Thursday, January 7, 2016

Stonehearst Asylum (2014)

Number Rolled: 79
Movie Name/Year: Stonehearst Asylum (2014)
Tagline: No one is what they seem.
Genre: Thriller
Length: 112 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production Companies: Icon Productions, Sobini Films
Producer: Mark Amin, Rene Besson, Christa Campbell, Bruce Davey, Mel Gibson, Mark Gill, Lati Grobman, Dave Higgins, Avi Lerner, Cami Winikoff
Director: Brad Anderson
Writer: Joe Gangemi, Edgar Allan Poe
Actors: Kate Beckinsale, Jim Sturgess, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine, Jason Flemyng, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Sinead Cusack, Edmund Kingsley

Blurb from Netflix: In 1899, a young doctor arrives at an asylum for an apprenticeship and becomes suspicious of his mentor’s methods while falling for a female patient.

Selina’s Point of View:
Right now I’m sick with some kind of flu-cold hybrid. That means it’s not only difficult to impress me, it’s damn near impossible. I’m grouchy, stuffed up, coughing and battling a headache that is making my eyes cross. Still, Stonehearst Aslyum managed to drag me away from the tissues to a point of actually focusing.

As I mentioned I’m very sick, so I’m going to keep this short.

The amount I disliked the last movie we reviewed is as much as I loved this one. Of course, it’s Edgar Allan Poe (Contos do Edgar, Lenore, The Raven).

I expected the story to be good.

What you can never expect is what a screenwriter and director are going to do with the story they get. In this case neither Brad Anderson (Vanishing on 7th Street, Transsiberian, The Call) nor Joe Gangemi (Red Oaks, Wind Chill, Go With Me) disappointed. They honored Poe with dark humor and great casting.

I wasn’t looking forward to watching a movie with how I feel, but I’m more than glad I did.

Cat’s Point of View:
It does not surprise me at all that this film was based on an 1844 short story by Edgar Allen Poe - "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether.” The OG Master of Macabre is one of my favorites.

I’d have to say that the writers and director did a smash-up job of taking that proverbial ball and running with it.

It’s probably evident, by now, that I loved this movie. Loved it.

I’m also very glad that the treatment of mental conditions has come quite a long way since the era this film depicts.

There are so many nuances of the plot that I enjoyed; yet I dare not share them to avoid spoilers.

Kate Beckinsale (Click, Whiteout, Total Recall) was phenomenal as Eliza Graves. This role was physically demanding in a way that we’re not accustomed to seeing in her films. The brilliance wasn’t just in the depiction of her character’s condition; but was also in the shades of emotion she evoked.

Jim Sturgess (Crossing Over, One Day, Ashes) is also impossible to dismiss with his performance. His character was a fox among wolves. I haven’t seen much of his work; and this film has me wanting to go back and check a few more movies out.

There was a bit of Six Degrees of the Potterverse going on with this film, with both David Thewlis (Mr. Nice, War Horse, Macbeth) and Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges, The Guard, The Raven) amongst the cast. I get a giggle every time I can connect those dots.

Sir Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island, Hugo, Ender's Game) is also no stranger to portraying an asylum doctor. Seeing him amongst a cast generally begins a guessing game for me – is this role one where you can trust that likeable smile, or is it hiding something insidious? In the case of this movie, I’m not telling.

For my usual bit of trivia, it is interesting to note that the husband of Lady Eliza Graves is played by none other than Sir Ben Kingsley’s son, Edmund Kingsley (Hugo, Allies, The Carrier).

I’d gladly watch this movie again and would recommend it in a heartbeat.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 51%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 48%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 4.5/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score5/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 4.5/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score4.5/5

Movie Trailer:

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Houses October Built (2014)

Number Rolled: 60
Movie Name/Year: The Houses October Built (2014)
Tagline: In the search for the most extreme haunt, the haunt found them.
Genre: Horror
Length: 91 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Room 101, Foreboding Films
Producer: Zack Andrews, Todd King, Steven Schneider, Matthew Stein, Steven Steiner
Director: Bobby Roe
Writer: Zack Andrews, Jeff Larson, Bobby Roe, Jason Zada
Actors: Brandy Schaefer, Zack Andrews, Bobby Roe, Mikey Roe, Jeff Larson

Blurb from Netflix: Five friends hit the road to find the best gimmicky Halloween haunted house, but soon a terrifyingly real evil begins to hound their steps.

Selina’s Point of View:
The Houses October Built had almost no redeemable qualities at all except that the acting seemed natural.

It’s hard to say much else about the acting because the characters were ridiculous. They were completely unrelatable and shallower than a kiddie pool. The best I can say is that it wasn’t outstanding acting, but it wasn’t Carmen Electra (Lap Dance, Mardi Gras: Spring Break, Barry Munday) in 2-Headed Shark Attack (2012). They all convincingly screamed when they were supposed to, basically.

The story was non-existent. The film was based on jump scares, which I have no problem with, provided they’re backed up by something. Instead, you had a horrible script coupled with an hour of pretty much nothing happening followed by a few jump scares that were not even really startling.

Also, although I understand they were going for a mockumentary kind of thing, they did it so poorly that it looked more like a falsified documentary. I have nothing against the mockumentary genre, either. I even have a favorite film for it: ZA: Zombies Anonymous (2006). This one just… wasn’t even on par with the worst of the genre.

To be honest, I hate giving bad reviews to a director/writer on their first attempt. The truth is that most first attempts at anything are going to suck. It’s a good thing. You got their mistakes out of the way early.

Cat’s Point of View:
We’ve just come to the other side of the season of holiday festiveness and goodwill to men. What better way to celebrate the New Year, than give yourself a scare?!

While my horror movie repertoire is, admittedly, somewhat limited – I can’t say that I’ve heard of a film quite like this before; in premise at least.

Sure, there was the found-footage docu-horror of The Blair Witch Project (1999), but that wasn’t quite the same.

Part of the twist on this one (no spoiler, I promise) is that it seems to have started out as an actual documentary in 2011, with a runtime of 94 minutes. Then someone had the idea to splice the documentary into a real horror story on the same topic. It’s a bit meta.

I wouldn’t say that this film has any sort of award-winning substance – but for the haunted house enthusiast, it’s an interesting ride.

I love haunted houses. One of my fondest memories from middle school is of my class in charge of the school’s Fall Carnival haunted house. I was a mad scientist, complete with one of my grandfather’s lab coats and vials and beakers full of suspiciously colored liquids.

I have also been known to turn my front porch into a giant spider’s nest for the holiday. Motion sensors with strobe lights that play creepy tunes, fake webbing everywhere, and five-foot leg-span tarantulas OH MY! (If only I could get that automated one to really drop like it’s supposed to – but I digress.)

If you don’t have a good haunted house in your area, this might be a fun option, instead – and you don’t even have to wait in line. There are plenty of jump scares (which ALWAYS get me – I’ve already mentioned I startle easily, right?).

I was sufficiently creeped out by some of the “haunters,” and even found my pulse racing a bit at a few points. I didn’t even realize that I was all that invested in the plight of the characters until that point. It crept up on me.

My burning internal question is now whether some of the scary characters were creations of the film or ‘borrowed’ from some of the real haunted houses that supported the film and documentary. Things that make you go hmmm. I might just run the other way if I ran into a couple of these in any real haunted house.

Not bad for Bobby Roe’s (The Longest Yard, Clubhouse, Superman Returns) directorial debut. I’m intrigued to find out what other sort of film mashup he might do in the future.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 50%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 29%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 1.5/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score1/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 1.5/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score3/5

The Random Rating: R

Movie Trailer: