Found Footage 3D


*31 Nights of Horror (#15) | 2017*

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of the Video Store With No Name, aka The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at the found-footage horror flick about the making of a found-footage horror flick, Found Footage 3D!


Carter Roy and Alena von Storheim are Derek and Amy, a married couple on the outs producing a found-footage horror movie about a married couple on the outs producing a found-footage horror movie.

What we see, however, is all told from the perspective of Chris O’Brien’s Mark, who also happens to be Derek’s brother in charge of documenting the making of the movie-within-a-movie…and who also happens to be very much in love with his brother’s would-be ex-wife.

And what plays out is exactly what you might expect in the umpteenth Blair Witch Project knockoff that is Found Footage 3D.

UNORIGINAL, BUT…

The debut feature film by writer-director Steven DeGennaro, Found Footage 3D is incredibly impressive for someone with far more experience on the audio side of productions. And it’s a much better movie than one with such an uncreative premise and name has any right to be.

Aside from some solid audio work, the visuals are spot on, the film is well paced, and the characters are fairly layered if not all equally interesting.

In fact, a few questionable moments not withstanding, the performances are all spot-on. Scott Allen Perry in particular, as audio-guy Carl, steals the show with both his performance and a number of great lines.

(The audio-guy writing the movie gives the audio-guy all the best lines and small scenes. Isn’t that neat?)

PREDICTABLY PREDICTABLE

Now, that having been said…

Found Footage 3D suffers greatly from being utterly predictable in regards to its story and plot. Because if you’ve seen the Blair Witch or any of its many other blatant knock-offs, you’ll know exactly how this all plays out, from start to finish.

DeGennaro presents some great characters, pulls out great performances from his actors, and has written some solid dialog for them. But the movie they’re in isn’t as smart or clever as it thinks it is. And it’s almost cynical levels of self-awareness–as funny as some of the jokes are–can’t compensate for or mask just how boring and predictable everything else is. The characters and humor are the best aspect of the material, and it all deserves to be in a much more inspired, original movie.

PARADOX

Now, that having been said…

Found Footage 3D is still a surprisingly fun, enjoyable watch. It’s a bit predictable to the point of annoyance at times. And the meta-humor is simultaneously unnecessary and a saving grace of what could have otherwise been a very well produced but otherwise insipid found-footage horror movie. But it’s not hard to sit through and enjoy on some level, even if you are going to figure out how everything plays out far ahead of schedule.

The movie is boring only because it’s so unoriginal. But the overall quality of everything else–the directing, the acting–really does make up for a lot. Not everything, but just enough.

If you’re a fan of found-footage horror movies or if something more fun than it is fresh is fine with you, then Found Footage 3D is certainly worth CHILLING with.

The House by the Cemetery


*31 Nights of Horror (#14) | 2017*

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at the third and final entry in Lucio Fulci’s “Gates of Hell” Trilogy, The House by the Cemetery!


When the Boyle family moves to a quaint New England town, the last thing they expected to find were graves in the basement of the new house. But just when they thought that was the only dark secret haunting their home, a series of mysterious, grisly murders begin in The House by the Cemetery.

INTIMATE, BUT…

The House by the Cemetery, by horror icon Lucio Fulci, is the third and final movie in his unofficial “Gates of Hell” trilogy.

And the short of it is that The House by the Cemetery is not much more than a typical haunted house movie. There is some dark, sinister force haunting the new home of an unsuspecting family. A number of people die grisly deaths. And instead of running at the first sign of trouble, the family sticks around until the bitter, confusing end.

The House by the Cemetery is the most intimate yet least stylized movie in Fulci’s unofficial trilogy of films. There’s little in the way of that Italian horror flair present in Fulci’s other movies. The music is loud and omnipresent, but is easily forgettable. There’s not much in the way of special effects or interesting lighting and framing. The story is easily the most straightforward and functional from start to finish. But it’s also the least interesting. Whereas City of the Living Dead and The Beyond played with big, wild ideas, The Last House on the Cemetery really is a by-the-numbers haunted house movie.

This isn’t to say that the movie is necessarily bad or unenjoyable. Or that it’s forgettable. Instead, it’s simply and plainly uninspired. In fact, the only thing that could have possibly made this movie even more cliche and unoriginal would be if it started on a dark and stormy night.

STRANGE, BUT…

The movie is certainly strange enough. It’s certainly a decent viewing in and of itself. And the focus on a small family of three rather than an entire town or multiple groups of people is a welcomed change of pace.

But, in the end, The House by the Cemetery feels incredibly safe, especially in comparison to Fulci’s own filmography. And while safe isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s never a good thing either. Especially when fans have so many more options available to them.

So if for no other reason than there are far too many better, creative movies you can choose to watch in it’s place (even if they’re not quite as well-made), The House by the Cemetery is, unfortunately, a NO CHILL.

