Posts Tagged ‘2000s’

Dead Silence (2007)

Posted: August 10, 2013 in 4 stars, Reviews
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I’m a big James Wan fan, so I was pleased to find that Dead Silence is a tremendously underrated piece of Gothic awesomeness.

From the opening sequence, illustrating the process of creating a ventriloquist’s dummy (which is FUCKING HORRIFYING and  reinforced my conviction that only someone with several screws loose would be party to such an abomination), the cinematography is full of beautiful desaturated blues and greys and splashes of vivid red.  The score is ominous and effective.  The visual effects are a delight and never serve as a meaningless distraction from what’s going on in the scene.  This is just a damn well-put-together film.

But is it scary?  Well, yes.  It probably helps if you hold the correct viewpoint, which is that ventriloquist’s dummies are inherently evil offenses against the very fabric of the universe, but it’s scary.  Though honestly a better word might be creepy, because while the scary parts only come once in a while, the creepiness is unrelenting from the first frame to the last.

Our hero, Jamie (Ryan Kwanten), has escaped his small-town childhood to move to the Big City, only to have his childhood track him down in the form of a ventriloquist’s dummy named Billy who is delivered to his door in an unmarked package.  Jamie’s wife (Laura Regan) thinks this is hilarious – for about the fifteen minutes that it takes Jamie to go get takeout and come back to a bloodbath in his apartment and a dead wife missing her tongue.  This all ties in to the local legend of Mary Shaw (Judith Roberts, who is ridiculously beautiful without the cadaver makeup and amazingly terrifying in this role), a ventriloquist who died mysteriously and had all her dolls buried around her in little graves like dead children. Now she’s a ghost haunting the small town and killing off entire families, and if she catches you with your mouth open, she rips out your tongue.  (This poses a particular problem for Jamie, bless him, who appears to have adenoids and as far as I can tell never closes his mouth during the entire movie.)

Needless to say, Jamie’s determination to find out who killed his wife takes him across Mary’s path pretty fast, with disastrous and not entirely predictable results.

Jamie is that rarest of horror movie heroes – the guy who, when a creepy old lady tells him what to do to stop the killing, does it immediately and without question.  Unfortunately, it’s just as promptly undone by the cop (Donnie Wahlberg) following him around trying to pin his wife’s murder on him.  I liked Jamie; he was sympathetic and not unintelligent, and though he shows the occasional lapse in judgment, they’re largely because he’s having a hard time believing that a ghost and a ventriloquist’s dummy are actually running around carving people up.  Bob Gunton and Amber Valetta are excellent as Jamie’s estranged father and his faintly disturbing new stepmother, and Wahlberg is surprisingly watchable as the hapless New York cop who by halfway through the movie probably had just as awful a phobia of small-town America as I do.

The movie’s only real flaw was its ending.  The alternate ending is on the DVD, and I’m not sure I don’t prefer that one.  The ending that made it into the film is a little puzzling – it comes across as “I have spent the entire movie telling people not to do Thing X, but now I’m going to do Thing X myself for apparently no better reason than that it’s time for the movie to end,” and then the credits roll while you’re staring at the screen wondering if you missed something.  The alternate end needed some editing, but maybe something halfway between would have been better.

So what’s the verdict?  Despite the shakiness of the ending, I’m giving Dead Silence four stars.  It’s actually more like three and three-quarters, but I’ll round up.  Insidious is a better movie, but Dead Silence is a worthy precursor, and has the virtue of not containing Darth Maul.

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In a way, I don’t like reviewing Japanese movies I didn’t love.  I just feel like they’re too high-context and I don’t have the cultural understanding to judge their merits accurately.  Like, I don’t understand what’s scary about hair, in the first place, and now I have to try to figure out what’s scary about basketballs.  (Spoiler: I did not figure out what was scary about basketballs.)

White Ghost/Black Ghost is actually two short films, both of which are supposed to fit into the whole Ju-On mythos.  White Ghost involves a family moving into the Grudge house and coming to a nasty end at the hands of the oldest son.  The story’s told in a flash-forward/flashback framework that bounces back and forth between a number of characters, all of whom have had a glancing encounter with someone or something involved in the murder, and all of whom come to a bad end.  There are some good bits and some effective scares, but the movie as a whole balances precariously on the boundary between effective and ineffective.

