Dead by Dawn (2020) Movie Review

Director: Sean Cain

Writer: Wes Laurie (Screenplay)

Starring: Drew Lindsey Mitchell, Kelcey Watson, Jamie Bernadette, Bo Burroughs, Timothy Muskatell, Bobby Slaski, Detra Hicks

Plot: A suicidal man in a remote cabin is suddenly faced with protecting a kidnapped woman from three sexual deviants and their sadistic games.

Runtime: 1 Hour 25 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Enjoyable Slasher

Story: Dead by Dawn starts Lulu (Mitchell) walks out on her abusive relationship, looking to catch a ride, which only turns into a nightmare when she is taken by Neil (Burroughs), Chad (Muskatell) and Snack (Bernadette), Lulu does escape, finding shelter in a cabin in the woods, where depressed suicidal man Dylan (Watson) is thinking about ending his life.

With Lulu and Dylan working on a way to keep the others out, the three kidnapers need to find a way to get into the cabin, only the bigger secrets will be revealed during the wait.

Thoughts on Dead by Dawn

Characters – Lulu is an artist who is trapped in an abusive relationship, she tries to walk out on, only to find herself being kidnapped and forced into a sick torture, she does escape, seeking help, where we get to see the pain she has suffered, rather than seeing it, where she gives Dylan a meaning to keep fighting. Dylan is a depressed man, he has lost everything and is about to end his life before Lulu arrives on his doorstep. He decides to help her fight back against the people trying to kill her, using the memories of lost loved ones. Neil is the man that is running the kidnapping, he is psychotic in how he tries to control the situation, showing his power over people with how Snack is controlled by him. Snack was a former victim that has becomes Neil’s second, she is ruthless, never wanting to look back on the violent side she has gained.

PerformancesDrew Lindsey Mitchell in the leading role does start strong in the film, but strangely, she doesn’t get that much more to do in the second half of the film. Kelcey Watson does show us how broken his character is, with this new meaning giving him extra hope, becoming the most interesting character and performer to watch through the film. Bo Burroughs fills the psychopath role well, with Jamie Bernadette bringing us a performance we haven’t seen from her before, a much darker one.

StoryThe story here follows a young woman who has escaped a kidnapping situation to find herself in the middle of a battle of wits between her rescuer and kidnappers. The story does keep the ideas very simple, with most of the film being a battle between the two sides trying to get the upper hand, even though Lulu does seem to take the back seat while Dylan and Neil are the two in control. It does deal with a lot of issues around abuse, loss and living in pain you feel helpless in. one of the bigger known movies you could compare this to, would be ‘No One Lives’ with both sides having something bigger about what is happening behind the motivations they are doing this for.

HorrorThe horror in the film is around what has happened and what would happen if Lulu is taken again.

SettingsThe film keeps everything around the cabin, showing how there isn’t going to be help coming, why Dylan is away from the world and why the kidnapping has ended up here.

Special EffectsWhen it comes to the effects, we do get some strong effects when it comes to injuries, with one trap coming off very well.


Scene of the Movie – Pressure plate.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Lulu does seem to take a back burner in the second half of the film.

Final Thoughts This is a strong game of wits between both sides, that holds back a lot with everybody getting a chance to show what this moment would mean to them.

Overall: Game of Wits 101.

Rootwood (2018) Movie Review

Director: Marcel Walz

Writer: Mario von Czapiewski (Screenplay)

Starring: Tyler Gallant, Elissa Dowling, Sarah French, Felissa Rose, Tiffani Fest, Brandon Rhea, Kwame HEad

Plot: Two students are hired by a Hollywood film producer to shoot a horror documentary about the curse of The Wooden Devil.


Tagline – Welcome to the darkest place on earth.

Runtime: 1 Hour 23 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Running in the Woods 101

Story: Rootwood starts when two podcasters William (Gallant) and Jessica (Dowling) get to meet a horror movie producer Laura Benott (Rose) to shoot a documentary about the curse of The Wooden Devil. The pair are joined by Erin (French) and into the forest they go.

The further the trio get into the woods, the stranger the events are, with them looking to document other disappearances, they start to unlock clues to what might be happening, or will they become the latest victims.

Thoughts on Rootwood

Characters – William and Jessica have been working on their supernatural podcast for years, they like to look into stories from a distance, only now William has made connection to get their first field job looking into the unexplained, he see this as his chance to make himself bigger in the community, willing to risk more than life itself, while Jess doesn’t care about becoming as big as her co-star. Erin does bring glamour to the documentary, with the idea of using her status to make the documentary look more appealing to sell. Laura Benott is the producer that hires the team to investigate the Wooden Devil.

PerformancesWhere this movie is part documentary and mockumentary, it is hard to judge the performances, because Tyler Gallant, Elissa Dowling and Sarah French are doing the lost in the woods being haunted by something outside side of the film well.

StoryThe story here follows three podcasters that look to investigate a local legend, only to find themselves experiencing the horror in the woods themselves. The story can easily be compared to the Blair Witch Project with the documentary filmmakers going into the woods for a story only to find themselves running around in from the danger. It doesn’t get enough to feel completely original, even if it does try to go in a different direction with the final act, it doesn’t seem to get enough to make the impact required.

