Stray (2016)

In the tradition of films like “The Bad Seed” and “Devil in the Flesh,” Gabrielle Stone stars as Jennifer Stone, a young girl who happens upon a small town one fateful day. Alluring and often enigmatic, Jennifer manages to build the good will of a fellow traveler, and begins establishing herself in the small town of Chestnut Hill. Jennifer will do whatever it takes to build the life she wants, including lying, stealing, and murdering just about anyone. “Stray” is mostly a psychological thriller focusing on this truly complex but twisted antagonist who is oddly alluring but incredibly slimy from the first moment we meet her.

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Deadtime Stories (1986): Collector’s Edition [Blu-Ray/DVD]

Pee-yew! You have to appreciate Shout! Factory for restoring what is easily one of the worst anthology movies of the eighties. I admit to being a completely newcomer in regards to “Deadtime Stories,” and upon finishing it, I was not surprised it was such a rarity for so many years. “Deadtime Stories” watches like someone really loved “Creepshow” and decided to make their own version with only a quarter of the budget. Then mid-way when the studio realized how awful the movie was, they decided to turn it in to a comedy at the last minute so horror fans can convince themselves the whole disaster is intentional and a tongue in cheek jab at the anthology crazy of the decade.

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I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016)

I Am Not a Serial KillerJohn Wayne Cleaver is a teen in a small Midwestern town who’s been diagnosed as a sociopath by his therapist whom he sees at his mortician mom’s prodding.,  As the struggles with his own tendencies, self-imposing rules to be “normal”, a supernatural being is killing the townspeople and it’s down to him to stop it.

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The Last Heist (2016)

heist1As a bank is closing and its clients are emptying their security boxes, a few stragglers are left in the bank when a group of robbers attacks the bank looking for a very particular security box.  Meanwhile, unbeknownst to them all, one of the clients starts picking the group off one by one.

The Last Heist was written by Guy Stevenson whose previous credits are mostly comedies and cartoons making this thriller a departure from his usual work.  The writing here is decent and fairly by the book for this type of movie, however, it feels like two different stories (bank robbery and serial killer) put together which makes it harder to keep everything going on working well.  That being said, the proceedings are fairly entertaining even though the killer’s presence is given away quickly, soon followed up by their identity.  It must be noted that the dialogue is good and feels realistic for most of the characters.

This script was directed by Mike Mendez whose style gets a bit lost here as he excels at bloody, crazy goodness which this movie has plenty of but yet still does not feel like a Mendez movie.  Here he gathers all the elements in one mostly cohesive story with plenty blood (practical effects and unfortunately CGI) and a big group of actors of variable talent levels.  The pace of the film is good, giving each group of characters their time of screen, helping bring all the elements that could have become two films together while giving them the time they need to develop.

The cast is big and varied, with only a few ladies but they do get some screen time and are not just there to be cute or to be rescued.  Of course, with a cast this big, standouts will happen for good and bad reasons.  The main standout here is Henry Rollins who always has a strong presence on screen.  Here is a good but not the best he’s been.  He seems to give a variation of his character in He Never Died with extra touches of crazy added for good measure.

The other two stand-outs are so for much different reasons.  Torrance Coombs as Paul, the lead robber, shows talent and leadership while also showing some restraint when needed.  On the opposite side of this is Kristina Klebe who usually gives strong performances but here, her character comes off as grating as she tries to look extra tough, like a badass bitch but just ends up coming off like she is trying too hard.  Sadly, a lot of the rest of the cast feels under used, such as Nick Principe who would have been more interesting in a part with a bit more meat on its bones and not just as the hired muscle when those who have seen his work know he can do more than this.

Supporting these are the effects which are uneven in quality.  CGI blood is almost never good and visibly fake, unless a scene is very darkly lit or the blood is very scarce.  The blood here is no different, which can be an annoyance.  The practical effects on the other hand look very good and properly gooey.  Also, the eyes in jars do look a bit funny, but disembodied eyes usually do.

The film has its issues but is an easy watch and fairly entertaining.  It creates a cat and mouse story within a heist story with hostages that are not so helpless.  Some of it, like the ending, becomes a bit much, but Rollins and Coombs presences along with an interesting story with plenty twists and a good pace make it worth checking out.

Angel (1984)

angel1984Robert Vincent O’Neill’s “Angel” is a fun mixture of a campy exploitation and a stern crime thriller that also conjures up some classic neo-noir overtones. The 1984 drama thriller about an under age prostitute trying to outwit a serial killer garners some clumsy plot elements but stands as a strong film overall. You’d figure it’d be distracting to be sucked in to a thriller starring a protagonist who hangs around an aged cowboy and a transvestite, but “Angel” gets the job done. Donna Wilkes gives a strong performance as young Molly Stewart, a high schooler by day who is also a prostitute by night.

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You’re Killing Me (2015)

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A group of gay friends welcome one of the guys’ new boyfriend in their mist. Joe is just like them they think, except for the fact that he is a serial killer who doesn’t bother to hide it. In fact, he flat out tells his new man George who thinks it’s some hilarious long running joke. As people around them start to disappear and the random idle chatter never ceases, George may need to reassess his new adorable boyfriend. The story written by Jim Hansen and Jeffery Self has a fairly simple premise: What happens if a serial killer, after admitting it to himself, is completely open about what he’s doing but no one pays attention because we are all too busy talking about our lives and celebrities?

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Horror Stories (2012) (DVD)

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One thing about “Horror Stories” that brings it down from the get go is its lack of ambiguity. Often times this anthology over explains the stories, and can never seem to have confidence in its own plot elements. That said, while “Horror Stories” surely won’t be confused with the brilliant “Three… Extremes,” it’s definitely a solid and often times very scary horror anthology with four really entertaining stories that will keep audiences watching, even when they falter and stumble.

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