Sunday, 17 August 2014

At the Devil's Door (aka Home) (2014) Review

Title: At the Devil's Door / Home

Year of Release: 2014

Director: Nicholas McCarthy

RATING:   3      /      5

When Nicholas McCarthy's first movie The Pact came out, I gave it a glowing review (read here). It was clearly budget-constrained yet it still did plenty right to be a good watch. Because of that, I was excited to delve into his new film, At the Devil's Door. I didn't know much about it going in, and that definitely helped my viewing experience to an extent, so I will try my best to not spoil any part of it here beyond the first 5-10 minutes.

The movie opens with a girl and a boy somewhere in the desert. The girl has decided to sell her soul to someone (I'm sure you can guess who by the film title) in exchange for a surprisingly small bundle of cash. When the transaction is complete, she goes home, and tries to shake off the experience and stash her cash away. Unfortunately, it isn't very easy for her to do so, given the invisible presence which has followed her home and is determined to show her it owns her now. Cut to the same house, empty now, being sold by the parents of a missing girl. The real estate agent responsible for selling it starts seeing the girl from the opening wandering around the house, and eventually gets entangled into whatever business was going on with the whole "soul selling" thing.

Watching this movie reminded me of eating a bag of assorted jellybeans. Some are amazing, some are OK, and then once in a while you get licorice and it makes your face pucker in disgust and ruins your whole jellybean eating experience. At the start, this movie drew me in with several things I loved. The opening was cryptic and set up the mystery in a good way, and I love horror movies where there is a mystery involved. On top of that, the movie played with the "opening scene kill" trope in a pretty interesting way which I haven't seen much before. The first few creepy moments were excellently done as well. I dug the extended scenes of hesitant glancing at the dresser (nice tension being built there), the rotating shots that reveal things in the background, the hand reaching into the dresser at an obscured angle, even the eyes. They weren't typical jump scares, they weren't even accompanied by noises, they relied entirely on old-fashioned tension and expectation. But then, buried midway down the pack, comes the licorice. What happened to this movie about halfway through I cannot even fathom, because it does a complete 180 in its fear tactics and replaces the tension with the most ridiculous, mainstream, cheesy jump scares. The culmination of this is in the hospital scene. The scares, if I can call them that, used in that scene are downright offensive and nothing the movie showed me after could have completely recovered my opinion of it. I smell studio meddling here because they were cheap and taken from other very recent horror films (of awful quality).

The villain was an equally mixed bag. Initially, I loved the way he was portrayed - always in reflections, or in the distance out of focus. The makeup worked for exactly that sort of presence, it was tastefully minimal. But then, along with the rest of the film, he took a turn toward the cheesy CGI closeups. The better side of him still made sporadic appearances until the end though, so at least it wasn't a total downhill slope. However, diversity is not his strong suit. Not one. Not two. THREE characters have absolutely identical encounters with him. It was like they wrote a single set of scare scenes and then proceeded to shoot them three times over with different actors/actresses. I did not understand the director's choice in this regard and thought it brought monotony that was in sharp contrast to the diversity that the storyline tries to endow on the film.

While the movie does use a lot of individually generic premises and plotlines, it still combined enough of them to feel somewhat fresh and new as a whole, so it does get points from me for slight originality. I liked that it had a large span and constantly attempted to change direction; it also used one of my favourite narrative film techniques from a certain 1960s horror. Unfortunately, where it ultimately ended up was at the same place as its most generic inspiration, resulting in an ending that would have been weak regardless of the final choice made by the character - both options for the ending have been done to death in other films.

At The Devil's Door is pretty much at the very threshold of quality that I would recommend. It is by no means great (and in parts not even good) yet it managed to be an entertaining enough watch throughout most of the running time.

