responsible for several films that I really like, like Halloween, They Live and Prince of Darkness, but it’s not just that: his soundtracks that he himself creates sit directly in my love of synth music too. This movie, The Fog, is no exception.

I am not really a ghost/ supernatural fan when it comes to horror movies as I’d rather a slasher or a giallo or mutants or monsters: I like tactile, physical baddies and I think that comes from not believing in ghosts makes me not fear them. Sure a jump scare might alarm me, but I won’t walk away from the film traumatised.

That’s not to say I don’t still watch them though as even though the potential fear doesn’t scare me, I can still enjoy the story, performance and if I’m lucky, some chunky gore.

This is one of those times where the film is solid and the fact it’s a supernatural tale doesn’t matter.

The beautiful seaside town of Antonio Bay has a dark past where a ship full of lepers were killed when their boat was lead to its destruction. Now, 100 years later, the town is ready for its centenary under the guidance of Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh) but the local priest, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) has discovered, hidden in the church, a diary telling the awful tale of the founding of the town, but the show must go on regardless.

Adrienne Barbeau… sigh.


A strange occurrence is happening on this celebration though: a mysterious fog is moving into town, and effecting the lives of the town including DJ Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau), fisherman Nick Castle (Tom Atkins) and a hitchhiker he has picked up, Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis) but what is in the fog killing people?

Could it be the spirits of the Dead coming back to haunt the descendants of the original families of Antonio Bay? Of course it is.

The first thing I have to say I love about this film is it’s cast: Psycho’s Janet Leigh, Night of the Creeps Tom Atkins, Magnum Force’s Hal Holbrook, Swamp Thing’s Adrienne Barbeau and of course Halloween’s Jamie Lee Curtis, to mention but a few.

Jamie Lee Curtis notices Tom Atkins’ moustache has stuck to his beer can.


This is film is clearly a Carpenter film as well, and I must say his surname suits perfectly as his stories me direction builds slowly and to a fantastic finale, as does his soundtrack… I love it when Carpenter scores his own films! 

This is no exception, and the record of this soundtrack gets a regular spin here at the To Watch Pile!

Really though, this film wins with its warm and likable characters who are victims of their ancestors crimes and potentially innocent themselves, and with Caroenter’s masterful handling of the pacing of the film.

Seriously, if you haven’t seen The Fog… or anything else by Carpenter, you need to fix that immediately.

Score: ****

Australian Bluray menu screen of The Fog


Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Australian region A/B Bluray release, which runs for approximately 90 minutes, and is presented in a clear, but not wholly sharp, 2.35:1 image with a really nice DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: Crappy extras on this release, I’m afraid. There is an audio and video configuration test. What?

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s one of Carpenter’s best: you better believe it should be watched over and over again!

No shower scene for Janet Leigh here.

The Bye Bye Man (2017) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Bye Bye Man (2017)


Film: I’m an idiot.

No matter how much I don’t enjoy post-millennial ghost stories like The Conjuring and some of the other boring, by-the-numbers mainstream claptrap we have seen lately, I still think I should give new ones a go. I think that some helped by the allure of actors I like, like in this case Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway and Doug Jones. It’s not an obsession, it’s just that in a world where in cinema we occasionally criticise sequels, remakes and adaptations for their lack of originality, I just hope that one of these new films will thrill or at least tell an interesting story.


Sadly, that hasn’t happened here with this quite bloodless, boring film, directed by Stacy Title, from a script written by her husband Jonathan Penner, and based on the book ‘The Bridge to Body Island’ by Robert Damon Schneck.

Our story introduces us to Elliot (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and their friend John (Lucien Laviscount), university students who have decided to take up residence off campus, financially assisted by Elliot’s scholarship.

They are free to use any of the furniture found in the abandoned house, and quickly address any problems that the house may have. 

One of those problems comes from when Elliot finds a bedside table that has written repeatedly ‘don’t say it, don’t think it’ in the drawer lining, and when Elliot removes it he finds the words ‘The Bye Bye Man’ engraved into the wood.

The problem with those four words is the insidious effect it has. Once there is knowledge of the Bye Bye Man, he can return from wherever he is to slowly drive those who know of his existences Mad with obscure and mentally damaging visions.