It’s still sort of balancing there, unresolved.  It probably would have been a grim, unsettling little movie if the ghost hadn’t, bewilderingly, been a tiny little old lady carrying around a basketball like she was going to beat someone to death with it.  Every time she came on the screen I just sat there, staring at her, going “What?  No, seriously, what?

I mean, the rest of the movie I liked.  I didn’t love it, but I thought it was good at conveying the sheer random nastiness of how the curse can just screw up your life if you so much as walk past it on the street.  (The poor cake delivery guy, holy crap.)  If it hadn’t had a ghost who made me stop dead in my tracks and go “What? What in the hell can possibly be scary about a little old lady with delusions of being a Harlem Globetrotter?” then I’d probably have been a lot more impressed.

Black Ghost, about a girl with an ingested twin who’s thoroughly pissed off about not being born, is widely considered to be inferior to the first movie.  I can’t decide if I agree with that or not, but I’m leaning toward no.  Certainly it’s less clever and stylish, but a couple of the scares were far creepier, and the only thing that made me go “Okay, no, seriously now” was the throat-creaky thing the ghosts will insist on doing even though I did that all the time as a child and it wasn’t scary then either.  It also gets bonus points for containing an exorcist, thus instantly transforming it into a sort of live-action crossover between The Grudge and Tactics.

Black Ghost is a lot more straightforward a horror movie than White Ghost, which is both a strength and a weakness – there are no distractions from the story, but the story itself is a little banal, and it could be that some distraction wouldn’t have done it harm.  On the other hand, White Ghost is a prime example of how even a clever movie can be derailed by by that one thing that’s just a little too distracting.

So what’s the verdict?  I went back and forth between a low three-star rating and a high two-star rating.  In the end, though, it only gets two, both because of Grandma With a Basketball (seriously, what?) and because of the over-reliance on creaky throat noises.

The Echo (2008)

Posted: September 17, 2012 in 3 stars, Reviews, The Echo
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Well, damn.  Thank you, The Echo.

I’ve been on a real losing streak with regard to my choice of movies lately.  The Echo broke that streak nicely and provided me with an actually enjoyable viewing experience.  Behold:

1.  It looked like an honest to god movie, filmed with legitimate movie-filming equipment by people who had a production budget containing more than four digits.  (Unlike The Pact and Absentia.)

2.  The actors behaved like people receiving a paycheck to convince me that they are real human beings to whom strange and frightening things are happening.  (The Pact and Absentia again.)

3.  The movie made sense, and the action and pacing were tight, with no scenes that looked like they wandered in from a completely different movie.  (The Yellow Wallpaper.)

4.  I liked the characters.  Yes, even the guy who just got out of jail for manslaughter.  Not even once in this movie did I petition God to kill off one of the protagonists.  (Wicked Little Things.)

5.  The ending suited the movie and did not appear to be inserted in there at random.  (The Pact, The Yellow Wallpaper.)

Okay, so all this sounds like it’s damning with faint praise.  But I think even if I’d seen it after, say, Stir of Echoes, I’d still have enjoyed this movie.

East Village denizen Bobby (Jesse Bradford), newly released from prison on an involuntary manslaughter charge, comes home to the apartment where his mother died while he was in the joint.  He tries to reconnect with his friends, who largely want nothing to do with him now, and his adorable ex-girlfriend Alyssa (Amelia Warner), who sort of wants nothing to do with him but is willing to be convinced.  As he’s dealing with cleaning out his mother’s things and working through his grief, he starts hearing all sorts of unpleasant things – scratching, whispers, the guy next door beating his family.

Things just get weirder from there.  The things he hears and sees get worse.  He finds out some unpleasant things about the state of his mother’s mental health.  The family next door gets more and more disturbing.  Alyssa starts hearing things too.  Of course, it turns out that what’s going on is GHOSTS, and you know how pissy ghosts get if you don’t figure out what they want and give it to them.

