In the best and worst ways, Pass Thru is peak Neil Breen. The acting is garbage, the story makes no sense, the effects are atrocious, and I loved every minute of it. Pass Thru is my third Breen film Twisted Pair and Fateful Findings) and it places at the bottom. Although we get the plot way faster than Fateful Findings, it makes much less sense and is much less compelling than Twisted Pair. Pass Thru is probably more quotable, but there was far too much downtime. Pass Thru is can get really boring and that combined with the very confusing story drags it down. Without ruining anything, there are many, many things that are never explained to the point that it's be hard to accurately spoil anything because I'm totally confused. It still offers all of the terrible things that we've come to love from Breen, but it almost a drudge to get through.
Gladiator was almost perfect. The acting was pretty great, the pacing was solid for a 2.5 hour movie, and the effects are good. The story isn't anything new or different, but it's compelling none the less. My problems are all with the style of some of the elements. The biggest issue for me is the use of slow motion when there is really no reason for it. There isn't anything that benefits from being seen in slo-mo and it only distracts from the action and a few times it had me thinking that there was an issue with the WiFi. It did appear that they were occasionally using the slo-mo to hide some issues with the fight choreography. In general, the fights look pretty good (and they better in a movie about a gladiator) and the blood looked surprisingly fine, but the choreography wasn't always great. There were a few fight scenes that felt wonky or were just missing something, but unlike some other films, all of the fights made sense and even in the big, epic ones, I always understood what was going on and could follow the action. The score itself is great (it is Hans Zimmer after all) but there were a few times where it wasn't quite matching up with the tone of the scene. One of the songs was almost identical to the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, which I realize came out afterwards and I don't count against Gladiator, but it was a little distracting. Really, Gladiator was surprisingly great. Russel Crowe doesn't have a particularly deep character, but he kills it with what he has. Gladiator could use a little trimming and I didn't like all of the stylistic choices, but it's hard no to appreciate it for everything else it does so very right.
Night of the Lepus is not nearly as bad as its original reviews suggest. The acting isn't notably bad; the two child actors are pretty bad, but I didn't notice anyone else being terrible, not good, but not terrible. Visually, my Blu Ray made the film look pretty good for a 70's movie. When it came out, critics complained that the plot of the movie was too ridiculous, but I've seen many movies about killer dolls, cars, alien clowns, and a movie where Tim Robbins plays a heart throb, so mutated killer rabbits isn't a stretch. What it comes down to are two big issues. Firstly, it's pretty boring. The pacing is terrible and we have far too much wasted time. We have entirely too many characters t hat aren't needed and are sucking up time that would be better spent on the main plot. The biggest issue, for me, was that because they used real bunnies against miniature sets, they clearly had an issue with how to have the rabbits and human characters interact. What we end up with is a lot of implied action and then we cut to a character with some red goop on their face and shirt. We never see a character with a bite mark, a cut, or a dismemberment unless they are first seen like that. There are zero kill scenes and almost no real action. I'm not even sure what the rabbits' goal is, as they don't eat anyone and they exclusively kill people off screen and we just see their perfectly intact corpse with some fake blood smeared about. There is one body they find with an arm or something dismembered, but the body is arranged so nicely with the severed arm lined up perfectly under where it once connected, that there is no way an animal could have done it. Plus, people jump on board the giant killer rabbit train way too easily. After the first fifteen or so minutes, anyone who is told "giant killer rabbits" just accepts it as fact and prepares for instructions. Why isn't anyone just laughing in their faces? "Killer rabbits? Giant tractor-trailer sized bunnies? That's the dumbest thing I have ever heard! What are you on?" Add in a very bad ending that makes no sense and isn't deserved and we have a perfect storm of bad. Night of the Lepus just takes itself far too seriously. I think that ends up being the root of all of the issues here. This should be more like Killer Klowns from Outer Space or something where they embrace how ludicrous the whole thing is and have some fun. Night of the Lepus is not fun and that is really the only thing that could have saved it. I will say that the miniature models they made look pretty great and actually fooled me a couple of times. but as soon as a giant bunny has to attack a real human, they lost me again.