Very soon, and something we already knew through a few flashbacks, Elliot sees the only way to rid everyone of the plague that is the Bye Bye Man is to delete his existence, and existence that is only present in people’s minds… so those minds needs to be deleted, with extreme prejudice!


This story has basically taken the idea that the Nightmare on Elm Street films initially proposed of a supernatural existence that can only survive if there are people to believe in it, which in itself, comes from a philosophical theory that Gods need humans to praise them, because without a conscious entity to believe in them, they will perhaps cease to exist.

It’s also claimed that this is based on a true story of a group of friends and a haunted Ouija board in Wisconsin but me being a non-believer in the spirit world, I don’t believe it and that also doesn’t make the story better being based on a ‘true’ story.

The various actors in this film perform their roles ok, but the real bummer is the minimal screen time given to those that I actually wanted to watch the film for: probably barely 8 minutes altogether.

It’s also quite bloodless. There are occasions where you see the results of violence of people’s bodies or on the floor, but there are a couple of ‘shotgun violence’ scenes that perhaps there was an intention to add CGI blood and guts that was either forgotten or didn’t eventuate. These scenes are in flashbacks so maybe the director decided to make this scenes more ethereal and dreamlike, but more than likely they flat out ran our of money when it came time to cash some cheques. If dreamlike was the intention: that’s a massive fail.

Basically, another fancy new ghost story that fails on several counts… can we just go back to monsters or something please? Thanks.

Score: *


Format: This film was reviewed using the Australian region B bluray which runs for approximately 96 minutes. The film is presented in a perfect 1.85:1 widescreen image and an immaculate Master Audio. 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: Disappointingly, none. Even a ‘based on the true story’ sort of thing could have been amusing.

Score: 0

WISIA: Nup, and I’ll probably throw this one away.

Don’t Knock Twice (2016)

One from the to watch pile…
Don’t Knock Twice (2016)


Film: After I watched this, but before I started the review I mentioned to a friend it was like all post-millennial ghost stories and wasn’t much chop, to which he pointed out two films, Sinister and We Are Still Here. I had to agree there have been exceptions, but in general, a good proportion of ghost stories at the cinema at the moment either riff in what we one called j-horror or borrow liberally, ie steal massively, from films like Insidious or The Conjuring… two series’ of films I have very little time for.

The best thing I can say about them is at least they aren’t Paranormal Activity films.

So why don’t I like these types of films? It’s quite simple: I don’t believe in ghosts, therefore the films hold no aspect of fear for me. Sure, there are scares I might flinch at, or at my wife’s scream when I watch them with her (which is why I see so many of them: she loves them), but outside of cinematic trickery, I just don’t find them scary!

This film also borrows a bit from the mythos of Freddy Krueger, with the concept of being taken to another reality where evil awaits. In this though the ‘other realm’ is on the other side of a door that has been ‘knocked twice’ upon, instead of Freddy’s distorted dream dimension, though both seem to be able to be manipulated by the ghost/ witch/ demon/ supernatural thingy.

I do have to give this film, Don’t Knock Twice, a little bit of credit in this department. At least director Caradog James has attempted something different with the script provided by Howl’s Nick Ostler and Mark Huckerby. It really does attempt for a different spin on the post-millennial ghost story, but unfortunately the trappings and tropes of those tales are so ingrained, and there is such apparent necessary visual and audio language now that it’s hard to avoid and still make the punter get what he’s seeing.

You know, because us fans of cinema are dumdums.

It also borrows quite heavily from the ideas behind Candyman and Urban Legend 3, you know, the ‘Beetlejuice’ effect: you do something a particular amount of times and it will bring about a haunting from a person, so whatever you do don’t say ‘whatever’ three times, or in this case, whatever you do… Don’t Knock Twice…


Recovering addict and scultptor Jess (Kate Sackhoff) is attempting to get her life and family back on track, which includes being reunited with her estranged daughter Chloe (Lucy Boynton) after she was put in foster care several years ago, but the reunion comes at a cost.

You see, Chloe and her boyfriend pissed off the spirit of a woman who was accused of being a child murderer by the local children, but did she do it, and how can our heroines undo the curse that has been done?


