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Movie Review: “Happy Death Day” Delivers Laughs and Scares

“Groundhog Day” meets “Scream” in this surprisingly funny, mystery thriller.

Sorority girl, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) wakes up hungover on her birthday in a stranger’s (Isreal Broussard) bed. She discovers she stayed the night with nerdy classmate, Carter, and rudely exits his dorm room. Thus begins her rampage of being a narcissistic mean girl to everyone who crosses her path. As we get a peek into a day in the life of Tree, we learn she ignores her father’s call, she’s sleeping with her married professor, and constantly belittles others. I know, hard to believe someone wants to kill her. As the night draws near, Tree heads to a party and is quickly stabbed to death by someone in a disturbing baby mask–oddly enough, that is the school’s mascot.  She then wakes up, and is forced to keep reliving her birthday with each day ending in her being murdered in some gruesome way. As Tree grows weaker with each consecutive loop, she must unmask her murderer and stop them from finishing her off for good.

Writer Scott Lobell does a great job with this clever script, as he adds a lot of humor and makes the film self-aware to the fact that this is a cheesy horror. The self-awareness allows for the movie to go beyond cliché lines and really have fun with a decently, thought out mystery. At this point I’ve described more of a comedy, but director Christopher Landon achieves a handful of scares that will have audiences jumping in their chairs.

The film’s story is solid, but the key ingredient here is the engaging breakout performance by Jessica Rothe. She nails the strong bitchy exterior that actually allows us to not feel guilty when we laugh at her numerous deaths, yet still gains sympathy towards her hopeful victory. Rachel Matthews, who plays an even more awful sorority sister, might provide the most laugh out moments with her over the top bitchy lines.

Whatever “Happy Death Day” lacks in the horror, it makes up for it in its entertainment. Reminiscent of the “Scream” era, it provides the same kind of “whodunit” feel that keeps you guessing till the very end.

I can’t say that this film should be at the top of your must-see list, but if you are looking for a few scares and fun time during this Halloween season, then “Happy Death Day” is the perfect choice.

Rating: 3.75/5

“Happy Death Day” opens in theaters October 13.

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Movie Review: “The Visit” is a Welcoming Comeback for M. Night Shyamalan

the visit

M. Knight Shyamalan was once known for his great films such as The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs.  Unfortunately, his more recent projects have subjected us to some underwhelming, pieces of crap like The Happening and After Earth.  Well folks, I’m pleased to say that Shyamalan’s newest film, The Visit, succeeds as a highly entertaining horror-comedy!

Kathryn Hahn plays a single mother of two who has not spoken to her parents since she left home at the age of 19, and ran off with an older man.  Now, her parents have reached out to her through the internet and ask that her children come to visit their Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie), whom they’ve never met.

Per the kids’ wishes, the mom sends them to their grandparents’ isolated, Pennsylvania farmhouse in the woods for a week while she goes on a cruise with her new boyfriend.  The eldest child, Becca (Olivia DeJonge), is an aspiring filmmaker.  She takes this opportunity to document her entire trip, and hopefully uncover exactly what happened the day her mother walked out on her parents and maybe even mend their relationship.  Alongside her, as a second camera operator is her younger, germ phobic, rapping brother, Tyler (Olivia DeJonge).

The trip starts all well and good, Nana makes plenty of tasty treats and Pop Pop enjoys listening to Tyler’s ridiculously, hilarious raps.  Seems as though it will be a great week for the kids; that is until they discover why bed time is at 9:30pm.  Nana goes from a harmless, nocturnal sleepwalker to a straight up psychotic, creepy, crawler within each passing night!  And what exactly is Pop Pop doing when he disappears inside his mysterious shed?

As things are turning eerie fast, the kids are desperate to have their mother come get them before anymore craziness unfolds.

Shyamalan has not only redeemed himself as a filmmaker, but he has also brought originality to the found-footage genre.  His combination of humor and terror will have audiences uncomfortably laughing while still on the edge of their seats as they nervously anticipate what’s to come.

The acting is good overall, especially when it comes to the two kids, who could have ruined the whole film if they were wrongly cast.  Oxenbould was given some cheesy lines and potentially bad jokes, but his delivery and timing is so on point that you can’t help but enjoy every second he’s on screen.  But the real stand out here is Nana.  Dunagan gives an incredible performance as the disturbing grandmother who seesaws from sweet and nurturing to plain insanity.