Horror/MysteryThe horror does fall into the three people running around the woods screaming with noises causing problems for the characters. We don’t seem to get into the mystery behind everything either, which then falls into something that really gets solved.

SettingsThe film is set in the random locations within the woods, it could be anywhere without being anywhere we haven’t seen before.

Special EffectsThe effects in the film work for the film giving us everything we need for what might be in the costume.


Scene of the Movie – Race to escape.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Too similar to Blair Witch Project.

Final Thoughts This is a horror that does feel like it wants to try and give the Blair Witch Project, only to get caught up doing everything to similar, even with a fresh outcome.

Overall: The Blair Witch Project without the suspense.

Vince Vaughn Weekend – The Cell (2000) Movie Review

Director: Tarsem Singh

Writer: Mark Protosevich (Screenplay)

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn, Vincent D’Onofrio, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Jake Weber, Dylan Baker, James Gammon

Plot: An F.B.I. Agent persuades a social worker, who is adept with a new experimental technology, to enter the mind of a comatose serial killer in order to learn where he has hidden his latest kidnap victim.


Tagline – This Summer… Enter The Mind Of A Killer

Runtime: 1 Hour 47 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Stunning

Story: The Cell starts as we meet Catherine Deane (Lopez) who works by going into the mind of people in comas to try and help them get out of the trauma, with her patient being a young boy, elsewhere serial killer Carl Stargher (D’Onofrio) who drowns his victims before performing sadomasochistic acts on the bodies, with FBI agents Gordon (Weber) and Peter Novak (Vaughn) trying to track him down.

When the FBI find Carl, they learn he has fallen into a coma, with little chance of waking up, he has taken another victim and they need the location, which leads them to Catherine, who is assigned to go into the mind of the serial killer to learn the location before the time runs out.

Thoughts on The Cell

Characters – Catherine is the doctor that goes into the minds of comatose people in hope of finding a cure that will let the victim get over the trauma that has locked them in. she experiences all sorts inside the minds of people, usually helping a young boy, now she gets to go into the mind of a serial killer who has a victim locked away somewhere. Peter Novak is an FBI agent leading the investigation into the serial killer, he turns to Catherine to help, being the one that explains just how difficult this case has become. Carl Stargher is the serial killer that has been racking up the kills with a method being as twisted as they come, he has started getting more regular and with the latest victim taken he falls into a coma, which sees him needing to have his mind visited to learn the truth about the location of the missing woman. We fill out the characters with fellow officers and the scientists that work with Catherine.

PerformancesJennifer Lopez is wonderfully in the lead role, she shows how calm her character needs to be even in the face of pure nightmares. Vincent D’Onofrio is disturbing as the serial killer, because he is so cold in how everything is delivered you don’t want to see what he does next. Vince Vaughn as the FBI agent is great, but doesn’t have the level of work that the lead two must get through during the film.

StoryThe story here follows a FBI agent that turns to a new form of science to get help from Catherine Deane to figure out where a comatose serial killer has left his latest victim. Where the serial killer hunting of this side does get trimmed off, so we can focus on the searching for the missing victim, by diving into the idea of explore the mind of a comatose person is where the film stands out. The world we enter is incredible and shows that serial killers could have been raised in a world of pure torture causing them to break, while the story is fantastic, it could easily be one that gets bought to today world to explore the mental side of serial killers even more. The race against time element also helps makes this story feel like we are in the real time frame to get everything done.

Horror/Sci-FiThe horror in this film comes from what we see Catherine experience as well as seeing what Carl does to his victims, while the sci-fi of the film does look at the idea of being able go into the mind of somebody else without truly getting into the science of it.

SettingsThe film uses the settings to give us the routine FBI searching areas, but where the settings improve are the different environments Catherine finds herself going through during her trip into the mind, each one could be more shocking than the last.

Special EffectsThe effects in the film are wonderful too, they really do push the boundaries for the time and don’t look like they have been dated.


Scene of the Movie – The first entry into Carl’s mind.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The cops do come off pretty routine.

Final Thoughts This is an amazing sci-fi film that takes the hunt for a serial killer in a new direction, one that has endless possibilities of horror.

Overall: Disturbing Thriller.

Come to Daddy (2019) Movie Review

Director: Ant Timpson

Writer: Toby Harvard (Screenplay)

Starring: Elijah Wood, Stephan McHattie, Garfield Wilson, Madeleine Sami, Martin Donovan, Michael Smiley

Plot: A man in his thirties travels to a remote cabin to reconnect with his estranged father.

Runtime: 1 Hour 36 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Twist Filled

Story: Come to Daddy starts when Norval (Wood) goes to his estranged father’s Gordon (McHattie) remote cabin to visit for the first time in years, it doesn’t start off smooth, with Norval feeling unwelcomed, trying to figure out what is father wants with this visit.

When the two get into an argument, Norval finds himself needing to look more into the past of his father, which slowly uncovers a bigger mystery, one with terrifying truths he wasn’t ready for.