RATING:    3    /    5

Monday, 23 September 2013

Haunter (2013) Review

Title: Haunter

Year of Release: 2013

Director: Vincenzo Natali

RATING:    2.5   /    5.0

Haunter is the new film by director Vincenzo Natali, who directed the cult classic Cube (one of the best and most imaginative films I've seen). It is about a family who live in a time loop inside their own house - every day they wake up in the same calendar date, they eat the same thing they ate the day before, they do the same chores, they have the same fights, etc. The only one who is aware that this is happening is the teenage daughter Lisa, played by Abigail Breslin. However, her attempts at convincing the other family members that they are playing on repeat always fail because they perceive things as normal. Eventually she starts noticing strange sounds and voices coming from all over the house, and decides to investigate them. The investigation causes the daily routines of the family to change, and a strange man warns her to stop inquiring about her situation or else she will be sorry. She ignores his warnings and dives further into the mystery of where she is and what is happening to her and her family. 

Haunter is the kind of film that we don't often get in the horror genre - family friendly. It had more in common, both stylistically and thematically, with a made-for-TV horror like the old Nickelodeon show "Are You Afraid of the Dark" than it did with a more serious genre offering. This isn't necessarily bad; a couple of years ago the Innkeepers took the same approach to the genre and pulled it off quite well, creating endearing and likable characters. However, Haunter isn't as successful in its execution, despite a good idea to work with. Virtually every aspect of the film was lacking a certain something that kept it from being great. The characters aren't very compelling, the scares fall flat half the time, the sets and mood zigzag between great and awful, and most importantly the movie is so cheesy that you better hope you’re not lactose intolerant.  

Story-wise, the first third of the film was excellent and kept my interest piqued. The idea of someone reliving the same day over and over is not new for horror (I can think of several other genre films which use this concept), but it was still different enough here to be unique in my books. It was like a puzzle box unravelling slowly. And now that I know the ending of the film, some of the smaller touches from this first third (the missing clothes, the Pacman game, the car that won't start) show the attention to detail that the writer invested in creating the story. Unfortunately, the wider the puzzle box opens, the less enticing its insides become. The middle third revealed almost all there was to know about the story, and what it decided to do from there simply wasn't as interesting as the mystery aspect of the repeating house. I just didn't care whether Lisa accomplished the goal she set out for herself or not, because it related to an uninteresting character who we barely experience in the film; thus I did not care about what happened to this character at all. 

While most of the overall idea of the film was pretty good, the cinematic qualities made a lot of the scenes fail, even those which were clever and unique in concept. My biggest problem was with how damn cheesy everything was, and I really mean everything. Some of the dialogue was so poor that the actors struggled to deliver it. There are many examples of this, with the worst offenders being Lisa talking to the Ouija board and the conversation in the car with the father. The ending scenes are like the cherry on top of the cheesecake. I groaned at the fate of both the heroes AND the villains. Truly Goosebump-y conclusion. And I understand the need to keep the film visually interesting after so much repetition of content (due to the nature of the plot), but the way they chose to do this did not feel inspired or improve the monotony. They used standard filters and effects like “old movie reel”, complete with blurred edges. The kind of stuff that is typical of TV and not the big screen, for good reason.

I am not sure what contributed to this, but atmosphere was a major problem in a large chunk of the film. It didn't even matter whether the scene on screen was emotional, funny, or supposed to be scary – there was just something off, either in the editing or music or pacing, that would drain the humour/tension out of the scene. I still liked some of the jokes and scare scenes, but I felt detached from them. I was never quite transported inside Lisa’s world, and maybe that’s why I didn't care about the outcome as much as I should have.

The one saving grace of the movie for me was Stephen McHattie as the Pale Man. You might know him as the lead from another Canadian low budget horror, Pontypool. Here he abandons the cool cat persona and plays a sickly looking stranger who can be intimidating by just standing there. I really liked his chemistry with Abigail Breslin - they never speak to each other but they do a great job playing off of each other's mere presence. The movie probably would have been a bit better if they utilized him for more of the scares and developed him further. 

Overall, Haunter wasn't entirely my type of horror film (at least not past the first third, which was a fun puzzle). It was heading in the right direction but took a serious detour at some point, I went along with it, and didn’t end up enjoying the ride that much. It isn't bad though, at least it is unique, and I hope the director keeps up with his streak of very different films. 

