You Might Be the Killer (2018)

Poster

Directed by Brett Simmons [Other horror films: Husk (2011), The Monkey’s Paw (2013), Animal (2014), Chilling Visions: 5 States of Fear (2014)]

For a modern-day slasher, this was refreshingly innovative and ultimately a pretty fun take on what generally is a far too played out story.

Told in a non-linear narrative, much of it in flashback with a framing sequence, this comedy-horror mix was pretty fun. While laugh out loud moments weren’t really all that common, the humor here was still pretty enjoyable, and there was enough decent gore, though not the focus, to also keep slasher fans happy.

The structure of the narrative ends up making the film not only more unique, but more memorable also. I enjoyed how the beginning was told via flashback, but then we sort of caught up to the present, and went from there. It helped greatly with Alyson Hannigan’s inactive role, and gave her, despite lack of action, a lot to contribute.

Of course, Hannigan’s presence is perhaps one of the reasons this movie’s gotten more attention than it otherwise might have. Hannigan does great here, and while I basically only know her from the American Pie movies (I’ve never seen any How I Met Your Mother), I think she gave a great performance. As a lead, Franz Kranz (Marty the stoner from The Cabin in the Woods) was fantastic also, and brought a fun performance to the film. Brittany S. Hall and Jenna Harvey did well also, Harvey especially as the innocent, final-girl type.

At times, the humor was a bit much, such as the final few seconds, but even that was foreshadowed, so it didn’t come across nearly as bad as it otherwise would have. Really, for a modern-day horror-comedy, this was a pretty solid mix without the comedy coming across as either overbearing or too still, which was sort of nice.

The director of this film, Brett Simmons, also directed a flick called Husk from 2011, which had been one of the few scarecrow horror films I’ve found worth watching (along with the more classic Dark Night of the Scarecrow from 1981 and Scarecrows from 1988), but that film, as much as I recall liking it, didn’t reach the unique level this one did, so it’s great to see the director’s improving his craft.

You Might Be the Killer may not win any awards, but it’s a movie with a solid main cast (most of the cast not mentioned are interchangeable, but that sort of fits with the nature of the film), an occasional retro-feel, enjoyable humor, and most importantly, an innovative narrative. Definitely a movie I’d recommend to any slasher fans.

8/10

Investigation 13 (2019)

Investigation 13

Directed by Krisstian de Lara [Other horror films: N/A]

So this movie took me moderately by surprise, but it wasn’t a surprise that by any means made the film better. At a cursory glance, I was expecting a found footage film, and while there are elements of found footage here, Investigation 13 is more ambitious than that. Like I said, though, it doesn’t make for a better viewing experience.

I have a handful of problems with this one. Most importantly, and most damning, I didn’t get the sense that the actors and actresses had their heart in the script. It felt soulless, and that can be a hard detriment to overcome, primarily because my perception may be off, and that colored my view deeply of the film.

Also, Investigation 13 utilized some rough animation sequences when going into the origins of the antagonistic Mole Man (no, not the classic Fantastic Four foe). I don’t mind throwing in animation for stylistic variety, but none of the animated portions (including the post-credits one) really did much in the way of moving the story along. I guess we got an origin, but it didn’t really matter whatsoever.

Another thing that bothered me – this group of paranormal investigators have done twelve previous investigations into the supposed supernatural. The twelfth is brought up a handful of time as a failure, yet never does the film go into what went wrong with it, which just bugged me. Why bring it up at all (multiple times) if you’ve no intention on touching on it later in detail?

Stephanie Hernandez didn’t do great, but she was the only cast-member who is even partially memorable. I don’t really blame the performances for my dislike of the film, because had the story been better, or more interesting, or different (and sorry, animated origins spread throughout the film don’t classify as sufficiently different), it might have been worth something, but that’s not the case.

I didn’t much care for the Mole Man here. I guess he got an okay kill in near the end (complete with a scalping), but he’s pretty forgettable, and that ‘twist’ near the end (which isn’t really explained that well) didn’t help matters out.

However, I will give it this much credit – they easily could have made this fully in the found footage style, and had that been the route they took, I think the movie probably would have been worse and even more generic. That said, it’s not like the way they ultimately went was all that more original, but hey, there are worse movies out there.

