Movie Reviews 101 Midnight Horror – When a Stranger Calls (2006)

Director: Simon West

Writer: Jake Wade Wall (Screenplay) Steve Feke, Fred Walton (Original Screenplay)

Starring: Camilla Belle, Tommy Flanagan, Katie Cassidy, Tessa Thmpson, Brian Geraghty, Cark Gregg

 

Plot: During a babysitting gig, a high-school student is harassed by an increasingly threatening prank caller.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Remake Failure

 

Story: When a Stranger Calls starts when High School student Jill (Belle) is being punished for going over her minutes on her phone bill must take a babysitting job in a house in the middle of nowhere. Jill is currently going through a break up with her boyfriend Bobby (Geraghty) and questioning her own friends Tiffany (Cassidy) and Scarlett (Thompson) on their part in it.

After a strange phone call, noises around the home and the alarm going off Jill starts to believe something is going on in the house, is she alone with the kids anymore?

 

Thoughts on When a Stranger Calls

 

Characters/PerformanceJill is the naughty high school student that has gone over her cell phone calls limit and must pay for it by babysitting, while also dealing with her boyfriend and best friend cheating on her. She doesn’t know how to make a good decision when a stranger starts calling her during the night of babysitting. The Stranger calling is interesting because we know he is capable of murder from the opening sequences, but now we learn to how calculated he is when picking his prey. Most of his damage is only explained and shown through facial expressions of the police investigating his crimes. Tiffany and Scarlett are just plain friends on the generic scale that we are used too.

Performance wise, Camille Belle has to do most of the work in this film and she does struggle in a role that has created countless amazing female leads, the rest of the cast are fine but don’t get enough time to shine.

StoryThis is a remake so we know the basics of how this film goes because it follows a babysitter needing to figure out who a mystery call is only to learn the truth and need to fight to survive. We have a couple of addition to the idea here because we need to explain the cell phone situation through the film but otherwise the film is filled with too many false scares that don’t lead to much.

HorrorThe horror is just false jump scare after false jump scare which never comes to much, we have one sequence but otherwise it is mostly about how things could happen.

SettingsThe house is isolated which is the highlight of the film because we know how this character isn’t going to be able to have much help and the stranger can take his time stalking his victim.

Special EffectsThe effects are limited and are mostly used for use of lighting and a few stunts, which I think does work because we don’t need anything flashy.

Final ThoughtsThis is a remake that doesn’t use the potential and has already become outdated because of the technology that is used as the stumbling blocks.

 

Overall: Not all remakes work.

Rating

 

 

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Movie Reviews 101 Midnight Horror – Elevator (2011)

Director: Stig Svendsen

Writer: Marc Rosenberg (Screenplay)

Starring: Christopher Backus, Anita Briem, John Getz, Shirley Knight, Michael Mercurio, Amanda Pace, Rachel Pace

 

Plot: Racism collides with corporate greed when nine strangers – one of whom has a bomb – become trapped in a Wall Street elevator.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Simple Thriller

 

Story: Elevator starts as we meet our guests heading to a corporate party, owner Henry Barton (Getz), his granddaughter Madeline (Rachel and Amanda), ambitious employee Don Handley (Backus) his date reporter Maureen (Sunny), another employee Martin Gossling (Ratray), Celine Fouquet (Briem), investor Jane Redding (Knight) hired comedian George Axelrod (Slotnick) and security guard Mohammed (Zuaiter), the group are all on an elevator heading to the party which becomes stuck after the emergency button is pressed. When we learn that one person on the elevator has a bomb the group must work out how to get off the elevator before it goes off.

 

Thoughts on Elevator

 

Characters/PerformanceDon is the ambitious employee that has his own secrets that would get revealed in the panic in the elevator. Celine is the pregnant woman who is going to the party for her own personal reasons, Henry is the boss about to announce his retirement but his action are the motivation behind everything that happens. Jane is there for her own reasons which involve her late husband, Madeline is the granddaughter of the boss, she is a full-blown brat. Martin is the happy go lucky employee that is happy to meet the boss at the party. George is the hired comedian and at the most part the asshole figure in the film. Maureen is the one who helps make report the story to the outside for help. This works for the environment the characters find themselves in.

