[REVIEW] ‘The Invisible Man’ (Spoiler Free)

If you have been following my site for any amount of time you know the horror genre is one of my least favorites. That doesn’t mean there can’t be gems which I enjoy. I especially like creature scares movies like last year’s Crawl or the classic Jaws. I also enjoy a tight thriller like 10 Cloverfield Lane or a Hitchcock film like Vertigo. However, it is in general a tough genre to win me over to.

Understanding my bias, one of my goals for 2020 is to try and expand my palate in the horror genre. This will hopefully make my portfolio of reviews stronger and open a new world of moviemaking to me. Unfortunately most of the horror movies so far this year have looked atrocious, so I didn’t see any of them. That changed with this week’s release entitled The Invisible Man.

Very loosely based on the original 1933 Universal Monster movie and the novel by H.G. Wells, this contemporary adaptation is directed by Leigh Whannell and stars Elizabeth Moss. I don’t know if it is her role on The Handmaid’s Tale that is to blame but Moss has become a pro at playing the battered, tortured woman and her performance is the strength of this film. She commits to every scene and you feel invested in her character throughout.

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While the movie is focusing on her paranoia caused by her abusive husband it is very effective and chilling. I won’t give any details away but suffice it to say he has been so controlling that when she starts to sense his presence it isn’t entirely clear whether she has gone into full mania or is actually sensing his spirit (or an invisible man…).

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Unfortunately the last act of the film abandons this initial premise and becomes more of a generic monster/ghost movie and that interested me a lot less. Everything that was unknown and hidden becomes obvious and as a result a lot less scary. It honestly became kind of corny with over-the-top kills and cheesy set pieces.

However, I can still recommend The Invisible Man, especially for horror buffs. Moss is very good and there are enough scares in the first half to be entertained. Just manage your expectations. Some of the hyperbole has been a little nuts on this film. In fact, I’m not sure why this film is getting so much more praise than last year’s Greta? They are both about lonely women who get pushed to the breaking point by a megalomaniac who is stalking them, and they both have slightly cheesy finales. Who knows? All that matters is I found them both entertaining enough to recommend.

If you get to see The Invisible Man let me know what you think. It is rated R for “strong bloody violence and language” and especially at the beginning it earns its scares.

6.5 out of 10

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[REVIEW] ‘Black Christmas’: A Lump of Coal for Horror Fans

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Let me state upfront that I am by no means a fan of the horror genre. However, I am a fan of Christmas movies, and am trying to expand my palette as a critic. So when I heard that the remake of Black Christmas was coming out and it was PG13 I jumped at the chance to see it. Unfortunately jumping out of my comfort zone was not rewarded as I was presented with a sloppy, poorly written, unfunny film that evidently has little to nothing to do with the original 1974 classic.

I know there are some women who connected with this film and found watching it to be a cathartic experience for their own suffering at the hands of men. That is not my experience in life and it certainly isn’t my experience with this movie. In fact, from my perspective the movie waters down the stories of women so we are no longer unique beings with different opinions, tastes and experiences. Instead, it’s like we are all made from a mold that’s been approved by feminist think tanks.

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What particularly annoyed was a character who is viewed as the traitor of the women, only to be then rejected by the men she so stupidly followed. She dared to go against the correct definition of femininity and paid the price! All the characters who question the activist character suffer in the end. In fact, it’s kind of interesting that a film with such overtly political messages would also have so little actual diversity of thought…

All the men in this film are problematic and all the women are expected to respond to the men in the same way. I kept thinking of the quote from the new Little Women when Meg says ‘just because my dreams are different than yours doesn’t make them less important’. This film tries to stand as a feminist mantra to young women but what about the tomboy or the shy girl who doesn’t want to be a kick-butt female against the evil men? At least last year’s Anna and the Apocalypse had some variety of men and women fighting zombies!