When all’s said and done, Investigation 13 just felt hollow, and while the setting is okay, and maybe the story had some potential somewhere, the movie just wasn’t anywhere near what I’d call good, or even average.

4/10

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Sweeney Todd

Directed by Tim Burton [Other horror films: Sleepy Hollow (1999), Dark Shadows (2012)]

This Tim Burton movie is pretty much the type of musical you’d expect from him – overly dark and depressing, gory, and pretty damn tragic when the credits begin rolling, which all work to it’s credit.

Since this is a Burton movie, the cast is just as good as you’d hope for. Of course Johnny Depp does an amazing job playing a man who is very quickly losing the little sanity he had to begin with (the whole of the finale was a fantastically gory and manic conclusion), and is a treat to see, as are Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter. Jayne Wisener doesn’t do much, but the story doesn’t really give her much to do, so that’s excusable. Two smaller performances I really liked here were Timothy Spall and Jamie Campbell Bower, as Spall gave that slimy, smarmy performance I liked from his portrayal of Pettigrew, and Bower gave us a fresh, innocent face which contrasted nicely with everything else on screen.

Given that there are so few musicals with horror elements mixed in, it’s hard to compare this one to the ideal horror-musical. I do know I liked the songs better in this one than I did from Repo! The Genetic Opera, but that’s more due to stylistic differences above anything else. That said, I don’t know how memorable most of the songs here are – something that is of mild concern.

Regardless, the story of revenge was well-done, and the splatter of gore, for a mainstream movie like this, was surprisingly good. There wasn’t much variety in the death scenes, which were generally just slit throats, but the blood did flow generously, which was good enough to me.

The tone of this one is just dark, and while the ending isn’t entirely down-hearted, it certainly lives up to it’s somber feel. Also worth noting, while the movie’s almost two hours, it doesn’t feel that long at all, mainly, I suspect, because of the songs. If you’re a fan of Burton, I don’t see why this film would let you down over any of his others, unless you couldn’t stomach the multiple slit throats. It’s an experience that’s not overly surprising if you’re a fan of Burton’s, but it is rewarding despite it’s tragic conclusion, even upon multiple viewings.

8/10

Dry Blood (2019)

Dry Blood

Directed by Kelton Jones [Other horror films: N/A]

I went into this one hoping for the best, and I liked aspects of the first half, but in the last twenty minutes or so, Dry Blood really started to irk me.

To be fair, I was irked earlier on also. So the main character (Clint Carney) is a drug addict trying to get clean, so he goes to a rather secluded cabin he partly owns in order to dry out. So far, so good. He asks a friend (Jaymie Valentine) to come to the cabin to help, and she does, so he now has support.

Here’s the issue – apparently even before he got addicted to drugs, the main character has a history of hallucinating, and so when he goes into withdrawal, the stuff he’s seeing could be caused by multiple issues (including, by the way, drugs he brought with him that he may or may not remember taking).

All of this is to say that we have a super unreliable narrator in Carney, and come the conclusion of the film, it’s hard to say what the true events of his stay at the cabin actually are. Did he kill some people, including a cop, or was that another vision? Even with that reveal in the last few minutes, I still don’t really know. Was the cop hounding him, as it seemed? Did his ex-wife come by? I have no idea, because with the drugs and hallucinations, nothing is clear-cut, and when they throw in possible flashbacks, it’s even worse.

Little in Dry Blood wowed me to begin with. I guess some of the special effects are decent, the cabin itself is a perfectly acceptable setting, and sure, the idea in of itself was interesting, but what we have here is mostly a ‘Oh, is it supernatural, hallucinations, or a combo?’ thing going on, and at that point, who knows what’s actually happening.

I went into Dry Blood with little expectations (assisted by the fact that I had never heard of this before starting it), and honestly, the first thirty, forty minutes of the movie were pretty solid. Once we are faced with more visions/dreams/drugged artifacts of the mind/supernatural stuff, though, I became more frustrated than anything.

Now, it is possible that everything is there in order to make sense of the story. Maybe with a close re-watch, the story of what really happens at that cabin emerges. It’s possible, and it would be unfair of me to discredit that. However, with this first-time watch, that certainly wasn’t the case, and while the movie does do some things right, and the basic idea is worth considering, I didn’t much care for this final product.

