FlixChatter Review – THE WRETCHED (2020)

Written and Directed by: Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce

In The Wretched, 17-year-old Ben (John-Paul Howard) goes to stay with his father (Jamison Jones) in the small summer vacation town where he works. He notices their neighbor, Abbie (Zara Mahler), acting strangely, and soon discovers that she has been inhabited by a witch who preys on children. Along with his new friend Mallory (Piper Curda), Ben fights to defeat this ancient evil being.

Like many teen horror movies, The Wretched is pretty underwhelming. There’s nothing particularly inspired about the cinematography or direction, the characters feel like cliches, and melodramatic music nearly always plays right before the unimpressive jump scares (although there was one really good jump scare involving a baby toy that actually got me). The dialogue feels like most teen horror movie dialogue written between 1999 and now, although the actors mostly make it work.

That said, it’s not a bad movie. The special effects are pretty good, mostly practical and not over-reliant on CGI, and I really liked the creepy, saggy skin makeup for the witch. It was refreshing watching a movie with a unique antagonist (not that there aren’t other horror movies with witches, obviously, but this movie has its own interesting interpretation). As I mentioned before, the acting is pretty good, and there are some surprisingly talented kid actors in the cast. And the twist near the end genuinely surprised me without feeling like it was unearned; there’s some decent foreshadowing leading up to it.

While The Wretched isn’t an amazing horror film, it’s still entertaining enough, and at a little over an hour and a half run time, it’s a relatively quick, easy watch. If you like horror, are easily scared, and this happens to be on a streaming service you have, you might enjoy this movie.

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Have you seen THE WRETCHED? Let us know what you think!

FlixChatter Review – Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Like so many 80’s and 90’s kids, my sister and I grew up loving the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy. While the short stories written by Alvin Schwartz are mostly variations of standard urban legends and folk tales, the original illustrations by Stephen Gammell are what really haunted us; the black and white nightmare imagery is enough to spook anyone at any age. So when it was announced that Guillermo del Toro would be producing a movie based on the series, I was ecstatic; who better to adapt these iconic books to film than the modern-day master of monster movies? But when I heard it would be a PG-13 teen horror, I deflated a bit. Would the tamer rating diminish the unsettling tone of the books and dull Del Toro’s beautifully-dark style?

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark begins on Halloween night in 1968 in a small Pennsylvania town, when a group of teens (Stella, played by Zoe Margaret Colletti; Ramón, played by Michael Garza; Auggie, played by Gabriel Rush; and Chuck, played by Austin Zajur) sneak into an abandoned house rumored to be haunted and find a mysterious old book belonging to the even more mysterious previous tenant, Sarah Bellows (Kathleen Pollard). Soon after taking the book, the group is horrified to discover stories about them being written in it by an unseen hand in a suspiciously blood-like ink, and as the stories appear on the pages, they come to life in the real world.

Right away, I have to say the writing is messy. Using the overarching story of the kids finding this haunted book and having to solve Sarah Bellows’s mystery in order to incorporate the stories from the books into the movie leads to convoluted plot points, unrealistic character decisions that are too stupid to even suspend disbelief, and some truly cringe-worthy dialogue (“You don’t read the book-the book reads you” made my sister and me audibly groan). I really wish they had made it into an anthology-style movie so they could have fit in a few more stories from the books; there could have still been some connective tissue tying them together, a la 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat. It would have been a more succinct style of storytelling and felt less like a Goosebumps plot.

Despite the problems I have with the script, I was very pleased with the actual “scary story” bits. They were all excruciatingly and exquisitely suspenseful (“The Big Toe” scene had me clutching my sister’s sleeve and whispering “Oh no oh no oh no”), the creatures were terrifyingly designed in true Del Toro fashion while still retaining the look of Gammell’s illustrations, and they managed to make some stories I thought were pretty silly in the books (specifically “Me Tie Doughty Walker”) genuinely scary.

Acting-wise, the cast did well. Despite the lame jokes they were given, Gabriel Rush and Austin Zajur’s line delivery made me laugh out loud a few times, and Zoe Margaret Colletti and Michael Garza had some nice chemistry as Stella and Ramón. I also really enjoyed the score; the eerie melody to The Hearse Song is used effectively throughout the movie, and it sticks with you after you leave the theater.

Despite the story being underwhelming, I’d still recommend checking out Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark if you were a fan of the books, just for nostalgia’s sake. It’s a fun enough Halloween movie with some solid jump scares, and it’s probably a good intro to the genre for young, budding horror fans. [SPOILER ALERT – highlight to read] Is it good enough to warrant the sequel-baiting sting at the end? I don’t think so. But if you see it, let me know what you think!

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Have you seen Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review – Truth or Dare (2018)

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Directed By: Jeff Wadlow
Written By: Jillian Jacobs, Michael Reisz, Christopher Roach, Jeff Wadlow
Runtime: 1h 40min

When I first saw the preview for Truth or Dare, I thought it looked pretty stupid, but I did my best to keep an open mind going into the screening. I’ve been surprised before by horror movies that ended up being better than I expected, like Ouija: Origin of Evil and Annabelle: Creation. Plus, it’s from Blumhouse Productions, a company that specializes in horror movies, including the Oscar-winning Get Out. Maybe there was hope for this cheesy-looking teen horror film. Spoiler: there was not.

