House at the End of the Street (2012)

House at the End of the Street

Release Date: September 21, 2012

Director: Mark Tonderai

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue, Max Thieriot

Runtime: 101 min

Tagline: Fear reaches out… for the girl next door.

It saddens me that my favourite part of this was the Argo trailer before the movie…

Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) have just moved out to the country. They are able to rent their home for such a low price because of the gruesome events that took place four years ago down the street. A small girl, Carrie-Anne, killed her parents in the middle of the night and it is believed she later drowned that evening, but her body was never recovered. The surviving son, Ryan (Max Thieriot), still lives in the house as a way to hold onto a memory of his parents. He was actually at a senile Aunt’s house during the time of the murders. Elissa soon strikes up a relationship with Ryan, and learns that the local horror story is far from over.

I liked the concept, but at times it really just bore me and lost my attention. Jennifer Lawrence is good in her role, as much as she can be for a horror film. The performances aren’t that special, but some characters are effectively creepy.

The execution of the film is poor and it feels dragged out in some spots. The scares are pretty good, but some are far between. The character of Ryan is pretty interesting, he’s living at a house where his parents were murdered as a way to hold onto them – despite the actual horrific memory it really is. His character is nonetheless well developed, even though some questions for his character are unanswered by the end of it all. His character is really the only one they spent a lot of time developing, so all of the others were pretty forgettable. Especially Lawrence’s character, she’s just another dumb horror girl protagonist.

The country setting was pretty nice, but average for the whole local town legend horror killer story type-thing. It was actually filmed here in my hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, but it really didn’t look like it. It’s sort of cool either way.

The twist was pretty good, what’s a good horror movie without a decent twist? The twist is pretty pleasant and shocking at the time, but as the film drags on, it just gets more and more ridiculous. It does make for a fairly memorable ending though.

The camerawork really felt eye-straining in areas. Especially when some of the shots were seen from the point of view of one of the primary characters – the visuals really hurt my eyes and the colors and the shakiness of the camera were really quite irritating. I mean it was unique camerawork in some areas, but all of it didn’t exactly work out in the film’s favour.

Lawrence’s character really does all of the things you’re not supposed to do in a horror movie, but really which horror protagonist doesn’t? They’re written to be stupid so they can lengthen the film and torture me even more!

I give props to Jonathan Mostow for coming up with the cool story, but David Loucka didn’t write the best screenplay I’ve seen.

Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue, Max Thieriot, Gil Bellows, Eva Link, Allie MacDonald and Nolan Gerard Funk star in this film. Oh, and Joy Tanner, the mother from that Family channel show Life with Derek.

House at the End of the Street (boy, that’s a mouthful) is a great concept and story that got butchered with a poor screenplay and lousy execution. The twist is pleasant and lame, and the film overstayed its welcome for me. The whole visuals and trying-to-scare-you-but-it-doesn’t-really-work situations made it lame in some areas. Watch it if you’re really interested. It’s generally a decent horror experience that doesn’t offer a lot of memorable material, so you won’t miss much of any cinema chatter if you skip this one.

55/100

– Daniel Prinn

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Taken – A great action experience.

Taken

Release Date: January 30, 2009

Director: Pierre Morel

Stars: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen

Runtime: 93 min

Tagline: “I don’t know who you are, but if you don’t let my daughter go, I will find you and I will kill you.”

It’s a great concept that sometimes doesn’t execute itself all that well, but is nonetheless bullets of fun.

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a retired CIA agent who is trying to strike up a relationship with his now seventeen year-old daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). She soon takes a trip to Paris, and finds herself kidnapped for the purpose of human trafficking. The ring is ran by a gang of Albanians who hook the female tourists on drugs and then prostitute them as an organized business. Mills then travels to Paris in an attempt to find his daughter and bring her back to the U.S. before his appointed window of 96 hours runs out. He must do this, no matter the cost – even if the streets run with blood and nothing but havoc is raised for the French police and former colleagues.

Taken offers a fine experience, that sometimes drags on, but is an overall great concept that is nothing but fun. There’s hardly a message wrapped up in here, just good old fashioned badass-ness. I guess if there was a message to take from this, it would be ‘do anything for your family, no matter the cost’.