RATING:    2.5    /    5.0

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears (L'étrange couleur des larmes de ton corps) (2013) Review

Title: The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears (L'étrange couleur des larmes de ton corps)

Year of Release: 2013

Directors: Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani

RATING:      2.5   /    5.0

All I heard prior to seeing The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears was "giallo, giallo, giallo". Nothing about the plot, just "giallo". Having viewed it, I now see why people would struggle to describe it in any other way - there's barely a way to talk about it with words. To be honest, it shouldn't even be called a giallo because in my Giallo-fanboy opinion, it has very, very little to do with that genre beyond the sets and one or two tunes on the soundtrack. I know the directors were inspired by the old Italian films, but the product of that inspiration ends up too drastically different from them to be a blood offspring.

This awesomely titled film is about a man who comes back from a business trip only to find his apartment empty. His younger girlfriend has mysteriously vanished, with the door still locked from the inside. He meets a strange shadow lady who lives in the building and tells him the story of her own husband's disappearance into the building. There are constant strange noises coming from walls and ceilings, and it seems like someone lives behind the walls. He proceeds to look for his girlfriend everywhere possible.

Don't let my little synopsis fool you - the plot is about a hair away from nonexistent. However, it is clear from the beginning that the main attraction of this film is its approach to stimulating your senses, and providing them with an experience they have never had before. Think of films like Tetsuo or Eraserhead, but set in a beautiful European building. And way more experimental in cinematography/sound design. The entire style of filmmaking changes from scene to scene, so the movie showcases a very large variety of techniques you probably haven't seen before.

Most of the time, it honestly felt like the movie was angry at me (in a good way). It assaulted my eyes over and over again with jarring images, colours, movements, lack of movements, etc, all the while doing the same if not worse to my ears (some of the sounds still echo in my mind days that damn buzzer). The opening credits alone felt like playing a virtual boy - those blood red letters on a black background burned into my retinas from the large screen in front of me. Maybe I am a masochist, but I loved taking this kind of beating from the movie (kinky!). It isn't very often that movies affect you physiologically rather than emotionally, so in that regard I am glad I experienced it. Nice change! Problem is, I doubt it will translate well to home viewing. The movie NEEDS that large cinema screen with the powerful sound system to act as its weapons against you. At home, your TV and stereo are like bringing a knife to a gunfight. It will fail to consume you. Anyone interested in seeing The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears better find a cinema showing it.

If you have any interest in this film, don't be deterred by my low score. In fact, the low score in this case is a reflection of the packaging of the content, not due to the content itself. If this movie was shown as a series of avant garde vignettes, fully independent of each other, and treated as an experimental visual and aural offering, then I would have bough right into it, because there was some fantastic work on exhibition here. Instead, they tried to fit a square peg into a round hole and forced a plot onto the images and sounds. It was as unsuccessful as it was unneeded. So if you go into it accepting that the extremely well-executed cinematic experimentation will occasionally be interrupted by pointless and incomprehensible "plot advancement", then you will have a much better time with The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears.

RATING:      2.5   /    5.0

Witching and Bitching (Las brujas de Zugarramurdi) (2013) Review

Title: Witching and Bitching (Las brujas de Zugarramurdi)

Year of Release: 2013

Director: Alex de la Iglesia

RATING:    3    /    5

Alex de la Iglesia is one of Spain's most prolific directors, with a long and downright excellent career (I love this guy, he is cool as shit). Often dabbling in the horror genre, he has had some great hits like Day of the Beast (one of my favourite horror comedies of all time) and The Baby's Room. This fueled a certain level of anticipation for Witching and Bitching in me, further amplified by my general love for witchcraft-related movies (it's an under-explored subgenre that needs to get a little more attention like it did in the 60s/70s). If I was looking for just a comedy offering, the Bitching part would have probably met my expectations. But the Witching part of the whole ordeal just didn't work. The horror aspect was so underwhelming for the majority of the running time that a straight up comedy would have fared far better.