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The other problem with Black Christmas is it isn’t scary at all, and I’m a super horror movie wimp. If I’m not scared that’s really bad. Most of the kills come to people we don’t care about and in ways that don’t provide any real dread. Everything is so predictable and bland that it’s not entertaining as some kind of escapist revenge feminist fantasy. It’s actually kind of dull.

Watching Black Christmas reminded me of a cheap knock off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s like they got to female empowerment and stopped. For a movie to be empowering we have to be presented with characters we care about, with dialogue that feels authentic to those characters. Otherwise we can read an article or watch a documentary and be done with it. Fiction needs to draw us in with more than just a message.

Black Christmas fails because of its sloppy script, poor production values and total lack of scares. Avoid it and support female stories with rich and dynamic characters. 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Babadook or the Happy Death Day movies are 3 recent examples that do a far better job. Even Coraline does a much better job of showing a layered interesting female character in a horror environment. Check them out instead.

Also if you want a truly feminist film watch the documentary Maiden from this year.

1 out of 10

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Current Mini Reviews

Hi friends! I hope you are doing well and enjoying the end of your summer. I have been writing a lot of reviews lately but, I still have a few films that I need to catch up on. This means it is time for one of my ‘Current Movie Reviews’ posts. If you got to see any of these films let me know what you thought of them.

Sure love ya!

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APOLLO 11-

I was very disappointed I didn’t get to see the documentary Apollo 11 at Sundance this year but I missed it. Now catching up to it I think I prefer it more as an interesting experiment than an actual movie but it still has lots to recommend. What they do is they use archival footage, interviews, sound/video recordings merged together, to recreate the events of the Apollo 11 mission to land on the moon. They do it in a way that feels like real time including each step along the way from politicians, to training, to the accounts of the astronauts themselves. While I missed having a narrator to guide me through some of the moments it still is a fascinating documentary with a very unique approach.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

once upon a time

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

I honestly wasn’t going to see Quentin Tarantino’s new film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood because it didn’t interest me. It is only the 2nd Tarantino film I have seen; the first being Pulp Fiction, which I did not enjoy. I understand why other people love it but it was not for me. However, enough people wanted to know my take on Once that I decided to give it a watch. My thoughts? It was fine. It has a lot of problems but overall I think the good outweighed the bad. I loved Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in their roles. I love the sense of time and place Tarantino evokes and much of the dialogue and recreated media from the 60s made me smile. Julia Butters from American Housewife practically steals the film as a young actress who inspires DiCaprio’s character Rick Dalton to give his best performance. What I didn’t like was the exorbitant running time, the meandering story and the long sequences of driving and walking for no purpose at all. That said, it was a fun lark but mostly forgettable if you ask me.

As for the violence, particularly at the end, it is so over the top and ridiculous it didnt bother me much but I know others will find it alarming so you’ve been warned.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

scary stories

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK

When I was in middle school I remember my friends reading the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books. Being a scary movie/book wimp they didn’t interest me, but I definitely was aware of them especially their creepy illustrations. Now director André Øvredal has made a movie version of these stories with a pg13 rating designed for teens. I am no horror pro, but I found this film to be quite entertaining. I liked the 1960s throwback. I enjoyed the teen performances and found all the horror set pieces to be quite well done and scary. It’s the kind of scary you get going through a haunted house. You know it is silly and not realistic at all but it’s done with enough style to get you and make you smile. That’s how I felt watching it. Sure there are flaws but the overall experience was fun.

6 out of 10

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THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2

I had mixed feelings about the original Angry Birds Movie. I liked the animation and some of the characters but I felt the messaging was off and the story wasn’t my favorite. Now in the sequel they have improved upon the original in most ways. The story is equally as bland but the characters are better, messaging more nuanced and the humor is way funnier. I particularly liked any of the jokes involving music. Overall, I had a good time with The Angry Birds Movie 2 because it kept me laughing throughout.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

So there you have it! I am quite the positive person on this week’s mini-review post. Smile Worthy for all of the films! Let me know what you thought about any of these films.