There is some elements of the ‘family drama’ aspect of this, and Sackhoff and Boynton are really good in their roles. In actual fact, Sackhoff proves herself to be somewhat of an amazing actress in this role of dubious mother figure, and her and teenage daughter Boynton’s relationship rings as true. Actually if this had have been a family drama about a mother/ daughter relationship and NOT a horror film it would have been cast perfectly, but it is a horror film, and the generic ghost aspects and tropes of the post-millennial ghost story are so apparent you could play bingo with it.

Urban myth: tick. J-horror look to the ‘ghost’: tick. Mysterious face at the window: tick.

BINGO!

To it’s credit the script does make attempts to twist the tale a couple of times, but the payoff of each twist doesn’t really work, and is telegraphed far too early and then fizzle out.

It’s well directed too and this is where the problem lies in reviewing such a film: well directed, well acted, but generic. I have to applaud the filmmaking and the performances but if what they are conveying as a story is very good, well why bother?

That, unfortunately, is where it stands: don’t bother.

Score: **


Format: This movie was reviewed on the Australian region B release BD, which runs for approximately 93 minutes. It being a modern film in a modern format, as one would expect, both the 2.40:1 image and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track are fantastic. The blue tone given to much of the film almost makes it cold to watch. 

Score: *****

Extras: No extras for YOU!

Score: 0

WISIA: I can honestly say I will never watch this film again.

Lights Out (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Lights Out (2016)

Lights Out Australian bluray cover


Film: In 2013, a short film called ‘Lights Out’ was shared over and over by various groups of horror fans I belong to on Facebook and other social media sources. This film, made by David F. Sandberg, was submitted to several horror movie competitions, and won Best Director at the Who’s There Film Challenge and Best Short at FANT Bilbao in 2014.

To date this film has had about 3.3 million views on YouTube, and even IMDB gives it a rating of 7.8/10: that’s a whole point MORE than Insidious. I suppose I’d better share the video here: Lights Out short film!

Go and watch it, I’ll be here when you come back.

….

So you’ve finally returned: watched the ‘ten best horror shorts’ parts 1 and 2 and a few funny cat videos did you?

Anyway, Sandberg has been given the occasion to turn his short into a feature film… and what a feature film it is! If this is an example of the quality of what he’ll be putting out, I’ll be watching every film he makes… though it’s been announced that he’ll be directing the sequel to the awful Annabelle, so maybe not EVERYTHING.

Our films starts with the horrible death of Paul (Billy Burke) whose wife, Sophie (Maria Bello) goes into a spiral of depression, a spiral she has encountered previously in her life on several occasions, which includes talking to herself, quite animatedly.

Lights Out: Gabriel Bateman and Maria Bello


Her son, Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is experiencing a few anomalies as well, including nocturnal visits from ‘Diana’, a spectre who can only be exposed in complete darkness, and disappears when the lights come on. 

Being kept awake at night in fear of ‘Diana’, Martin keeps falling asleep in class, and Child Protection Services are called. When his mother can’t be reached, his estranged half-sister, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), is called to help, and when she sees Martin going through something very similar to a situation when her father left her mother, she decides to step in.

Lights Out: Teresa Palmer as Rebecca


It appears, though, that maybe ‘Diana’ is more than a fantasy, and her history intertwined with Sophie’s, but can the family survive her interference?

This movie is an excellent film, well acted and beautifully shot, and those who are regularly effected by Lewton’s Bus will spend their viewing attempting to avoid sharting. The appearance of Australian Teresa Palmer and a favourite of mine, Maria Bello (who played a similar role in the film The Dark) made me happy as well.

I also liked the fact that Sandberg was able to take his short and develop it into a cohesive, feature length (albeit only 80 minutes) film. This was done well by screenplay writer, Eric Heisserer, whose work I usual have little appreciation for as previous efforts by him that I am aware of are the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, and The Thing remake, prequel, sequel or whatever the hell that thing was. He also did Final Destination 5, so not a complete loss, but he has certainly redeemed himself with this script. It’s not a perfect script, and honestly the appearance of Diana in the main character’s lives is certainly steeped in Freddy Krueger’s lore. A non-horror fan may no see it, but a fan definitely will!

A special mention also has to go to the direction for the least annoying kid ever submitted to film!

All in all, even though I am not a fan of ghost/ demonic type films, I found this to be entertaining and well executed. 

Score: ***1/2

Australian bluray Lights Out menu screen


Format: This review was performed on the Australian, region B Bluray of the film which runs for about 80 minutes. It is presented in an equally amazing 2.40:1 image and DTS-HD Master Audio.