The Black Dahlia Haunting completely incompetent; I can't even credit them for having acceptable camera quality, because they don't even manage to get that. All of the acting is awful, the story is incomprehensible, the effects terrible, and the only real gore we get in a character that we first see already cut up and covered in blood and we don't get to see it happen. The whole thing looks like a 2007 YouTube skit, but with much worse acting. The plot is total nonsense with many scenes having no purpose. Somewhere in here is a simple plot idea, but there are so many additional layers of shit that absolutely kill any potential the film had. There are multiple characters who either don't have any motive for what they are doing or have no reason to exist at all. There isn't even any character to latch on to or root for. The main character is a total jerk and the actress has no charisma. Twice she gets a call from her boyfriend(?) who says that he misses her. Her response the first time is "OK" and the second time she just says "Bye" and hangs up. The plot drags constantly and there are so many inconsistencies and plot holes that I found it impossible to follow. Our main character flies into LA because her half-brother's therapist requests it. We are never told why and it is never addressed. Instead, the sister now decides she wants to see her half-brother even though they haven't communicated in many years. the brother is in an institution (which appears to be a college dorm kind of scenario, which is weird because he is a convicted murder, but there doesn't appear to be any security, staff, or any sort of limits on what he is allowed to have.). The therapist is very suspicious about her desire to see her brother. So, the therapist has tracked down the main character (which he says was very difficult) and asks her to come to LA, but he doesn't have any intention of letting her see her brother, but also doesn't seem to have any other reason for bringing her to LA. What is she here for then? There is another character, Malcolm, who i think hears voices, but he never does anything important and has no effect of the story. No exaggeration, if we cut out every scene he is in, the movie would make more sense; he is not referenced by any other character, ever. The camera quality is bad, the sound mixing is off, and the editing is too abrupt. There is nothing to commend this film for. Even the gore makes no sense, as characters bleed for no reason and when there is physicality that draws blood, it doesn't come from the right place. One character is repeatedly punched in the face, but the only blood she ever gets is at her hairline on her forehead, not her nose, not her mouth, not from a cut or abrasion on her check, but from a place she wasn't even touched. The guy dong the punching then goes to wash off the blood from his knuckles, but there isn't any and they don't even bother to fake it by making the water pink. The Black Dahlia Haunting isn't the worst movie I've ever seen, but it tires very hard to be.
Horror films don't scare me. I'm not saying that to make you think I'm a badass (I'm most certainly not), but to put into perspective how good this movie is. [REC] definitely has quite a few logistical plot holes (Non-spolier example: If the characters stop recording to rewind and re-watch what was just recorded, why would the footage we see include the rewind and replay?) and does fall into most of the horror movie tropes, but it does a lot of things right. The acting is pretty good (great for a horror movie) and they do a good job with the effects with their low budget. What [REC] does best though, is creating legitimate tension and pulling off some well executed jump scares (although it feels like an insult to call them jump scares). Towards the end, [REC] got me as close to being scared as any movie has since I was a child. The plot inconsistencies were really the only thing that keeps this from being a five star horror. It's a quick film that's well paced and is great at hiding it's visual imperfection. Instead of making things happen off screen to save on the effects budget, they expertly use the fact that what we are seeing is from one handheld camera. I recently watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre, how constantly would have the actual violence happen off-screen; [REC] will have the camera in the exact right place so that another character's shoulder would block where the effect would have been necessary. [REC] is the best pure, simple horror movie that I have seen in a very long time. It is worth noting that there is an English dub that you should not watch under any circumstance unless you absolutely cannot do subtitles.
The worst thing that a movie can be is boring. I can deal with bad acting and I can overlook terrible effects; Hell, sometimes that adds a certain charm. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre literally put me to sleep and I had to re-watch the last half. There is almost zero plot, every actor is garbage, it isn't scary, there is no suspense, and 90% of the violence and gore happens off screen or is merely implied. There were a few unintentionally funny scenes due to the terrible script and odd acting choices, but that's all I got out of it. The cinematography is okay and it's in focus, but there isn't any of it that was worth seeing. Very little happens and what does makes no sense or isn't interesting. The first fifteen minutes, which don't even include Leatherface, are easily the best, but they are largely irrelevant to the rest of the film. No one has a solid motivation, there is no drive to the story, and there are no likable characters. I guess I did kind of get a kick out of Paul A. Partain's terrible dialog and weird performance. If the kills were cool, I could at least get some enjoyment out of this movie, but there aren't any. For a film that was criticized for being ultra-violent, we don't get to see hardly anything. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a huge disappointment.
Even in 2004, the zombie genre was played out. Now, ten season into The Walking Dead, zombies are so over done that it's hard to stand out. Shaun of the Dead is an incredibly fresh take one the genre. It's not really a parody but more of a comedy that just happens to take place during a zombie outbreak. While I did find the movie incredibly clever, I rarely found it funny. I loved all the characters and there is plenty of wordplay and a few smart dialog sequences, but they don't seem to try comedy that often. I love British humor, but there isn't even much of that. The plot is pretty standard, except for Simon Pegg's character (the titular Shaun). Shaun spends almost a third of the movie totally oblivious to what's going on and a good portion of the funny scenes happen because he has no idea that his neighbors are zombies. Shaun of the Dead does a lot of things right: I love the soundtrack, the plot is very well paced, Edgar Wright's direction gets us some great shots, the characters were all well written, the dialog feels real, and the ending was well done. Really, my only issue is that for a comedy, there isn't much comedy. When they go for it, the humor works, but they just don't try enough. I'll gladly take a comedy that is funny when it tries to be, but doesn't try very often over a comedy movie that constantly tries to be funny but rarely is. Looking at Edgar Wright's filmography, this is easily the best of his films that I've watched (I hated Ant-Man, Scott Pilgrim, and Baby Driver), but I'm intrigued enough to check out the rest of the Cornetto trilogy.