The Echo is cut from the same cloth as Red Sands and Forget Me Not – it’s a low-budget, unmarketed, unassuming movie that you don’t have high expectations of until you watch it and it turns out against all expectations to be really good.  Bradford and the script between them did an amazing job of getting me invested in Bobby; the scenes where he’s wandering around sort of lost in his mother’s apartment, trying to figure out what to do with her things, are genuinely sad.  The creepiness factor starts early, ramps up slowly but inexorably, and carries through right until the end.  There’s just enough injection of social issues to give it bite but not enough to make it preachy, which is a balance almost no one ever manages to strike.

The tagline says it’s from the executive producers of The Ring and The Grudge.  I don’t know what executive producers do so I don’t know how significant that really is, but the movie does carry that faint vibe of a good American remake of a good foreign movie, so you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s a remake or adaptation or something of a 2004 Filipino movie of the same name.  I haven’t seen the original, but that’s fine with me – the remake was satisfying enough.

So what’s the verdict?  Three stars.  Not only is it worth a watch, I may add it to my DVD library.

Generally speaking, it’s not the best of signs when, 30 seconds into the movie, I start going “Jesus take the wheel, isn’t that douchebag dead YET?”, and continue wondering aloud – at 30-second intervals like a back-seat toddler who has to pee – why that douchebag is not, in fact, dead yet.  In this movie the douchebag in question is possibly the most obnoxious and odious teen character I’ve seen in about fifteen movies now, and sadly, there’s not much about Wicked Little Things that compensated me for having to tolerate her presence onscreen.

 
A new widow (Lori Heuring), left destitute by her husband’s death, is forced to move to a really unfortunate house in the Pennsylvania woods.  She’s accompanied by her two daughters, Douchebag Chick (Scout Taylor-Compton) and the obligatory little kid whose complete lack of a self-preservation instinct will inevitably lead her to make friends with the monsters (Chloë Grace Moretz).  The monsters in question are a group of undead grade-schoolers who, at some point in the unspecified past, were all killed in an explosion in the mine they worked in.  Now they’re wandering around the hills seeking revenge on the kin of the mine’s owner.

Here’s the problem: kids in pancake makeup aren’t actually scary.  I mean, clearly there are enough people with an irrational fear of children to support an entire horror movie cliche built around the lazy-ass idea that a child sharing screen space with splashing blood is automatically terrifying regardless of how it’s filmed, but I feel like they could at least have made a little more effort with the cinematography.  Even though you know exactly who and what they are, the kids actually sort of manage to be scary when they’re not onscreen; when they are, you’re just like “Oh look, child actors in pancake makeup.”

 
There are places where Wicked Little Things is pretty effective, owing largely to the ability of the adult actors to convince us – in spite of all available evidence – that something frightening is going on.  I commend it as well for its admirable lack of reliance on cheap jump scares (there were only a handful, well below par for this type of movie).  The gore was about in proportion, what there was of it; it’s hard to count zombie kids eating raw pork as gore when it mostly just looks like they went too heavy on the barbecue sauce.

So what’s the verdict?  Two stars.  I’d have liked to give it more than that, but every time I started thinking it might be a three-star movie, my screen would suddenly be full of pancake-makeup-wearing moppets earworming me with that annoying “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go” song.  I don’t know, maybe if you think kids are scary then you’ll find the movie scarier than I did.  All in all, it wasn’t a bad movie; just not a terribly good one.

Also, Douchebag Chick.  I might actually have been willing to tack on that third star if she’d died horribly, just as a reward, but unfortunately she lived through the movie.

You know what’s awesome?  Scratching the surface of an almost-direct-to-video movie on Netflix and finding, against all odds, that you’ve unearthed a clever, involving, genuinely creepy film.

Sandy (Carly Schroeder) and her friends have this game they play.  In graveyards.  At night.  (You are excused for thinking this sounds like a bad idea already.)  One person is the ghost and goes around tagging other people, who then become ghosts themselves and chase everyone else around until eventually the last person left “alive” is the winner.  One night they’re out playing, and suddenly Random Creepy Chick pops out from behind a tombstone.

