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MIFF 2014 Review: Oculus (2014) — The Evil Antique That Doesn’t Deliver in Horror Fizzer

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The psychological horror film Oculus tells two parallel stories: The first is set in 2002, where a family move into a new house with new furnishings; including an ornate, antique mirror. Slowly the demonic mirror starts to take a mental toll on the parents (Rory Cochrane and Katee Sackhoff), leading to the deaths of both, with the 10-year old Tim accused of the heinous murders. 11 years later, Tim (Brenton Thwaites) is released from psychiatric care, convinced that the mirror played no part in what happened to his parents. Little does he know that his older sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) has spent the past decade researching the mirror, waiting for her brother’s return so that she can finally destroy it and redeem her family’s legacy.

"I need the optometrist, first thing in the morning."

“I need the optometrist, first thing in the morning.”

Oculus is based on the 2006 short film Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man With the Plan, which is also the brainchild of writer/director Mike Flanagan. I haven’t seen the short, but I can only imagine that the premise of Oculus works so much better as a short than a feature. The movie isn’t bad, it just doesn’t have enough substance, scares, or relatable characters. I found all the 2002 scenes to be better than the 2013 ones; the 2002 storyline has a solid structure and some genuinely gruesome moments, but when the plot switches to 2013, I feel that the tone becomes almost farcical. Because the two stories are being told simultaneously, whenever I start to feel an attachment to the 2002 plot, we cut back to 2013, which drops whatever tension was developed the prior tale.

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MIFF 2014 Review: Life After Beth (2014) — Disappointing Zom-Com That Lacks Bite

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Life After Beth opens with Zach (Dane DeHaan) mourning the recent death of his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza). He takes solace in the companionship of Beth’s parents (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon), until they suddenly break contact with the confused Zach. While desperately attempting to re-ignite contact, he realises that Beth has mysteriously reappeared and her parents have been hiding her. Zach takes this opportunity to re-establish their romantic relationship, but over time the resurrected Beth begins to grow increasingly aggressive and unpredictable, and a level of physical decomposition begins to set in. But Zach soon realises that his zombie girlfriend is not alone as more and more of the undead begin to appear in town.

Somebody's cranky...

Somebody’s cranky…

From first-time writer/director Jeff Baena, Life After Beth suffers from a lack of inspiration. It fails as a zombie film, it fails as a comedy, and it fails as a relationship film; but it’s not terrible — it’s just unbelievably mediocre. After the gimmick of ‘zombie girlfriend’ is played out after the first 30 minutes, the movie plods along without any major developments until it ultimately fizzles out at the climax. It’s an idea that would have worked in a smaller time-frame, but the feature-length hurts it.

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MIFF 2013 Review: You’re Next (2013) — A Game-Changing New Twist on an Old Classic

You're Next

You’re Next has a pretty basic premise… on the surface: Erin (Australia’s Sharni Vinson) joins her boyfriend Crispian (AJ Bowen) as his somewhat dysfunctional family gathers together at a secluded house to celebrate his parents anniversary. Things go awry when strangers with sinister intentions pay the family a visit, although these trespassers may have underestimated one of their targets.

The only thing is You’re Next is far from a basic home-invasion picture, as all pre-conceived notions of how the narrative will play out are shattered by the second act: this is a film that creatively gives the horror genre a huge shot in the arm, as it takes some incredible risks creatively, and it’s astonishing to see the results successfully played out on screen.

You're Next

Point Break 2: Dead Kitties

You’re Next is the creative result of the collaborative effort of the new-wave of American horror film-makers; led in this instance by director Adam Wingard (V/H/S) and featuring fellow directors Joe Swanberg (dir. Drinking Buddies) and Ti West (dir. The Innkeepers) in acting roles. These young film-makers are revitalising the genre by acknowledging that current audiences are well aware of the generic horror tropes — in this case the clichés which are found in the home-invasion sub-genre — and go out of their way to subvert the audiences expectations, which makes for a surprising and enjoyable thrill-ride.

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Top 10 Vampire Movies You Should See Instead Of Twilight: New Moon

This article was published on the original Sorry I’m Late.com in 2009.

Luke Miksa's: The Negative Space Bar

Count Von Count

Count Von Count: Loving lists.

I’m always one to jump on fads, hence a section of this website dedicated to lists (geez, no-one’s done THAT on a blog or website before), but there is one fad I simply cannot buy into – the current trend of super-pussified, sensitive vampires. TwilightThe Vampire Chronicles, etc do nothing to add to the lasting legacy of vampire fiction, on the contrary they actually drag it down.