In Truth or Dare, a group of college students (Lucy Hale as Olivia, Tyler Posey as Lucas, Violett Beane as Markie, Sophia Ali as Penelope, Nolan Gerard Funk as Tyson, Hayden Szeto as Brad, and Sam Lerner as Ronnie) go to Mexico for spring break, where they join a stranger from a bar, Carter (Landon Liboiron) to an abandoned church, where they play the movie’s titular game. What seems like an innocent activity is something much more sinister that follows them home and forces them to continue playing, answering heartbreaking truths and performing life-threatening dares. If they refuse to play, they die.

The idea of a horror movie centered around truth or dare isn’t awful. If they had kept most of the action in one location-namely, the abandoned church- it could have felt more claustrophobic and tense, and it would have given them more time to develop the characters and make the stakes feel higher. However, this movie feels more like a lazy CW or MTV teen melodrama with demonic possession sprinkled in. The characters range from painfully bland to irredeemably unlikeable. If they were just going to make another horror movie where a bunch of teens are killed off (and there have been so many over the past few decades), they should have done something new with it-like maybe don’t kill off the few queer or POC characters in the film, or develop the characters better so there’s some emotional impact when they die.

I could almost forgive the boring “teens die one by one” storyline if the movie was at least consistently scary, but it really isn’t. The majority of the film is taken up by cheap jump scares. To be fair, there are a few genuinely suspenseful moments; there’s one longer scene that is really well done where an extremely drunk Penelope (Sophia Ali) is dared to walk around the edge of a roof until she finishes drinking the bottle of vodka in her hand, and there’s some buildup to an actually good jump scare involving Brad (Hayden Szeto) and a corpse in a hospital. However, scenes like this are few and far between, and they’re mostly buried in bad dialogue and cheap jump scares.

The worst part, though, was the face. Oh, God, the face. Whenever anyone is possessed by the demon forcing the students to play the game, that person’s face is contorted into this wide, warped smile that I assume is supposed to be creepy and unsettling, but it’s just hilarious. All I could think was that it looks like the troll face meme.

IT’S SO STUPID. One of the characters mentions the face looks like a bad SnapChat filter. ACKNOWLEDGING IT DOESN’T EXCUSE IT FROM BEING BAD, YOU GUYS. Come on, Blumhouse! I know you can do better! I’ve seen movies you’ve produced with truly chilling special effects! This just looks like when we all discovered you could add goofy filters to your Mac Book webcam ten years ago.
f you’re very easily scared and are bored, maybe catch this once it’s on Netflix, but don’t waste your time or money on seeing it in theaters.

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Have you seen ‘Truth or Dare’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review – Happy Death Day (2017)

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Directed By: Christopher Landon
Written By: Scott Lobdell
Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine
Runtime: 1h 36min

After lucking out with the last two horror movies I’ve reviewed (Annabelle: Creation and IT) being fantastic, I figured I was due for a disappointing one, and Happy Death Day looked like it would fit the bill. The title sounds like a D-list 90’s horror movie you’d find on Amazon Prime, and the synopsis is basically teen horror Groundhog Day. My hopes for this film were not high.

In Happy Death Day, sorority girl Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) re-lives the same day over and over, from waking up in fellow student Carter Davis (Israel Broussard)’s dorm room after a drunken night, to butting heads with frenemy Danielle (Rachel Matthews) and roommate Lori (Ruby Modine), to being murdered by a mysterious masked figure every night. Tree uses each repeat trying to discover the identity of her killer and survive their attack, hopefully escaping the loop.

Despite the trailers advertising this movie as straight horror, it’s actually more of a dark comedy. This made it more enjoyable, as it wasn’t just another teen slasher film. There’s a decent amount of physical comedy, and there’s some genuinely funny dialogue, especially from mean girl sorority president Danielle. While it’s not a typical horror movie, it has some good suspenseful moments and tense build-ups. Tree’s character arc is surprisingly well-done, incorporating her background into the story without the exposition being too clunky.

All of this isn’t enough to make this a great movie, however. The concept obviously isn’t original, and the one throwaway comment about its similarity to cult classic Groundhog Day they tack on at the very end doesn’t change the fact that the storyline is unoriginal and will be compared to the 90’s movie by most people who see it. While the identity of the murderer isn’t predictable, the reveal is forced and their reason for their actions is the product of clearly lazy writing. Lastly, the mask the killer wears throughout the movie is pretty ridiculous even by cheesy slasher movie standards. While I assume the oversized baby face mask is meant to be creepy and unsettling, it just looks goofy, and I cracked up every time I saw it on screen.

Despite its problems, Happy Death Day is a surprisingly fun movie, although if you’re looking for a more typical horror movie, you might want to skip it. If you catch it on TV or streaming, though, it’s worth a watch.

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Have you seen ‘Happy Death Day’? Well, what did you think?