Spirit Camp Review (2009)

My History With the Film: 
I love slasher movies and I saw this late one night on Amazon Prime and decided to give it a shot. I knew it was low budget, but the cover art sold me on giving it a shot. I should have went with something else.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A young goth girl is forced to attend a cheerleading camp where she clashes with the other girls. But once the girls end up dying one by one, they must unite to survive.

What I Liked About It:
-Not much. This is a very low budget slasher and it shows everywhere: from the music to the cinematography to the acting. I was able to enjoy the film a bit more once I realized exactly how low budget this was and I lowered my expectations.

-The movie poster is a very good and reminds me of an 80’s slasher poster.

-The film does a good job with the chases.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-Like a lot of low budget horror films, the film knows it doesn’t have the talent/budget to play it straight, so they infuse quite a bit of humor into the movie. I hate when movies do that, since it shows how uncommitted and the lack of faith they have in telling a straight up scary story.

-There is very little gore and the kills take place mostly off screen.

Additional Notes:
-The camp is named Lumis which is most likely a nod to Dr. Loomis from Halloween and the camp’s director is named Mrs. Haddonfield which is clearly a nod to Halloween.

-Some pre-orders came with signed panties.

Spirit Squad was a waste of time. I judged a movie by its cover and I lost. That’s not to say there is no enjoyment to be had here. That’s not to say there is no enjoyment to be had here. The movie is a slasher and it can be fun at times, just think about some of the acting in the worst 80’s slashers and apply it to the 2000’s.

I’d rate Spirit Squad a two out of five and say skip it.

In Search of Darkness Review (2019)

My History With the Film:
I heard about In Search of Darkness in 2019 after running across the trailer. The who’s who of 80’s horror were interviewed for what was planned to be the definitive 80’s horror documentary. At the time Into the Darkness was still in its IndieGoGo fundraising mode and I decided to wait and see if the movie actually got completed and released. I’m way more skeptical about donating to crowd funding documentaries since so many of them seem to never see the light of day. But I’m happy to report, that In Search of Darkness was completed and was released as originally planned. I acquired a copy of the extended cut that ran over four hours and I loved every minute of it.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
Horror icons look back at the ground breaking horror films and trends of the 1980's.

What I Liked About It:
-Pretty much anyone associated with horror in the 1980's was interviewed for this documentary. Here are just some of the names included: John Carpenter, Barbara Crampton, Jeffrey Combs, Sean S. Cunningham, Tom Atkins, Doug Bradley, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Tom Holland, Heather Langenkamp, Greg Nicotero, Bill Mosley, Elvira, Joe Bob Briggs, and even The Angry Video Game Nerd.

-I loved the format of going year by year and discussing the most impactful movies of each year. It was also nice to see other movies from that decade (that weren't covered) in the title screens.

-I also enjoyed the periodic breaks between the quick movie recaps/discussions to tackle various topics in horror: diversity, special effects, video store art, nudity, etc.

What I Didn't Like About It: 

Additional Notes:
-Over forty interviews were conducted and one thousand hours of footage recorded.

In Search of Darkness set out to be the most comprehensive documentary on 80's horror and I believe it achieved it. The film never bores and uses great sound bites for each movie and topic that really make you want to go out and rent them all. It's a love letter to 80's horror and helps remind you why we all love it so much.

This is a must see documentary and I highly recommend the extended cut. The four hours will go by quicker than you can imagine and you'll probably reach and the end and want more the way that I did. I would have loved to see this stretched out into a series on Shudder, with each year be given one or two hours to tackle more than just a handful of movies.

As we get older, the stars and filmmakers of 80's horror will be passing on. The time is now for such a documentary to be made and thankfully it was. I highly recommend In Search of Darkness and rate it a rare five out of five and say its a must own.

The Horror Films of Samara Weaving

After last year's hit, Ready or Not, it seems like Samara Weaving is horror's new "it" girl. She's quirky, cute, and bad-ass, all the things horror fans love in their final girl. It also helps that she's a tremendous talent and I really hope she'll continue to grace us in future horror films as her career continues.

With that being said, I thought I would be nice to look back at Samara's previous contributions to the horror world.

Ready or Not (2019)
This may have been her most recent horror role, but it was by far her best. Samara portrayed Grace, a young bride that on the night of her wedding finds out she must participate in a game with her new in-laws. The game turns out to be Hide and Seek with weapons.

Over the course of the film, Grace goes from happy bride to distraught wife to sad victim to kickass survivor. Her outfit adapts to her attitude and Samara was given all sorts of material to showcase a variety of emotions. She did so with relative ease and the end product was a movie that she seemed to completely drive thanks to her infectious personality. This was a role that seemed catered specifically for her and I couldn't image anyone else in it. It's a must see, and Ready or Not has a rare five out of five rating by me.

The Babysitter (2017)
In my review of The Babysitter back in 2017, I mentioned that the only performance that stood out was that of Samara Weaving. She knocked it out of the park as Bee, the sexy babysitter turned evil queen. Her comedic timing was on point and she managed to display just enough of that evil edge to make you truly invested into her character.

