Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)
Almost a decade and a half ago, when “The Blair Witch Project” first started to stir up mainstream audiences, who’d have thought that we’d be where we are now with found footage films. It’s a strange breed, existing almost entirely in the horror genre, with the only exception being mockumentary movies and TV shows like “The Office.” When “The Blair Witch Project” debuted in the late 1990s, few expected that the sub-genre would still be going strong with movies like the “Paranormal Activity” franchise tearing up the box office.
WRONG TURN 4: BLOODY BEGINNINGS
On the whole, I enjoy found footage movies, but like a zombie flick, to be effective they must find new ground. If they don’t find that new ground, they aren’t all bad, but they don’t rise above the fray.
“Atrocious” is a Spanish found footage film that plays out more like “The Blair Witch Project” than it does “Paranormal Activity” (or “[REC],” for that matter, considering its language similarity). The story follows a family who goes to live in their country home for a summer. Bored, the kids bring along some video cameras in the hopes of capturing on tape a local ghost legend. However, after several nights, they realize that something is definitely out there, and it is dangerous.
Unlike the aforementioned “[REC],” “Atrocious” takes a while to get to the action. You know there’s something eerie happening, but the film doesn’t stampeded in that direction right away. Depending on your affinity to these types of films, this will be pleasant or a chore. Even though I like the genre somewhat, it wore on me. Perhaps it was the fact that the film is in Spanish, so there was plenty of need to read the subtitles. (For the record, the DVD does come with an English-language track, which might be an option for someone not interested in reading captions for mostly improvised dialogue.)
What “Atrocious” has going for it is the setting and the presentation. The location used for the house is plenty creepy in an authentic way. And the actors carry the story well enough. The ending is okay, but not fantastic, though I won’t say it’s not worth sitting through the film.
The major stumbling block I had with this film – aside from the things that plague other found footage films, like the need for the subjects to videotape everything, even when they’re in dire danger – is that there just isn’t enough substance to stretch it out to a feature-length film. While the key moments are effective, there’s a lot of wandering around to keep my attention. The last half hour is filled with excessive “Blair Witch” moments with a shakycam running through the woods, and this softens the eventual conclusion.
Still, if you’re a fan of found footage horror, and you’re open to a foreign take on the matter, give this one a whirl.
Features on this DVD include a Spanish-language documentary “Making of Atrocious.”
Blu-ray Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
It was recently pointed out to me by a friend online that most direct-to-video films “suck balls.” I did not completely agree, and I offered a handful of suggestions that didn’t, but many times those kind of movies are the exception to the rule. Still, I can have a lot of fun with a direct-to-video film, especially if it’s a horror sequel of some sort and it knows its place.
“Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings” is one of those films that I have a special place in my heart for. First, it’s not trampling on any classic. After all, the first “Wrong Turn” was a forgettable teen horror flick that I enjoyed but didn’t reinvent the genre. It’s not like the woefully inept sequels to “Hellraiser” that pollute DVD shelves.
And the other two sequels to “Wrong Turn” had a certain level of enjoyability, particularly the catharsis provided by the second film for someone like me who loathes reality TV. Where “Wrong Turn 3” tried to have deeper characters, “Wrong Turn 4” tossed its hands up and went to the well of eternal horror movie gimmicks. The story is simple... a group of attractive college students go on a snowmobile adventure in 2003 only to stumble upon the abandoned mental institution which was overrun by inbred cannibals in the 70s.
If you take “Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings” at its face value as a horror movie, it’s not that great. There’s no empathy for any of the characters because they exist as nothing more than “tall blond dude,” “mousy loner girl with big boobs,” “hot black lesbian” or “hot Asian lesbian.” When the killing starts, it’s hard to keep track of anyone because they really don’t stand out beyond their breasts in tight sweaters.
However, if you look at “Wrong Turn 4” as a tongue-in-cheek nod to the horror genre, a send-up of this without going for actual jokes or spoofs, then it’s a bloody good time.
Before the opening credits roll, all the titillating elements of a horror movie jump out. There’s a violent and gory opening scene. There’s an extended sex scene, not just with the heterosexual couple, but of the lipstick lesbians as well. Hell, even when the characters head off on the snowmobiles, one of them says, “He's making a wrong turn. I just know it.” Ahhhhhh... Peter Griffin would be proud.