The Visit provides comedy, horror, family, and best of all, a startling amount of effed up sh**.  Literally!

Rating: 4/5

The Visit opens in theaters on September 11.

Top 5 Heroines Of Horror

For those of you who prefer to make Halloween a “scary movie night,” deciding on what to watch can be a difficult.  However, I have narrowed down a few choices that are equally entertaining.

Some of the best horror flicks include a fierce heroine that you don’t want to piss off.  Here are the top five bad ass “scream queens.”

5.  Anna Peterson (Maika Monroe) – The Guest

Fights the Beautiful Beast

Though this film is fairly new, The Guest is an inevitable cult classic and it features a quite memorable Anna Peterson, the teenage daughter that seems to be the only one in her family that has suspicions about their recent house guest, David.  Once she discovers the unsettling truth about David, she admirably overlooks his blazing baby-blues and irresistible charm so that she may take matters into her own hands and protect her family.

 

4. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) – Halloween

Selfless Fighter

Laurie Strode is considered by many to be the first true horror heroine.  She is a regular “girl next door” who fights off her psychotic murderous brother, Michael Myers, time and time again.  Although she struggles with her own war against Michael, helping children in danger is her first priority before her own safety.

 

3. Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) – I Know What You Did Last Summer

Haunted by Regrets

Julie and her friends thought keeping the secret of their deadly hit-and-run would prevent damage to any of the teens’ future plans.  Little did they know the man they “thought” they killed was already a wanted for murder.  Julie deals with the regrets of not calling the cops in the first place, which has led her to be stalked by a killer seeking revenge.  She stands out as the heroine who could have prevented this terror.  And of course, we can’t forget this classic line… “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, HUH? WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOOOOORRRR?”

 

2. Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) – A Nightmare On Elm Street

Sleepless in Battle 

Nancy battled it out with Wes Craven’s monster masterpiece, Freddy Krueger, a burnt serial killer who uses a glove armed with razors to kill his victims in their dreams.  Being the only one of her friends that was able to stay awake, Nancy drove Freddy into a realm where he could be defeated.

1. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) – Scream

Wrestles the Ghostfaces of her Past

In the course of four films, Sidney is terrorized by various killers who claim the Ghostface mask.  Each time these murderers make his or her way into Sidney’s life, it’s a guilty reminder of what started this crime wave to begin with.  Having your mother’s infidelity be the reason why your own boyfriend turned into a psychotic killer is a traumatic experience all in itself.  But, Sidney is forced to relieve this horror through copycat killers and a cheesy, mimicking, Hollywood slasher with infinite sequels.  Suffice it to say, there’s no escaping this never ending nightmare.  And sadly, repeatedly getting betrayed by the people you trust most and continuously making it out alive earns this heroine our top spot!

Movie Review: “High School Possession” is Nothing to Fear

Lifetime isn’t really known for their “scary movies.”  But once in a while, they tend to deliver a film that successfully spooks you while watching.  High School Possession, however, is not one of those films.

Lauren (Janel Parrish-Pretty Little Liars) and Chloe (Jennifer Stone-Wizards of Waverly Place) are best friends.  But recently, Chloe is having trouble and spiraling out of control at home and at school.  Her mother has taken her to countless doctors, and none of them can clearly diagnose her.

While on assignment for the school newspaper, Lauren interviews Olivia (Shanley Caswell-The Conjuring) and her church youth group known as “The Chosen.”  But after the interview, she accidentally sees them performing an exorcism on a girl.  Lauren is horrified but intrigued.  So she begins to investigate, and it seems to have really helped the girl.  Now she wonders if Chloe might be possessed, and the only way to save her is through an exorcism.

You would think this film would take advantage of its demonic elements, and go for some attempt at making its audience scream.  This is meant to be released on the week of Halloween for a reason right?  Well, that’s too bad, because this might have been the lamest Lifetime thriller yet.  I have seen scarier and more interesting episodes of Pretty Little Liars.  I wasn’t sure if the direction was aiming for teen horror or family friendly.  Though High School Possession fails to deliver, the film’s set up of a possible sequel, surprisingly has some potential.

