Friday, October 9, 2020

The Cleansing Hour (2020) - Shudder Spree

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: The Cleansing Hour (2020)
Genre: Horror
Length: 94 minutes
Rating: NR
Production/Distribution: Skubalon, CJ CGV Viet Nam, Digi-Optic Films, Westec Media Limited, EuroVideo, Lumix Media, New Select, Première TV Distribution, Shudder, Source 1 Media, The Filmbridge
Director: Damien LeVeck
Writer: Damien LeVeck, Aaron Horwitz
Actors: Ryan Guzman, Kyle Gallner, Alix Angelis, Chris Lew Kum Hoi, Daniel Hoffmann-Gill, Emma Holzer, Joanna David, Tara Karsian, Jynarra Brinson, Ana Udroiu, Lucas Bond, Aaron McVeigh
Blurb from IMDb: Another successful "exorcism" streamed online - or so it seems. Can the "exorcist", producer and their team bring the ratings up? Ratings skyrocket, when a real demon gets involved.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’m one of those people who feel like the exorcist sub-genre is getting little stale. (You know that means a lot coming from someone who’s not sick of zombies yet, right?) The Cleansing Hour breathed some new life into exorcisms and brought it into modern day.
The plot drew me in, but I was concerned by it. The idea that a fake, streamed, exorcism would become real was one that I felt could fail easily. One or two bad actors, a misstep in the writing/directing, or even just a sub-par setting could have tanked the whole thing. Everything had to be in place for this film to wind up being worth anything.
It fucking was.
Before today I had never heard of director Damien LeVeck (ASYLUM: Twisted Horror and Fantasy Tales, Dark Deadly & Dreadful, Attraction) or writer Aaron Horwitz (Roommate Wanted, Boiler Maker, Peaceful Warrior). In fact, I knew very little about the three main leads: Ryan Guzman (Papi Chulo, Armed, Heroes Reborn), Kyle Gallner (Alien Code, Outsiders, The Finest Hours), and Alix Angelis (The Magnificent Seven, ECCO, Love’s Last Resort). Now, I want to see so much more from all of them. This movie is exactly the reason why I love to give movies a chance, even when I know nothing about the people involved.

The scares were so effective that I yelped at one point. Out loud. My husband sent me a message on discord laughing at me.
I wasn’t overly fond of the way they made one of the creatures look, though. I think most of the reasons the scares were so reliable was because they didn’t rely on CGI all that much. A lot of it was left to the imagination and, as we’ve seen a lot in film, audiences can imagine much worse than most budgets will allow.
Adding in the hounds was a mistake. I get what they were going for in the scene, but they might have done better with practical effects – using large dogs, for example. It would have hit even harder because the lower quality images wouldn’t have been so distracting.
The ending was an unexpectedly terrifying touch. It tied up loose ends and left the audience with a feeling of doom that I don’t think most other horror films accomplish these days.
I think The Cleansing Hour is a perfect Halloween film. This is the kind of thing you wait to start until like 11:30pm on October 31, just so you’re deep in the scares by midnight.
I’m having a great time with Shudder Spree.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have a confession to make. I am a lover of paranormal reality TV shows – at least, some of them. While I don’t feel like events exactly like those in this movie would happen as a result of watching, I still feel that it's counter-intuitive to support them with my viewership.
There are several factors that helped draw me into this story and kept a firm grip on me from beginning to end. My guilty-pleasure enjoyment of explorations into the unknown is only a fraction.
I was raised Roman Catholic. I attended parochial school until high school when I was finally able to attend public school. Daily catechism class, Mass twice a week, and all the trappings that went along with it were my routines for the better part of my school career. My point is that, while the nuns that taught me during my earliest school years weren’t as scary or seemingly cruel as most church-school horror stories make out, I did encounter a few that, in hindsight, reminds me of the Potter-verse’s Dolores Umbridge.
You don’t have to have a background like mine to buy into this story, though. It’s spelled out rather well for the viewer.
The Cleansing Hour impresses me on several levels. The cast was amazing in their roles. Ryan Guzman is already among my favorite actors for his versatility and even dance talent. Recently, I’ve come to a better appreciation for Kyle Gallner’s work, and it was great to see an entirely different aspect of his range here. Alix Angelis hasn’t really been on my radar, but I can tell you that I’ll be looking out for more of her work in the future.

Another aspect of this movie that had me over the moon was the effects employed. I appreciated the theatrics and ‘smoke and mirror’ tricks revealed to be part of the ‘exorcism act.’ Though when things start to ‘get real’ here, this production didn’t skimp where it came to the visuals. The set was amazing, the creep-factor of some of the demonic creatures was spine-chilling, and I bought every minute of it.
I can tell you I’ll be stuck awake for a bit tonight to try and get some of these visuals out of my mind before I attempt to sleep. Hurricane Delta baring down on my state already has me in a hyper-worried and anxious frame of mind. I think that existing underlying tension only better fueled the chills and thrills this movie provided.
There was only one thing negative about this experience for me – and it has absolutely zero to do with the movie, itself. It was crazy, really. I was streaming on my laptop and my Wi-Fi integrity started dropping every 10-15 minutes, causing the movie to freeze. I had to refresh the service over and over – and while it was frustrating, I wasn’t pulled from the story. I was able to dive right back in. I could joke and say that it was possessed…but I can hear everyone groaning and rolling eyes over that statement.
This is the second viewing in a row where the film delivered everything I wanted from our Shudder Spree and then some.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 79%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.7/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating5/5
Trust the Dice Parental Advisory Rating: R
P.S.: Some sounds and stills during the credits.
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Mayhem (2017) - Shudder Spree