‘Crawl’ REVIEW

I bet I will be the only critic that compares the new creature scares movie Crawl to a good Hallmark movie but that’s just what I’m going to do. I spend many hours watching Hallmark movies for my podcast The Hallmarkies Podcast and I’ve learned that the good ones know what they are and execute it well. They don’t try to be anything other than a sweet romcom, with nice chemistry between the leads, and a warm holiday message.

It’s the same idea in Crawl. It absolutely knows what it is and executes it well. It doesn’t try to be campy or silly. It doesn’t add annoying characters or convoluted subplots. Crawl knows it is a creature scares movie with 2 people dealing with gators and it executes that concept very well. It’s as simple as that.

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Crawl stars Kaya Scodelario who starts out the film trying to rescue her father from the basement crawl space of his Florida home. Unfortunately when she gets there she learns he is stuck with 2 gators in the basement (behind some large pipes). Getting out is then the main plot of the movie. Unfortunately, this task is made more difficult by a huge hurricane that threatens to drown them before the gators can eat them.

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Director Alexandre Aja does a great job moving the characters around enough within the small space to create different set pieces by which to fight the gators. They also keep the movie a lean 87 minutes so you never have time to get bored. It feels relatively grounded and realistic and for a small budget film the gators/special effects look great.

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Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario do great work as a father and daughter and the film gives us just enough of their backstory and relationship to attach us to them without becoming boring. As they are basically the only characters on screen, their chemistry also adds a ton to the film’s success. It kind of reminds me of 10 Cloverfield Lane in that respect. I was rooting for both of them throughout the entire movie which made the scenes with the gators more intense and fun.

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I suppose if there are negatives to Crawl, there are some moments where we must suspend disbelief. In particular the injuries the 2 lead characters have seem to ebb and flow depending on the needs of the script. However, I was invested enough in the story and characters to not care. There are also definitely side characters introduced to be kill candy for the gators, which gets a little predictable.

All that said, I had a great time watching Crawl. It’d be a wonderful choice to go with all your friends and have a good tense time at the movies. Nobody will be too traumatized, and they will all have fun.

Go see it! It’s a blast

8 out of 10

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‘Us’ Review

Anyone who follows my reviews knows I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to horror movies. I get scared very easily and I particularly hate anything that has exorcisms or involves the rape/murder of women. However, in the last few years I have been trying to expand my pallet so that I am a well-rounded critic. For the most part this has been a great experience and one of the highlights of this journey is Jordan Peele’s 2017 film Get Out. It’s a movie I liked well enough to start but it stayed with me and I kept thinking about new layers beyond the fun scares. In the end, it ended up being one of my favorite movies of 2017.

Naturally I was pretty hyped for Pelle’s follow up film Us (especially after a fantastic trailer!).

So with all that hype what did I think of Us? Well for the most part I really enjoyed it. I also think, like Get Out, the problems I have could become less important upon multiple viewings so take this review with a bit of a grain of salt.

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Let’s start with the positives. Us is centered around a family of 4 that goes to the beach for a summer holiday.  Unfortunately their family fun is interrupted by a zombie-like doppelganger family just like them attacks their home. This makes it both a home invasion and zombie horror movie and there are a lot of chilling moments. I was definitely very scared by Us and that’s a fun experience when done well.

I also thought the entire cast did an amazing job playing both normal and zombie versions of their characters. Lupita Nyong’o is especially strong pulling off so many notes in her 2 characters. But everyone was good including all the child performances.

Us also uses music (Michael Abels) very well with a wonderful haunting score and carefully selected soundtrack tunes.

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What didn’t work as well for me in Us is the final act where we get a lot of the allegory explained to us but I honestly still didn’t quite get what Peele was trying to say. Perhaps he meant it to be a little ambiguous or maybe I’m just dumb but it didn’t quite make sense. Subsequent viewings may elaborate this for me but for now I don’t really get it.