The Beyond


*31 Nights of Horror (#12) | 2017*

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of the Video Store With No Name, aka The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at Italian horror classic, The Beyond (the second entry in the unofficial “Gates of Hell” trilogy)!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.


Catriona MacColl is Liza, a young woman who has recently inherited an old hotel in the heart of New Orleans. But as she attempts to restore the hotel and carry on its legacy, a frightening series of events soon reveals that the hotel was built atop the gates of Hell. And the gate, of course, is now wide open in The Beyond.


MIDDLE-CHILD

The Beyond, from iconic horror director Lucio Fulci, is the second movie in the unofficial “Gates of Hell” trilogy. And, as might be expected, it suffers greatly from middle-child syndrome.

City of the Living Dead dealt with the dead rising from the grave, starting as a small-scale series of events and turning into a large-scale uprising. The House by the Cemetery is, at its core, an intimate tale of a family living in a haunted house.

The Beyond, meanwhile, is a series of loosely connected stories. Each story follows one of several group of characters who all have some connection to a hotel that rests above a literal gate of hell.

STUCK IN THE MIDDLE

Unfortunately, none of the many different roads the movie follows feels grand nor intimate. They all just sort of drift about in the middle.

We never spend enough time with the woman who owns the hotel nor the family of the man who initially dies at it. Nor do we get to see the sheer scale of the chaos surrounding any of this. And as result, aside from some key special effects shots, nothing about The Beyond is all that interesting. The story and the characters are just sort of there. There’s never enough tension or drama. Things just sort of happen but hardly ever build to anything.

And the strange thing is that everything that plays out is fascinating in concept. I just never felt like I cared about any of it. 87 minutes is just not enough time to show us everything that plays out in the movie and make us care.

A two hour movie might have been able to pull that off, it might have been able to flesh out everything just enough to give some sort of meaning to it all. Or it might have been squandered on simply following even more characters and even more half-hearted stories.

But all we have is this 87-minute movie that overwhelms and underwhelms in almost equal measure.

YEAH, BUT…

This is one of those rare instances where I want to somehow defend my loving of the movie strictly for the concept alone. The actual movie itself isn’t very good because it feels half
there. But what’s there is still an enjoyable if not necessarily fun watch.

And as a result The Beyond is certainly worth CHILLING with. Just don’t be so sure you’ll feel that way immediately after having done so.

Death Note


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Death Note!


When a high school student discovers a strange notebook with the power to kill anyone whose name he writes in it, he’ll quickly discover that playing God isn’t everything he expected it to be in Death Note.

A SUCCESS OF SORTS

Death Note, from director Adam Wingard, is the latest live-action adaptation of the hit comic and animated TV from Japan. But for all the interesting and smart choices made in the adaptation process, there’s several more bad ones that make it into the final movie.

Now there are already plenty of arguments being made on every blog, vlog, podcast, and Twitter account for how the movie fails to directly convert the source material to screen. But like with every adaptation, especially of such dense, lengthy material, a direct translation would never work as a feature film. It’s not just impractical but madness to even attempt to do so. Instead, it’s about taking what truly mattered in the original and trying to make it work in a new format, style, and run time.

And in that regard, the movie does succeed. Mostly.

FAMILIARITY

Nat Wolff stars as Light Turner, a troubled but bright high school student who comes to hold the titular Death Note, meets the spirit of death who normally owns it, and then uses it to wage a one-man war on whoever he perceives as well-deserving of divine justice.

And along the way he meets, falls for, and partners with a lovely girl named Mia who shares his view on the world. And the two inevitably play a game of cat-and-mouse with the mysterious, super-genius detective known as L whose sole goal in life is to bring Light to justice.

The details of how this plays out–of the characters and their setting–are changed. That much is clear simply by watching the movie’s trailer. This is an American adaptation set in America with American actors.

But the overall movie does play out in a similar manner as the comic and TV series. If you’ve seen one, you know what to generally expect in the other.

FIXER-UPPER

In fact, the movie’s greatest success is in streamlining and simplifying the conflict for the better.

The Light seen in the comic and TV series is wholly unrelatable as a character. He’s a handsome, charming super-genius from a fairly well-off, prominent family. And he has no arc, as he’s already knee-deep in his own God complex. He’s a despicable, blood-thirsty narcissist with little regard for human life who only gets worse as the series drags on.

The Light in Wingard’s movie, however, is a more believable, troubled young man from a middle-class household. His use of the Death Note is more in line with what a bullied, angry but mostly good person would do. He sees himself as a hero righting the injustices of evil men.

That said, this Light isn’t perfect either. Because like the superheroes he idolizes, this Light suffers the lesson of what happens to those who don’t use their great power responsibly. Internal and external forces drive him to darker, more aggressive places. Especially as L grows closer to discovering his true identity.

