Triskaidekafiles is a love letter to cheesy cinema from the 80s and 90s, with the occasional dip into other eras.  if you're a fan of MST3K, Elvira, Joe Bob Briggs, or just bad horror movies in general, Trisk is the place for you.

Filtering by Tag: Syfy

What I'm Watching: Scarecrow

The harvest time is upon us, so I thought it was FINALLY time to get around to this supernatural thriller from Syfy Channel, starring Lacey Chabert, and Robin Dunne from the third Species movie.

We've actually got quite a few familiar faces to Canadian cinema and television, even beyond those two.  And that's one endearing factor to the movie for me.  I love playing "Spot the Canadian Actor You've Seen in a Dozen Guest Spots Last Year".

The movie sets up a bunch of kids who've gotten into trouble over some vague stuff that really doesn't matter to the plot.  Regardless, they got detention for it, and are being punished by getting used as cheap labour to move a scarecrow from a nearby farm into town.

See, the town has some local folklore about a scarecrow that tormented the town back in the day, and to commemorate their survival and defeat, the townspeople have their festival.  But the farm where this happened, and thus the site of the festival, is being sold so the festival is moving, and the kids are doing the work.

And surprise!  The legends are real!

Honestly, that's a pretty solid recipe for a good, fun seasonal horror flick, and the movie delivers quite well.  It wastes no time delivering some scares, and the acting is pretty solid from almost everyone.

With so many characters, the kids suffer a lot on the side of characterisation, but Lacey and Robin are the leads, and get fleshed out rather well.

It's not long at all before the eponymous scarecrow monster shows up and our cast holes up in a nearby building as best they can.  Now, a lot of movies would stop there, and just have everyone get picked off in that one building over the next hour.  I appreciate "Scarecrow" mixing things up and actually changing locations a few times during the course of the movie.  There's arguments for both formulas.  Stuck in one place gives you that sense of being trapped, something always right there, but there's something to be said for trying to run, and being unable to get away, no matter how far you go, or no matter what you do.

And while the kids could easily have fallen into the unlikable asshole stereotype, they wisely avoid that, and only have a few jerks in the cast.  There's very few characters you WANT to see get killed by the monster.  Even for a group of kids that are supposedly on a detention trip.  A number of movies, again, would make them all your typical delinquents, but most of these kids are just your average students who made a bad decision and got in trouble for it.

The best part though, is the monster.  It is genuinely unique, actually works as CGI, and gives a great vibe of creepiness, and should scare a good number of people.  It pushes at the edges of a few of my personal buttons, and while it's your typical evil force with no real character, the design really shines and is such a great look, of this shadowy thing made up of branches and darkness that barely can be described as human.  It also works as something you can slice and shoot at with little to no effect.  It has a few Terminator 2 nods because of that, but I am sure those were deliberate.  And well done, for the scarecrow.

I was pretty surprised with just HOW quickly the movie chews through the cast.  Most of the deaths involve variations on stabbing or crushing by the monster, so there's not much creativity there, but it's still pretty fun.  They mix things up just enough, and the means of HOW they end up in the place to get stabby that keeps things interesting.

The plot unfolds a bit too lopsided for my tastes as well.  There's a lot of running and death and more running before they decide to stop and say, "Oh yeah, here's WHY this is all happening and what's going on!"  At least, in anything more than throwaway lines.  It's still mostly satisfying, and the plot rockets along so fast that you almost don't notice that all you're doing for half the movie is watching carnage before story.

There's no real twists, save for one major character turn.  You can pretty much figure out the course of the plot pretty quickly into the movie.  Probably even from this review.  The plot is pretty basic, and ultimately doesn't serve up enough answers, or have a really proper ending.

It's a solid enough movie, with a decent and engaging cast.  It's well made, and has a unique monster that's genuinely creepy.  I've had worse times spending 90 minutes watching a movie.  I've also had better, but this is a solid little popcorn flick that is perfect for the season.  It may not have a great resolution, but it's got a good ride with some fun times, and is very entertaining in all the GOOD ways.  Definitely worth seeking out and having a fun November movie night.

What I'm Watching: Dead Still

Hey, something recent!

I really love the idea of 'evil camera' movies and stories.  There is just so much about the terminology and lore behind film, photography, and cameras, that just SO immediately lend themselves to supernatural stories.

Sure, we all know the "souls trapped by cameras" stuff, but even beyond that, there's a lot of good stuff to work with.  The title of this movie is a good example, of people trying to remain 'dead still' to get clear photographs taken with long exposures.