One thing I didn’t like about the film was why he was trying to strike up a relationship with his daughter at this point in her life. I mean, she’s seventeen and she’d rather be off with her friends doing teenage and irresponsible activities. Also, Maggie Grace was like what, twenty-six when she played this seventeen year-old? That’s just a little ridiculous, could the studio not find a better actress to do the part? I won’t complain too much though, she performs fairly well – I like her.

The phone monologue is pretty awesome, and is definitely the best part of the film – that you can see in the trailer. It doesn’t run on too long, but some scenes are a little draining. The body count in this movie is crazy. The car chases are pretty memorable, but a lot of the kills aren’t anything that special.

Liam Neeson’s character is pretty sweet, but his ex-wife was hardly likable at all. Who likes a complaining old broad? It’s a great thing that she’s a minor character. One should understand my lack of excitement for her being a larger character in the sequel to this.

Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, Katie Cassidy, Holly Valance and Xander Berkeley headline this action delight.

While Taken is a great concept with some poor pacing, it isn’t shy of being an action great. It does offer some memorable sequences, but the average ones are also, unfortunately, high in numbers. This movie is a self-aware action delight that satisfies on many levels.

75/100

– Daniel Prinn

Mean Creek – One of my favourite independent film experiences.

Mean Creek

Release Date: January 15, 2004 (Sundance Film Festival)

Director: Jacob Aaron Estes

Stars: Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz

Runtime: 90 min

Tagline: Beneath the surface, everyone has a secret.

After a young boy, Sam (Rory Culkin), is bullied by a troubled fat boy, George (Josh Peck); Sam’s brother, Rocky, and Marty concoct a plan. They plan to lure George out into the woods for Sam’s “birthday” for a boating trip, and play a cruel prank on the boy as a way to receive vengeance for Sam. While on the boating trip, Sam, Rocky, Clyde and Sam’s girlfriend, Millie, see that George really isn’t all that bad of a guy, and they want the plan to be called off. Though, Marty is the type of guy who likes to commit to doing something, henceforth he doesn’t want the plan to be called off. Will the scheme work out as planned; or will things go completely awry?

A lot of it is an often poignant ride about adolescence, and is a fairly impressive film that is a bit slow at the beginning and drags at some areas near the end, but it’s quite the memorable story.

The emotional content of it all is quite great, and often powerful – and the young actors do a very good job with each of their roles. It’s a pretty impressive little crime drama that was humbly made for the sum of $500,000, and they use that money well.

The beginning is just really trying to get into the story and introduce each of the characters, so in ways it is slow but the opening sequence opens up to the film well. I only like a few characters here though, I couldn’t relate to a few of them. The ending drags on in some areas, but the very end saved it for me. The story of the film made it the most memorable for me. The main appeal of this was Josh Peck, he’s such a good actor.

I found myself relating to both Sam and George by the end of it all, though. I feel I should explain how I related to George as he’s the bully. I related to Sam because he was bullied and is an often timid character.

 

*SORT OF SPOILERS, I EXPLAIN THE CHARACTER OF GEORGE A LITTLE*

I found myself relating with George by the end of it all because he was a troubled character. I’m not a bully or anything, I just relate to the guy because all he wants to do is just try to fit in, which is how I relate to him the most. Since he’s just seen as this bad guy, he doesn’t get out as much as he’d like to and he’s just hardly invited anywhere. He tries to fit in and he tries to be nice, but he can be fake at times because he doesn’t really be himself throughout. And then at the end monologue when he was talking about how he was going to make a documentary of his life so people would actually understand him, moved me.

 *END OF SPOILERS*

The film is really well-cast, but some may be turned off by the excessive swearing. That may be the only thing that tainted my view of the general thing, but I still did really enjoy it. A lot of the swearing was necessary, as a means to make some sequences more emotional and intense.

This film made me think this: if the well-cast characters and the swearing of Stand by Me were tossed in a blender with the disturbing content and intensity of Deliverance, you’d be left with this low-key crime drama, Mean Creek, which makes for a fairly satisfying flick.

Mean Creek is a well-casted and memorable film that was poorly paced in some areas but nonetheless emotionally strong and thought-provoking and fairly impressive despite some poor camerawork that I can overlook, it’s an experience that I would like to see again because it offers a nice experience. If you like B-movie crime dramas, check it out.