Also, my audience kept laughing and for the most part I didn’t really understand why? I was scared but never laughed  so who knows? The humor in Get Out wasn’t my favorite so perhaps it’s just my sense of humor doesn’t jive with this style? Who knows?

But overall, Us is a good time at the theaters. It’s scary with great performances and engaging kills/action. It definitely earns its R rating with strong language and violence but if you can stomach that then check it out.

 

7.5/10

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Greta Review

More than any other genre I find writing a review for a horror movie to be particularly difficult. With my relative newness to the genre I don’t have the perspective to know what concepts are fresh and what tropes have been done a million times. For example, people complain about jump scares and I suppose I can see a very bad one but for the most part I think they are fun and they make me jump at my silly startled reaction (I’m an easy scare). I say all this to explain why my review for Greta may or may not be different than many others you read (I saw it at an early screening so I do not know what others will think). All I can say is that little old me, the horror amateur, thought it was a great time and very scary!

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It’s a simple story about a girl named Frances (Chloe Grace Moretz) living in NYC who one day finds a purse lost on the subway. Trying to be a kind soul she returns the purse to the owner who happens to be a seemingly kind older woman named Greta (the amazing Isabelle Huppert!). She serves her tea and they bond over their mutual loss (Greta a lost daughter, Frances her Mother) and love of music.

This innocent lunch leads to more contact and things seem to be going great but all is not as it seems to be with sweet little Greta…it turns out she’s a crazy person and most of the movie is a game of cat and mouse between Greta and Frances with things getting very desperate for poor Frances!

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The thing that makes Greta work so well is it builds tension slowly and it preys on our human desires to trust (especially sweet old ladies) and our fear of loneliness. Moretz does a good job showing the lonely and desperate for attention side of Frances and who can’t relate to that? As a single woman living on my own I certainly can. I’ve always been very scared of movies involving stalking or preyed upon and this certainly fit the bill in that behalf.

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Zawe Ashton plays the more world-weary Alexa and she’s a nice counterpoint to the sweet and innocent Frances. She reminded me a lot of my last roommate who was sassy and quick to come to my defense.

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In many ways Greta is a horror movie made for women. It stars women and it relies on many of the insecurities women feel both in growing old and being young and vulnerable to get scares. A man may never know the fear a woman can have in just walking home or taking a subway ride depending on the situation. We sometimes like to pretend it’s the same for men and women but most women I know have more fears than men. Greta gets that. It also gets away with quite a bit because it is all women but a little bit of crazy makes this kind of horror movie more fun. I like a good table overturned in the fancy restaurant and the stalker acting like a crazy person. I’m in!

Finally Greta is only 98 minutes. It doesn’t outstay its welcome and just gives us a creepy entertaining horror movie that had me engaged from beginning to end. If you can stomach the scares than I highly recommend it.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Blind Spot 34: Scream

As I was planning my blind spot picks for 2018 I wanted to challenge myself with a few picks and step outside my comfort zone. And no pick did that as much as this month’s pick Scream. Directed by Wes Craven, Scream has become an iconic slasher film which went on to inspire 3 sequels and the Scary Movie spoof series.

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One of the interesting things about Scream is it is not just a scary movie but it is a critique of the horror genre. There are many references throughout the movie both visually and in the script to classic horror franchises like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Halloween. Unfortunately since I am a newbie to the genre a lot of the references were lost on me, but I can see why many fans really enjoyed them.

The story to Scream is simple. A man in a scream mask (called Ghostface) is calling teens, talking to them in an increasingly chilling manner and then stabbing them with a knife. Most people are probably most alarmed by the killings in the movie, but to me, the phone calls were the creepiest part. It is especially chilling in an opening scene with Drew Barrymore when the caller is giving her movie trivia to keep her and her boyfriend alive. That was pretty scary!

