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: found footage

What I'm Watching: Arkham Sanitarium: Soul Eater

Found footage movies set in abandoned asylums sure aren't anything new, but what happens when a group of paranormal investigators go to visit the most famous asylum in all of horror, Arkham Sanitarium?  Well, let's just say Cthulhu isn't happy about it...

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What I'm Watching: The Houses October Built

Oh geeze, I haven't done a Trisklet in over a month.  I am a bad webmonkey.  I'll try and be better in the new year.  Even though I've got a bunch of leftovers from 2014 to get through, I thought I'd kick off 2015 with the most recent movie I've watched.

Bonus because it's also fresh in my brain place.

That movie would be the found footage flick, The Houses October Built.  We follow a group of five friends who decide to go on an exploration of haunted houses (Or haunts) across the southern US, in the week leading up to Halloween.

That's actually super refreshing, and actually a GOOD and sensible use of found footage.  "Hey, let's go on a road trip, and film it!" and then shit happens?  Yeah, that's the second perfect setup for a found footage film.  For the other great example of a perfect setup, there's Grave Encounters.

So, the actual plot of the movie is actually really slow, if you sit back and look at it.  Nothing really major happens until the second half, and that's being generous.  A more accurate point would probably be the last 20 to 30 minutes.

But oh, those haunted houses.  That gives them perfect moments to keep things going, and just as the character stuff in the RV needs a break, the group hits one up and there's some good adventures in there.

Now, you know they're just haunted houses, and there's no REAL scares, but if you're along with the characters' journey, you end up enjoying the frenetic exploration of the locations.  Mixed in with those trips, they nudge the plot along as some of the characters are kinda jerky to the people working the haunts, make fun of them, and hunt around for the mythical extreme haunt, the Blue Skeleton.

While they search, they also run afoul of a few of the workers, which eventually comes around to bite them in the ass, as these familiar, and terrifying, faces keep popping up no matter where they go.  There's equal harassment being done by both parties, so while the main group does start to come dangerously close to making the viewers not like them, they never QUITE cross that line.  For the most part, you don't want these people to die.

One of the best parts, making this movie stand out from the rest of the found footage pile, is that they outright state that some of the scenes were filmed by the workers at the haunts, such as when they break into the RV to mess with the group, and once the kidnapping starts.  It breaks up the action, and allows for moments where our protagonists actually put down the damned cameras, the biggest problem of the subgenre.

I really enjoyed this flick, and that first half can even just be taken as just a genuine exploration of the budding haunted house industry that explodes every Halloween.  The fictionalised horror make things all the more fun, and if anything, would make going to a haunted house THAT much more terrifying.  I'm sure things like this DON'T happen, but sharks also aren't a bit problem, but we all know what Jaws did for those animals.

The ending has been a sticking point for a lot of people, as they usually are with found footage horror flicks.  I've complained about them plenty. do you end these things?  But I didn't mind the ending here.  It's...definitively open ended.

So many FF horrors end with vague, VAGUE endings, where the filming just STOPS because the Monster of the Week has appeared and killed the people holding the cameras, and what do you do then?  Fortunately, the killers in this case have cameras of their own, and are as obsessed as anyone else over filming everything, so we get to go a little further.

The movie still ends pretty vaguely, but way more clearly than normally.  There is enough room for an interpretation I *really* like, and y'all should back out right the heck now, because here come the spoilers.

We close with the group being buried alive in coffins and screaming for their lives, after being tormented and chased around a run down home, and transported on a bus, and being generally terrified.

But...these people were looking for the most extreme haunt.  They found it.  So...what if instead of dying in those coffins, they were let out, and the haunters all had a good laugh at how pants-wettingly terrified the five friends were?  We never ACTUALLY see anyone die.

It would be perfectly in line with what they were looking for, and I would've liked to see them end up that way.  A great kind of "be careful what you wish for" tale.  Which the movie still *is*.  The best argument for not having that ending is because it would've been anticlimactic to bury everyone, then let them go and smile and say "Just kidding!" and credits roll.

But because the movie is left open ended, but dark, you can absolutely go that route with an interpretation of what happens next.

