• Saw II (2005)

    The Jigsaw killer is back and only Detective Donnie Wahlberg can stop him. The movie opens with a guy falling victim to a Jigsaw game. The detective is called in to identify the body and becomes much more involved in the investigation. They catch Jigsaw, but it’s never that easy and a new game begins with the detective’s son and a group of people locked inside a death trap house. Can the detective figure out where they are and rescue his son before the time runs out?

    There are plenty of twists and gory death scenes. It manages to keep things fresh without sacrificing too many believable elements.

    Unfortunately, it didn’t have the same suspense or impact as the first movie. Some of the performances were a bit ham-fisted and the characters weren’t as dynamic, making it hard to invest in their struggles.

    I really liked how the killer became front and center after being captured, which is the opposite of the first movie keeping him shrouded in obscurity. Usually, I don’t like it when then monster/killer is revealed or too exposed, but this kind of works as a reversal of movie traditions.

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  • XX (2017)

    Horror anthology movies are still alive and well. While this is nowhere near as good as Creepshow or Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, it does have its moments.

    Of the four, I liked the third one the best. It was called “Don’t Fall” and involved a group of campers who find some cave paintings that serve as a warning. One of the friends becomes possessed by a deadly spirit in the night and goes after the other friends.

    The second story “The Birthday Party” was more funny than scary, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

    The other two stories were just average, and frankly, pretty unmemorable. In “The Box.” some guy on a train shows a kid what’s in his present box, which inexplicably causes the boy to stop eating. Anorexia is pretty terrifying, but I just didn’t get what this one was trying to do. Then, “Her Only Living Son” was about the child of Satan or something.

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  • Saw (2004)

    This is the movie that revitalized the horror genre in the early 2000s and launched a new franchise that has, so far, spanned eight films.

    Two dudes wake up in a nasty bathroom chained to opposite ends of the room. It is revealed that some sick individual has kidnapped and placed them in this room as a kind of twisted game. One of the dudes is told he must kill the other dude by 6 o’clock or else his family will be murdered.

    At its core, the story is quite simple, but there are many intricately designed parts that keep it interesting. It’s like watching an escape room play out with the highest stakes possible.

    It is really hard to believe that the budget was $1.2 million. Danny Glover and Cary Elwes each should have made more than that for their roles. If this is what can be done with a shoestring budget, why are there so many mega budget movies that stink?

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  • Cabin Fever (2002)

    A group of college kids decides to take a nice little break from the college grind by going to a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Little do they know that an infectious disease is starting to spread in the area and shit’s about to get real ugly.

    This is Eli Roth’s first movie and while this seems like an obvious premise that has been done too many times to count, what makes it different is the way it’s delivered. The characters and dialogue are both fresh and fun. In particular, the sheriff’s deputy is hilarious and there are a couple of scenes with a weird kid that add some quirkiness to the mix.

    The cast includes Rider Strong, James DeBello, and Joey Kern. There is so much blood and gooey guts. It’s nasty. All in all, it’s a fun time to be had.

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  • Final Destination 2 (2003)

    Death, uh, finds a way… Why couldn’t they get Jeff Goldblum to be in these movies? Then at least there would be one thing worth watching.

    A year after the events of the first movie, a girl named Kimberly has a premonition about a bad highway accident and manages to escape the mayhem unharmed along with a bunch of motorists who never made it onto the highway.

    With the help of a police deputy who was also spared from the accident, Kimberly discovers connections to the people who cheated death on Flight 180 before perishing in horrible freak accidents. They enlist the help of Ali Larter’s character from the first movie and things get really ridiculous when the characters “figure everything out” and “connect all the dots” about how death is stalking them and who is going to die next.

    I found this movie to be incredibly boring with a hair-brained premise that only gets worse as it tries to explain the absurdities away. It’s like when you lie and then you have to keep adding lies to sell the original lie and it compounds and grows and eventually the lying fatigue sets in. Yeah, it’s exactly like that.

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  • I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

    It was the late 90s and teen horror movies were super popular. It all started with Scream and just kept growing. Like Scream, this movie was also written by the teen horror master, Kevin Williamson. The main cast consists of Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr, and Ryan Phillippe. The movie starts with the four kids having fun and making bad decisions. As they drive on a winding road after having too much to drink, they run over a fisherman and presumably kill him. They try to dump the body and the guy wakes up.

    Flash forward to a year later, the four haven’t spoken to each other much. Jennifer’s character receives a note suggesting that someone out there knows what they did. The panic sets in and the four re-group, but still refuse to go to the cops about the whole ordeal.