RANDOM CREEPY CHICK:  Hey, can I play?  We’ll all just pretend I’m not clearly crazier than a shithouse rat.

SANDY AND FRIENDS:  Er… sure, I guess.

RANDOM CREEPY CHICK:  Sandy!  Don’t you remember me?

SANDY:  Hell no, I think I would have remembered crazy-eye of that impressive degree.

RANDOM CREEPY CHICK:  Ooh!  You’re going to regret that.

And lo and behold, Sandy does.  Not right away; but pretty soon her friends start getting slaughtered one by one.  And here’s the clever part: as soon as they die, they’re basically written out of the universe as if they had never existed.  No one remembers them.  The lives of the survivors are rearranged around the absence, so subtly at first that it legitimately took me a while to figure out what was going on.  And sure enough, the more people die, the more ghosts there are to chase the living around, until eventually there’s only one left.

Now, the “Person X disappears and no one remembers they existed except Person Y” trope is not new, to be sure.  It’s just that it’s done so well here, and you’re allowed to figure out for yourself what’s going on instead of having huge amounts of expository dialogue beating you over the head all the way through.  It doesn’t hurt that the acting is above par and the characters – mirabile dictu – are, despite being teenagers, actually ones I was sorry to see go.  Usually herds of movie teenagers are so unpleasant that it gives me a sort of grim satisfaction to watch them get picked off one by one, but not here.

So what’s the verdict?  I think I need a wider rating scale.  Call this one three and a half stars.  It’s not quite a four-star movie, but it’s head and shoulders above the three-star pack.  It’s creative, respectful of its audience, and genuinely scary in places.  Highly recommended.

The Graveyard (2006)

Posted: March 10, 2012 in 1 star, Reviews
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I’ll say this for The Graveyard – it knows what you’re there for.  It knows you want dudebros and criminally dumb chicks having sex and then getting slaughtered, and it loses no time in giving it to you.  Other, lesser movies may spend valuable screen time screwing around with piddly things like plot, character development, dialogue not written by drunken chimpanzees, suspense as to who the killer is, and realistic portrayal of the passage of time; but not The Graveyard.  It even goes so far as to introduce random characters for thirty seconds for no other reason than to kill them off.

In the setup, Dudebros 1-4 and Dumb Chicks 1-4 (this is an estimate; I couldn’t keep them straight to count them) go to a graveyard to play hide and seek.  No, they’re adults at this point.  Dudebro #4, being It, goes to look for the others and is suddenly!  chased by a knife-wielding man in a mask!  This causes him to trip and land on a rusty gate, impaling himself.

A few years later – after Dudebro #2, who took the rap, has gotten out of prison – they all meet back at a convenient sleepaway camp by the graveyard for “closure.”  And, well, things proceed from there, without a single unpredictable moment – and, sadly, not much in the way of imaginative or entertaining kills.

Well, toward the end of the movie the killer actually utters the words “I’ll take my revenge!”  And not once, no.  That would be insufficient for a movie of this caliber.  He says it no less than four times.  In a row.  Then there are a couple of  “Oh look!  The killer’s not dead!” scares foiled only by the fact that the killer was painfully obviously not actually dead to begin with.

The end holds great promise that everyone involved will die, though.  And since the whole idea behind movies like this is seeing extraordinarily unlikeable people get theirs, I guess that’s something.

So what’s the verdict?  On one hand, I kind of want to give this movie one star because Dudebro #2 was vaguely hot in that horrifying Dudebro way.  On the other hand, “one guy was sort of hot if you ignored his entire personality” is not really a point in a movie’s favor, and God knows this one didn’t have any others.  On the third hand, I feel like the 0-star rating should be reserved for movies so offensively awful that their mere existence makes me despair of the human race, and The Graveyard isn’t that bad.  It’s just, I don’t know, the movie equivalent of those awful orange and black toffee Halloween candies.  So one star it is, I guess.

