Thursday, October 3, 2019

I STILL SEE YOU (2018)

THE CARD:

Bella Thorne, Richard Harmon, Amy-Price Francis, Shaun Benson, Thomas Elms, Sara Thompson, Louis Herthum, and Mermot Rondunny, um Motderm Delraimi, um Fertig von Domnrom, um Mermit Ex Vosdox, oh Dermot Mulroney!

More details here.

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW







THE ANGLE:

Ten years after a massive explosion at Hadron Collider-type government facility, ghosts are commonplace, appearing at regular intervals mimicking behavior from their former lives like holograms stuck in a looped recording.  


The apparitions are called remnants or "rems" and are now studied as a primary subject in schools. High schooler Veronica (Thorne) lost her father in the incident.  Veronica has grown understandably sad, despondent, and dark since the loss of her father and his ghostie appearing at breakfast every morning doesn't help her mourn. 


We learn that as scientists struggle to explain their existence, the rems do not interact with the real world and simply appear and disappear for no known reason.  So Veronica is especially alarmed when one morning, a rem appears in the shower with her and tries to communicate.  


But this is no ordinary spooky sexy rendezvous in the can.  The menacing rem is behaving weirdly and lunges for her.  Terrorized, Veronica seeks the advice of her teacher Mr. Bittner (Mulroney) who is not helpful as he indelicately explains that what she's experiencing is impossible.    


So Veronica seeks out the school's official creepy guy and resident rem expert Kirk (Harmon) to help, and of course they fall in awkward gothy love and stuff.


As the pair Scooby-Doo their way through increasingly dangerous interactions with the rem and evidence that its behavior is part of a wider conspiracy involving the accident that started this whole thing, a presumed rem-caused body count starts to rise.


Veronica and Kirk discover that the rem might not be as menacing as previously thought and their investigation turns to a more alive type of killer with sinister intentions beyond their understanding.  They discover that the rem is being manipulated to transfer another rem's spirit into a living person to bring that person back to life in a process called "spectral transference".  All the wacky paranormal science talks leads to a final confrontation, a lot of head-scratching...


...and a very soggy Dermot.

THE FINISHER:

I Still See You, a perfectly fine soft-PG ghost movie, is based on the 2013 book Break My Heart a 1,000 Times, another perfectly fine Young Adult novel.  Directed by Scott Speer, a former music video director and producer of the Step-Up movies, with screenplay by Jason Fuchs, who worked on Wonder Woman, the movie is a completely fine paranormal romance that you can knock out in 90 OK-ish minutes.  Former Disney star, now porn director, and lead Thorne is super competent and present for her role as a mourning goth girl turned otherworldly target.  Gaunt and creepy Harmon, who looks destined for an X-men role as a morlock (that’s a compliment), is also totally decent and satisfactory as the sullen romantic interest.  Mulroney, who I haven’t seen in anything for a while, is sending out RDJ-like vibes in his capable performance as the cool teacher who knows what Snapchat is and may not be what he seems.  But the real star is the fantastic premise in which ghosts are real, are ordinary, and are trying to affect reality.  The idea is never truly fleshed out in the movie which forsakes an exploration of this world to tell a romantic whodunit that in the end had major implications for the world it's trying to build.  And that's totally fine.  I don't know how popular the book was, but it's evident by the last scene the producers have intentions to franchise with future installments.  The original novel was released by a publishing wing of Disney, so I wouldn't put past them.  I could see this work in a CW series as the movie mish-mashes hints of Riverdale, Stranger Things, and Twilight and could cash in on those still viable YA dollars.          

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

THE MAD (2007)

THE CARD:

Maggie Castle, Shauna MacDonald, Evan Charles Flock, Jordan Madley, Rothaford Gray, Matthew D. Matteo, and my personal savior of bad cinema Billy Zane.

More details here.