And, thankfully, this war of morals and ethics between Light and L is not stretched on hour after hour to the point of losing any dramatic weight or purpose.

And it should also be made clear that the performances from both Lakeith Stanfield as L and Willem Dafoe’s vocal performance as Ryuk, the spirit of death constantly lurking in the shadows, are delightful. The rest of the cast fail to keep up, but are otherwise serviceable.

99 PROBLEMS

That all having been said, Wingard’s adaptation suffers from two glaring issues: pacing and staying true to the constantly shifting tone of the original–this serious but simultaneously not at all serious thriller.

Like the original, this movie approaches heavy, serious material with a number of wholly dead-serious scenes only for such things to be frequently ruined by some desire to be cool and stylish.

Now levity and humor are fine, and even necessary at times. But there’s a balance that has to be maintained. A decision has to be made where the movie is either a serious one with moments of levity…or a more stylish, fun movie with key moments of dramatic weight. Very rarely can you ride that fine line and succeed.

Death Note–both Wingard’s movie and the original series– suffers for thinking it can ride that line. I know there are fans of the original series, and there’s plenty there to enjoy. I’m not denying that or arguing against it. However, I stand by the idea that the series is enjoyed more by the ideas presented in it rather than the actual quality of the final product.

In fact, I would say this movie only magnifies the existing issues in the source material. The movie’s pacing is so quick and it’s material is so dense that there’s no time for anything to sink in. But at the same time, the characters are all about as “deep” as they’ve ever been presented. The drama is about as well-built. The tension is about as thick. That’s to say, of course, none of this is very good at all.

The point here is that in all iterations, the focus is always on showcasing certain scenes, certain beats or interactions. To relay some basic idea. But there’s little effort put into making any of it mean anything.

The movie–clocking in at about an hour and forty minutes–is far too eager to rush through its material to even consider slowing down long enough for anything to register. At the same time, the original comic and TV series both stretch the material painfully thin. The events in them are so drawn out– and in this very soap opera-like manner–that such things are diluted to the point of losing any impact.

TRUE-ISH

The movie is not very good. That much is clear. But it’s a fairly true-enough adaptation that’s also fun in a guilty pleasure sort of way. And it’s likely fans of the franchise are going to be the only ones worked up by it in either direction.

Most other people–who will greatly outnumber fans of the property–are either going to be mildly pleased by it or generally nonplussed by what is ultimately a benign, forgettable movie.

Could it have been done better? Yes. Would it have come at the cost of more cuts and changes? Yes. But this is true of the original as much as this adaptation.

And with all that in mind: despite its faults and the unfair demands and expectations of the franchise’s fans, those looking for a quick, stylish jaunt into the bizarre would do just fine electing to CHILL with Death Note.

Demonic


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at supernatural horror movie, Demonic.


When a group of friends attempt to summon the spirits of the ghosts that haunt not only a house but also one of their own…they’ll leave only a confused police officer behind to piece together the tragic mystery surrounding all of their deaths…in Demonic.

A LACK OF RESPECT

Demonic, from writer-director Will Canon, is a terrible movie. It is filled with terrible actors reciting terrible dialog directed in a terrible manner. It is, without question, an 83-minute waste of time.

When the movie isn’t giving us the boring build-up to the least interesting seance gone wrong ever, it’s also trying to tell it’s own sequel. In it, Frank Grillo’s Detective Lewis is trying to solve the gruesome murder of several young men and women. And it jumps back and forth so frequently between the two stories, that the movie never manages to build up any momentum or some semblance of emotional investment in either.

Worse, the movie never makes so much as an attempt to be clever. It never dares to be different. And that means those involved either had no clue what they doing or they were fully aware of the terrible movie they were smugly serving up to audiences.

And in either case, I will not tolerate a movie that blatantly flaunts its distinct lack of quality or respect for its audience. A bad movie is a bad movie–no one sets out to make one. But people are prone to equating confidence with quality. And they are most definitely prone to making a quick buck.

It is a sincere hope that nobody else will waste their time by watching this error in judgment after hearing that Demonic is a big, fat NO CHILL.

Exeter


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at supernatural horror film Exeter!


When a group of friends party hard at an abandoned mental institution, they’ll not only wake up the next morning a little worse for wear but also at the mercy of a malicious spirit eager to possess and kill everyone…in Exeter.

GRINDING OF GEARS

Exeter, from director Marcus Nispel, is a twenty-minute short film stretched into a ninety-minute feature. It takes some twenty minutes for the plot to get moving. And whenever things finally seem set on shifting into a higher gear, it stalls again and again as if we’re watching the director learn to drive stick for the first time. And, if you listen closely, you can hear the grinding of the gears as the movie goes back and forth between a fairly straightforward bit of teen horror to something more tongue-in-cheek.