6/10

The Prowler (1981)

The Prowler

Directed by Joseph Zito [Other horror films: Bloodrage (1980), Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)]

The Prowler is one of those early 80’s slasher classics I’ve just seen once before. Truth be told, I only remembered the vaguest of scenes, so it was nice coming into this one as an almost-new viewing. While the story and conclusion are a bit lacking, The Prowler more than makes up for it with it’s atmosphere and fantastic gore effects.

The setting for this one is pretty good also – it’s nothing overly special, just a college campus (of sorts), but I liked how everything happened so close to each other. In one scene, the main actress is walking out of a dance, tons of people and energy, and then just two blocks away, the streets are dark and empty. I’m not sure why, but I just really dug that.

Of course, when anyone talks about this one, they’re going to bring up the gore, and for good reason. I don’t think there was a single death in this movie that disappointed me. The bayonet through the guy’s head (from top of skull, coming out his jaw) was fantastic, as was the double pitchfork impalement at the beginning. Even better, the shower-pitchfork scene, which was fantastically gory, along with providing a bit of welcomed nudity to the film. Let’s not forget the head being blown off with the shotgun, though – in pure Maniac style, that scene was great.

Which makes complete sense, given that the same individual behind the special effects for Maniac, Tom Savini, was behind these also. If you want to see a slasher that’s not afraid of showing some gore, this one is perfect.

I don’t want to give off the impression that the film is without downsides, though. The motive behind the mystery killer are never really explained, leaving the kills without context, and in fact, the identity of the killer is almost pathetically easy to ascertain pretty early on (many of the red herrings were obvious, and we’re pretty much left with a single suspect in mind). Also, while the atmosphere never falters, it did feel a bit sluggish toward the end before the conclusion. And on that note, there’s a scene in the conclusion that just feels overly silly (I’m guessing that, if you’ve seen this, you know which one I’m talking about).

It’s also worth noting that the cast isn’t really amazing either, but for an early 80’s slasher, I pretty much think most of those involved did fine. Vicky Dawson was a pretty fair main character, and Christopher Goutman, while a bit generic, did okay as a co-protagonist. Neither one, by the way, had much a career in movies, which I find a bit interesting. I wish he had appeared more, but Farley Granger was fun while on screen, and I have no idea who Bill Nunnery is, but his short scene is pretty amusing.

It’s the lack of motive that bothers me most about this one, and all other complaints can mostly be swept under the rug. I don’t get why they didn’t throw in a short relevant flashback, or a Dear John letter, or something to indicate why the killer went out of his way to kill again after so long. It was noticeably weak, which is a shame, as otherwise, The Prowler is a solid movie. Even so, the special effects here are damn good, and if I’d recommend it for anything, along with the classic feel, I’d recommend it for that.

8.5/10

Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999)

Candyman

Directed by Turi Meyer [Other horror films: Sleepstalker (1995), Alien Express (2005)]

I can’t even remember the last time I saw this flick – it’s easily been over eight years. This isn’t surprising, considering how utterly sub-par the movie is, even compared to the below-average Farewell to the Flesh.

Certainly, I understand some of what they were going for. They had a lot more skin and scantily-clad women in this one, and seemed to up the amount of gore. The story wasn’t anything new, though, and it just came across as pretty pointless, especially when the second film was pointless enough.

One of the things that bothers me about the Candyman films are the titular character’s angle. In this film, he keeps talking about how, once his descendant is his victim (willingly, as for some reason that matters), they’ll become myths whispered about in reverence by their congregation, and become immortal due to that. First off, I don’t think it’s a surprise that someone would refuse such if, to get there, they had to be impaled by a hook, but ignoring that, once Candyman discovers an actual newly-formed congregation, devoted to his myth, he just kills them all.

I really don’t get what Candyman’s going for. It’s not even revenge against the people who wronged him – he’s literally going after his descendants, who you would think he’d want to protect, if anything. It’s just one of those things that has been a somewhat constant annoyance, and while it didn’t much impact the first film (because it was otherwise a fantastic horror-fantasy mix), it bothered me throughout this one.

Of course, Tony Todd himself is a pretty threatening presence on screen, and despite not understanding his motivations, he brings the character to life. Robert O’Reilly and Wade Andrew Williams did pretty good as some racist cops. Ernie Hudson Jr. was solid in a few scenes as a black police officer, and I wish he had gotten more screen-time.