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW





THE ANGLE:

Dr. Hunt (Zane), girlfriend Monica (MacDonald), daughter Amy (Castle), and Amy's boyfriend Blake (Flock), are out on a family road trip and decide to stop at a brutally bucolic tourist trap.

Behold the Griswold-esque misery
Amy hates her potential stepmom Monica.  Monica is self-absorbed and also hates Amy.  Blake is a clueless doof.  Dr. Hunt listens to 80s New Wave, ignores his bratty daughter, and aches for a handy from his girlfriend.  And there you have the psychological dynamics which will drive this meaty narrative.  

They lunch at a cafe known for its 100% organic burgers locally sourced by beef from Sutter Farms, a nearby slaughterhouse.  Unfortunately, the Sutters feed their cattle supplements bought from the "inner-net" which results in contaminated meat and pissed-off hop head cows. 

They're moo-ed as hell and aren't going to take it anymore!
So as fate would have it and because this is America, someone horks down the contaminated meat and all the townsfolk go koo-koo for blood and guts and attack our little traveling family, resulting in an untimely death for poor Monica.

"No one told me she wasn't gluten free!"
Dr. Hunt tries to figure out how to scientifically explain the epidemic by dissecting his former girlfriend.  Unfortunately, he's distracted by her constant chattering from the great beyond.

Zom-beef
Several wacky hijinks later, the gang teams up with the cafe's chef and waitress in a showdown against the increasing number of burger-breathed undead. 

Reaction to "Hey, everyone here's your paycheck!"
But the zombie hordes are just too much and the survivors' number dwindles to just Dr. Hunt and Amy who decide to trek to the Sutter Farm and see if the epidemic can be stopped from the source.  There they meet Farmer Sutter (Matteo) who's gone already murderously madder than his burger-patty pets. 

"I wanted to be Five Guys, not Five Dies!"
With the farmers defeated (or were they?), the zombies destroyed (or were they?) and father and daughter reunited and stronger (or were they?) and the audience satisifed (we weren't), Dr. Hunt does the two-step with a dancing zombie for some reason.  

"Still better than being in Titanic."

THE FINISHER:

The mid-2000s saw America struggling with economic near-collapse, political strife, domestic unrest, global terror, an increasingly fractured society alienated by technology, and seemingly endless warfare.  Oh, and Spider-Man 3.  And while all those terrible things were going on, something kind of wonderful emerged like a seedling finding daylight in a sunbaked Tempe parking lot.  America fell in love with zombie movies again.  

In this recent era of undead cinema resurgence, 2007’s The Mad chronologically lands comfortably between Shaun of the Dead, Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, and The Walking Dead.  And while it borrows the comedic spirit of Edgar Wright’s horror comedy classic, the movie possesses nowhere near the quality or competence of those cultural zombie hallmarks.  But like its similarly themed movie brother Black Sheep, it did try to weaponize the fear of Mad Cow Disease, another mid-2000s troubling thing, into a plot point for quick and dirty zombie chucklefest.  Despite this unique take, it's ultimately squandered for pot jokes and long unfunny stretches of family bickering.  One thing worthy of note though is the goofy homage to 80s New Wave soundtrack by Half Past Four who deliver Bud the Chud vibes with their title track.  But hey if quick is what you’re looking for, then you’re in for an 80-minute romp, mostly harmless, mildly amusing, totally just OK. 

Now while The Mad is not good, it does have its charms, mostly in the form of stalwart and dependable star Billy Zane.  He instantly classes up the joint onscreen despite the awful material he has to work with.  Oh, where do I start with Billy Zane?  Much like Halloween Hell’s Eric Roberts, Zane possesses all the tools for super stardom that sadly has evaded him.  A slithery but appealing swagger, the ability to play the heavy and hero interchangeably and with ease, disgusting handsomeness, and an otherworldly exotic look.  Is he Middle Eastern?  Eastern European?  Eastern Western?  Unfortunately, top-billing, eight-figure paydays, and hundred-dollar bills as snot rags did not happen for Zane and the reasons appear baffling, but probably not difficult to track down.  In The Mad, Zane is just not collecting a paycheck as his comedic timing was hundreds of notches above his well-meaning co-stars.  Goddamn it, Zane should be a bigger star, but we Zaniacs will have to settle for zombie cheapies, the occasional TV cameo, or the hidden camera I’ve sneaked into his house.  What? 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