Ruin Me has a great premise and the first third that follow it is pretty okay. I liked the "extreme haunt" clue hunt element and I wish that what the whole movie was, but of course, they quickly drop puzzles and switch to a melodramatic "Is this real or is it the game? Is she crazy or is everyone else just blind?" It starts off great, but becomes a very generic horror movie. The acing is bad, the writing is bad, the last two thirds of the story are bad and by the time the beach scene happened, I was just waiting for it to be over. All of the characters were annoying (especially the two leads) and they don't even get killed off in any cool ways. Tons of plot holes and some questionable character motivations. The camera quality is fun and the audio is audible, but that's about all I can give it. I liked it until I didn't and then I really didn't.
Candy man is an interesting idea and I guess they though that was enough. The first half of the movie is a bunch of half-baked plots that don't quite make sense or matter. We are almost half-way through the movie before the real plot kicks in and by then, I was already over it. Virginia Madsen is not good. She is wholly unconvincing and I didn't give half a crap about her character. Kasi Lemmons is pretty good, but she's it. Vanessa A. Williams (She is credited as Vanessa Williams in the opening credits and I spent the whole movie trying to figure out where the former Miss America and Desperate Housewives star is.) was especially bad. She keeps making these weird faces that are portraying some inhuman emotion and her emotions are far too melodramatic. It's a horror movie, so I can overlook bad acting, but it's just not scary either. I guess it kind of works as a thriller, but there is nothing horror-esque here. The Candyman character, who should be your "big bad" is far more confusing than imposing and scary. Candyman communicates via ADR, but the way it sounds makes it unclear is it's in the character's head or if his voice just emanates from everywhere like when God talks in a cartoon. He's supposed to be this supernatural legend and he can teleport and appears to have some minor shape-shifting abilities, but he seems awfully human. He sleeps and lives in an abandoned building and he's just as vulnerable as a regular person. I still don't exactly what Candyman is supposed to be and every time he talks about his mythology, he just says some circular nonsense. Candyman's motive is so confusing and il-defined. He's pitched as Bloody Mary, but they add all these extra layers in an attempt at some ham-fisted social commentary. I like the bees, I guess, but there aren't nearly enough. Before I started the movie, all I knew was bees. Where are all the bees? I had assumed Candyman's power was bees, but bees are a minor plot point. I didn't care about any of the characters, the kills were nothing special, and I couldn't even root for the bad guy because his character is a big mess. Wrap it up with a terrible ending and Candyman is a huge disappointment.
I remember watching this on VHS as a kid and I remembered exactly two things, "Eleanor, help me. I gotta pee!" and the piano scene. As an adult, while those bits are still very memorable, I'm much more concerned with the many plot holes, bad acting, and terrible CG. The Haunting is full of issues that would be easy to fix if anyone was paying attention. Firstly, Eleanor, Theo and the others are there under the ruse that they are reporting to Hill House for a sleep study and the doctor is constantly off-highhandedly telling people that "they just need some rest" or to just go to sleep. Well duh! They all have insomnia; if they could just go fall asleep, they wouldn't be at your sleep study. They literally can't just go up to their room and fall asleep! Very quickly, one character has to be taken to a medical facility and the doctor sends one of the sleep study volunteers out to take her. He gives the guy the key to the gate to open it when her gets back, but he's never heard from or mentioned again. It's been well over a day and he's not back from the quick trip to drop her off at the hospital? Why isn't anyone concerned? Was it just to make the gate key disappear? Why not just, you know, not have anyone in the house have a key? The caretakers lock the gate when they leave before nightfall, why does there have to be another key? The movie is just full of stupid little issues that have to be a result of neglect. The acting isn't much better: Liam Neeson is half asleep, Catherine Zeta-Jones is a caricature of a slutty sorority girl, Owen Wilson is.....Owen Wilson, and Lili Taylor runs out of steam really quick and gets progressively worse. Above all of these things, I think the CGI is what most people are going to notice. Even in 1999 the effects felt dated; they look like they are lifted from a PlayStation One game. By the time the titular haunting is in full swing, we are constantly getting CG. Where did $80 million budget go? There are much worse movies out there for sure, but The Haunting doesn't offer much in the way of horror, or excitement, or even fun kills. There is some enjoyment to be had at the film's expense, but none of it is intentional. It's an easy pass.