75/100

Let Me In – Quite the remake of a great Swedish film.

Let Me In

Release Date: October 1, 2010

Director: Matt Reeves

Stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins

Runtime: 116 min

Tagline: Innocence dies. Abby doesn’t.

 Let Me In is a remake of the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In, and is based on the Swedish novel, Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a lonely twelve-year old boy, with a wicked sense of voyeurism, and has been constantly bullied at school. When a mysterious girl, Abby (Chloë Moretz), and her father (Richard Jenkins) move in next door to him, he hopes he has the chance to find a companion in her. Abby’s no ordinary girl, though; the cold doesn’t seem to phase her, and she even walks around in the snow in her bare feet. Also, coinciding with the sudden appearance of this young and mysterious supposed twelve-year old girl, are a string of mysterious murders that are believed to be a cult thing, where the victim’s blood is drained and taken. Owen may find courage he’s been looking for in this small, but ever-so strong, girl. All the while, a police investigator (Elias Koteas) is getting close on the case, but what he doesn’t know is that he’s actually hunting a savage young vampire.

This remake is a worthy substitute for a great foreign horror film. While it does seem to lack some of the emotional appeal as the original, it is fairly well done – and the wintery Sweden location is well relocated to a winter in New Mexico.

Rather than the original, it seems like it tried much harder to be a horror film, rather than a more emotional ride with many horrific elements.

Chloë Grace Moretz really does deliver a great performance, especially for such a young actress. I did prefer it [her performance] rather than that of the young girl from the original film. The film lacks the same great atmospheric style as the original, unfortunately. It isn’t nearly as well directed, but a comparison between Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) and Tomas Alfredson (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) isn’t exactly fair. This remake does jump into the story much quicker than the original though, and I liked it for that.

Comparisons aside: Standing alone, it offers a fairly good experience that is one of my favourite vampire flicks. The cast does a great job and the film can be quite twisted and some of the themes are pretty interesting.

Both Owen and Abby are monsters on their own terms, but Owen is too weak to stand up for himself – and must learn lessons from Abby.

The climactic scene is pretty good, but not amazing. The atmosphere is pretty stylish, and can offer a unique experience for those of you [strictly] mainstreamers. It is a film worth checking out.

This film stars Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz as the real show stealer Abby, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas as the Policeman (and as the voice of Owen’s Father) and the voice and some body of (I say that because the woman’s face is actually never shown) of Cara Buono as Owen’s Mother.

Let Me In is a worthy substitution of a great Swedish film. It lacks the same great atmosphere and emotional appeal as the original, and goes more for the scares, but is an interesting and well-paced film that offers a good and memorable experience.  

75/100

– Daniel Prinn

We Need to Talk About Kevin – A disturbing and unique experience.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Release Date: September 4, 2011 (First U.S. Festival Release Date)

Director: Lynne Ramsay

Stars: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller

Runtime: 112 min

[I’ve written about this over at http://themovieguideblog.wordpress.com/, but I wanted to post it on here, too!]

This film is wonderfully adapted from a fairly overlooked novel of the same name, by Lionel Shriver.

Eva (Tilda Swinton) once had a nice job and a good life, until Kevin (Rock Duer, toddler; Jasper Newell, 6-8 Years; Ezra Miller, Teenager) came along. Eva has seemed to resent Kevin ever since he was born. She has struggled to love her child because of the strange and constantly vicious things he does. And her husband, Franklin (John C. Reilly), is completely oblivious to Kevin’s actions, stating that he’s only a typical boy doing what young boys do. The recent “incident” though, won’t help her situation, and ultimately haunt both her and the community.

The general plot is really good, not extremely memorable, but really good; the real memorable aspect of this film is the way that it is told. The timeline is both past and present, but it’s done very well so you won’t get lost often.

The only flaw the film possesses, and the reason I can’t give it a perfect score, is the beginning. It’s not that the beginning is completely bad; it’s just that I hardly knew what the hell was going on. It’s only like that for the first ten minutes, though; and then I started to adjust and understand what was going on.