Take the great vampires characters of all time; Count Orlok, Count Dracula, Lestat de Lioncourt. Edward Cullen? Methinks not. Vampires vaporise and die in direct sunlight, they don’t sparkle beautifully.

With that being said, and seeing the imminent release of the new Twilight film, New Moon, is just around the corner, allow me to present to you the Top 10 Vampire Films You Should See Instead Of Twilight: New Moon.

Honourable Mentions

Nosferatu (1922): Arguably the single most influential vampire tale ever put to film; Nosferatu misses out on the list simply because I would like to make the list a more contemporary one. And it’s in the public domain, so go ahead and download it without fear of SWAT busting through your door.

Universal and Hammer: Out of the list once again for contemporary reasons, both Universal Studios and Hammer Horror series of films sparked vampiric interest in the 1930’s and the 1960’s respectively, and portrayals of Dracula by both Béla Lugosi and Christopher Lee are iconic still to this day.

Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995): Deep in the period of Leslie Nielsen’s career where the dead horse was well and truly beaten, but I still like it. It’s not good, but it’s still Mel Brooks, dammit.

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10
Salem’s Lot (1979)

Salem's Lot

Ok, technically not a theatrically released film but a two part mini-series, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot deserves a spot on the list by simply by being so influential to later 1980’s ‘suburban vampire’ tales (some of which appear here, how exciting), and also being the source of the super-creepy, Nosferatu inspired, Kurt Barlow. And it also stars Hutch himself, TV’s David Soul – awesome! There is also a 2004 remake starring Rob Lowe and Rutger Hauer, which I own but have not yet watched.

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9
Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)

Interview With The Vampire

Starring the super-hunky vampire trifecta of Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas comes Anne Rice’s primary tale in her Vampire Chronicles saga – a saga which Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series is a dubious bastardisation of, thematically. A gloomy, gothic and violent tale, this is one that does not shy away from the brutal characteristics of vampires but also shows the dark, romantic and beautiful sides of these same creatures. Like Twilight but, you know, not lame. But stay away from sequel Queen of the Damned – it sucks balls.

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Review: Paranormal Activity (2007)

This article was published on the original Sorry I’m Late.com on 01/12/09.

It would be an understatement to say that Paranormal Activity makes its long awaited arrival on Australian shores with some hype attached. Fuelled by an impressively strong viral marketing and word-of-mouth campaign to gain interest – not to mention the personal approval by one Señor Spielbergo – Paranormal Activityis the proverbial little film that could, slowly gathering screens and demand, and ultimately beating out the dismal – yet popular Saw IV – at the US box office. Triumph all around!

Paranormal Activity revolves around young couple Katie and Micah, the former of which is plagued by an uninvited demonic menace Hell bent (yep) on causing mayhem, misery and other bad words starting with the letter ‘M’. Embellishing the plot any further would do this film a disservice as this is a tale best viewed cold, the chills within are best kept shielded and then unleashed on your maiden viewing.

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Review: Zombieland (2009)

This article was published on the original Sorry I’m Late.com on 02/11/09.

From the moment I first saw the trailer to Zombieland, I knew that this horror/comedy hybrid road picture would be right up my alley. But as we all know, trailers can be deceiving – they can make a bad movie look interesting and vice versa. I’m pleased to say that not only is Zombieland an awesome flick, but it’s one of my favourites this year. Booya!

The film starts with Columbus (Eisenberg), seemingly a rare surviving human in post-apocalyptic Earth – now dubbed ‘Zombieland’. Although being on the Woody Allen side of neurotic, Columbus explains that these neuroses are what have kept him alive all this time, written as a list of rules for survival (Rule #1 – Cardio: ‘When the zombie outbreak first hit, the first to go were the fatties’). On his journeys he meets up with Tallahassee (Harrelson), a gun toting redneck whose one mission is to find a Twinkie in Zombieland before they all expire. They then stumble across charlatan sisters Wichita and Little Rock (Stone, Breslin), whom after they con the two men out of their truck and guns join together in their journey west to theme park Pacific Playland.

A standard evening at Coles.

Running at a brisk 81 minutes, Zombieland is non-stop entertainment juggernaut and although it is more on the comedy side than horror, there is plenty is violence and gore at hand but it is more slapstick than gross-out. Director Fleischer does a wonderful job in pacing the film so that we get equal amounts of character development in between the hilarity. After watching this I could say that his style is a cross between Zack Snyder and Greg Mottola (through obvious and not-so-obvious comparisons).

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