Witching and Bitching is about a set of low-lives who get together to steal all the gold rings from a pawn shop where divorcees go to get rid of their wedding bands. They've dressed quite appropriately for the occasion, sporting Minnie Mouse, Spongebob, and other fictional character costumes. The whole gang is organized by a silver Jesus Christ (as I said, they're all fictional characters), whose 10-year-old son tags along for the heist. The gang, including the kid, tries to flee across the French border with the stolen treasure. Before they could get to the other side, they have to pass through a small village which is the birthplace of witchcraft. A coven of witches living there have foreseen in a prophecy that the newest sacrifice to their mother goddess should be coming through town any second; you guessed it, they're after the little kid. Can the kid be rescued from becoming witch food?

The main source of laughs in the movie is the topic of divorce, and men vs women in general. Iglesia's divorce from his wife Amaya Díez was clearly the main source of inspiration for the script, and he did well milking it for all it is worth. This film is drenched in bitterness and inter-gender rivalry, but in an always hilarious and never (too) hateful way. The jabs that both genders take at each other sting because they are very true. The one low point of the divorcée humour is that it is as literal as possible. It went beyond simple inspiration and turned into a blatant copy of real life. For god's sake, the main character, who is also recently divorced, has the hots for Iglesia's new girlfriend (he cast her as the daughter-witch of the coven). How much more literal can you possibly get than casting your wife's replacement as the wife replacement? I'm sure this was very cathartic for the director, but for the audience it means nothing, and her poor acting and lack of comedic timing hinders the film somewhat. The non-divorcée related humour was funnier due to having the leeway to be bizarre instead of realistic. The taxi passenger was my favourite; he was everyone's verbal and physical punching bag, and many laughs were had at his expense.

Again, I want to emphasize that if comedy is what you are after, Witching and Bitching will certainly tickle your funny bone. But since I run a horror blog, I have to keep my horror goggles permanently on, and, as a genre film, this doesn't quite cut it in quality. If the witches were given the same attention as the jokes, they would have been way cooler. Instead, almost their entire coven is, well, flat out lame. The oldest grandma-witch is the exception to this - the character was funny and unique (fat and senile old lady) and it was entertaining to see what dementia would do to a horror villain. The younger mother-witch was much less entertaining, and she didn't do anything other than organize the show. Boring stuff. And then there's the daughter-witch. She was an awful, awful, awful character. Her overly attached persona was one-note beginning to end, and it seemed like her character's only purpose was to be a "fuck-you" to Iglesia's former wife. I would have reworked that character completely to make her less annoying to watch. The secondary witches are fully disposable and the limit to their witchyness is that they wear hooded robes. Wow. The toilet brother was a decent idea but it didn't go anywhere or even matter in the grand scheme of things - they should have utilized him more and given us a break from the less-than-stellar witches, since he had potential to be fun.

On top of the not-so-great horror characters, the horror scenes were weak throughout as well. These witches don't do anything particularly cool, and there weren't any good chase/stalk scenes either. There are minor playful things that worked (for example, I liked those metal teeth...chomp chomp), and the mother goddess was awesome when she appears (you would think you're watching a quirky Japanese movie like Big Man Japan when she comes on, and not Spanish cinema), but the rest of the movie is just tied up people, lost people, cut people, shoved people. Nothing to get your undies wet over. I can honestly say that in the last 30-40 minutes, once the mystery is over and the humour loses novelty, I was plain bored. And I don't like being bored.

Where Witching and Bitching ultimately fails is wrapping the humour in a worthy horror blanket. Day of the Beast aced this, so I know Iglesia is capable of doing it. I just wish he hadn't been so tied down to his real life drama that he forgot to borrow enough from the make-believe and unseen. I remain a big fan of the director, just not a fan of this particular film. Still chuckled at the jokes, though.