Most of the violence is done with a wink and isn’t especially scary. It’s more meant to be fun and silly. It’s not the kind of thing I am going to get nightmares of because it is very over-the-top.

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Neve Campbell plays a girl named Sidney who is hesitant to give up her virginity because of her Mother being murdered (and raped I think) a year earlier. Her boyfriend Billy struggles with her choice but seems to respect it. There is also a sheriff (David Arquette), a reporter (Courtney Cox), a principal (Henry Winkler) and friends (Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Jamie Kennedy, and more).

The last act of Scream is a bit chaotic for my liking. I prefer the opening scene with Drew Barrymore over the messiness. It’s  much scarier when tension has time to build and bubble up until you can’t help but respond. The never-ending mayhem gets tired even as it is increasing in violence. The only thing that really creeped me out (or grossed me out) in the last part is a death involving a garage door.

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But that said, Scream is an enjoyable film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has a winking sensibility to it and while I think I would enjoy it more if I knew what the jokes were referencing it still was a fun enough ride.

Of course, Scream is rated R so it won’t be for everyone but if you are up for a light-hearted slasher movie (such a weird description but it’s true) than this is the movie for you! I’m glad I saw it even if I don’t think I’d ever watch it again. Always good to get out of your comfort zone!

Have any of you seen Scream? What do you think of it and its sequels?

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Get Out Review (No Spoilers)

get-out5Today I got the chance to see the new horror film from director Jordan Peele called Get Out. This film has received much praise and currently has a 100% rating on RottenTomatoes.com, which is very rare. I’m not the biggest horror fan, but I like good movies so I decided to give it a shot, and I’m glad I did.

get-outGet Out stars Daniel Kaluuya, as a black man named Chris who is dating a white woman (Allison Williams) named Rose. She is taking him to meet her white parents and he is anxious about any prejudices they might have. She reassures him they are progressives who would vote for Obama a third time (as if that means you aren’t racist!) and they head off.

get-out2Once they arrive, her parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) are liberal yuppies just like she’d described but there’s something strange going on…

get-out3I won’t tell you any more so that you won’t be spoiled. Suffice it to say Get Out does a good job weaving together traditional horror tropes with pointed satire about racism and modern white and black fears of each other. It’s something I will definitely want to see again to pick up on all the clues, messaging and moments I missed the first time (my brother was with me and he noticed a lot more than I did).

I must admit it was refreshing for me as a conservative to finally see the parents weren’t rich Republicans but liberal yuppies. Yep, they can be racist too. It was a nice change of pace, and I think made the satire a bit more subtle and biting than it might have been otherwise.

get-out4That’s not to say Get Out is a masterpiece as a 100% might imply. I found the introduction to be pretty slow going and I was beginning to wonder if this was super over-hyped. Then it picks up and becomes very entertaining.

My only other caveat is it’s not that scary. If you are expecting a horror movie that makes you jump and gives you nightmares this isn’t it. It is pretty bloody but everything that happens is a bit over the top (hence it being a satire). In general, horror movies that are very realistic are the scariest for me. For example, Norman Bates in Psycho feels like a real man who could be working at a dumpy hotel and everything he does is fairly pedestrian like how he kills, buries the car etc .Things that happen in Get Out are not realistic in that way. (I hope that is cryptic enough for you!)

I think there are a couple places they could have made it a little more realistic and not sacrificed humor and made it scarier but it’s nitpicking. You kind of have to go with it and for the most part I did.

As far as content it can be bloody and there is some strong language to be aware of. Probably for mature teens and adults only.

Overall Grade- B+

The Visit Review

the visitYesterday was a very sad day for me at the movies.  I was going to see the Iron Giant special release and went to the Draper theater instead of The District and by the time I noticed it  I was too late to make the film. 🙁

I had my popcorn and icee in tow and not wanting to just leave I decided to go see The Visit. My brother really liked it as well as some friends and I have been trying to expand my movie comfort zone a little bit with a few more scary movies.  So I guess take this review with a grain of salt because it after all wasn’t Iron Giant…wa, wa, wa.

