Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Veil

Title: The Veil
Release Date: 2016
Score: 3.5 out of 4

I love it when around half-way through a haunted house movie the characters actually realize the place is haunted, and aren't pretending its normal rational explainable stuff. This is one of those movies and so it satisfied me greatly. In this case, its a haunted compound in the middle of the woods that was the site of a Jonestown-esque massive cult suicide, which, to no audience member's surprise - is haunted.

An obsessed filmmaker who lost her father after his deep obsession with the case, and the girl who was the only survivor, now all grown-up are the main drivers of the plot, and are reasonably well developed. The film crew is much less fleshed out, and seem to be merely fodder for the evil presence still infesting the camp. But there's way more going on in this movie than a simple haunting, or psychological obsession, or gruesome found footage (which are all present). There are mysteries, and questions raised that kept me engaged until the end.

It features a surprisingly strong performance from Jessica Alba as the filmmaker, but the definite star was Lily Rabe, a relative new-comer, who played the mysterious girl Sarah Hope, now an adult with some serious neuroses.

What I liked the most was how normal-person the characters acted. While they certainly should have left the compound several times, there were compelling reasons for them to stay. They reacted like real people would do the situations that arose and that was great. Too many times have I seem movies where they think they can get away with characters who make decisions on a sub-moronic level because its "just" a horror movie.

So, it had me rolling my eyes a few times but it was a pretty good movie. I can't say that it actually scared me on any level but it was refreshing to see realistic characters dealing with a horror movie scenario, and it enough interesting subplots to keep the movie from going stale with slow pacing.

I would love to see more mid-budget horror movies with professional actors, especially if they're as good as this or better.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Abandoned

Title: The Abandoned
Release Date: 2015
Rating: 2.5 out of 4

A fitting title for this post, the first in over two years! Oh well, they are still making horror movies, so I guess I'll still review them.

This is a good example of poor pacing, with fits and stops, slow lingering shots of nothing, and then lots of action all at once. I think the screenwriters stuck to one of those formulas they talk about in How To Write Screenplays books, and it just doesn't work to this film's advantage. Instead of feeling like a roller-coaster it's more like a stationary booth that occasionally shakes around.

I saw some good acting from Jason Patric, and some middling to poor acting from Louise Krause. The whole film is basically these two actor's characters as they spend their time doing security for a big opulent yet empty building overnight. Its a great premise, but on execution its much less spooky than it sounds. Krause plays "Streak," who's having her first night on the job, overseen by her counterpart Cooper, a sexist alcoholic with a good heart buried underneath a rough exterior.

Streak uncovers a portion of the building that is "off limits," and ignores that and delves right in. That's when ghosties (or are they hallucinations?) start to creep around and the suspense picks up. Honestly, its a real slog with just enough interesting moments to keep you watching until the end.

I have to say, however, the last 5 minutes, where the twist is revealed, I found to be very fulfilling and well-done. It breaks through its chains of psychological thriller cliches and ends up being something refreshing, and even, dare I say it, original.

I want to see more from the filmmaking duo Eytan Rockaway and Ido Fluk, but I want to see something bolder, less hemmed in by conventions and formulas. I am convinced they have it in them to do better.