Jessica Loren is new on the job; her first shift is the last shift of a closing, empty station. As her shift rolls on, odd things start happening and she can’t tell if they are real, imagined, or just a prank.
Fred Dekker’s “The Monster Squad” is the assembly of many eighties tropes, even conjuring up the aesthetic of a novel series one might have found tucked beside “The Hardy Boys,” and “Babysitters Club.” It’s Amblin, Spielberg, Universal and everything else we loved about the eighties, and while it can in many ways be considered a take off on “The Goonies,” it watches so much better over time. Even better is the script by Shane Black allows for interesting and complex preteen heroes, all of whom have their spotlight, as well as their own personal struggles. Like Spielberg, Black introduces a potentially broken home with main hero Sean, while this extraordinary situation allows his family to re-unite for the fate of him and his little sister.
Remember that thing we learned about Samara from “The Ring” and “The Ring Two”? There’s a bit more of the story we didn’t learn about her and we have to sit through a hundred minutes to find it out. Why? All for the sake of a surprise ending that apes James Wan, but packs none of his usual flare. Like, you know… an actual surprise. Truthfully, I saw the surprise twist coming for “Rings” about twenty minutes in to the actual film, and while I appreciate wanting to reboot the series for a new generation that only knows what a VHS or VCR is through history books or novelty articles on Buzzfeed, “Rings” just isn’t a good movie.
In this film that seems to be a Thai take on the Jurei ghost story type, directors Piraphan Laoyont and Thodsapol Siriwiwat take a sub-genre, the vengeful ghost, and go to a point of insanity that is quite enjoyable. The film does not create much in terms of new aspects for the sub-genre, but it has some truly inspired moments, some really creepy sequences, and kills that are original and sometimes insane. The way they use each nurse’s obsession against her works quite well which helps the film feel fresh in its kills. The characters they create here are not particularly original or deep, they are fairly ditzy nurses completely obsessed with themselves and their love interest. The characters are even annoying at times, something that hinders any kind of sympathy that might be needed to truly care about their deaths. However, the way they die is entertaining and this helps a ton with a film of this sub-genre.
After five years on the shelf constantly being rescheduled and postponed, “Amityville: the Awakening” is here and–makes apparent why it was postponed for so long. At ninety minutes, “The Awakening” feels like there are at least twenty minutes of good exposition missing. What we get is a pretty ineffective and monotonous horror film that feels very much like another run of the mill sequel in the oddly long running “Amityville” series. It has a lot of potential to really break out of the doldrums of being just another cash grab, and could have done some great things with its emphases on family, but every time it reaches out to become something different, it inevitably just pulls back again and seems intent on just making it to the end credits with no real effect.
Mike Flanagan is one of the best directors working in film today. His list of genre offerings have been impressive, not just because the movies have been great, but because he knows how to build a damn good narrative. Flanagan has consistently impressed me, and with “Gerald’s Game” he delivers a stellar horror drama from the works of Stephen King. Even the best directors have fallen under the weight of the difficult to adapt King tales, but “Gerald’s Game” manages to be an unnerving and complex dramatic thriller that is focused on character and the sometimes weird coincidences of life and fate.