I gave The Babysitter a three out of five rating. I think that rating holds up well and I wonder if her performance in The Babysitter is what led to her being cast in Ready or Not.

Mayhem (2017)
In Mayhem, Samara portrays Melanie Cross.

Mayhem is a movie that has been on my must watch list for three years. Thanks to this article, I finally took the dive and watched it. I really enjoyed it and both Steven Yuen along with Samara Weaving did fantastic jobs.

My review for Mayhem hasn't been published yet, but when it is you'll see a solid three out of five.

Ash vs The Evil Dead (2015)
Samara Weaving portrayed Heather in season one of Ash vs Evil Dead. She was the lone survivor of a group of campers who stumble upon Ash's cabin. She's only in three episodes (Ashes to Ashes, Bound in Flesh, and The Dark One). She becomes injured in the show and the cabin singles her out because of her weakness.

Ready or Not Review (2019)

My History With the Film: 
The truth is, I saw the trailer for Ready or Not and I thought it looked like I trash. I hate movies about people hunting people and with the added humor it made me want to see it even less. Then it came out and made good money and the reviews were solid. Then the filmmakers were signed to create the next installment of Scream and I had to see what all the fuss was about. Being a huge Scream fan, I wanted to know what type of tone I might expect from Scream. So, I rented Ready or Not and was blown away by the final product.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A young bride on the night of her wedding is forced to play a family game.

What I Liked About It:
-Ready or Not does not work with Samara Weaving. She is truly a gem and she absolutely kills it in this film. Her character, her emotions, humor, energy, etc is on point! Its worth watching this film just to see her performance.

-The casting of this film is fantastic. I never imagined Andie McDowell in a horror role, but she is wonderful. The family is memorable and different enough that even a few days later, I can recall each and every character.

-There is some great gore and suspense. That's not to say this is a scary film, but there is one particularly moment you'll cringe and the movie doesn't shy away from blood and guts.

-I have to commend this film on being brave. The filmmakers have the balls to "go there" when they need to and it made this movie watching experience wonderful.

-The fashion choices in the film are great, particularly Samara Weaving's wedding dress. The costume designer deserves major props for pulling off such a fun and memorable costume.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-Honestly, nothing. This is one of the best horror films I've seen in a long time. It's not scary per say, but its a fantastic piece of horror-comedy.

Additional Notes:
-The house used for Le Domas Estate is the same house used in Billy Madison.

-Seventeen different dresses were created for Grace (Samara Weaving) so different levels of destruction and changes as her attitude changes.

-Emilie's gun is the same gun from the board game Clue.

-Grace's Chuck Taylors were painted, since Converse doesn't make yellow Chuck Taylors anymore.

-The movie made 57 million on a 6 million dollar budget.

I loved Ready or Not. It's one of my favorite horror films that I've seen in the last couple of years, and I thought just about everything was perfect. The casting was excellent, the atmosphere was fun, the set was beautiful, and the gore was great. The movie walked that line of horror-comedy masterfully and that makes me love it even more. I recommend going in without watching any trailers or looking up anything further about the movie. Just allow it to unravel in front of you, you'll have a great time.

I know that the Scream franchise is in good hands and my biggest hope is Samara Weaving will be part of it. I rate Ready or Not a rare five out of five and say its a must own.

We Summon the Darkness Review (2020)

My History With the Film: 
I heard about We Summon the Darkness a few weeks before its released when the trailer hit. I was intrigued when I saw Alexadra Daddario in a starring role and after watching the trailer I knew this was the type of movie I'd probably enjoy.

I snagged a copy shortly after it came out and after a few weeks I sat down to see how it was.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
Three girls decide plan to party with a group of guys following a heavy metal concert when all hell breaks loose, literally.

What I Liked About It:
-The cast is great. There wasn't a single person I didn't care for. All three girls and all three guys really played their parts well and were different enough to be memorable.

-The twist is pretty decent. I knew a twist was coming, just not how far the twist would go.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-You can tell from the trailer/first scene a twist is coming. It was a little choreographed but I will admit I didn't predict the entire twist which was nice.

-The biggest sin this film made was stating that it took place in the 80's. Script wise it make sense to cash in on the Satanic Panic of the time for the plot, but on a low budget film it costs money to set the film back thirty-forty years. The first noticeable mistake was the modern kitchen. The counter tops, sink, and faucet are very much 2010's and not the 1980's. A few minutes after that I noticed a very modern vacuum cleaner behind one of the characters taking up a good portion of the screen. This is just sloppy filmmaking and I think led to me losing interest.

-The film drags pretty early on. I just don't think the script had enough in it to keep me interested for the entire run-time. Once the twist got out of the way, I really lost interest in the film.

-The film attempts to walk the line between horror and comedy, but doesn't do either all that well.

Additional Notes:

I was super excited for We Summon the Darkness, and had expected to write a massive review highlighting all the great moments in the film. Sadly, the only word that comes to mind when thinking about We Summon the Darkness is disappointing.

A great cast and a decent twist were wasted. The movie is very forgettable and really isn't worth seeking out. I rate We Summon the Darkness a two out of five.