Thoughts on Come to Daddy

Characters – Norval is a 30-year-old man that has received a letter from his estranged father in his remote cabin, this doesn’t go well as he finds out he doesn’t have the same connection he had hoped, only when things take a dramatic turn, when he learns what is really going on in the cabin and must do anything to protect his mother. Gordon is the Norval’s father waiting to spend time with him, only he doesn’t show the compassion Norval has hoped, he is heartless towards him, which only ends up showing an even darker side to him. Jethro is a connection to Norval’s father, he will kill anybody who gets in his way. Brian is a man that is discovered by Norval, he has a bigger story that might add everything up more for Norval.

PerformancesElijah Wood is wonderful in the leading role of the film, he does show the innocent side to his action, who is pushed to new limits by the events, each proving to be more shocking than the last. Stephen McHattie and Martin Donovan in the support roles are strong in the supporting roles, with Michael Smiley getting plenty of the extra laughs.

StoryThe story here follows a 30-something year old that goes to visit his estranged father, only for this trip to take an unexpected twist along the way, one he couldn’t imagine happening. When we look at this story, we know with it being a horror comedy, we are going to get some twists along the way, this story doesn’t disappoint and takes us in directions we couldn’t have imagined, with each twist feeling genuinely surprising. We don’t want to get too involved with what happens, because it does leave plenty to surprise us with, though deep down we are getting into the ideas of dealing father son relationship with the father leaving the son early in his life.

Comedy/HorrorThe comedy often comes from Norval’s reactions to everything, along with how Michael Smiley acts through the film, the horror does come from the twist into the story, which does put Norval into a world he never expected.

SettingsThe film does keep a lot of the film set in the remote cabin, only for secrets to be discovered the longer we are there, when we leave it does hold the film back at times.

Special EffectsThe effects in the film are strong with most being injury infliction which looks as brutal as it is meant to.


Scene of the Movie – The kitchen fight.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The change in Norval seems too realistic, like he was waiting to be allowed to do this.

Final Thoughts This is a cool, horror comedy, which does show us how to keep a story twist a secret and surprise the audience when it is unleashed upon everyone.

Overall: Fun, Shock Filled Horror.

VFW (2019) Movie Review

Director: Joe Begos

Writer: Max Brallier, Matthew McArdle (Screenplay)

Starring: Stephen Lang, William Sadler, Fred Williamson, Martin Kove, David Patrick Kelly, George Wendt, Tom Williamson

Plot: A group of war veterans must defend their local VFW post and an innocent teen against a deranged drug dealer and his relentless army of punk mutants.

Runtime: 1 Hour 32 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Big, Bloody and Violent

Story: VFW starts as we head into a world where a new drug nicknamed Hype has taken over the streets, causing the junkies to do anything to get their hands on it. Fred Parras (Lang) runs the bar in the local VFW (Veterans of Foreign War), with the locals Walter (Sadler), Abe (Williamson), Lou (Kove), Doug (Kelly) and Thomas (Wendt) meeting on a nightly drink, with a new member Shawn (Williamson) joining them this night.

When a young woman called Lizard (McCormick) arrives in the bar running from the drug dealer Boz (Hammer) the former soldiers must use their skills to fight back and protect their bar and life, to understand what has caused the new guest to enrage the drug dealer.

Thoughts on VFW

Characters – Fred Parras runs the bar, he served with the regulars and isn’t afraid to get into a fight to protect his bar. He does try to find the best solution for the regulars and former soldiers once they come under attack, even if it does mean giving up his own life for what he sees as his soldiers. Walter, Abe, Lou and Doug served with Fred and get another chance to show of their military skills defending their bar. Boz is the drug dealer that will kill for his product or anyone who gets in his way, including Lizard who ended up in the VFW. Lizard wants revenge for her sister’s death by Boz, she is lucky to end up with the vets because they will fight for her.

PerformancesStephen Lang is great to watch taking the leading role along with the veteran actors of William Sadler, Fred Williamson and Martin Kove, while the young stars don’t get the chance to make as big of an impact on the story.

StoryThe story here follows a group of war veterans who see their bar come under attack by a group of junkies and their dealer who want their product back and are willing to kill to get it back. The story does become an easy watch because it is mostly older or people with respect, versus young junkies, while have a different location and style, it could easily be compared to Assault on Precinct 13 with the numbers game being against the soldiers, and the enemy being people showing no respect. We don’t get into anything deep, it is just battle between two different sides.

Action/HorrorThe action is blood filled with violent weapons which only give us plenty of violent action in the fights, which can end up in the horror world, by showing us just how violent the battle between the two sides.

SettingsThe film does keep us in a contained area, with the battle between both sides coming from two opposite buildings.

Special EffectsThe effects are used very well to show the injuries through the film and they aren’t afraid to hold back.


Scene of the Movie – The final showdown.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Shaky Cam, even though it is meant to show the effects of injuries suffered.

Final Thoughts This is a wildly over the top action horror that isn’t afraid to show the bloodshed, it might not get the strongest character development, but does feel like a throwback to 80’s action horror movies.

Overall: Throwback 101