All in all, Houses may have taken a while to get to the real horror, but it kept things interesting enough with good characters, a sense of humour, and a unique story that really made *sense* to tell as found footage, and used the trappings of that to good effect.

This is definitely a recommendation.  And y'all know I don't recommend found footage flicks lightly, since they can be so problematic with their storytelling.

What I'm Watching: Pretty Dead

Hey!  It's a new post, yay!

I am SO behind on these, and movies just keep on coming.  I don't wanna deny you all my delicious thoughts, and want to try and catch up.

Like this movie, Pretty Dead?  I watched it back in January.  Eek.

But oh man, did I enjoy it!

It's quite possibly one of the best found footage movies I've seen this year, aside from Mr. Jones.  And I think I liked the story here more, and preferred the use of the found footage tropes more over in Jones.

In short, a young med student, Regina, is out partying one night, and after a bad experience with drugs gets a terrible infection because drugs aren't exactly regulated.  Everything seems fine, given that she's got a bit of a nasty thing in her, but it soon becomes clear that all is not well.

Regina can't sleep, she heals rapidly, and develops a craving for meat like she never ate before.  Oh yes, horror fans can maybe start to notice some traits here.

She occasionally blacks out, attacks people, and things just get steadily worse, until she is taken away to a hospital to see if they have any luck diagnosing her.

I love love love that this is told from a medical student's perspective.  It really gives some weight to the science of what's going on, and helps make it all the more real, and make it seem natural that she'd be curious and scientific about this strange thing happening to her, rather than the usual excuse of just doing it for kicks.

You really feel for her charatcer as she struggles to maintain her humanity, as the infection gains more and more control over her.  It is a great mixture of the parasite/possession genres with the zombie undertones.

I really don't want to call this a zombie movie, even though the hallmarks are there.  If I must, it's clearly closer to the 'rage zombie' side of the horror family tree.

The biggest shame is that the cause for all this, the cordyceps fungus that causes 'zombie insects' in nature, kinda hit a saturation point in pop culture and the collective consciousness of our media.  If this movie existed in a vaccuum, it would be a great, refreshing, unique idea.  Sadly, with other things like "The Last of Us" and their clickers using a very similar idea, it kinda gets lost in the crowd.  Which is a shame, because the story is well told, with a great lead you feel for, like I said.

Still, having the real world basis for this makes it just that much more terrifying.  Which is naturally why everyone's using it right now, right?  I don't believe anyone copied anyone else, but we all saw those documentaries and videos online at the same time, so naturally everyone went, "NEW ZOMBIE MOVIE IDEA!"

The ending did leave me a little cold though, at first.  As is usual with horror, it is so easy to drop the ball in those last few minutes, and this one literally lost me in the last five seconds.  It didn't really end, so much as stop, as these sorts of flicks tend to do.  I know I make a lot of the same complaints about found footage movies, but they are almost universal problems of the style, and more people need to avoid them, not embrace them.

But, the more I thought about the ending, the more I've become okay with it, and the commentary definitely helped me once it was couched in what sort of terms the makers of Pretty Dead wanted to end the movie with.  This is the outbreak origin story, the movie we rarely get to see, and it ends at the point where so many others begin, and we've SEEN that movie over and over again.  And that's fair.  And I can live with that.  It just threw me the first time I saw it.

So, in short, I give Pretty Dead a high reccomendation, even if the acting isn't great, even if the ending was abrupt.  But we've almost come to expect that from these movies, and since you've been warned, you might get more enjoyment out of it than I.  For a no-budget, found footage take on zombies, with a new(ish) twist, it's a pretty unique thing to watch.  Although less unique than it wishes it was, which is a shame.

What I'm Watching: Mr. Jones

No, I do not mean to say I've been sitting around endlessly watching Counting Crows videos.  What a cruel, terrible fate that would be.

Instead, I checked out a new found footage movie, Mr. Jones, and it may be one of my favourite found footage movies yet.  Certainly of this year.

It starts off with a premise I can get behind.  The movie is a documentary about reclusive artist Mr. Jones, whom no one has ever seen, met, heard, and even his name is made up just so he can have a name.