HALLOWEEN HELL (2014)

THE CARD:

Eric Bittencourt, Olga Klimentyeva, Tyler Emerson Crim, Kriss Dozal, Sebastien Charmant, a warehouse somewhere in Van Nuys, Bautista Demon, and professional brother Eric Roberts.

More details here.

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW




THE ANGLE:

A cheeseball Dracula TV horror host guy dude (Roberts) presents a live online reality show in which random young contestants must survive 24 hours in a room where a mass murder of similar young people was committed by a demon that emerged from an ancient statue that looks particularly turdy.

Fresh from the Haunted Cursed Relic aisle at K-Mart.
Dracula will award $100,000 to the contestant who makes it through the night while a pay-per-view audience of millions watches on at $24.00 a pop.

"Velcome to Bad Movie Night."
The contestants range from bookish latina Rose (Dozal), nerdy tech entrepreneur Johnny (Bittencourt), wannabe country singer and lout Toby (Crim), sultry Euro model Gothia (Klimentyeva), aspiring pretentious filmmaker Mr. Jones (Charmant), and Central Casting final girl Judy (McIntyre).  While none of them truly believe the demon murder story, they decide not to tempt fate and just make it through the night as best they can.  Spoiling their strategy is the aggressively stupid Toby who decides to hump the cursed statue.

Behold the glorious set design by the Spirit Halloween Store clearance sale.
Despite objections from his fellow contestants, Toby decides to take his relationship with the statue to third base.

Halloweenie Hell
This despicable act somehow conjures the demon who takes revenge for Toby's Justice Kavanaugh-esque behavior. 

If you've ever been decapitated by demon in a shack, you might be a redneck.  Literally!
Meanwhile, Drac Roberts continues to age.

"I vant to suck your ... vhiskey."
The demon fully manifests and begins to off the contestants one by one, leaving only Johnny and Gothia to find a way to defeat it. 

"I once devoured a soul THIS BIG!"
Meanwhile, Dracula's aging finally slows down to a reasonable Eric Roberts facsimile.

"How you like me now, sis?!"

Tech wizard Johnny figures out that that glass tumbler-sized magnets kill demons.  Well of course they do!

Also serves to wipe memory of this movie as well.
After receiving mysterious messages from a ghostly voodoo lady who is never explained, Johnny and Gothia contain the demon, setting up a final showdown with their demonic tormentor.

The demon's final form is genie Sinbad from that alternative universe.
And with our heroes' valiant efforts, the demonic menace is flushed, much like Eric the Drac's paycheck. 

Proudly displaying the filmmaker's message to the audience

THE FINISHER:

The 2019 #31DaysOfHalloween kicks off in traditional Tremendo Time fashion with an abjectly low budget, nearly unwatchable, logic defying, fiercely pointless, whatever is below butt dumb amateurish cheapo that looks like it was shot in a night – like last night.  

Ah, I love this time of year! 

Guys, let’s just cut to the chase: it’s bad.  Terrible acting that approaches grade school improv, poorly-lit discount production values, and dull stretches of nonsense and time filler.  Other than being set at Halloween (I guess?) there’s very little Halloweenyness going on.  But the movie does excel in the way it consistently resists explaining anything and vehemently denying any effort at telling a story.  You have to respect its defiant stance against entertainment.   

