There are two kinds of survival thrillers I place in separate categories. There’s the “They’re completely fucked” films like “Open Water” and “Alive” where their situation is hopeless. Then there’s the “Calm Down and You Might Survive” category with titles like “Frozen” and “47 Meters Down” where if people just relaxed and displayed some kind of common sense, they could make it. “ATM” is in the latter category where if these three moronic characters would just stop and think for a moment, they could have actually made it through the poor man’s Jigsaw without many battle wounds.
Once upon a time TV movies were an event. They meant something. They were used sporadically during the year for various networks as a means of attracting big ratings. Once upon a time TV used TV movies as a means of competing with theaters, and ever since that’s become something of a lost medium. Even when I was a kid, the nineties were filled with TV movies both of the Stephen King multi-night variety, and occasional biblical epics, and or science fiction epics like “Taken,” or “Noah.” It was an interesting time. “Dead of Night” is one of the various TV movies that’s gone from TV movie to well acclaimed horror movie, and that might be because of Dan Curtis and Richard Matheson.
I’ve yet to be impressed by anything that Greg McLean has done in cinema and he meets my expectations with “The Darkness.” Though it’s defined as a horror movie, I’d be hesitant to call it that since the horror genre’s veneer is so thin. “The Darkness” is really more of a painfully awkward drama about a dysfunctional family who put up with one another more than loves each other. In the prologue they seem to like one another just fine, but when we see them in their own surroundings, we’re introduced to petulant, obnoxious, rude, and self destructive people with no clear reason for being so dysfunctional beyond it being a good pit stop before the weak scares.
It makes sense that Shout Factory would package “Tales from the Crypt” with “Vault of Horror” since both horror films are essentially a part of the same universe, and are adapted from the genius EC Comics brand. In “Vault of Horror” you can even see one of the characters sit beside a stack of EC Comics while turning to continue reading a “Tales from the Crypt” novel. It’s a good thing too since both films are stellar horror anthologies, practicing the tradition of EC Comics’ storytelling formula that involves revenge, irony, plot twists, and turning the tables on characters at every turn. If you can spare the time, these films deserve to be viewed as a double bill, because it’s a master class of storytelling and creeps.
Written by Larry Blamire and Kyle Rankin with the latter also directing, The Witch Files is a coming-of-age story for pre-teens and teens with a penchant for the dark side. The film takes an approach a la The Craft but lite as it has a few more girls who are younger and who don’t turn quite as dark as the original teen coven of the 90s. The writing is decent here and the direction does well for the story. However, it does feel its budget throughout the film as it is definitely limiting the scope of things, or at least it feels like such. Within this scope however, the film is somewhat entertaining and will most likely hit the right notes with tween and teen girls.
Mark H. Young’s horror thriller “Feral” feels like 2010’s “Primal” and 2003’s “Cabin Fever” reworked in to a goofy zombie melodrama about a lot of pretty people arguing over “important” stuff like relationships, and who’s dating whom before they’re interrupted by zombies. “Feral” could have been a very claustrophobic and weird little cabin in the woods gem, but it’s so mucked up with the twenty minutes of exposition and drama that goes absolutely nowhere. Seriously none of the conflicts actually take any real toll once the narrative gets moving, and it’s a shame.
It’s not often I hear about a movie made before the nineties that took three unfinished films and cobbled them together to create an anthology movie, but here we are. “Night Train to Terror” is actually a pastiche of failed productions, with its three spooky tales actually re-edited and truncated remnants of films titled “Scream Your Head Off,” “The Dark Side to Love (aka Greta),” and “Cataclysm” You might think this would end up in a failed production, and a poorly constructed end product. And you’d be right “Night Train to Terror” is one of the top five worst anthology horror films ever made. It’s a film that constantly left me baffled, confused, bored, and muttering to myself “What the fuck is happening here?”
Ruben Fleischer’s cinematic treatment of the Marvel super villain “Venom” feels a lot like it someone was making this movie in 1997, and it remained in the vault for twenty years. Then Fleischer and Sony dusted it off and finished it. “Venom” feels so out of date and ridiculously nineties you can almost expect the home video release to come with a hologram. That might be due to the character of Venom who looks less like an amorphous sentient Alien organism that creates kind of symbiosis with its host, and more like alien Jello that covers its host and causes trouble. The titular Venom is so random and bafflingly stupid, especially in its basic behavior that varies between mischievous, to downright evil. How do we root for a being who tells the film’s hero “Do what I say or I’ll eat your head”?