Monday, October 30, 2017

Militant Bodycounter: The Guest (2014)

The Guest (2014)
Rating: ****
Starring: Dan Stevens, Sheila Kelley, Maika Monroe

One would remember Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett as the filmmaking duo responsible for the stylish and devilishly fun home invasion/slasher melting pot You're Next (2011), as well as the slow burning yet hypnotizing serial killer thriller A Horrible Way to Die (2009) and a couple of better entries for the first two V/H/S/ anthology horror movies. Now, we'll look into their 2014 hit The Guest, which is far from the standard horror flick you would expect in a slasher blog like this, but it has enough intrigue, kill count and even a few shoutouts to horror flicks to earn a warm welcome here in StickyRed.

Still mourning over the loss of their son Caleb who died in action back at Afghanistan, the Petersons get an unexpected visitor named David one early morning, claiming to be Caleb's marine buddy. He is there to look after them because their late son "asked him to", a promise our titular guest is determined to make good of and a proposition the Petersons were quick to accept.

Well, most of the Petersons: a bit suspicious of this is Anna, the only daughter of the family and now the remaining eldest. She believes there's more to David's near-perfection as a house guest than what he is showing and her suspicions are later proven pin-point, unfortunately, as David has a secret worth killing over and anybody (and I mean anybody) in the way is fair game once he believes he's compromised.

Being frank, The Guest's core plot isn't entirely new if you look back at movies like The Stepfather (1987) and its sequels (and underrated remake), as well as Mikey (1992), Orphan (2009) and many other horror flicks involving suspicious and/or murderous adoptive/adopting family members. It's quite easy to tell that something is up with David's boy-next-door persona and we are eventually made aware of this once he starts talking about acquiring guns in one scene and nonchalantly killing off the suppliers in another. Basically, we are more or less watching a ticking time bomb of a narrative that's scheduled to go off once the climactic curveball is upon us, only the wait is just as fun as the last act it is building to.

What The Guest does that not a lot of its ilk seems to grasp perfectly (or attempted at all) is create a worthwhile diversion to an otherwise predictable scenario. By this I meant that most of the time, movies like The Stepfather or Orphan gave more focus on uncovering the dark secrets of the painfully obvious offending party, molding said offending party into a much more obvious threat that needs to be stopped. In The Guest, however, even after we are made aware of David's potential murder-happy persona, we are still shown a more acceptable side of him as a man looking out for a family and doing a good job at it.

For a good mulch of the time, we see David help with the chores, taught the family's youngest Luke how to stand up against his bullies (beating a good number of them up in the process), and may have done something to have Spencer, the father, suddenly climb the corpotate ladder at his job, all of these with an uncomfortably eerie yet somewhat genuine smile and soft spoken persona only Downtown Abbey's Dan Stevens can muster with good looks and charm. It's these awesome moments that made the David character quite a likable chap, thus adding tension and mystery to the plot as we are never solidly sure what he is capable of, what he really is and/or his actual purpose being there until the hour mark. By then, The Guest turns the table against us and kinda recalls its horror elements, bringing forth an odd mix of slasher flick killing spree and action movie shoot'em up.

This transition is far from perfect as we were never given a clear explanation as to why David suddenly goes 360 from his protective big brother mode and go Terminator on everybody's arses. Yes, they did explain he is programmed by something shady and there was supposed to be a scene that go into this in more details, but Wingard and Barrett decided to cut it out to make David more mysterious. So what exactly this programming does or what it is for were never brought up and this is understandably upsetting for some as it made the David character lazily transformed from a potential anti-hero to something of a slasher villain packing heat (And a box cutter), throwing away all of the development made just for a more explosive and exploitative final act.

Personally, the sudden transformation of both David and the subtle tone of the movie would have been upsetting for me, but seeing the layout of the story was already familiar to me genre-wise, the impact is forseen and though I do wished they planned this twist a bit better, the resulting product is still entertainingly fun and impressive.

What I personally love about The Guest, apart from Steven's portrayal as a first-likable-then-homicidal human weapon, is that it has a grooving retro feel to it from its editing to its soundtrack despite having a modernized setting, giving the entire movie a timeless feel. There's offerings for both thriller and horror enthusiasts in the later carnage as we are given a chance to see David in gunheld action, as well as him delivering some decent kills in both combustive and slicing manner, two in particular (my favorites) involve an unsettling scene where live grenades were tossed at a diner full of innocent bystanders and another at a highschool horror maze in which the film went full slasher movie on us.