“The Baby’s Room,” one of six films on Spain’s Films to Keep You Awake compilation, is an entertaining and worthwhile (if not entirely satisfying) film from director Álex de la Iglesia.  I mention the director off the bat because the only other movie of his I’ve seen is the incoherent and tedious The Oxford Murders, so now I consider myself compensated for having sat through the latter movie.

In all honesty, the storyline in “The Baby’s Room” is not a model of coherence either.  I’m still not quite sure how exactly everything happened that happened.  (Ghosts?  Demonic possession?  Quantum physics? What?)  Fortunately, though, it’s an entertaining enough journey that I didn’t feel like I enjoyed the movie less for not having had a cast-iron grip on every single plot detail.

Sports writer Juan, his wife Sonia, and their new baby – walking away with a hands-down victory in the Most Adorable Family in the Horror Canon competition – move into a very large, very old house that should be expensive but wasn’t because (a) it needs renovating, and (b) no one lives there for very long.  I keep trying to find a house like this myself but have thus far been unsuccessful, so I guess people in horror movies are better at house-hunting on Craigslist than I am.

Soon, though, things start falling apart.  Juan and Sonia hear voices from the baby’s room over the monitor, but there’s no one there.  Juan buys a video baby monitor, sees a man actually sitting by the crib, and justly freaks out.  He becomes more and more obsessed with burglars, then with the idea that the house might be haunted, until Sonia gives up and packs the baby off to her mother’s.  This leaves Juan at the house with a wall full of baby video monitors – through which, in a wonderfully creepy set piece, he watches a man murder his wife and baby, in real time, while in the world outside the video camera Juan is alone in the house.

(While all this is going on, by the way, Juan is also having to cope with the demands of his day job.  This is a rather wondrous departure from American horror movies, where hauntings seem to be largely a problem afflicting the independently wealthy.)

Half the fun of The Baby’s Room is trying to figure out exactly what’s going on.  Is Juan seeing an old murder enacted by ghosts?  Is it a recording of the murder stored somehow in the house’s very walls?  Is it a portal to a parallel universe where Juan is actually seeing some sort of mirror-Juan with more than a few screws loose?  Is Juan just cracking up and having hallucinations?  You only actually find out the answer to one of those questions, in a Twilight Zone-ish ending that feels more satisfying than it objectively should; but if you resign yourself to going “Enh, sometimes things are ineffable,” it’s a fun ride anyway.

So what’s the verdict?  Three stars.  I think half the reason I enjoyed this as much as I did is that Juan and Sonia are so engaging.  I’d probably have been a lot less forgiving of the film’s few weaknesses if it was framed around the typical, vaguely off-putting WASP couple beloved of most horror-movie directors, living a life of suspect affluence rudely interrupted by ghosts.  (Disclosure: I watched part of 1999’s In Dreams yesterday before Annette Bening and Aidan Quinn so got on my last nerve that I had to turn it off.)  I can deal with the occasional movie where even the people we’re supposed to sympathize with are pretty unpleasant, but not a steady diet of them; so the charming and unpretentious family in “The Baby’s Room” were a welcome breath of fresh air as well as just being enjoyable to watch.

Anyway, rants about unsympathetic main characters aside, “The Baby’s Room” is definitely worth the watch.  I may have to check out the other five movies in the release.

Right to Die (2007)

Posted: February 18, 2012 in 3 stars, Reviews, Right to Die
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And the 2007 Ed Gein Award for Least Competent Body Disposal in a Work of Film goes to… Dr. Cliff Addison!

Pity poor Cliff (Martin Donovan).  (Or don’t.  He’s a real dick.)  His wife Abbey (Julia Benson) gets hideously burned in a car accident that happened while he was driving.  He’s very sad about that, but he’s also going to be ten million dollars richer once the lawsuit against the car company goes through – unless his mother-in-law scores it with her media campaign to stop the Do Not Resuscitate order Cliff requested out of what, in fairness, certainly seemed to be a genuine desire to do right by his rather shallow wife.

Of course, that’s before he figures out that every time Abbey’s heart stops she slips the leash and starts killing people.  That realization’s a real game-changer.