    A big guy in a fisherman’s slicker and hat starts killing people with a hook. He’s clearly after the group as a form of revenge for the murder of the poor guy that fateful night. Who is the fisherman killer? Who knows what they did?

    This movie is missing something that Scream had and just never feels like it’s quite ready for prime time. Sure, all the elements are there, but the characters are pretty flat and the story just never pulls the viewer in. Why should I care if these rich d-bag manslaughtering teens survive or not?

    Hey, at least they didn’t put any Creed songs in the soundtrack.

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  • Idle Hands (1999)

    This is teen horror comedy at its best. Devon Sawa plays stoner/slacker/dumbass Anton Tobias. His parents are brutally murdered on Halloween… [spoiler] by Anton’s hand. It is revealed that his hand is the murderer when he also offs his best friends played by Seth Green and Elden Henson, who return from the grave as zombie bros. Jessica Alba rounds out the cast as the love interest of Anton.

    Anton becomes increasingly frustrated with the possessed hand and chops it off. Then you got Vivica A. Fox as the druid who knows everything about the evil hand spirit and what needs to be done to kill it. She’s been tracking the hand spirit for some time.

    While the hand is attached to Anton, he has some control over what it can/can’t do, but after hacking it off with a meat clever, it starts doing whatever it wants. Plenty of blood and bodies to go around.

    My only real complaint is that it kind of drags a bit in the middle when there is a lot of looking around for the hand. There are also a couple dumb parts where the jokes don’t work as well as they should.

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  • Phantoms (1998)

    Based on a shitty novel by Dean Koontz, this horror thriller features an all star cast and little else. The story is bland and derivative. Like every other Invasion of the Body Snatchers or alien takeover movie, there is not a single thing this one tries to do differently.

    Peter O’Toole, Ben Affleck, Rose McGowan, and Liev Schreiber are the A-ish list cast that really holds this thing together. Actually, they are equivalent to popsicle sticks.

    It starts out mysterious and that is interesting for maybe 10 minutes. The scares are pretty obvious and mostly just jump scares. There is a bit of atmospheric eeriness, but it doesn’t really build the suspense like some others have.

    I will say that Liev Schrieber was entertaining as one of the sheriff deputies. All you really need to know is that Ben Affleck’s character is named Bryce…

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  • Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

    Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews), the kid who has been fighting Jason Voorhees since he was a young boy, is back as an adult. The movie starts with Tommy and his friend going to destroy whatever remains of Jason’s body at a cemetery, but a lightning strike resurrects Jason and we have ourselves a horror sequel.

    Tommy tries to warn everyone that Jason is back, but the sheriff gets pissed and locks him up. No one believes poor Tommy and the bodies just keep piling up. Luckily, the sheriff’s beautiful daughter has the hots for Tommy and will help him in his quest to stop the undead murderer once and for all.

    As the movie progresses, we are introduced to various characters who are clearly just there to be the next victims of Jason. Sometimes it is people playing paintball in the woods, sometimes it is camp counselors. When Jason gets his machete, you know there will be blood.

    The final showdown occurs at the camp when Tommy concocts a plan to anchor Jason to the bottom of the lake with a big rock. Tommy’s not a smart guy, but he means well.

    As far as Friday the 13th movies go, this is one of the best. If you take it for what it is, it’s quite enjoyable. The performances are acceptable. There is a tongue-in-cheek aspect where the filmmakers were trying to play with the clichés of the series. The deaths are mostly pretty clever. It’s just good, clean slasher fun.

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  • Near Dark (1987)

    This is one of those cult classic vampire movies that always hides just under the radar. The plot centers around Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) whose life changes forever after an encounter with a seductive lady named Mae. She turns him into a vampire and his assimilation with her vampire posse is troublesome when he won’t kill to drink the sweet nectar of the veins. Eventually, Caleb’s dad and sister rescue him and are able to reverse the vampire hold on Caleb.

    The motley group of vamp outlaws is led by Jesse (Lance Henriksen). They go after Caleb and his family in a showdown of epic proportions.

    Bill Paxton is great as the psycho vampire Severen. He sells the ultimate badass character with such ease.

    The music was done by Tangerine Dream and adds the synth atmosphere of a vampire western in the 80s.

    One thing that bothered me was how abruptly it concluded. It definitely felt like the end, but it didn’t give the climax enough time to breathe before the credits rolled.

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