Now, if there is anything that I could point as flaws that really bugged me, it'll be the Peterson parent's quick approval of having David around just because he showed little proofs that could have meant anything else. (I mean, did David really got those dog tags from Caleb the way he explained it?) It's a typical horror cliche of "useless/clueless adults" which mostly sets grown ups as deserving meat for the slaughter for being blind of the danger they are getting into and though I get that Mrs. Peterson might be this easily persuaded as she is still grieving over the loss of her boy, I find it too easy for Papa Peterson to be just as easily welcoming after one scene of skepticism. I guess it is a good thing that most of the focus of (kinder) David interactions were on Laura and her son Luke as they were the easiest to relate to and work the best with the kind of plotting The Guest was going for.

A fun genre film that molds the thrilling and the horrifying in one antihero-centered package, I can honestly say that The Guest is a winner in my book, whether its last act works for a lot of folks or not. If you love your good thrillers with a side of horror and character, then this one's a guaranteed definite keeper!

1 male shot on the head
1 male shot
1 male and 1 female mentioned dead from drug overdose
1 male shot
1 male shot on the head
1 male shot dead with an automatic rifle
1 male shot on the face with an automatic rifle
1 male shot dead with an automatic rifle
1 female knifed on the chest
1 male shot dead
1 male mangled in car collision, shot
1 victim implied shot, blood splatter seen
1 female shot
A number of people presumably killed in grenade explosion
1 male had this throat sliced with a box cutter
1 male had his wrist sliced open with a box cutter, bled to death
1 male implied murdered, uniform seen
Total: 17+

Monday, October 23, 2017

New Blogger Blog is a Webcomic...

So yeah, I decided to expand my next project here in Blogger for more exposure. It'll be a gag webcomic series about a demoness named Cass and her often unusual adventures living in the mortal world.

Well, try living in the mortal world...

Hope you guys will give this one a try!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Dream Girls Can Be A Nightmare: The Babysitter (2017)

The Babysitter (2017)
Rating: ****
Starring: Judah Lewis, Samara Weaving, Robbie Amell

By this time, we all know babysitting's a doomed profession should you ever find yourself living in a horror film: if you're not being stalked by a maniac in a William Shatner mask, you're probably being taunted by a creepy voice on the other end of a phone call, or finding out that the kid you are looking after is really the son of the devil. Or not really a kid at all! Yep, babysitters sure get the bad end of the tooth-and-nail trappings as a horror cliche quite a lot, don't they? But what if we turn things around a bit? What if the babysitter is the bad end?

Twelve-year old Cole (Judah Lewis) is, in his and everybody else's word, a pussy. He is afraid of needles, spiders, driving a car on his own and a very dorky bully who I'm sure wouldn't last 30 seconds in a real fight. As timid as he is, Cole is still lucky as he does have a few peeps looking out for him, mainly his adorkable parents, his best (girl) friend Melanie, and Bee (Samara Weaving), his family's got-to babysitter.

Now, let's discuss Bee; of all the babysitters you'd wish be real, she is definitely one of them! Sexy, pretty, witty, blonde, hardass and badass, yet just as big of a scifi nerd as Cole is, Bee's undoubtedly too cool to hang around with a little dork but by the luck of the heavens, here she is, again happily looking after him while his parents go out for the night. (Probably to have sex)

As the two have the time of their lives discussing their dream "galactic team-up", baking pizzas, watching old Westerns and talking about that cute neighbor girl who Cole may have a bit of crush on, it wasn't long before Bee tempts our boy his first beer and, suspecting his babysitter's trying to get him drunk and drowzy to have her own private time, Cole feigns being sleepy so he can sneak a peek at what happens whenever he clocks out. Oh, how he wished he hadn't done that.

True enough, Bee invited some friends over for a PG-rated game of Spin the Bottle, mainly consisting of bitchy cheerleader Allison (Bella Thorne), uber jock Max (Robbie Amell), intense goth Sonya (Hana Mae Lee), the quip-ready John (Andrew Bachelor) and, an apparent new addition to the crew, dorkus magnus Samuel (Doug Haley). What should have been a hot kiss-a-thon between these slasher victim stereotypes, however, Cole instead saw them murder Samuel for a blood ritual and it seems they'll be needing one more thing to complete it: the blood of an innocent. AKA Cole's.

From there, The Babysitter transforms from a dorky coming-of-age story for the millennial youth nerd to something I like to call a "reverse slasher", wherein Bee's group of atypical (and mostly stupid) maniacs hunt down Cole after he is made aware of their secret blood pact with the underworld and it is up to the kid to stop them by any means necessary, apparently including blowing one up with a fat firecracker. It's a twist on the old bodycount flick that, though isn't new (see Hunter's Blood (1987), Psympatico (2014) and, at some extent, You're Next (2011)), still delivers all the gooey red fun and thrilling chases a by-the-book slasher could, with a bonus genuine Edgar Wright/John Hughes-inspired comedy that a bit of a rarity nowadays.