Performance wise, I feel everyone in this movie is fine, no one really stands out as brilliant or bad just part of the process that is unfolding.

StoryPeople trapped in an elevator facing death if they don’t escape, well this is fine it works for everything we need it too. We get the usual clashes which is fine but otherwise this is nothing new to offer. We don’t get much happen than talking and seeing who will go onto make the difficult decision to save the rest.

ThrillerWe are kind off left wondering just if they will make it out but it doesn’t reach all the potential it should have.

SettingsThe film nearly all takes place in the elevator which is good for creating the tension needed in the story.

Special EffectsThe effects are all good when needed without being a CGI fest.

Final ThoughtsThis film has all the potential in the world but just doesn’t reach the potential it is capable off.

 

Overall: Simple thriller that lacks the punch needed.

Rating

 

 

Franchise Weekend – Messengers 2: The Scarecrow (2009)

Director: Martin Barnewitz

Writer: Todd Farmer (Screenplay)

Starring: Norman Reedus, Heather Stephens, Claire Holt, Richard Riehle, Darcy Fowers

 

Plot: Doing what he believes must be done in order to save his family and livelihood, farmer John Rollins places an odd scarecrow among his crops and promptly reaps the benefits. The thing is, his luck probably won’t last for long.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Better Built In Story

 

Story: The Messengers 2: The Scarecrow starts by following the family that previously lived in the house, the Rollins, John (Reedus), Mary (Stephens) along with their children Lindsey (Holt) and Michael. We the family is struggling to make ends meet and to get the crop to flourish.

Searching for a way to rib the land of the crows, John finds an old scarecrow with a strange look and decides to use it on his field. When the scarecrow works killing all of the crows, John starts to change and his family notices these changes becoming scared of him.

 

Thoughts on The Messengers 2: The Scarecrow

 

Characters/PerformanceJohn finds his life crashing around him, his farm failing, his marriage falling apart and his money almost gone, but when he puts up a scarecrow his luck changes for the better, at first. Mary is the wife ready to walk away from John with the children. Lindsey is the daughter that clearly wants out of the town, that is about her character.

Performance wise, Normal Reedus does a solid job in the leading role without reaching the levels we know of him now in the Walking Dead, but it would be fair to say the women are written poorly which then shows in their bang average performances.

StoryThe story is a prequel to the first film but it also doesn’t have any real connection other than being set on the farm and the character names. Looking away from that problem, you will find this film having a much better story because it followers the struggling farmer that finds himself having his life controlled by a scarecrow. Sure, there is a human factor to this too as we see him deal with his own problems at home too. The story does feel a lot better and more engaging than the first film.

HorrorThe horror side of the film is slightly improved but we never find ourselves feeling terrified by any of the events in the film.

SettingsThe horror all happens on the farm which is good and all we need from the direction the story goes.

Special EffectsThe special effects are all simple and used to the effects required for the film.

Final ThoughtsThis is a good follow up but we kind of know how the film will end thanks to the original but the mythology behind it all comes off nicer.

 

Overall: Solid sequel but average film.

Rating

 

 

Franchise Weekend – The Messengers (2007)

Director: Danny Pang, Oxide Chun Pang

Writer: Mark Wheaton (Screenplay) Todd Farmer (Story)

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller, John Corbett, William B Davis

 

Plot: An ominous darkness invades a seemingly serene sunflower farm in North Dakota, and the Solomon family is torn apart by suspicion, mayhem and murder.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Easily Forgettable

 

Story: The Messengers starts as Solomon family Roy (McDermott), Denise (Miller), daughter Jess (Stewart) and baby Ben move to a farm house which has been abandoned for years after a serious of horrific events.