So what did I think of The Visit?

Well, I thought it was a thoroughly generic predictable horror movie.  I am not the most versed in the genre but I could predict everything that was going to happen.  And of course because it is M Night Shyamalan we get a big twisteroo that was  so obvious even for him.  So no I wasn’t really a fan.

There are some good things about it.  First, the performances are all fine.  Most of Shyamalan’s movies have fine performances.  The two kids are particularly good with Olivia DeJonge as Rebecca and Ed Oxenbound (from Alexander Terrible Day).

the visit4The Visit is also much tighter than the typical Shyamalan film.  There are no speeches and philosophizing and thank goodness he doesn’t cast himself in the movie (I’m talking to you Lady in the Water).   This may be Shyamalan’s tightest film with really no dead time where the story isn’t moving along.

But just because something is better than garbage doesn’t mean it is good.  I’d rather watch the transformers movies than watch most of Shyamalan’s films and that’s saying something.  I’d sit through Nut Job, Legends of Oz and Hero of Color City before watching The Last Airbender or After Earth again (those were the 3 worst animated films of 2014).

I feel like a lot of people are giving The Visit a pass because it isn’t as bad as The Village or The Happening.  I’d agree with them but if it was Johnny Movie Man making the film I think 90% of critics would be giving it a lower score as a generic predictable horror film.  I mean is it really as good as The Conjuring or something like that?

the visit3I don’t want to give any spoilers away but basically the film is about 2 kids that go for a visit to see their grandparents.  Their mother is estranged from them but they want to see the grandkids.  She sends them off without showing them a picture.  Don’t you think a mother who is estranged from her parents would want to show the kids a picture of the parents?  Especially if they are getting on a train and having to meet strangers?  I found that highly improbable.  And if things were so bad between mother and parents with no pictures or physical contact wouldn’t she have them watched out for by a friend of hers from high school or something like that?  It all seemed hard to believe.

But fine accept that the Grandparents seem lovable at first but then weird stuff starts happening and at first they discount it as old people stuff, but it keeps building to a point where they really should be asking more questions and seeking help.  We also find out where the Grandparents volunteer each week, which I won’t give  away because it gives away a lot.

the visit6The thing with most horror movies is that characters get signs to leave or get out of the house and then they make the wrong decision every time.  This movie is no different.  The ending is tense but the kids had so many opportunities to leave and they keep going back for another interview or another discussion that it defies credulity even for children.

the visit5The other bone I have to pick with this film is it is shot in found footage style which is annoying but also makes no sense to the story.  There is no way the Grandparent characters would allow the filming to take place or participate in it.  It doesn’t make sense with their characters or personality traits in every other way in the film.  The found footage also causes a lot of telling rather than showing and it just makes the whole movie seem so unbelievable. I understand they shoot films this way because it is cheap but it comes off looking just that and again it doesn’t work with the characters and story we are being told.  It would have been so much better if it  had been shot like a regular film.  I haven’t been a fan of Shyamalan’s films but he usually shoots them adequately.

So that’s why in the end the movie felt really stupid to me. The characters behaved in nonsensical or stupid ways and the story didn’t really make sense or was completely obvious so not very scary (and I get scared pretty easily).

the visit2Like I said, I really feel like people are giving this a pass because it isn’t as bad as Shyamalan’s other films but is it really good?  I guess if you like generic predictable horror movies than this is for you.  As for me I thought it was lame but then again I was expecting to see Iron Giant so take it for what it’s worth. Sigh…

If you want to be scared I think The Gift is much better.  It is still creeping me out when I think about it.  It’s way more realistic, surprising and scary with really good performances.

Overall Grade- C- for the good performances and tightness of story.