RATING:    3    /    5

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Oculus (2013) Review

Title: Oculus

Year of Release: 2013

Director: Mike Flanagan

RATING:     5.0   /    5.0

Without even thinking twice about it, I am certain that Oculus is the best horror movie I've seen so far this year. It had that perfect blend of creepy factor, great acting all around, and an interesting and unique story conductive to showing you things you haven't seen before. What more can we possibly ask of our horror?

The story is about Tim and Kaylie, a brother and sister with some dark trauma in their lives. When they were little, their father went insane and killed their mother, and was then shot to death by Tim. Tim has spent the past several years in a mental institution, trying to accept the fact that he killed his father. But as soon as he is released, his sister shares her view on the events - she remembers that her father was possessed by an evil mirror which made him kill their mother. And the sister has hunted down the mirror with the purpose of destroying it. The movie goes back and forth in time between the past, showing what really happened to the mother and father, and the present, where Tim and Kaylee are trying to destroy the mirror.

It's always a pleasure when we get a meaty story to our horror. Oculus was flat out interesting to watch - you are always curious as to where the movie is going and how things are going to turn out. So the scares and the gross out scenes are just icing to an already delicious cake. I'm glad we got a little of both, usually movies focus on one or the other. My favourite scenes of the brutal kind were the band-aid and apple (fuck... fuck, fuck, fuck) and on the spookier side, that three sheet scene in the auction house put a grin on my face from ear to ear. That is some quality spooking, if I may say so meself.

The editor of this film deserves a damn Oscar, and truly made Flanagan's vision come to life. As the movie progresses, the jumps between past and present become ever more frequent and creative, eventually merging the two into a whole new entity. I was treated to a seamless temporal mindfuck, and I loved every second of it. I can't imagine the hard work that goes into pulling off that kind of continuity between shots, but I respect the hell out of this crew for attempting it and accomplishing it.

The acting in Oculus was another reason why I liked the movie quite as much as I did. Katee Sackhoff and Brenton Thwaites did very well as the mother and brother, and were both endearing and sweet. But who truly impressed me were Karen Gillan as the sister and Rory Cochrane as the father. Rory was in one of my favourite teen movies when I was growing up, Empire Records, so I was really happy to see him in movies again. He was both creepy and damn hilarious in his delivery of the few humorous lines that were included in the film. I don't know Karen as an actress (never seen Doctor Who, which she apparently is in), but she blew me away. She was always fully committed to her character, and was strong and in control throughout. She really anchored the movie and made me a fan. Come to think of it, the young actress who played the child version of her character was also excellent, and we all know how rare that is for child actors.

Any gripes I have with the film are minor and I almost feel bad for mentioning them considering how much I loved it overall. The pacing was just a tad off in spots - there was a 20 minute segment near the middle where not that much happens, and the last bit of the film is drawn out ever so slightly. Neither of these detracts much from the experience so you needn't worry at all. The bonus scene after the credits, on the other hand, really irked me. It was extremely pointless and generic; it was the kind of thing I'd expect from a cheesy straight to video sequel instead of a serious and beautiful contemporary horror film. If I were to re-watch the film (which I absolutely will as soon as possible), I'd turn it off before the credits are over.

Since Absentia didn't spark my interest in Flanagan that much, Oculus was an eyeopener for me. This is what real horror talent looks like, and I am already waiting impatiently for him to work on a new project. One thing is clear from both films - Flanagan is unwilling to make anything generic or trendy, and that is why he is worth following.

RATING:     5.0   /    5.0

Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Sacrament (2013) Review

Title: The Sacrament

Year of Release: 2013

Director: Ti West

RATING:        2 / 5

Having just finished watching The Sacrament a couple of hours ago at a TIFF screening, my first thought as the credits rolled is still fresh in my mind. And that thought was "Really, Ti West? This is it?"