So when I saw Syfy Channek had an evil camera movie on last night, starring genre faves Ben Browder and Ray Wise, well...sure, I'll tune in to that!

Sadly...the movie was just not that great.

Which, sure, you could say, "But Jason, Syfy!" and you would not be wrong.  However, when it's not an evil nature movie, or some mockbuster from The Asylum, they generally tend to have some decent offerings in the horror and scifi genres.  I was hopeful.

 Outside of the previously mentioned two actors, the rest of the cast is pretty wince-worthy.  There's a few other decent performances, but for the large part, yeah, not so much.

The plot has it's moments, and there's decent ideas buried in there, but the execution is decidedly lacking.  There just felt like so many missed opportunities.

Take for example the "Negative World" inside the evil camera.  Now, that idea SOUNDS great, right?  A world of negatives where the souls are trapped and twisted and such, right?  You could do some cool visuals there.  Now, literally inverting the colour palette to make it a TRUE 'negative' of the actual image could be a bit much for an extended trip, but there must have been SOMEthing they could've done besides what we got.

Because a typical labrynthine corridor system with catacomb overtones that looked like leftover set pieces from Hellraiser or classic Doctor Who?  Yeah, just didn't work for me.  It wasn't BAD, but I get intrigued by the ideas, and then get your typical basement from everywhere else.

The kid playing Ben's son wasn't bad, but making him mute for most of the movie was largely unnecessary.  When his text to speech app on his tablet began saying "He's in here with us!" to dad, once the CAMERA had sucked him in, made me want to see Ben spend the next 20 minutes trying to figure out how the iPad was haunted.  I'm only mostly kidding.

The plot also suffered from some clarity issues in the storytelling.  Once the people that Ben was taking pictures of began dying, the movie kept flashing to someone performing arcane spells and rituals as their bodies were mangled and melted and such.  It was later revealed that the person was a descendant of someone that Ben's great grandfather (Ray Wise) had tormented for his photographs, and another member of their family had been the one that cursed Ray and the camera.

They um, kinda then failed to explain just WHAT she was doing with all the magic and such that sure looked like she was responsible for the deaths.  If you're going to make someone SEEM like they're the bad guy, and then swap it so nope!  She's on Ben's side! you kinda need to explain that thing, and why she's not evil.  I get that she *wasn't* and she was trying to stop the camera, but they dropped the ball on just what she WAS doing, and that's kinda important to the narrative, yes?  Did I miss something?

Also, the final sacrifice really seemed tacked on, and also not explained at ALL.  Aside to say, "In order to be free, a great sacrifice must be made!"  But...why?  Aside from narrative stakes?  But that's for OUR benefit.  What's the story logic to it?  Just saying, "A sacrifice MUST be made!" doesn't make it so, and just felt like they wanted there to be a sacrifice and emotional "No, don't!  You must go!" moment.

And finally, the very last moment of Wise's spirit still kicking around, DESPITE THE SACRFICE and everything else they did to stop him, was really out of nowhere, made zero sense, completely invalidated the entire climax they had fought so hard to do and force that sacrifice on the plot, as just one final "Mwahahaha!" moment to 'gotcha' the audience.  It was an unnecessary twist and just really crapped all over a climax that was already shakey.  It doesn't even really work as a pyrrhic victory, since in the end no one wins.

Now, there are some highlights to the movie.  The effects are pretty great.  There aren't many, but every death is pretty damned memorable and/or gruesome, I was impressed there.  Ben Browser is always a pleasure to watch, and Ray Wise as an evil crazy madman photographer?  Heck, evil crazy Ray Wise is almost worth the price of admission to ANY movie, no matter HOW bad, and this movie isn't *terrible* so there's at least the joy of watching him chew scenery right up to the very end.

The story has its moments, and the ideas are sound, the execution just never quite delivered on the promises they wanted to give the audience.  I could tell this movie WANTED to be something more, wanted to do certain things, but they never managed to get there

It's not quite worthwhile JUST for Ben and Ray Wise, but I can't outright say run away from this thing entirely.  Give it a shot if you're a fan of theirs, and you might get some enjoyment here and there, but otherwise, stay away.

Someone really needs to make a good supernatural camera movie.

Why We Love Horror

Taking a break from the Watch-athon to share an interesting link from Syfy's (sic) news aggregation site, Blastr.

They posted this story about someone's thesis about just why we love horror, how it's encoded in our DNA to face our fears and confront them.

I like the idea, but I think a bigger part of it is that little adrenaline rush to our brain, which is more to blame for it.  Once you get past the fear, like I did, that lovely little jolt of energy, oooh.

What do you guys think?  Why do YOU love horror?