And oh, Mr. Eric Roberts.  Let’s talk about Eric Roberts.  Once a rising star of 80s cinema featured in classics like nail-biting thriller Runaway Train and gangster sleeper Pope of Greenwich Village, Roberts has been a movie and TV mainstay with over 500 credits appearing in everything from NBC’s Heroes, to The Expendables, to music videos, to The Dark Knight, to reality show fare Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.  Displaying rugged good looks and a hewn intensity, Roberts seemed like he was destined for mega movie stardom that sadly never fully materialized.  Despite his bouts with drugs, run-ins with the law, or living under the shadow of a mega movie star sibling, Roberts has amassed an amazingly varied range of work and is remains prolific today.  Although known for appearing in several low budget direct-to-video titles, I still ponder why the hell would he – in 2014 mind you - do some cheap, low rent tripe like Halloween Hell?  My fellow cinema nerds used to call these “phone bill roles”, as in the actor in question went way over their minutes and data and needed to take up some day-playing hack job in a skeevy skid row horror flick.  Sadly, Roberts in full Dracula gear slurs his way through a presumably drunken haze feebly grasping at a horrible Bela Lugosi impression.  I can only guess that Eric was either calling Mars or the afterlife to have to accept this job.   

Next, let’s talk about director Ed Hunt.  I first covered Mr. Hunt’s work in The Brain, also not good but features terrific creature effects, but it was his film Plague, a gripping disease epidemic movie, that I remember best and always seemed to be on HBO in the early 80s.  Ten-year-old me loved it, but I haven't seen it since so who knows if the man who directed Eric fucking Roberts as a high AF Dracula watching kids get scratched by a $.99 Store demon in a direct to Amazon fucking Prime streamer has matured as an artist. 

Finally, let’s talk about…well, I think that’s about all the highlights I could pull from this stinker.  If you’re planning to add this to your Halloween night movie marathon, I would put it dead last, perhaps just as your guests are either snoozing after a fun-sized Snickers crash or are clearing the fuck out for the night.

Friday, August 23, 2019

COMING SOON: THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN!


That gloriously spooky time of year is just around the corner.  Thirty-one days of candy corn, pumpkin spice, jack o'lanterns, creepy chills, moonlit nights, scary tunes, and empty wallets.  I'll be watching 31 horror movies for the month of October and posting my thoughts in El Tremendo's world-famous (?) format.  See right hand side of this blog if you don't know what the hell I'm talking about. 

Until then, stay tremendous!

Monday, October 29, 2018

SNAKE OUTTA COMPTON (2018)

THE CARD:

Ricky Flowers Jr., Motown Maurice, Donte Essien, Aurelia Michael, Joston Theney, Jon Kondelik, Tarkan Dospil, Eric Paul Erickson, Samuel Jackson’s lawyer, Denzel Washington’s lawyer, the SyFy Channel’s lawyers, and the NAACP’s lawyers.   

More details here.

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW



THE ANGLE: 

A familiar mother-effing voice is heard as a snake is tossed from a passing airliner over sunny Los Angeles.  The snake lands on the hood of LAPD Officers Denz (Theny) and Ethan (Kondelik) who are out on a training day patrolling the streets of Compton in South Central LA.  

"We're about as subtly named as King Kong!"
Denz and Ethan wipe the snake from their windshield as if it's nothing and go about their business.  They will soon regret the decision.  Meanwhile, science nerd and also subtly named Vurkel (Essien) finds the snake on the road and takes one of its intact eggs for an experiment.

Yes, you fucking did that!
Vurkel goes to his laboratory in a house he shares with this roommate Pinball (Maurice) who aspires to be in a rap group along with the alluring Neon (Michael) and vocalists Beez Neez (Dospil) and Cam (Flowers).   

Day Players with Attitude
Pinball's rap group is set to audition for a big recording contract but Vurkel is annoyed by their constant partying and bullying.  He experiments with the snake egg in his room and exposes it to some kind of weird sciencey ray gun thing.  Unfortunately, the experiment results in the creation of a big ass snake that's hungry for homies.

Snake? I thought you were dead.
To complicate matters, white gangsta Alley Jaws (Erickson) shoots up Pinball's house demanding money owed to him. 