High School Possession premieres Saturday, October 25, at 8pm ET /PT on Lifetime.

Movie Review: “A Haunted House 2” Is An Example of How A Spoof Should Be Done

Before I dive right into the hilarity of this film, I want to mention that I am fully aware of how ridiculous and dumb movies like A Haunted House 2 appear.  But I have to review this film for what it is, and it is a spoof.  Believe it or not, it’s a good spoof; one that doesn’t highlight so much product placement that you lose all focus of the story.  And let’s face it; this is what the past years of parody disasters have produced.

Of course there shouldn’t be too much worry when you have comedian, Marlon Wayans (Scary Movie, White Chicks) behind the screenplay.  Wayans is able to combine various horror film plot lines into his 87 minute spoof without going completely off track of his main premise.  This is a task that is usually failed in films like Meet the Spartans and Disaster Movie.

A Haunted House was a great display of how Paranormal Activity and The Exorcist should be made fun of.  In this sequel, the film picks up right where it left off.  After having exorcised the demons of his ex and trying to leave that terrifying supernatural experience behind him, Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) is starting fresh with his new girlfriend (Jaime Pressly) and her two children. But once they move into their dream home, Malcolm once again encounters bizarre paranormal events.

In comparison to the first, A Haunted House 2 is an overall bigger production.   There are more characters, more horror films that are being spoofed and even more racist jokes.  What is probably one of the most comical parts of the film is how Malcolm’s relationship with his new white girlfriend, Megan, differs so much from his first girlfriend, Kisha (Essence Atkins).  Racial stereotypes are a long running joke in both films, and are presented in an enjoyable and tasteful manner for audiences.

I will admit that there are still plenty of moments in this movie that might be a little too much, or a scene that could have been shown in half the time.  However, the continuous plot and constant references from the first film keeps you engaged enough in the story to forgive any over exaggerated scenes.  What is so frustrating about the Scary Movie franchise is that it started out as this outrageously funny story of Anna Faris’ character.  But as it went on, it was as if the films before never even happened.  I hope that if A Haunted House continues to produce sequels, Wayans will maintain a solid story that will eventually come full circle for all the main characters.

Expect to see some of the most popular scary flicks parodied, like The Conjuring, The Ring, and Insidious.  Cedric the Entertainer is even better the second time around as Father Williams, and even though she is only on screen for a limited amount of time, Essence Atkins is still the most entertaining “crazy bitch.”  If you enjoy spoofs and even mildly liked the first film, A Haunted House 2 will surely satisfy.

Rating: 3.5/5

A Haunted House 2 Trailer HD

Originally posted on RedCarpetCrash.com

Movie Review: “The Starving Games” Is A Surprisingly Funny Spoof

I had given up on watching any more parody films after Meet the Spartans.  They were starting to become more about product placement and celebrity bashing instead of maintaining a story-line and making fun of the actual film.  The Starving Games made me remember why I enjoyed films like Scary Movie and Not Another Teen Movie.

In this Hunger Games parody, Kantmiss Evershot (Maiara Walsh) volunteers herself to save her sister, Petunia (Kennedy Hermansen), from fighting in the 75th annual Starving Games.  Kantmiss must fight for her life along with her secret admirer, Peter Malarky (Cody Christen) in order to win an old ham, a coupon for a Subway foot-long, and a partially eaten pickle.  All while a jealous Dale (Brant Daughtery) watches the action on the big screen.

There are a slew of other films that are poked at in this movie including, Harry Potter, OZ the Great and Powerful, and The Avengers.  Believe it or not, their appearances do not come off completely random.  Therefore, it is actually funny.

Pretty Little Liars’ fans will be happy to see the supporting actors of their teen drama, play leading men, as Dale and Peter.   Overall, this was a good comedic cast.  Especially, Maiara Walsh who bears a striking resemblance to Jennifer Lawrence.  I particularly loved the portrayal of Peter as an exaggerated coward.

The Starving Games is probably more satisfying as a rental.  But if you have seen The Hunger Games, the spoof is worth the laughs.

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, comic violence, language and partial nudity.

The Starving Games hits theaters November 8th.

The Starving Games Trailer HD

Originally posted on RedCarpetCrash.com