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Navigating the seemingly endless library of horror entertainment is a chore that so few want to take on. Dozens of movie streaming services, a myriad of independent developers, and fairly unrestricted self-publishing platforms make finding worthwhile horror movies, games, and books a chore.
So, here I am, taking one for the team.
"Weird and Pissed Off" is a new series of mini-reviews I will be releasing to cover the abundance of good, passable, and unforgivable titles I have submitted myself to across all mediums.
They'll be short, to the point, and should hopefully save you time and steer you toward the creations worth diving into. For the first volume, I was quite surprised that the quartet of terror was more than passable.
They were, dare I say, well worth the time.
'Found Footage 3D' (2016)
What sounds like little more than a gimmick to try and revitalize the Found Footage genre actually winds up being a clever ghost story with a likable cast. Similar to Cabin in the Woods, Found Footage 3D (directed by Steven DeGennaro) is a satire on the genre as a small cast and crew attempts to breathe life into it through the use of 3D. Throughout the meta-film, a clashing writer/star and director attempt to fix the typical tropes, creating an awkward dynamic you know has to be present in real life productions.
Though Found Footage 3D takes a few missteps that wind up occasionally making it feel like just another Found Footage movie, the fantastic cast makes it easy to overlook these shortcomings. Carter Roy as the arrogant and oft-times volatile lead shows the darker side of independent film making while Carl lightens the mood by saying what the audience is thinking.
That's not to discredit Alena von Stroheim (Amy), Tom Saporito (Andrew), Chris O'Brien (Mark), and Jessica Perrin (Lily), who deliver great performances and round off the doomed production. If it scares you're looking for, Found Footage 3D has some tense moments, but don't expect to be falling off your seat.
Horror fans will also appreciate the cameo by Scott Weinberg.
'Train to Busan' (2016)
Zombies haven't been scary since 2004, when Zack Snyder threw us into a world of fast-moving undead. It's a tired genre that sees so many trying to recreate the shock and awe of George Romero's Night of the Living Dead.
Then came along Yeong Sang-ho and his claustrophobic horror Train to Busan. It's just as much a human drama as it is a zombie movie, just like the classics used to be. Train to Busan isn't a retread of everything the genre has thrown our way already, however. It's fresh, fast-paced, and, at times, terrifying.
The movie follows Gong Yoo as Seok-woo, a selfish fund manager that's all for "survival of the fittest," and Kim Su-an as Su-an, Seok-woo's daughter who's caught in the middle of her father's selfish way of life. It's a touching story with a heartwarming resolution.
Just kidding. Train to Busan finds multiple ways to take you on a roller coaster of emotion and floods it with hundreds of blood-thirsty zombies. The setting of a busy passenger train leaves you guessing how our heroes and fellow zombie fodder are going to survive in such close quarters. Spoiler alert: many don't.
Though we've seen zombies done dozens of times, Train to Busan changes the formula just enough. The way they move, the sounds they make, and their inability to see in the dark injects suspension into a movie that clearly doesn't want to be "just another zombie movie."
Train to Busan does what the genre has forgotten how to do over the years, and that's make a likable cast that you desperately want to survive.
'We Go On' (2016)
I wasn't expecting much when I sat down with We Go On, a Shudder exclusive. The concept was intriguing: an everything-phobe sets out to find proof of an afterlife to cure his fear of death. His quest is met with eccentric frauds and pseudo-science, but ultimately reminds us that some questions are better left unanswered.
We Go On isn't a great film, but Clark Freeman (Miles) and Annette O'Toole (Charlotte) as the mother-son dynamic work well together to make much of the movie enjoyable. In media where a character is afraid of nearly everything, it's so easy to lose interest in their journey and grow frustrated with their choices, but Freeman's despondent Miles is, at times, charming and deserving of empathy.
Where We Go On falls apart a little is in its third act, surprisingly when we start seeing glimpses of the other side. It was quite a bit more fun to watch Miles and Charlotte wade through the sea of shams and weirdos that I would have appreciated sitting through more of that than the what winds up feeling like a retread of The Sixth Sense.
We Go On is a decent character piece, though the paranormal horror is pretty standard and largely forgettable.
It was touted as a movie so scary that people were turning it off.
When you go into Veronica with that in mind, you expect something jarring. You want to feel what audiences must have felt when they first watched The Exorcist. That's not quite what you get with this Paco Plaza directed piece.
You will, however, find yourself watching a surprisingly well-done family drama sprinkled with moments of slow-burn horror. Veronica suffers from showing too much of the entity, which looks more extraterrestrial in nature. It does follow the usual tropes of possession and Ouija board films, but is fresh enough to be worth a watch. When it's not showing us everything outright, Veronica can be pretty creepy.
Sandra Escacena as 15-year-old Veronica and her brood of siblings played by Bruna Gonzalez, Claudia Placer, and Ivan Chavero give us plenty of reason to care about what happens to the ill-fated family, especially as things fall apart in the final, thrilling act.