Less Eminem, more Almond Joy 
Broke and desperate, Pinball and Beez Neez dress up as Mexican wrestlers and plan a series of robberies to get Jaws' money quick.

Always worked for me.
The snake starts devouring the citizens of Compton from Korean grocers to publicly pooping hobos.  With the cops hot on their tail, the gang makes a quick stop for ice cream.

Mike Mendez as Mexican Ice Cream Man is the role of a lifetime.
And then stop at a strip club for an extended rap battle scene.

I just couldn't, so here's a pic of a young and comely Elsa Lanchester.
But both the snake and the cops soon catch up with our heroes.

Welcome to Jurassic Korean Grocery Parking Lot!
After being bitten by his giant ass snake, Vurkel gets the TMNT treatment and begins to spread a violent virus.

Still better than Super Mario Bros.
So the final stage is set and Pinball and his crew will have to confront the snake atop the recording studio building and kill it with the most inhumane weapon known to man.

'Nuff said.

THE FINISHER:

Being the avid bad movie watcher that I am and will always be known to be (wipes tear), I’m often asked about how I feel about the SyFy Original line-up of craptastic fare.  You know, the Sharknados, the Shartopusses, and other such stuff.  Lord knows, I’ve seen my share, like this one and this one.  And the answer I give is the same as the one I give to those who ask me about other terrible Z-grade movie brands like the Asylum, Troma, or DC Entertainment: I don’t care for bad on purpose.  What I mean is that the prime factors – inept acting, ridiculous plotting, second-rate FX – are manufactured to fit the bad movie mold.  The badness, for lack of a better term, feels artificial and forced.  A true bad movie experience should be void of intentionality; the incompetence should sweep you off your feet and carry to a higher plane of mockery, gratification, and self-hatred, like a pitch meeting with Tara Reid.  Add to that the pre-conditioned response of “Well, what did you expect?  It’s supposed to be bad!”, that audiences have about these movies don’t motivate producers to aim for anything above the punny title.  Unfortunately, this type of attitude is being applied to films in general nowadays, which may spell doom for movie-going in general.  But to answer the question of what did I expect watching something called Snake Outta Compton? I expected to chuckle a bit.  I expected at least one good kill.  I expected it to pass the time.  

But to be honest, deep down inside I expected it to be entertaining, perhaps even good.  Maybe expected isn’t the word; call it hope.  Hell, a movie with a cameo from the great Mike Mendez, maestro of such fun and rewatchable SyFy works like Big Ass Spider and Lavalantula amongst other fine horror films, can’t be all bad.  But Snake Outta Compton is pretty bad.  The production feels rushed, even though its main reference is a movie from three years ago, to say nothing about the seventeen-year-old Training Day references.  The comedic acting falls somewhere between the last Scary Movie and anything dragging along the bloated comedy corpse of Rob Schneider.   Fortunately, it avoids being grossly stereotypical given its setting, but the terrible 90s jokes, South Central references, and rapper puns reek of some white dude writer who ran lines via text past his one black writer friend who also went to Yale.  That, or cocaine.  Actually, I see that four people wrote the script.  Hope there was plenty of coke to go around.  But the news isn’t all bad.  Like I said I did laugh a few times and I liked the fact that this served as a tongue-in-cheek sequel to Snakes on a Plane.  But I shuddered at the thought that since there is a pencil-thin link between Lionsgate, the distributor of this film, and Universal Studios, the once-distributor of older Lionsgate titles, the Compton Snake could be considered a Universal Monster.  Let that sink in!  Ridiculousness aside, I can recommend Snake Outta Compton for your Halloween night marathon.  It’ll wake your guests up and arrive as a welcome relief after a long night of being terrorized by ElePhantom*, LavaRats vs. RoboRaccoons*, and Helk: The Elk from Hell*.

*These movies do not exist, but SyFy if you’re interested – call me!