I love that right off the bat the movie has a reason for being a movie.  It's not just a collection of some footage someone 'found' and crammed together to show us bad shit happening.  The movie of the movie has a purpose, and that's always good, and is far too underused in the found footage genre.  And thankfully it's also not the overdone variant of "ghost hunters looking for stuff".

Scott's documentary doesn't start off that way though.  It starts off as just he and his girlfriend Penny taking a break from reality for a year to go live in a cabin and try and fix their relationship and life, while he tries to make a film about SOMEthing.  He doesn't know just what that will be at the start, but once the couple discover the strange and unique scarecrows of Mr. Jones in the fields and shrubbery in the mountainous desert around them, Scott knows he has a subject; the definitive movie about this reclusive artist.

The first half of the film is filled with them first trying to figure out what to do with their movie, which I love because I've SEEN documentaries like that, starting out with, "Well what do we do??" is a great way to set things up, then it has Scott going back to civilisation to do interviews with Mr. Jones experts over his 30+ year history, art historians, professors, and people who have owned his art.

This slowly starts to deepen the mystery of Mr. Jones, only leading to more questions.  Meanwhile, the shadowy figure is terrorising Penny back at the cabin (And Scott before he left, just so he's not left out).

Which brings us to the final third of the film, when everything goes crazy, and is probably what makes this a fave of found footage.  Mr. Jones seems to be a figure protecting our world from the dreamworld, and Scott and Penny have upset a delicate balance with their meddling.  There comes a point where they both fall into the dream world, and all the rules of found footage fly out the window.

There are no more cameras, for a large part, but footage is still being taken, the characters see themselves being filmed on the tv, and even comment on there being no possible camera where it is.  They directly wave their hands through where the camera should be, and even affects the footage.  It is just something so new to bring to this subgenre, it makes this movie feel really fresh, and doing something different with the tools, by breaking the rules.

Like most found footage movies, the movie has its bit of a "...Huh." ending, and doesn't entirely satisfy, but it does leave me with most of a completed story and doesn't just stop dead like so many others.  The format is great, builds well, and I love how it just utterly unspools towards the end.  I especially love the interviews, as they created a rich tapestry with very little to use other than words, and some of the interviewees were fantastic, including the always great Taran Fahir, whom I just love and was such a pleasure to see turn up here.

The only thing I didn't really like was Scott rigging up a camera to the camera so it would record the operator and the subject.  It's a clever idea, lets you show reactions of the operator instead of just hearing them say "Oh my gooood!" for 90 minutes, but they used a wide angle lens that instead made everyone holding the camera have a big, round face and the reactions were pretty silly most of the time.  Too much time spent on them mugging for the camera going "Ooooo!" and "Oh wooow!".  I give them points for trying, but it didn't quite come off, possibly because of the actors trying too hard with it, and just coming off unnatural.

But I will give them points for occasionally PUTTING THE DAMNED CAMERA DOWN WHEN IT'S IMPORTANT!!  A big bug about every FF movie.  Fortunately, once cameras become unnecessarily, that also solves that problem later on.

Mr. Jones turned out to be a surprisingly well done and creative bit of psychological thriller by way of found footage, and yeah, it works.  I wasn't expecting much going in, but I had quite an enjoyable ride.  Definitely worth the time.

What I'm Watching: Dead of the Nite

One of the best found footage movies I've seen is Grave Encounters, about one of those ghost hunting reality tv shows going to an abandoned hospital and trying to capture spooky stuff on camera.  Frankly, those ghost hunting shows are the BEST excuse for a found footage movie.  It explains the cameras with so little effort, the two are a near perfect match.

Which brings us to Dead of the Nite, which trods the same ground.

And sadly, is not really a match for Grave Encounters.

But I still found myself mostly enjoying it.  The plot revoles around some paranormal investigators checking out the legendary Jericho Manor, which is being taken care of by genre star, Tony Todd.

Tony ends up being used to better effect here than he was in Jack the Reaper, thankfully.  Still, his part is far too small, and over far too soon.  But what's there is good, and easily a highlight of the movie.

The biggest problem of the movie is the pacing.  We spend the usual ages of time establishing charaters, and while that usually is good, here it just falls flat.  The characters aren't great, the acting is a little stiffer than I'd prefer, and things really don't start clicking and flowing until the movie is almost half over.