Simply put, this movie is slow, clumsy, and a bit of a hot mess.

SOMETHING KEY IS MISSING

Now, that said, Exeter is shot well. The actors are well cast. The performances are serviceable bordering on good. And even the blood and gore, as long as it takes for the movie to get to it, manages to be a bit more creative than it probably had any right to be–especially given how the rest of the movie actively attempts to underwhelm.

Had we been presented with some semblance of a story, a character arc that saw some sort of development to fill in the crack and gaps between the scares and actions and occasional (possibly unintentional) laughs, then Exeter would easily be a must-see.

But as is, your mileage is sure to vary should you find it in yourself to give Exeter a spin. Just don’t be too surprised if you find yourself looking to jump out the window the first chance you get.

So all that having been said:

While I’m sure there are those who will not only be interested in Exeter but actually enjoy it, I must give this one a NO CHILL, as I don’t believe that most who start the movie will actually finish it.

Love Bites

SYNOPSIS:

A playboy meets his match when he falls hard for a strong, beautiful woman. But when he gives in to his old ways, he finds himself going from a relationship that would have lasted forever to being on the menu.


Seven story concepts–and two-thirds of a screenplay–in only ten days. Lots of writing, lots of work, and lots of fun. This one is a lot newer than the past six, being something I originally conceived and tinkered with back in August of last year.

I always loved Tales from the Crypt for being a campy but still dark and morbid take on horror in which the wicked and selfish get punished. Twilight Zone episodes were morality plays abut people learning the errors of their ways (if sometimes a bit too late), but it was rarely a malicious lesson. But Crypt was frequently cackling at how it tortured its characters. And sometimes we just need to see the bad guy or some jackass get theirs.

Be sure to join me each night over on Twitch to chat along as I type like a monkey at a keyboard. 


INT. BAR – NIGHT

A man, CARLOS, picks up a beautiful YOUNG WOMAN at a bar.

INT. LUXURY APARTMENT – NIGHT

In the darkness of a big, luxurious apartment, Carlos and the Young Woman fuck like animals.

And then his GIRLFRIEND, a slightly older, professional woman, returns home to find Carlos and the Young Woman mid-coitus.

The Girlfriend attempts to kill Carlos.

Carlos narrowly escapes.

INT. FRIEND’S APARTMENT – NIGHT

Carlos arrives at his FRIEND’s home, half-naked and exhausted, looking for sanctuary and a couch to sleep on.

The Friend, married with children, attempts to give Carlos advice about women but Carlos won’t hear it. He lives a wild life and he can’t help but give into his primal urges.

INT. BAR – NIGHT

As Carlos works his new job as a bartender, he meets a strange, alluring if OLDER WOMAN.

The two speak briefly and a spark passes between them. She’s not Carlos’ type but she is aggressive and knows exactly what she wants, not at all caring for baggage, embracing Carlos’ selfish and shallow personality.

INT. FRIEND’S APARTMENT – DAY

As he speaks with his friend, Carlos brings up the woman from work. That he might be a bit smitten by her allure as much as he is her wealth.

INT. BAR – NIGHT

At work, the Carlos and the woman continue to talk. He eventually agrees to meet up with her for a little private time.

SERIES OF SHOTS

Carlos and the Older Woman engage in a whirlwind affair, starting with a seemingly innocent public meeting, dinner and a movie, and then sex. Crazy, wonderful sex unlike anything he’s experienced before.

INT. APARTMENT – DAY

Carlos brags openly about his affair with the Older Woman. The places they go, the things they do. The things they do together.

INT. PENTHOUSE – NIGHT

After another exhausting fling that lasts until the break of dawn, as he prepares to leave, Carlos confesses to the woman that he enjoys their time together. That she gets him. She’s happy to hear it, as she’s developed feelings for him as well. There’s so much she wants to tell him. And so they set up a date to talk about things further.

INT. LUXURY APARTMENT – DAY

That night as he works, Carlos has a moment of weakness and hooks up with an old flame.

INT APARTMENT – DAY

Carlos confesses his failure to his friend, insisting it was a moment of weakness and nothing more. He really has changed. Really cares about his new flame.

INT. PENTHOUSE – NIGHT

Carlos confronts the Older Woman, guilt-ridden and ready to confess to his infidelity. He finds her in the shower, bathing in the blood of Carlos’ now-dead (ex-)Girlfriend.

The Older Woman reveals that she’s a vampire, that she believed Carlos would be the one she’d spend eternity with. But he’s just like all the others, unfaithful, selfish.

Carlos begs her for forgiveness, that he wants to spend forever with her. But it’s too late and she rips his throat open.

FADE TO BLACK:

THE END