It doesn’t take long before Jess discovers ghostly figures attracted to Ben but they are never around when her parents are around, turning to the farm hand Burwell (Corbett) she learns more about what could cause everything but just how much danger is the family in?

 

Thoughts on The Messengers

 

Characters/PerformanceRoy has struggled for work to supporting his family for a couple of years and will do everything to make this new home work for them, Denise is the wife that is struggling to connect with their daughter the way they once did. Jess is the teenage daughter that must live with an accident she caused but finds herself distant from her parents.

Performance wise, you can see here just how far Stewart has come because she does struggle in the leading role here but now she can give us powerhouse performances like Personal Shopper, the rest of the cast are fine but nothing more.

StoryThe story is simple, a family looking for fresh start must deal with their demons to bring the divide in the family back together while dealing with a supernatural presence in the new home. This isn’t very original and does get slightly stuck between supernatural and real events never giving us a reason why the supernatural side happens in the first place.

Horror/Mystery The horror is mostly stuff running around behind the characters and lazy jump scares, the mystery is mostly about what happened before and why is it happening again.

SettingsMost of the film or at least the horror elements take place on the farm house which I guess does work for the film.

Special EffectsThe special effects are mostly weak throughout leaving us to not believe too much of what we see.

Final ThoughtsThis is a simple, easy to watch horror mystery, it doesn’t test you enough on the horror or mystery side of things though.

 

Overall: Lacklustre horror mystery.

Rating

 

 

Movie Reviews 101 Midnight Horror – The Lazarus Effect (2015)

Director: David Gelb

Writer: Luke Dawson, Jeremy Slater (Screenplay)

Starring: Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Sarah Bolger, Evan Peters, Donald Glover, Ray Wise

 

Plot: A group of medical researchers discover a way to bring dead patients back to life.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Just Didn’t Click

 

Story: The Lazarus Effect starts as we meet our team Frank (Duplass), Zoe (Wilde), Eva (Bolger), Clay (Peters) and Niko (Glover) who have been working on bring animals back from the dead with the Lazarus serum with the latest attempt bringing Rocky the dog back to life.

When the research project is sudden closed down, all the data is taken by Mr Wallace (Wise) who works for a pharmaceutical company, the team break into the lab to perform the experiment one last time so they can take the credit the last few years of their lives have work towards.

When disaster strikes Zoe is killed in an accident but Frank not accepting losing her decides to perform the experiment on her, to bring her back from the grave. It starts by looking like a success but it soon turns strange when Zoe has gifts she didn’t used to possess including telepathic and foresight.

 

Thoughts on The Lazarus Effect

 

Characters/PerformanceFrank is the lead scientist leading the research team, he is engaged to Zoe and once she dies he goes uses his research to bring her back to life. Zoe is the partner of Frank and leading member of the research team, once she is killed in an accident she is bought back to life but this time he is different. Eva is the newest member of the team will Niko and Clay are the generic playful rest of the team.

Performance Wise, it would be fair to say the performance don’t use the talent available to their full abilities, Olivia Wilde isn’t up to her normal levels, but it is the underused Evan Peters and Donald Glover which disappoints most.

StoryScientists look to bring the dead back to life, I have heard this one before and sure we get a modernised tale on this that does feel more scientific but in the end it just falls into ‘what is in the afterlife’ style and you must be evil if you come back from the dead. It is generic, plain and we have seen it all before.

Horror/Mystery/Sci-FiShe comes back from the dead, well that is the horror cover nothing scary going on here we have lazy jump scares mostly. There are elements of a mystery we try to figure out what is happening but we don’t focus on that enough and the sci-fi side well we all know how bringing people back from the dead works.

SettingsOne of the few highlights in this film is keeping most of the action inside the lab because by doing this we see how they must use their intelligence to get around the problem they are facing.

Special EffectsEasy effects are used here with most being in the vision sequences.

Final ThoughtsThis does feel like a lazy horror that doesn’t click to the levels it should do even with a cast of well-respected stars.

 

Overall: Horror that doesn’t work to the levels needed.

Rating