Monday, October 22, 2018

WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL (2013)

THE CARD:

Paul Fahrenkopf, Aaron Henkin, Nicolette le Faye, Leanna Chamish, Richard Cutting, Brian St. August, Helenmary Ball, Robert Long II, a long look back at a long gone era that refuses to go away, and a trick-or-treat bag full of 80s yucks.

More details here.

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW



THE ANGLE: 

WNUF Channel 28 is hosting a live investigation of a rumored haunted house in which a young Donald Webber murdered his parents in cold blood years ago.  The special is announced on the Halloween evening news which is presented with all the professional decorum and journalistic integrity that is local TV news.

"Vell, at least I'm not on Fox!"
Cornball news reporter and jaded skeptic Frank Stewart is on the scene hosting the ghostly goings-on along with a host of looky-loos in costumes who all may very well be high.

"After tonight, I'm going back to doing traffic in Tucson."
Joining Frank are famous paranormal researchers Louis and Claire Berger who will attempt to reach out to the evil spirits that infest the Webber home.  They are joined by their psychic cat which prompts Frank to make high brow jokes.

"Tonight, we'll be busting ghosts and stroking pussy, folks." 
Earlier in the evening, we learn that a local group of religious kooks want to ban Halloween and are especially angry that WNUF is promoting what they believe is Satanic works.  Naturally, they interview the most sane, rational, and calm member of the group.

"GOD HATES CANDY CORN!" 
The investigators are joined by a nervous nelly priest, Father Joseph, who claims he can conduct an exorcism to rid the home of the malicious entities.  That is, if he can keep his bladder together.

"And now, a reading from the Book of Cystitus."
The terror unfolds in the Webber home as the Bergers' equipment is mysteriously destroyed, their cat is mutilated, and horrific noises are heard from an upstairs room.

"Walk towards the poofy orange mic cover, Carol Ann!"
While things go haywire during the live broadcast, the show's producer frantically tries to maintain order before the true nature of what is tormenting our hosts is revealed.  And it's probably more vile and villainous than any spook or specter.  But first, here's what's next on WNUF, a mummy stalks New York in search of souls to reap:

I will totally watch this.

THE FINISHER:

Say whatever you will about the 1980s, from over-saturation of the period’s nostalgia in almost every aspect of current pop culture and the infernal member berries it has sprouted that drive every Hollywood franchise today (Predator, Aliens, TNMT, Ghostbusters, etc.), the decade was at least for me a glorious time, especially at Halloween. The WNUF Halloween Special, a found footage/mockumentary local TV satire embodies everything the eerie night meant to someone whose best friend was the boob tube.  After a cool night of trick-or-treating, getting spooked by pranksters, chugging Grandma’s hot chocolate, and watching Night of the Living Dead, Halloween, or Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, I found myself wanting more.  And usually all the local TV stations had to offer after the late news was either Benny Hill reruns or some cheeseball B-movie that would knock me out after 15 minutes. How times have changed.  

But this crazy movie offers that something more I’d wished for then: a live investigation of a haunted house with a murderous history.  And the makers pull it offer wonderfully from the dorky news reporter, to the Warrens-esque psychic couple, to the pee-pee prone priest with frayed nerves, to the countless commercial breaks, to the anti-Halloween Westboro Church-eque religious freaks who dominated the political platform at the time.  How times have changed.  Among very convincing commercials and news stories from the era, there’s plenty of good natured silliness and laughs but the scares emerge gradually with a particularly gruesome payoff.  In fact, the commercials almost steal the show featuring everything from adverts for video stores, arcades, locally manufactured snacks, corny ethnic festivals, strip clubs, rip-off 976 numbers, suicide hotlines, and public service announcements from cops warning trick-or-treaters to watch out for “needles infected with the AIDS virus”.  Yeah, those existed.  The 80s VHS/UHF look, feel, and composition are so authentic, it's obviously made by someone with aptitude in production of the era and much affection.  I can totally recommend WNUF Halloween Special to satisfy your post-10 PM desire for extra Halloween amusement.  Really well done, really funny, and really recommended.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB (2018)

THE CARD:

Colin Woodell, Stephanie Nogueras, Betty Gabriel, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Andrew Lees, Connor Del Rio, Savira Windyani, more scary hacking than a weekend at Grandma’s, and an IT department headed by IT

More details here.