They try and get around this by jumping around in time a little bit, as the cops are investigating what happened and watching the footage the victims/suspects took of the manor and their murders, and it just about save the movie by giving it the pace it needs, and early suspense to keep things interesting.

I was almost thrown by the ending of the movie, but it's almost too big of an ask for the audience to buy into the explanation that is given.  I like the twist because it was unexpected, but it was unexpected because it's so preposterous!  Your mileage may well vary here.

Still, there's some highlights, like Tony, and some good jumps.  The acting smooths out a bit as the plot starts clicking, and hey, a crazy twist is still worth noting.

I wouldn't say you need to rush out and see this movie, but in the found footage genre?  It's one of the more *consistent* movies out there.  So many are great most of the way through, and then completely dive bomb at the end and everything is ruined.  Dead of the Nite actually manages to be slightly saved by the ending, and because it's averageish all the way through, it's almost *more* pleasing that way?

It's a weird situation to be sure but there is something to say for a movie not building up your hopes and destroying them at the last second.  And hey.  Tony Todd is worth seeing almost any movie for, right?

So I guess it's worth a watch, if you've got the time, but no hurry, and don't expect something mindblowingly new!

What I'm Watching: Paranormal Activity - The Marked Ones

Hello, Triskelions!

As usual, killing some time before the new main review goes up in a few days, and thought I'd sprinkle in at LEAST one new quickie review, and hopefully a few more before then!

I have long been a champion of the Paranormal Activity series, loving each of the movies to SOME degree, and they grow on me more and more over time, even if I walk out with more of a "Hmm" reaction to the last few.  So, it's no surprise that I went to see The Marked Ones, although it took me awhile to get there.

The movie follows a family in the LA area, several years after the original events of the first movie, and focuses around some Latinos just after graduating high school, and discovering the woman that one of them lives above may in fact be a witch.

Marked Ones breaks from the more 'security' oriented type of found footage that a lot of the other PA movies use.  Yes, they use a lot of handheld as well, but a lot of the PA visual language comes from a lot of establishing shots setting up each area in a repetitious manner, and this movie did away with all that.

This is both a good thing, and a bad thing.  On the one hand, you lose a lot of that building of tension you get with that style.  You lose the, "See, everything is normal, just like the night before, and the night before, and the night before, and...NOW THERE IS AN EXPLOSION OF CABINETS."  That's a good way to lull the audience and pull the rug out from them, and this movie replaces those with a few lingering shots of the same room, until eventually something happens during the lone scene.  And that's fine, and works well with a more handheld style.

But it also gives this movie it's own visual style, its own identity, and that's good, because it allows this movie to stand on its own merits, and not be "Paranormal Activity, but with Mexicans."  It really is its own thing, and it mostly works.

The movie is smart enough to use some of the same tropes from the main franchise though, so you don't feel alienated.  They sprinkle in JUST enough references to remind you this is the same universe, while at the same time expanding the mythology.  We get a lot of potential backstory here, and since it's not connected to Katie's story, or the new random family of the week, it gets to establish things on its own and fill in some blanks that might have otherwise been difficult to work in.

We get a good number of scares, and since they involve possessed people, we actually get to SEE things happening, and not just exploding cabinets, falling knives, or floating sheets.  We get more physicality of the evil in this movie than we have in previous films, save for Katie's occasionally villainous appearances.

They do a number of new things that really caught me off guard, because they're not typical to a PA movie, and again, these things were welcome.  Warping space in camera was such a "WHOA" moment for me, because such visual effects just aren't done here, y'know?

My fave bit must have been this movie's use of one of the best tropes of the series; the possessed creepy 80s toy.  We've seen it with the Lite Brite, Teddy Ruxpin, and this movie gives us a communicative Simon game.  That was brilliant, awesome, and SO creepy in its simplicity.  But man, they missed a trick with it though, and I wish the scene had gone on for *literally* two seconds more.

If you're a fan of the PA movies, this is a MUST see.  It matters to the series.  It does different things, has a different voice, but is, in my opinion, important to the mythology.  I enjoyed it as much as the rest, and probably more than the third installment.  Do not skip this movie just because it's not in the main branch!