The Sacrament is the newest entry in everyone's "favourite" subgenre, found footage. Apparently we don't get enough of those nowadays so even directors who were doing just fine without it are giving it a try. As for the plot: a rich guy's sister has joined a cult and disappeared out of the country. She sends a note to her brother; an invitation to come visit her at the cult's parish (somewhere in what looks like the Caribbean). He takes his two friends who work for Vice along, as they want to shoot a Vice documentary about the experience. They get to the parish and everything looks and smells like a standard suicide cult, a la Heaven's Gate. Then the cult does its completely derivative cult thing; the end.

Before I go further, a note to not just Mr. West but also to all directors who choose to dabble in found footage. This isn't 1980s Italy or 1990s USA. No one is going to think your found footage film is real. Using Vice isn't going to be seen as authentic and credible, it will be seen as cheap and annoying marketing for Vice that didn't belong in the movie at all. If this forced advertising was the only way you could get your movie funded, then I apologize for knocking it considering I would do the same to get my creative baby out of my mind-vagina and onto celluloid. But if this was an artistic choice that had nothing to do with funding, then I must say it was a very poor one.

Now that I got that out of my system, let us move on to the movie. The Sacrament simply didn't go anywhere or do anything as a film. I assume Ti West read the story of the Heaven's Gate cult, or maybe some other mass suicide cult, and was inspired to make a similar story. That's fine, but it should have gone one of two ways - he should have either done major research and made a very detailed and complex film exploring all sides of the issue and the motivations of people who join such cults, OR he should have added some kind of twist to the whole story to make it interesting as a horror film. Instead, The Sacrament literally summarizes the entire cult experience as "we want to live in heaven on earth, but then we commit suicide when things don't turn out perfect". It barely touches the surface of what a cult is all about, and it doesn't do anything else either. Very, very disappointing treatment of the subject matter.

On top of having no plot beyond "hi, we are a cult", none of the individual scenes in the movie are particularly interesting either. The first half is a buildup where the Vice guys interview the various people of the parish. This was completely standard fare of characters pretending everything is normal while it is obvious they are hiding something dark. This kind of stuff can be seen in countless other films, and nothing was different here to make it interesting. Then the movie goes into mass suicide mode, and here I expected something else to happen. Nope, nothing, not even interesting suicide scenes. So, both the before-punch and after-punch parts of the film were poor, but the one thing I enjoyed was the transition between them. It happens with the passing of a note, and it was kind of cool to see the entire movie go from very upbeat and bright to very dark in every way (sound, editing, lighting, etc) with a single event. It provided a lot of contrast and that was nice. If only this transition joined two worthwhile halves.

The same lack of interest is true of the characters as well. The brother and the two Vice guys are all pretty much the same person personality-wise, so they are not at all compelling to watch. The sister was one-dimensional and not much motivation or explanation is ever provided as to why she'd want to be in the cult  (the one thing she seemed to be getting out of it is something a rich girl like her could have easily gotten back home in California, so that's not much incentive). The only decent character was the cult leader, who everyone referred to as Father. The actor was pretty compelling and was responsible for some of the only scenes which weren't boring to watch. That vestigial arm gait, those glasses, that voice...a total carwreck of a human being, but so enticing to watch. Unfortunately even he is given the one-dimensional treatment, so he is memorable only for his mannerism and appearance, not his ideas or purpose.

I was saddened to find out that The Sacrament is a major step down from West's previous feature, The Innkeepers. He was showing improvement in both his storytelling and his visual flair, both of which were disregarded here. As a feature, The Sacrament is not even as good as the Safe Haven short in V/H/S/2 (another found footage cult-related film that at least tried to add something different, whether it succeeded or not).

RATING:        2 / 5

Friday, 6 September 2013

All Cheerleaders Die (2013) Review

Title: All Cheerleaders Die

Year of Release: 2013

Directors: Lucky McKee & Chris Sivertson

RATING:     3.5 /  5

I'm not going to hide it - I am a huge Lucky McKee Fan. May and The Woman were both excellent character studies drenched in symbolism (unless it was all in my head), and The Woods, while failing to come together in the end, still has a long list of things going for it that make it enjoyable anyway. So I went into All Cheerleaders Die expecting to love the shit out of it. 