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW




THE ANGLE:

Matias (Woodell) is a broke ass software developer who's having relationship problems with his deaf girlfriend Amaya (Nogueras).  He is on the verge of a breakthrough on a product called Papaya which translates voice and sign language into text on a video chat platform. (Actually, not a bad idea).  His story unfolds on his newly acquired laptop. 

"Logging into my favorite website Tremendo Time...tralala"
He's scheduled to meet with his friends online on Skype.  But things soon turn awry when we learn than the laptop he "acquired" may be stolen property, and the owner starts to contact him directly asking for it back.  

"Oh shit, he's reviewing another bad 70s horror movie..."
As the owner's messaging grows increasingly menacing, Matias slowly learns he may be in over his head and is in real danger.  So naturally, he involves his friends during the online gaming and chat session.  

"Another fart joke?  Are you fucking kidding me, Tremendo?!!!"
We learn that Matias actually stole the laptop from an internet cafe (really?) and the owner is part of a cabal of evil hackers, online perverts, scumbag torture trolls, and libertarians who destroy lives for their own amusement.  

A glimpse of Apple's new Aye-aye-aye-phone.
One by one, the hackers wreak havoc on the Matias and his friends' lives, including Amaya who is unaware she's being stalked.  All the friends can do is witness the horror unfold with top-notch fast and uninterrupted internet service.  Fart!

"Oh, Tremendo, you had so much potential." 

THE FINISHER:

Along with its fellow 2014 release Open Windows, the original Unfriended used the then-fresh concept of telling a story about a killer stalking a group of friends online in real time, each of them  subjected to a dangerous game tied into their troubled pasts.  Told from the perspective of the main character’s desktop, the movie used social media, internet apps, and online software to not only deliver a relatively satisfying thriller, but also convey themes of trust, friendship, and the decay of social interaction in our current technological age.  Simple as it was, it at least tried to even have a message backed by a plot with motive.  This next chapter in the Unfriended series affords no such attempt at depth as it’s pure gimmick in which all of the characters are random victims of circumstance with little to no character development.  Instead of an Eli Rothian torture chamber, the victims’ gruesome fates unfold live on the latest IO operating system.  If this is supposed to be a more modern update of early 2000s torture porn, then for the most part it’s successful.  But much like early 2000s torture porn, it’s not for me.  

But what does work is how the movie depicts actual things that may and do happen like the vulnerability of home security cameras and other devices, the availability of personal information that can be easily accessed and used against someone also known as “doxing”, the ugly practice of “swatting” in which a false report prompts an aggressive police response, and the frightening tools available to hackers (and others if you spend the time to learn their methods) to destroy someone’s life.  Less convincing is the speed and efficiency in which these diabolical tasks are executed, the almost supernatural ways in which the evil hackers’ identities were concealed, the fact that a YouTube conspiracy theorist has friends, and several head-scratching Bill Gates’ wallet-sized leaps in logic.  Many story threads with potential are left hanging as nothing is done with Nogueras’ character who is only hearing-impaired for sake of plot convenience.  Much like its predecessor, the cast is made up of relative unknowns, except for Gabriel who was terrific in 2017’s stunning Get Out.  Woodell as the lovelorn Matias was particularly good at conveying sweaty paranoia as doom unfolds in the wake of his terribly stupid mistake.  Unfriended: Dark Web works at picking at all-too real fears of privacy invasion, identity theft, and online terrorism that exist in our world today. Although you may not walk away from the film chilled to the bone, you will definitely clear your browser cache more often.  Pervo!