A fun thing about The Babysitter is that, early on, it has the makings of a loud, brash and obnoxious teen horror flick that could have tried too hard that it'll flop. Infested with pop songs and psuedo-referential preteen dialogue, dragging along some crazy visuals and camera effects for the sake of being hip and fun, one would have assume it would go downhill after 10 to 30 minutes but, quite surprisingly, not only did this film found a way to maintain the sarcastic self-referencing nature of the plot and keep it enjoyable thanks to its strangely upbeat direction, skillful writing and wonderful talents involved, but it also found a way to have a bit of a heart with it and slows down whenever it is needed to.

The comedy and exploitation elements are fun and all (Damn, that girl-on-girl kiss! Damn that Andrew Bachelor is friggin hilarious! Damn, why is Max shirtless for the rest of the film?!), and one can always find something exciting from a good stalk-and-stab especially if you're as big of a fan of slasher flicks as I am and have a good appreciation for (mostly) practical effects (keep an "eye" on a fire poker kill. It's "mind" bogglingly brutal!), but what made The Babysitter much more memorable is the chemistry between Cole and Bee. It's difficult to explain, but the way they're both written shows a genuine friendship between the two characters and that they really do care with one another even if shit hits the fan. It's this kind of characterization that kept me glued until the end of the film, just rooting to see how much both Cole and Bee grow up in this situation, and I have no one else to thanks but Weaving and Lewis' performances as their respective roles. These two are gonna go places!

Marvelous as The Babysitter is as a wittily-scribed bloody teen horror comedy, it is not without its tiny flaws which mostly consists on how too obscure and strange the villains can get (stop in the middle of murdering your victim just to teach them how to stand up against a bully? As funny as that is, I'm still a bit confused what the point of that was) and a few moments that are too outrageous even for a movie involving Satanic blood rituals. (car crash without a seat belt not equals dead driver?) They're little nitpicks, easily looked over for the sake of being fun and funny while actually getting results so it's still all good!

It's for the best to experience The Babysitter in its freshest, which means it's time to get off your butt (or don't since it is available on Netflix as of writing this) and see one of this year's best horror comedy! A perfect midnight movie for your warm popcorn and jugs of soda!

1 male stabbed on the head with daggers
1 male had his throat cut with a dagger
1 male gets a fire poker thrown through his head, torn open
1 male falls and impaled neck-first through a trophy
1 female immolated by a firework (twice)
1 male had his neck tangled on a rope, hanged
1 female had her head shot off with a shotgun
1 male attacked with a knife, presumably killed
Total: 8

Therapy Doll Charles: Cult of Chucky (2017)

Cult of Chucky (2017)
Ratings: **1/2
Starring: Allison Dawn Doiron, Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif

Prior to this entry, Chucky, our pint-sized possessed slasher doll, went back to being "straight scary" in 2013's Curse of Chucky, the franchise's 5th sequel doubling as its first direct-to-video entry. The movie was okay for most parts despite a few "restrictions" the production's considerably smaller budget lead to: Chucky often looks different from one shot to another and his animatronics doesn't look as fluid as the first five films he starred at. There's also the matter that entire film mostly takes place in a single location, showing the budget limits, and its writing and acting could have been better.

Now, I can appreciate a movie for just being fun and Curse thankfully manages to be that albeit its flaws. It seems a lot of people thought so too, so it's not so surprising that another sequel is expected and that leaves me wondering: will lightning strike twice? Will this Cult of Chucky work better than Curse? Or worse?

Set a few months after the last film wherein Chucky murdered almost all of her family, paraplegic Mia is now being institutionalized into believing that she herself committed the killing spree out of spite. As a way to better herself, she is moved to another psychiatric clinic where she is to socialize with other recovering nut jobs suffering from different cases of trauma and/or schizophrenic tendencies.

Rightfully bitter about the murders, Mia's troubles are about to get more unsettling when her group's psychiatrist decided to buy a Good Guy doll (Apparently now available at Hot Topic!) for their sessions as a mean for her and the others to vent out their frustrations or act out fantasies. Adding devastating salt to Mia's wounds, she also gets a visit from a "Miss Valentine" the following day, who claims to be the new (and last) guardian looking after Mia's niece Alice, orphaned after the murders. She's there to (nonchalantly) break the news that Alice "died of a broken heart" sometime after Mia got thrown into intensive care and she's there to hand over Alice's Good Guy Doll as way to remember her by. (Did I mentioned Miss Valentine look awfully a lot like Jennifer Tilly?...wait.)