“Right to Die” delivers the gory hilarity that “The Washingtonians” aimed for and missed.  Any show that gives me the glorious visual of severed body parts falling off the top of a SmartCar like plywood bits out of a broken IKEA crate pretty much wins that game; not to mention the sheer satisfaction of watching thoroughly unpleasant people die in creative ways.

Actually, I’m only assuming Abbey was an unpleasant person before the events of the movie.  I don’t even care.  I love her.  I want to have a standing Sunday brunch with her and watch her drown the barista in a terrible steamed-milk incident if he accidentally gives her soy instead of 2%.

So what’s the verdict?  Three stars.  Three and a half, let’s say.  I almost gave it four just for the sheer hilarity of the last ten or fifteen minutes.  If you like horror comedy, you’ll want to watch this one.

Here is a thing that bugs me: why are movie cannibals (Hannibal Lecter excepted, of course) all such sloppy eaters?  I mean, seriously.  Like, I get that it’s a foot, but you can’t eat it with a knife and fork, really?  And wipe your mouth once in a while?  Having your cannibals devour human flesh like pigs at a trough is not actually more disturbing than having them devour it a little more neatly, and the trough thing grosses me out for reasons you probably don’t want me focusing on while you’re trying to disturb me with cannibalism.

Anyway.  “The Washingtonians” centers around the idea that Washington and various other of the founding fathers were actually heinous cannibals.  The Franks family finds this out by accident when the father inherits his grandmother’s house with various historical artifacts inside – such as a fork made out of bone and a note from Washington saying something to the effect of “I will eat your children and make forks out of their bones!  Because I don’t have enough forks.  How is it that forks always disappear?  I swear they’re like socks in the dryer.”

(I can’t help but think that the plotline would have had more shock value thirty or forty years ago.  If there’s an American alive today who would put baby-eating past a politician, I don’t think we’ve met.)

Anyway, finding the letter puts the Franks in danger from a bewigged, weirdly powdered secret society sworn to protect the secret of the cannibalism, and things sort of deteriorate from there.

The Franks family is comprised of a wife I felt really sorry for (Venus Terzo), an annoying husband (Johnathon Schaech), and the whiniest, most timorous offspring I have seen in I don’t even know how long (Julia Tortolano).  My god, that kid irritated me.  By ten minutes into the show I wanted to lock her in a dark basement full of clown dolls until she either died of fright or kicked open the door, newly equipped with a spine and a chainsaw and ready to mow down zombies.

“The Washingtonians” is an episode of the made-for-cable Masters of Horror series, so it really wouldn’t be fair of me to fault it for the microbudget makeup and effects, or the bargain-basement actors (with the exception of Hey-It’s-That-Guy extraordinaire Saul Rubinek, whom I love in pretty much anything he does), but honestly those things really do diminish the enjoyment value of the episode.  Seriously, I’ve seen better production values in Supernatural episodes, so don’t tell me it can’t be done.

Further guilt about judging the episode harshly is brought on by the fact that it was directed by Peter Medak, otherwise known as the director of one of the few movies I will unstintingly give five stars to,  horror masterpiece The Changeling.  Either it’s amazing what a budget can do or Medak was just doing the paycheck walk through this one.  Either way, about the best that can be said for “The Washingtonians” is that it’s unobjectionable and mildly entertaining if you can get past the fact that not a single watchable character appears onscreen until Saul Rubinek shows up to save the day in more ways than one.

So what’s the verdict?  Two stars.  It’s okay.  It’s moderately amusing in a sort of lukewarm way. I wouldn’t watch it again, but it’s not terrible.  It was an interesting idea that fell down in the execution and then, as it was lying in the street, got run over by a clown car full of unimpressive actors and peed on by the Pomeranian of low-budget scripts.

Also, it turns out that the guy who plays Sam was in Cats and Dogs, a thing for which I am judging him in this world and God will judge him in the next.  Just saying.

I remember when House of the Devil first came out.  It seemed like every horror blogger in existence went nuts over it.

“Watch it!  You’ll love it!” they said.