Score: *****

Extras: Deleted scenes which, honestly, the film is better off without!

Score: *

WISIA: I’m sure the jump scares will have lost their power, but the film was well acted, and well scary, so yeah, I’d give it another go.

Lights Out: crazy writing is never a good sign!

Death of a Ghost Hunter (2007) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Death of a Ghost Hunter (2007)

Death of a Ghost Hunter Australian DVD cover


Film: As a collector of stuff, occasionally I am captured by that thing called ‘The Bargain’. We have all seen them: buy two get one free (even when we only want two), ten DVDs for 20 dollars at a closing video store (you can find seven you want but force yourself up to the ten for the ‘value’)… Hell, even as I write this I just bought an extra vinyl record from an eBay store as the price of postage for 2 records was the same as 3!

I am as easily manipulated as everyone else!

This film made its way to my collection via one of those ‘buy ten’ at a closing video store, which is why you may have noticed the ‘horror’ and ‘$3 weekly’ stickers on the photo above.

This film was directed and co-written by Sean Tretta, who also directed The Prometheus Project and The Great American Snuff Film which was co-written by Tretta’s co-writer here, Mike Marsh. 

Our film starts with a backstory of a family who were killed in 1982, and how a paranormal investigator, Carter Simms (Patti Tindall) 20 years later met her final destination at whilst investigating the haunting that had been reported over the former 20 years.

Death of a Ghost Hunter: Patti Tindall as Carter


Carter has been employed by the nephew of the murdered couple, Seth (Gordon Clark) to find out what is going in the house, and accompanying Carter is a videographer, Colin (Mike Marsh), journalist Yvette (Davina Joy) and local church representative Mary (Lindsay Page). The four of them need to spend three nights in the house and perform a full investigation, but will they all get out alive? I mean, obviously the title suggests that at least Carter doesn’t but… will the rest of them?!?

This film won best screenplay at the New York City Horror Film Festival and mostly, except for a few dumb jokes and some dumb lines (whilst looking through a window into a structure, one of the characters declares ‘there’s a room in there’… yeah, there WOULD be), it is an interesting story. The problem is the execution.

First, those ‘jokes’ I mentioned are delivered so terribly that they fall totally flat. The reason the jokes are delivered so badly is that other than Patti Tindall, most of the cast are at best, of a high school drama club video standard. Even though lines are ‘delivered’, it’s not supposed to be like a pizza. A little passion or effort could go into it!

Death of a Ghost Hunter: Lindsay Page as Mary


Secondly, it commits a crime that I can’t forgive. I hate ‘found footage’, shaky cam rubbish, and some of this is done in such a style. The scenes done in this way are awkward and hokey, and even part of the script pulls the piss out of The Blair Witch Project, which doesn’t sit well with the rest of the story. Weirdly, memories and flashbacks are also told in weird ‘old film’ Robert Rodriguez Grindhouse styled, but the memories weren’t films… so why are they made to look like old film stock? If it were like Sinister where the crimes were filmed I’d get it, but this makes no sense at all.

The final issue is the way it was filmed. I mentioned ‘high school drama club’ and the direction/ editing is mostly of a similar level. At times I can’t figure out if some of the photographic decisions were made for artistic reasons or were accidents that they decided to leave in. The mastering of the DVD doesn’t do any of the cinematography any favours either.

All in all it’s a great story, executed poorly, which is a shame.

Score: *1/2

Death of a Ghost Hunter Menu Screen


Format: This review was performed whilst watching the Australian, region 4 PAL DVD which runs for approximately 105 minutes… though it does at times feel like 21,005 minutes (the first 20 minutes feel like they go for an hour themselves). The film is presented in 16×9 widescreen image which is of a fairly average quality, not artefact laden, just grainy and not very sharp. The soundtrack, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 is fine though.

Score: **1/2

Extras: Only two extras on this disc: a few deleted scenes, which are introduced by the director and the trailer. As usual, the film is better without the scenes shown here and the addition of the director’s comments are interesting (there’s always a reason why these things get cut), and the trailer does the job.

Score: **

WISIA: Nup, and actually, i wish I hadn’t seen it once!

Death of a Ghost Hunter: a G-G-G-Ghost!!