Favorite Horror VHS Covers – Issue One

Like most horror fans of my age (mid-30’s) I got my horror education from the shelves of a video store. In many cases, the movies I rented were based on the amazing cover art they contained. The 80’s horror films were notorious for having cover art that had very little to do with the actual movie, since a lot of the time peopled rented based solely on what they saw on the front and back of the box.
I thought it’d be fun to look back on some of my favorite VHS cover boxes. Some of these are movies I owned, some I rented, and some I wish I would have rented. They’ll be presented in no particular order and just randomly as they come to mind. I hope to make this a regular addition to the blog going forward.

So without further ado, here are my first five VHS covers.

The Dead Pit
This was a movie I still have yet to see, but the VHS box was burned into my skull at a young age. What made it so special is that the face of the character was three dimensional and came out of the box. If that wasn’t cool enough, you could press a certain part of the box and make the creatures eyes glow green thanks to two small light bulbs. (Displayed above is the non-3D version of the cover but you should be able to get the gist.)

Blockbuster Presents Halloween
So this is not a great release of Halloween. In fact, it’s a cheap transfer that looked horrific in comparison to the Anchor Bay letterbox edition I bought a few years later. But this was the way I first saw Halloween and for that reason alone, this cover art will always remain one of my favorite (although its arguably one of the lamest). Blockbuster bought the rights to Halloween between 1995-1997 before Anchor Bay stepped in and gave the movie the proper respect that it deserved.

I'm sure you'll be able to tell why Ants really stuck in my memory for so long. I was a pre-teen boy and this cover grabbed my attention like no other. It took me quite a few years to finally see Ants and ya know, it wasn't half bad.

Sleepaway Camp 2
Here is one of those covers that was misleading. I rented Sleepaway Camp 2 solely on this cover art and for whatever reason I assumed Freddy and Jason would be making an appearance (and possibly being killed by the woman on the cover.) Of course, that did not happen, but I did find a fun, campy, slasher that quickly became one of my favorites.

Ghost Town
This is another movie I've never seen. I think the artwork is just so perfect, with the cowboy skeleton scrolling through town. It's one of those films that I'm pretty sure the artwork is better than the actual film, and hopefully one day I'll get around to actually watching it.

The Invisible Man Review (2020)

My History With the Film: 
I’ll be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to The Invisible Man until it had a fantastic opening weekend at the box office. I’ve never been a huge fan of invisible man style movies, so this wasn’t exactly on my radar. But the hype and success of the film, quickly changed that and once it was released VOD I knew I needed to check it out.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):

A woman is terrorized by her abusive boyfriend who cannot be seen.

What I Liked About It:
-Elizabeth Moss (Cecila) is always amazing and this film is no exception. Her acting brings an extra layer to a character who easily could have just been an overreacting victim. Instead, we are forced to deal with her trauma as she faces it and the mental abuse that continues.

-The script does a masterful job of using emotional abuse as a catalyst for the story. You are consistently questioning whether this is all in Cecilia’s head and how much damage has the gaslighting done to her.

-The supporting cast is small, but very strong. No one performance stood out more than another, but everyone stepped up to the plate and you felt like Celica was surrounded by real people who were invested in her fight.

-The special effects were quite good and there were quite a few times I caught myself trying to figure out how a particular scene was done.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-The trailer ruined 75% of all the surprises. This is a problem with a lot of modern trailers and is one of the reasons why I try to avoid them if it’s a movie I’m very excited about.

-The movie plays out more like a psychological thriller than horror movie.

Additional Notes:
-One of the first films released to VOD while still in theaters due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was priced at $19.99 for a rental with a 48 hour watch period.

-Made 124 million dollars on a 7 million dollar budget.

-This was Jason Blum, from Blumhouse’s first attempt at re-making a Universal Monster movie. This film was originally planned to be part of a larger Dark Universe that would tie in all the Universal Monsters, but after 2017’s The Mummy’s failure, the Dark Universe was scrapped.

-The wall outside of the mental hospital has graffiti featuring Billy the Puppet from Saw. The director, Leigh Whannell, wrote and starred in the original Saw.

Notable Horror Connections:
  • Director Leigh Whannell (Directed: Upgrade, Insidious: Chapter 3) (Wrote: Saw, Saw II, Saw II, Dead Silence, Insidious)
  • Elizabeth Moss (Us, Shirley, Fear Itself)
  • Oliver Jackson-Cohen (The Haunting of Hill House)
When the credits rolled on The Invisible Man, I couldn’t help but feel a little let down. I think between the success at the box office and the hype that followed with that, combined with most of the movie being ruined by the trailer, I just didn’t feel like I got the whole experience. What I did feel was The Invisible Man did a great job at discussing psychological trauma and took a very different approach to horror in the process. It highlighted the struggles that abuse victims are forced to deal with and then turned gave it a real enemy to fight in the process.

The Invisible Man is worth a watch, especially if you are in the mood for a psychological thriller with a supernatural edge. I’d rate it as a three out of five and say it’s a low priority rental.