On the other hand, it’s obvious why they chose Donna D’Errico (who was in Baywatch, apparently) as the main actress, and it has to do more with her breast size than acting ability. Oh, make no mistake, she was smoking, but I wasn’t overly convinced with her performance throughout the movie. Jsu Garcia (credited as Nick Corri) was sort of nice to see (he played Rod Lane in the first A Nightmare on Elm Street), but his performance here wasn’t overly spectacular, and generally, he came off a bit generically.

If there’s one thing I liked about this film, it’s how it portrayed the racism that Latino communities face from the police, and along with the somewhat solid ending, it ends up being one of the few true high points of the film. Otherwise, there’s no real reason to go out of your way to see this one, unless you’re a die-hard Candyman fan.

Day of the Dead is worse than Farewell to the Flesh, and both are below-average, which is a real shame, considering that the first movie proved that, done right, the idea of Candyman could be rather effective. Sadly, this late 90’s sequel focuses more on nudity and gore, and fails to realize that potential.

5.5/10

Recovery (2019)

Recovery

Directed by John Liang [Other horror films: N/A]

I’m not going to go as far as to say Recovery is a perfect movie. In fact, it may not even be a great movie. It is, however, very strong at certain points, and while the different aspects of the movie don’t always blend together the best, I was overall quite happy with this one.

At times, Recovery’s an emotional ride. On the surface, that might be expected, given that the plot revolves around patients at a heroin treatment center, but this throws in some bonus points in that the new patient Ronnie (played fantastically by Stephanie Pearson) was a soldier, and so you have some PTSD action going on.

Not only that, but the main doctor (Hope Quattrocki) had a brother who was also a soldier, and developed addiction problems when he got back, giving her a deeper insight into Ronnie’s situation. The two of them share a fantastically emotional conversation about a third of the way into the movie, and boy, when this movie did something right, they really do it right.

Combining a very well-developed drama with a slasher made sense in the context of the story, but I’m of mixed views on it. On the one hand, I really think this movie would have been stronger had a different direction been taken (not even a non-horror one, just a non-slasher one), but then chances are lower that I’d actually see it, which would have been a shame.

Also, and perhaps I’m being nit-picky, but when the killer is revealed, I wasn’t always overjoyed with their performance. At times, it was really good, emotional even, but others, it felt like the caricature of a psychotic killer, which was a bit disappointing.

Recovery isn’t a film I want to harp on much, though, because I really thought it did something special. It’s true that some of the characters sort of faded into the background, and when they died, it didn’t mean much to me (and I confused Ariella Hader’s character with Andi Rene Christensen’s for a bit, which confused things), but that’s more on me than anything.

If I could have changed one thing, it would have been to give each character a little more time toward the beginning to really get their face and name clarified, which wouldn’t have even been a drag, because there’s not a bad performance in here.

Though it’s been said once, I’ll repeat myself: Stephanie Pearson does fantastic in this. Her character is quite complex, and though I felt pity toward her, I also felt a deep sense of respect. When she was comparing soldier to civilian life, about the lack of a purpose that civilian life boasts that life as a soldier had in spades, I definitely felt for her. She was a strong character, and incredibly memorable and well-acted.

No less impressive was Hope Quattrocki, playing another complex character. At times, I really thought she was going about events the right way (the approach taken by her superior, Mike Starr, seemed much less personal), but you could definitely argue she made some mistakes here (especially superimposing what she knew of her brother’s situation onto another patient simply because both were soldiers). Still, Quattrocki did well throughout, and when talking about her brother with Pearson – again, fantastic.

Others who definitely warrant a positive mention are Liz Fenning and Arielle Hader (who played a very loving couple really well), Mike Starr (when he’s yelling at Quattrocki’s character, you could tell that he felt up against a wall), and Aily Kei. Kei’s best moment may not be until the end, but she was good throughout.

As for the kills, there’s nothing really amazing here, but I did like a quick slice of the Achilles’ tendon (I cringed at that one, and it was well-shot), and there was another scene in which a character got stabbed through the neck. The kills here weren’t much the focal point, but they got done what they had to.

Like I said at the start, Recovery isn’t a perfect movie, and it may not even be that great. Really, the plot itself isn’t all that original; it’s just that the setting and characters made the film a lot more memorable. I know this much, though – despite not being as great as it could have been, Recovery deserves more than a single watch, and I applaud it for what it got right.

7.5/10