All Cheerleaders Die is about a group of high school kids who are days away from starting their senior year. A newly recruited cheerleader has a grudge against the captain of the football team and is plotting to sabotage his life. Things get out of hand and one or more people get hurt and/or die. He/She/They are revived using magic stones that grant your wishes (courtesy of a wiccan lesbian stalker), and go back to school to do some hurting of their own. A war of boys against girls ensues. The pen is mightier than the vagina...OR IS IT?

The opening scene of this movie was pretty much perfect. The energy was through the roof, the editing was fantastic and unique (especially those cheerleading routines overlayed with the hard music, some very interesting sound editing there), and the culmination of it all was like a sudden punch to the face. Kudos for making it so enticing before the opening credits have even graced the screen. This mood is mostly upkept for the first third of the film, and I was having a good time reliving some of my high-school nightmares. So up until the death(s), the movie really worked for me.

The middle third, starting with the revival, still had tonnes of charm and some interesting concepts. For example, I liked the idea of the people affected by the stones being connected and experiencing physical sensations together. However, the "mythos" of the stones, if I can even call it that, wasn't very well defined or consistent. Sometimes you die when they leave you, sometimes you don't. Some people act as if nothing happened and it's not weird that they are back from the dead, others are 100% self-aware about their own situation and are very distraught by it. It seemed like a free-for-all where every character was living in their own little world. Yeah, I know, that sounds exactly like high-school so you'd think it would fit the movie, but this wasn't some deliberate deep symbolism, it was just sloppy writing.  This is also where some of the movie's bigger problems become much more apparent, especially the lack of attention to the horror elements (more on that later).

The final act is where All Cheerleaders Die really began to lose me. The editing, the pacing, the fun, they all go out the window (save for one or two good lines and scenes). They tried to jam half a movie worth of kills (given that almost all of them happen at this point) into 20 minutes, so everything is done half-assed. Any fan of horror comedies like this one can attest to the fact that the kills are vital to the enjoyment of such a movie. We want them to be crazy, we want them to be over the top, we want them to be gory. Was I ever disappointed to find out that all the kills were pretty much afterthoughts. They're not just boring, some are bad enough to be in a Twilight film (person flung at tree...person stabbed by knife...person bitten...cutting edge stuff). Only one or two of them struck me as pretty good and in the spirit of where I thought the movie was going. Most importantly, the final showdown between cunt and cock was such a major letdown that I would struggle to think of a more underwhelming conclusion (at least the surprise right after was nice). 

The thing that amazed me the most about this film were the characters. All the actors seemed like really cool people who I would want to hang with - in real life. That did not at all translate to their characters. Even the leads were completely underdeveloped and had the dimensions of a point. All the secondaries were so paper-thin they might as well have been non-existent. At least the two girls who weren't leads had some kind of stereotypical attire to differentiate them (Jesus Freak and Shy School Mascot Nerd... it certainly isn't much but it's something). The boys, on the other hand...I couldn't even tell you any of their names directly after watching the movie. Other than the main guy, none of the other ones do much, say much, have more than 1 or 2 minutes of screen presence, or matter in any way at all. This movie could have been way tighter in its final act if they cut the characters from 10 to 6, and actually created a personality and a fitting death for at least a couple of them.

Despite these problems, I'm still a Lucky fan. Him and Chris did a really great job at adding subtle and humorous touches to the movie's look and feel. Cheesy but deliberate music here, rom-com camera shots of lesbian action there, it was all actually quite charming and made me smile. The dialogue was also one of the stronger aspects, and really captured the spirit of dumb-as-bricks high school kids. Several lines in the movie were so flawless and well-delivered that they set me off laughing like an idiot. There is definitely room for improvement though, and I hope any potential sequels (not that I have a reason to think there would be any) take the established ideas and characters and refine them to something much more polished and consistently good. And oh yeah...add some fucking gore and great kills, please. I know not every movie needs that, but I assure you that this one did.  

RATING:     3.5 /  5