The desperately shallow characters get just enough exposition that you can fool yourself into believing the writing was meant to show depth, and while the acting is atrocious, this just makes the killing sequences even funnier.
I can’t call “Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings” high art, but I can say I thought it was a riot.
The Blu-ray includes a feature commentary, director “die-aries,” the behind-the-scenes “Making Another Wrong Turn,” the featurette “Lifestyles of the Sick and Infamous,” a music video and some deleted scenes. The package also contains a DVD version of the film.
DVD Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Horror franchises have ruled movie houses and home entertainment systems since the 80s when they really took off. (And arguably, horror franchises have been going strong since the Universal monster movies of the 1930s and 1940s.) One of the masters of the genre is Wes Craven, who has launched no less than three notable horror movie franchises.
THE HOWLING REBORN
Many of the horror faithful were understandably thrilled when “SCRE4M” was announced last year, though I held out my support until I had a chance to see it in April. After all, even though “Scream” was enjoyable and “Scream 2” was a lesser film but still fun, “Scream 3” was an absolute mess. However, Craven came in and breathed new life into the franchise by playing off the same reasons why the first couple films were so good.
This installments has Sidney Prescott returning to her home town of Woodsboro on a book tour. However, upon her return, the Ghostface killer shows up again and begins another reign of terror. This brings Gale Weathers out of retirement while her husband Dewey tries to track down the killer.
“SCRE4M” managed to simultaneously pay homage to the original films and update its meta jokes to reflect a new generation of films. It even updated itself to give a nod to a new generation of meta jokes. It was great to see all the original cast come back, with a few additions like the cute and hilarious Marley Shelton as Dewey’s deputy.
It may not have made as much money as the previous three, but “SCRE4M” was a neat horror flick by one of the masters that allows several generation to get in on the fun. I am surprisingly looking forward to “Scream 5.”
The DVD includes a feature commentary with Craven and his cast, deleted and extended scenes, an alternate opening, and extended ending, a gag reel and “The Making of Scream 4.”
by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
In some ways, “The Howling” reminds me of “Hellraiser.” Both were classic 80s horror films. Both were violent and edgy upon their original release. And both have an unbelievably long string of direct-to-video sequels behind them. Though unlike the “Hellraiser” series, the “Howling” sequels were dormant for about 15 years.
Their resurrection has happened this year with “The Howling Reborn.” This installment finds new blood in high school, where high school senior Will Kidman (Landon Liboiron) notices that he’s feeling a little funny when he gets excited by his crush (Lindsey Shaw). Soon, he discovers that he has the blood of a werewolf in his veins, and his birth mother (a superstar in the werewolf community) starts to track him down.
While this is far from a good movie, there are some things I can respect about it. First, it’s trying to restart the franchise, even if it is just on DVD and Blu-ray. There’s potential for a whole ongoing story, and they even hint at this near the end of the film. Also, I respect the fact that they didn’t rehash the original film in any way. I also like the use of practical werewolf effects (which look remarkably like the ones in Joe Dante’s classic).
However, there are problems, too, staring with the cast. As a lead, Liboiron is a dead fish. He’s a dead fish on “Terra Nova,” and he’s a dead fish with claws and silky coat of werewolf fur. Lindsay Shaw may be trying to break out of her Nickelodeon roots with TV series like “Pretty Little Liars” and “10 Things I Hate About You,” but her girl-next-door appeal holds her back from being the would-be temptress they want her to be in this film.
AT least Ivana Milicevic is in this film. Not only is she beautiful, but she has embraced her genre fanbase, and she’s not afraid to gore it up. I’ve always like Milicevic as an actress and a scream queen. She’s game for the role, and she’s quite easy on the eyes.
But in the end, “The Howling Reborn” is loaded with silliness. There’s logic holes the size of a wolf bit. There’s cheesy acting all around. And the film tries to distance itself from “Twilight” by snarking that they’re not sparkly vampires, but at the same time it tries all the same tricks, including the morose soundtrack, the washed-out cinematography and the overload of teen know-it-all angst.
Still, I’d watch another “Howling” movie if it came across my desk.
The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary with director Joe Nimziki and actor Lindsey Shaw, a storyboard gallery and a “The Making of The Howling Reborn” featurette.
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