Michael Hartford

writer, photographer, programmer, dad

Tag: movies (page 2 of 2)

Daily Horror Movie: Demonic



A team of ghost hunters explore an abandoned house and meet a fate eerily similar to the murders that happened there decades ago. A police detective and psychologist try to solve the mystery by interviewing the last known survivor.

Meh. This was a pretty predictable outing, mixing found-footage, possession, ghosts, and ax murders. The storytelling is somewhat interesting in the way it jumps between the time before the ghost hunters come to their awful end, and the investigators trying to piece it together, but that’s really the only noteworthy thing about this movie. It’s definitely not helped by the fact that the characters are largely unlikable and don’t seem to like each other very much; I looked forward to the lurking horror in the house doing them in just to put an end their constant sniping.

The ending was interesting and well-played, with a bit of a twist, but it doesn’t redeem “Demonic” from being an average and unremarkable bit of horror filler.

Daily Horror Movie: Borderlands

The Borderlands

The Borderlands

A team sent by the Vatican to investigate a miraculous claim at an English country church discover there’s far more beneath the the strange phenomena than they had imagined.

This is a “found footage” film, so lots of hand-held, head-mounted, herky-jerky scenes, not for the weak-of-stomach. The main characters–Gray, a secular (“I believe some things”) AV expert; Deacon, a gruff priest who may be a heretic and may also be a drunk; and Mark, the by-the-book leader of the team–have compelling chemistry and rich characterization, which is key to a good horror movie; you can’t help but like them, even the stick-up-his-ass Mark, and you don’t want terrible things to happen to them. The priest at the church, Father Crellick, is believable as both a misguided hoaxer and an innocent who has stumbled upon a terrible evil he cannot comprehend. The introduction of a mysterious Italian priest near the end was a bit much, but fit within the general “there are things the Catholic Church keeps hidden” vibe of the film.

A few loose ends were never tied up, particularly the animosity the villagers show to the team of investigator–are they in league with the evil at the church? Are their sympathies with Crellick? But the ending is satisfying (if at first terrifyingly claustrophobic and then Lovecraftian in its horror). All around an awesome and scary movie.

Daily Horror Movie: Emelie



The new babysitter is not what she seems …

When their usual sitter falls through, a couple hires an unknown sitter to watch their three children while they celebrate their anniversary. At first the kids like “Anna,” the new sitter, because she lets them do anything they want, but things start to take on an increasingly dark tone until they find themselves prisoners of a deranged woman who is planning to kidnap the youngest child to replace her own dead baby, and probably dispatch the older children in some gruesome and demented manner.

The first half of the movie was pretty good. The atmosphere was tense and uneasy, and Sarah Bolger plays the sitter’s gradual descent into madness very believably. But there were a few too many plot holes: when the old sitter comes to check on them, why don’t the kids make a break for it? If the oldest boy can escape to the backyard tree house to meet up with his friend (in what felt like the setup to a “Goonies”/”Stranger Things” scenario that never happens), why can’t he escape to a neighbor to alert an adult? And who is the male accomplice who dies in an ill-conceived attempt to delay the parents’ return? The slow build-up of the first half feels rushed and slipshod in the second.

Netflix gave this to me in a list of recommendations surrounded by horror movies, but I’m not sure this quite qualifies. It’s more a psychological thriller in the mold of “Single White Female” or “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle”–it has some tense and frightening moments, but lacks the intensity I expect of a true horror movie.

Daily Horror Movie: As Above, So Below

As Above, So Below

As Above, So Below

An adventurous archeologist descends into the catacombs below Paris with a ragtag team of urban spelunkers in search of the Philosopher’s Stone, and discovers a terrifying netherworld of personal horror.

There’s a lot about this movie that should have made it a failure. The idea is hackneyed and derivative, stealing equal parts from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Tomb Raider,” “The Descent,” and “The DaVinci Code”; the characters are predictable tropes; the “clues” they find are laughably ludicrous; it feels like a “found footage” movie, with most of the cameras affixed to the characters’ heads, but it breaks its own cinematography rules whenever it’s convenient. But I absolutely loved it!

It feels like a classic D&D dungeon crawl, with a party of rogues seeking treasure while beset with traps and demons. They all have their own motives for being there–the lure of riches, the thirst for knowledge, haunted pasts–and they all find something different in the catacombs. Some meet gruesome and surprising ends, and as thin as the characterization was, I felt bad for them; I think that was largely because the cast were so enthusiastic and committed to the preposterous setup that I couldn’t help but be equally enthusiastic and committed.

A great movie? No, but a seriously fun movie. A horror movie? Well, there’s at least one great jump-scare, and some pretty gruesome scenes, but it probably belongs more with “Raiders of the Lost Ark” than “The Descent.” Certainly a movie worth a watch.

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