The Seven Year Ick

Usually it's the traffic or the smog or the hipsters that'll get you in Los Angeles. Nope. The Things That Go Bump in the Dark, they're what'll get you.

"Absentia" (2011)
written and directed by Mike Flanagan
starring Katie Parker, Courtney Bell, Dave Levine, Justin Morgan, and Morgan Peter Brown

How Is It?
Low-key, atmospheric, moody, and well-made. It doesn't rush to get you anywhere, and though it can feel like it's moving a little slow here and there, it really isn't. The story is about pregnant Tricia (played by Courtney Bell) whose husband has been missing for seven years. Her prodigal sister Callie (played by Katie Parker) moves in with her for support, as the county is finally ready to declare Daniel, the missing husband, deceased. It should come as no surprise that things go awry. Rather than spectacle the film focuses on the characters, no cats jumping out of cupboards or other cheap scares. "Absentia" is a slow burn, an eerily slow but steady burn.

The Players
The acting is pretty solid all the way around. Parker and Bell have good chemistry playing the sisters, as do Levine and Gordon as the police detectives. Brown as husband Daniel, while not on-screen as much, gets to play the widest range and to great effect. There's not a lot to say on this end, really. Very human, engaging performances from all quarters.

Behind the Camera
Mike Flanagan wrote and directed. It's a tight, clean script, nuanced and interesting, as is the direction. The cinematography and editing are sharp and keep you interested, focused, and engaged throughout. No frills, though. Flanagan kept the look and feel simple and did so to great effect. The visuals complement the story and the acting, a very adept movie package. The movie has a personal, intimate feel, coupled with an uneasiness, an uncertainty and sense of things being somehow off-kilter the whole while. Economically and effectively eerie and subtly unsettling, and that's good horror.

The Verdict
It's a solid flick top to bottom and side to side. If you're in the market for gore and screaming and action and slashing, this one is not for you. "Absentia" is a smart movie, a very good movie indeed. Not only do I recommend it, I'm buying a copy for my personal collection.


You didn't see that coming, did you?

"Oculus" and "The Quiet Ones" don't deliver quiet what's expected. That works in one but alas, doesn't in another.

"Oculus" (2014)
You've seen this movie before... ish. It's the time-tested spooky story of kids with a terrible past going back to the scene of the crime to get to the truth and get even. Just this time the baddie is... well, it's a mirror. Karen Gillan stars in what looks like it should be a bog standard haunted house movie with cliches galore, and it is... and isn't. Yes, there are some key point in the film that avid horror movie fans see coming miles away, but it still works. "Oculus" is a pretty tight, well made, well performed, fairly well paced ghost story with a healthy dose of psychological horror in the mix. I was skeptical going into it and actually a bit surprised and pleased as the credits rolled. The movie doesn't reinvent anything in the genre. What's refreshing is it doesn't try to be something it isn't, and it tells its story very well. Hats off to all involved in the making of it. I quite liked it. It's well worth watching.

"The Quiet Ones" (2014)
I am still rather stuck on exactly how to put how this film doesn't work, except to say that it seems in it efforts to lead viewers to wonder "What really happened?" it simply made itself rather muddy. All the hallmarks of paranormal investigation movies are there, all the stock characters, scares, character arcs, and twists. It was distinctly Hammer, yes. It was just rather flat, unfortunately. I expected more.  Streamable, maybe rentable for the special features for hardcore Hammer/horror buffs.


Battlefield Moon

The guy that directed Battlefield Earth directed this. I'm sure for some that's review enough of any movie.

"Stranded" (2013)
directed by Roger Christian
written by Roger Christian and Christian Piers Bentley
starring Christian Slater, Amy Matysio, Michael Therriault, and Brendan Fehr

How Is It?
It's almost as if they kidnapped a Roger Corman sci fi movie from the early '80s but made it worse. No, really. It's derivative in every possible way, but what sets it apart from most of those films it attempted to parrot, it has no soul of its own. It's a hollow, drab, gray, uninteresting movie. (It's still not as bad as this one, though.)

The Players
This is the depressing part: The ensemble of four good actors got stuck with a bad script and a director with a very checkered track record. Nobody was written a character to play. The movie is about four cardboard cutouts stuck in a crippled mining base on the moon. Slater plays the typical base commander. Therriault plays the typical engineer with a drinking problem. Therriault plays the typical level-headed, logical medical officer. Matysio gets the most to draw from out of the gang. She gets to play both the brave, capable first officer as well as the damsel in distress. It's just that the writing is so bad, so flat that all of their characters have only as much dimension as the descriptions of them you just read.

Behind The Camera
Roger Christian is am industry recognized, award-winning set decorator and production designer. He directed the cult horror classic "The Sender" (1982) as well as the universally decried and derided "Battlefield Earth" (2000). So the sets in this movie looks good, as does the lighting. The moonbase exteriors and other miniatures work are quite good. For the just over $2 million the film was made for, it looks pretty good. Looks. The look of the movie is where all the money wound up. Not enough of it made it into script rewrites, which is as much of a shame as it is becoming more common in movies. The look of a movie is its frame, and the script is the picture, the colors, textures, brushstrokes, and theme. "Stranded" is a frame without anything inside.

The Verdict
It would have been a different movie, could have been a different movie, a good movie, if only the script wasn't so derivative, joyless, and boring and there was anything there to watch. Avoid.


Sometimes it's just best to quit while you're behind.

Rutger Hauer in a 3D re-imagining of "Dracula" with a decent dose of T&A could work but for one thing: Dario Argento.
"Argento's Dracula 3-D" (2012)
directed by Dario Argento
written by Dario Argento, Enrique Cerezo, Franco Paolucci, and Antonio Tentori
starring Thomas Kretschmann, Marta Gastini, Asia Argento, Unax Ugalde, Miriam Giovanelli, and Rutger Hauer

How Is It?
It's about as sophomorically substandard as you have come to expect from Dario Argento, alas. Plodding, dull, cheap-looking, and frequently painful to watch. This is one of the worst films I have ever seen.

The Players
It is so hard for me to write this, but it was disappointing all around. Kretschmann as Dracula came across bored, as if he was simply going through the motions. Asia Argento was dutifully in her dad's movie. Gastini and Ugalde were wooden, and Hauer... oh dear. They were all there, but none of them looked present. The rest of the cast, on the other hand, chewed the scenery like it was going out of style. So in many ways, this was a typical Argento joint. Alas.

Behind The Camera
It was almost like watching a SyFy Original Motion Picture, just less fun and far less entertaining. A woeful script written by committee, nearly comically mediocre digital effects, low-end practical effects, sets and lighting that looked as if they barely tried at all, and a lack of apparent cohesive vision to the project are what hurt this film. In short, this movie died while it was being made. There was nothing new in it, and there wasn't even anything out of Argento's really old and dated bag of tricks that was done well. Overall, it was a lesson in incompetence.

The Verdict
Remember Argento's heyday thirty years ago. That's all there is to do at this point. Avoid this film at all costs.