“Scariest movie that was ever scary!” they said.

You guys.  I did not love House of the Devil.  Also, I am pretty sure that at some point in my life I have seen scarier Kleenex commercials.

I mean, for about the first ten minutes it has a certain retro charm.  (“OMG, she’s using a phone booth!  How quaint!”)  But even quaint needs a good lead character as a hook to hang from, and Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) is just.  Boring.  Wow, is she boring.  I couldn’t even concentrate on her long enough to dislike her.

Even if you can get past that, you run into the second problem: the movie is a tribute to 80s movies, and it’s a little too good at it.  Some people see that as a plus.  I myself do not see it as a plus unless you’re willing to not only suspend disbelief but also pretend that you’ve never seen another horror movie in your entire life.

The problem is that the movie just contains too many elements that it’s impossible to view unironically in a post-Scream world.  The characters are not only dazzlingly stupid, they’re dazzlingly stupid in exactly the ways that have been lampooned so many times and so effectively that now they’re just tedious, like a joke that was funny every time you heard it until you heard someone explain it in excruciating detail.  House of the Devil really requires you to completely suspend your sense of irony for 95 minutes, but it never gives you a reason to other than “Hey, let’s watch an 80s-style horror movie unironically!”  If I wanted to do that, I’d watch an honest to God 80s horror movie.  I’m sure there are some I haven’t seen, and a lot of them are probably even good ones.

And speaking of 95 minutes, Judas priest.  This was the longest 95 minutes I have ever sat through, including my college graduation and that time I gave birth.  Of those 95 minutes, I swear at least 50 are devoted to Samantha wandering aimlessly around the house where she’s supposed to be babysitting (where, of course, there actually is no baby and Strange and Evil Things are going on instead).  No, I’m serious.  I got so bored watching her wander around the house that I got up and started wandering around my own doing chores.

I went in the kitchen, loaded up the dishwasher, started it running, and came back.  She was still wandering around the house.

I shifted a load of clothes from the washer to the dryer, started another load of clothes, and came back.  She was still wandering around the house.  Oh, wait, now there’s going to be a Tom-Cruise-in-Risky-Business montage where she bops around the house to bad 80s music.  Okay, at least I wasn’t bored during the thirty seconds where I was cringing in horrible embarrassment for everyone involved with this movie, but at a terrible price.

I grabbed the clothes from the dryer, folded them, put them away, and came back.  Samantha was still wandering around the house I am not even joking right now.

Now, it’s possible that while I was off doing more entertaining things like laundry, things happened that – had I been present for them – would have contributed to a growing atmosphere of creepiness and dread.  It’s possible.  It’s possible that if you pay very close attention to a wall full of drying paint, every now and then messages from Elvis in the beyond will fade briefly into being and then vanish.  I don’t know; I’ve never met anyone who had the patience to actually watch paint dry.  I can’t believe in my heart of hearts that anyone has ever had the patience to sit and watch House of the Devil all the way through, either.

The end at least has a faster pace, in that there’s a fair amount of blood and a flurry of activity that would probably be more memorable had I actually had even a modicum of interest in anyone involved, and if I hadn’t already been paralyzed from boredom and Downy inhalation.  If I recall correctly, it has one of those ambiguous 80s endings that worked very well in genuinely good movies like Halloween or Friday the 13th, but here just adds to the annoyance.

So what’s the verdict?  One star.  Yes, I gave House of the Devil the same rating as The Haunting of Molly Hartley.  In fact, it should probably have gotten a lower one, because Molly Hartley at least had enough oomph to make me actively want to beat every character in the movie with a claw hammer; but that would have put it at the same rating as Frayed, and no horror movie I have yet borne witness to is as bad as Frayed, or if it is then I’ve repressed the memory.

House of the Devil is an endurance test, the Marathon des Sables of boredom tolerance, surpassing even the tedious Paranormal Activity in the sheer depth of its need to be edited down to a five-minute short like the Pixar lamp cartoon.  If you watch it, which I can’t recommend, be sure you’re stocked up with knitting, good books, and Angry Birds on your phone.