 W.N.T.T.A.K. offers a stylish low-key disturbing experience. The psychology of it is pretty fascinating, too. The whole nature (genetics) vs. nurture (environment one grows up in & one’s experiences) psychology theory works well into here; because Eva was into that whole drug crowd when she was pregnant with Kevin; and he grew up in an environment where he felt unloved by his mother and his father was oblivious to his actions, and he used the “Hey, buddy” approach.

The storytelling was interesting, and disturbing too, because some scenes hinted at what he [Kevin] did but you couldn’t tell for sure, and he was in a juvenile detention facility so you could definitely tell it was bad. Some of it was shocking, too, and it was definitely effective. Eva also stayed in the town because she felt she was somehow responsible for Kevin’s actions, even with all of the hatred shown against her after the incident; yet, she still faced it. Henceforth, suggesting she’s a strong-willed character; despite her constant fright in the community. She is also beautifully performed by Tilda Swinton, in the finest performance I have seen her in, and she’s another actress who has been overlooked for an Oscar nomination (boy, it was a good year for performances).

I liked how the film was ambiguous of who the antagonist was. Some people may feel that it was more the mother’s fault, and she just wasn’t trying hard to enough to love or appreciate Kevin; and some would have felt that the antagonist was Kevin because he was just so increasingly vicious. I felt Kevin was more the antagonist here, but Eva did offer antagonistic traits, too.

John C. Reilly played Franklin really well, because his voice makes him seem like the nice guy. The character may have been generally oblivious to the surroundings, and he was used well in this flick.

Don’t be mistaken by the cover art, it may look like it passes itself off as a horror flick, but it isn’t. It has thrilling elements though, but it is mostly a dramatic and disturbing flick. The film is definitely often Omen-esque; but it is effective, and I felt Kevin was even creepier than little Damien from those Omen flicks.

I also very much recommend you check out the Behind-the-Scenes of KEVIN special feature (if it’s available to you). It adds further insight onto the film and the character and mind of Kevin. I thought it was really interesting.

The film stars Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller, Rock Duer, Jasper Newell, Ashley Gerasimovich (as Eva and Franklin’s daughter, Celia) and Siobhan Fallon.

 W.N.T.T.A.K. is a low-key disturbing experience; that offers a great and memorable story. The direction offered by Ramsay is great, and has made me interested to check out her other projects. It definitely is my favourite lower budget film of 2011, and is my favourite disturbing and deeply thematic 2011 film (that I can think of). It’s really quite thought-provoking, and offers a unique experience that really should be checked out.

90/100

– Daniel Prinn

30 Days of Night – A decent vampire horror flick. (Short review)

30 Days of Night

Release Date: October 19, 2007

Director: David Slade

Stars: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston

Runtime: 113 min

Tagline: They’re coming!

The vampire horror genre has seen greats, like Dracula, Fright Night, the Swedish Let the Right One in (and its American remake Let Me In), and the teen romance adaptation Twilight (just kidding about that one), to name a few. This isn’t exactly one of them, but it’s still pretty good.

For a small Alaskan town, it is the time of the year where a big fraction of its population goes on vacation because they don’t want to endure the thirty days of darkness. When a mysterious stranger wanders into town and stars to vandalize the small town, he brings along a warning of some sort of a larger danger is coming. That danger is a gang of bloodthirsty vampires.

It has enough scares to make it enjoyable enough for a horror lover, but I don’t think it brought anything special to cinema or the horror genre, well except a vampire language.  It’s good enough for a watch, but for those who really don’t like vampire flicks, don’t need to necessarily check it out.

I didn’t really care for the ending, but it was pretty well-paced, and good enough horror entertainment to get you through the south of two-hour runtime.

It stars Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston as the vampire gang leader, Ben Foster (he really stole the scenes he was in), Mark Boone Junior and Mark Rendall.

The plot was a little average, it’s decent enough but it isn’t a must-see or anything for non-horror fans.

63/100

Editor’s Note

Hey guys, I’ve been scheduling my posts for 9:16 EDT in the A.M., as of late; but I thought I might as well just make the official announcement.

Also, during the week (Monday- Thursday) I’ll be trying to post reviews that I wrote when I first starting writing reviews so I can just get them on here. My bad if they’re sloppily written or very short or anything. I’m improving as I go along, I swear it! Then the fairly better/more recent ones will be on the weekend. I’ll try to make more posts during the week so I can get them on here more quickly.

Thanks for reading.