Eventually, a new wave of deaths makes slim pickings out of Mia's circle of troubled individuals, forcing her to try and convince everyone that Chucky's back and killing them all one by one. In the meantime, certain that a killer doll is indeed behind Mia's family's massacre, a now-adult gun-totting Andy Barclay, the franchise's three-time final boy, keeps an eye on Mia's confinement, all the while being taunted by something, or someone that puts the recent deaths on a stranger note: Chucky's decapitated yet still living head!

Looking at it with a critical eye, Cult of Chucky can be seen as a mixed bag of ideas being shuffled around with no clear thought on which one it wants to be, or at least what to focus on. On one end, it appears Cult wanted to do a serious psychological slasher flick as we get to follow a lot on Mia's confinement, depression and possible paranoia as a wrongfully accused individual, with a few scenes made to look like as if she might be in fact losing her head and could be the one ending people left and right thanks to Chucky's influence. If given the chance, this would have been a bold new direction the franchise could have gone to, something that was actually suggested in the early drafts of the original Child's Play wherein Young Andy was suspected of the murders a bit longer before the reveal was made.

Sadly, whatever attempts Cult tried with this horror-of-the-mind approach are inevitably underwhelmed by the fact that it is, of course, a Chucky film. One with an even stronger connection to the entire Child's Play franchise with references to events and characters from the previous six films. With that, it's not hard to imagine that our infamous Lake Shore Strangler is, no doubt, back in action and out doing what he does best. The only catch this time is that there's a suspected twist that I wouldn't really count as a spoiler since the film itself practically gave it away "as a playful suspicion" about halfway into the movie (or, heck, if you're smart enough, around the first act of the whole friggin movie), but I am just gonna hint that it does explains why lil' Chucky is out killing people at a nuthouse while his still living (and horribly tortured) head is hanging out with Andy at the same time.

This brand of craziness shows Cult remembers its supernatural slasher roots and it gladly still delivers the familiar grue and voodoo mayhem the franchise is known for, but only after juggling the bodycounting elements with artsy psycho thriller shenanigans for about 2/3rds of the movie. It's this cluttered direction that, personally, made Cult of Chucky uneven in its tone and may have missed a few opportunities to better itself, like the re-introduction of Andy Barclay as a potential secondary protagonist or workable side character who, unfortunately, spent doing almost nothing here but torture Chucky and just sounding badass. ("Almost" since, at the near end, he did gut out a Chucky with nothing but his bare hands to retrieve a hidden gun, which was pretty cool) But much like the flawed yet passable Curse of Chucky that came before this, as messy as its direction and tone are, I can't say that I didn't enjoy Cult.

There's a lot of room to improve on, this is true, but I do appreciate Cult's efforts to try something entirely different for the franchise like the introduction of (sort of) strong psychological elements into the fray as well as breaking the rules of its own mythos and hints the return of the new age black comedy started by Bride of Chucky. As any good slasher, the killings have a range of being subtle to downright brutal, packing good old-fashioned practical gore effects, and some of the dialogue by our quip-friendly killer doll have a unsettling creepiness to them as we get to see (or hear) more of his sociopathic tendencies. (Though, this doesn't mean we don't get to see Chucky being his insanely darkly comical self. Watch him have a conversation with "himself". It might not be all that much, but I couldn't stop laughing at the casualness of it all!) Brad Dourif is still cool as Chucky, even if the dolls still have that obvious robotic look on their animatronics save their faces. (Which are actually a lot more emotive compared to Curse's) Fiona Douriff as Mia may not have done much as a more "active" final girl thanks to both her character's handicap and psychological situation, but the brooding turn for her Mia was an interesting watch for most parts and I think Fiona did a fairly good job as a tolerable bitter lead for us to follow.

In the end (figuratively and literally), Cult bid us farewell with a strong hint that its far from over, throwing at us even more faces from the past (entries of the series). Did these cameos got my attention? Yes, yes it did. Am I hoping to see more? Yes, yes I am, but with the way this entry was mostly handled, I am going to say that a good chunk of my expectations for a good Chucky sequel in the future is "wounded" to say the least. For now, all I can say is Cult of Chucky's passable: it's entertaining enough not to be considered the worst, but missed too much marks to be even considered as one of the better entries in the series. If you're a die hard Chucky fan, this is still worth your time, but for everybody else, welp, let's see if anything good is out direct to video lately...

1 girl mentioned dead
1 female found bled to death from a wrist cut
1 female decapitated by falling window shards
1 female choked on killer's arm, had her larynx torn out from the mouth
1 male slaughtered with a broken bottle, letter opener and powerdrill
1 male had his throat cut with a nail file
1 male had his face repeatedly stomped
1 female seen with a powerdrill through her gut
1 male gets powerdrilled through the head
Total: 9