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Mayhem (2017)
Genre: Action, Comedy, Horror
Length: 86 minutes
Rating: NR
Production/Distribution: Circle of Confusion, Royal Viking Entertainment, ABS-CBN Film Productions, Falcon Films, Film1, New Select, Première TV Distribution, RLJ Entertainment, Source 1 Media, Studio Hamburg Enterprises (SHE)
Director: Joe Lynch
Writer: Matias Caruso
Actors: Steven Yeun, Samara Weaving, Steven Brand, Caroline Chikezie, Kerry Fox, Dallas Roberts, Mark Frost, Claire Dellamar, André Eriksen, Nikola Kent, Lucy Chappell, Olja Hrustic, Bojan Peric, Annamaria Serda, Jovana Prosenik, Nina Senicar, Irfan Mensur, Branko Jerinic, Zoran Miljkovic, Danica Radulovic, Eilian Wyn, Brendan Stokey, Ljubomir Todorovic, Monika Romic, Vladimir Aleksic, Scott Alexander Young
Blurb from IMDb: A virus spreads through an office complex causing white collar workers to act out their worst impulses.

Selina’s Point of View:
Now that’s what I’m talking about!
Joe Lynch (Knights of Badassdom, Chillerama, Point Blank) and Matias Caruso (Witch, The Dollmaker, Side Effects) took an idea that sounded a little zombie-like and turned it around so that there was just about no comparison. What I witnessed was super fresh and fun and phenomenal. I was 100% into it. I had to watch it a second time because I forgot to take notes.
There’s something about these shorter films that can be found on Shudder. The editors cut it down so tight that there’s no bullshit, no filler, no down time. You start the film and wind up on the edge of your seat for the entire thing. The last one I can think of was Host (2020), which was shorter than this one and just as perfect.
After reading the description, I was hoping for something over-the-top bloody and I got exactly what I wanted. I also expected some serious chuckles – I got that, too.
It was an action-packed ride of awesome, the whole time.
Now, let’s talk main actors.

I’m one of those people that saw Steven Yeun (Okja, Sorry to Bother You, Minari) as my reason to watch The Walking Dead (2010- ). Sure, part of it was because his character had the most relatable and interesting evolution arc. The rest of it, however, was because Yeun just has an incredible, but approachable, personality to him. Watching him act transports me into his world every time. He makes it feel real – whatever he’s playing.
Then there’s Samara Weaving (Ready or Not, The Babysitter, Ash vs Evil Dead). I can’t say enough about Weaving. She’s the scream queen the newer generations need. Like Yeun, she has a charisma to her that can’t be ignored – and it works particularly well in horrors and thrillers.
I’m guessing the first director that gave Weaving a horror job did it because of her scream. I understand that this sounds super creepy taken out of context, but she has a unique scream that I could identify her by. Seriously, I could be pick her out of line-up by it. It’s her signature. It’s pitchy and feels more realistic than a lot of screams you see from other actors in the kind of parts she plays.

I can’t find a single fault in Mayhem. They may be there, but for me – this movie goes hard and it is definitely what I was looking for out of my Shudder Spree.

Cat’s Point of View:
Eureka! We have a winner! I can’t tell you how excited I am that Mayhem lived up to my expectations for it – and then some.
Let’s get down to business.
Years ago, my friends and I explored a story where the characters lost all of their inhibitions – for good or ill. It was quite the treat to see something along the same lines brought to the screen, and by powerhouse actors such as Steven Yeun and Samara Weaving. I have been yearning to see Yeun kick ass in something ever since he exited The Walking Dead back in 2016. Weaving, on the other hand, has proven herself to be one of the new great scream queens of modern cinema.
I tend to watch a lot in the action genre. I love the thrill and adrenaline rush of it – watching the flow of fight choreography. It’s even better when there’s a solid story to go along with the combat, car chases, and the like. Mayhem is a very apt description for what takes place in this film, though it’s clear that the free-for-all had an excellent mind behind its direction. Some of the on-screen face-offs are silly, and others are outright diabolical. I was on the edge of my seat as the main characters fought their way through the office tower.

The corporate rat race is not a place that fosters peace of mind. Sometimes it feels like the workplace machine is just sucking the very life out of you. I can only imagine that some professions make it seem like pieces of your soul get carved away a little at a time, as well. Perhaps I’m still just a little bitter about the way things played out in the last job that I had in the corporate hamster wheel. All the same, I can identify with so much from movies like this one.
I know I’m not alone in feeling that somewhere deep down we all wish we could flip the finger to the upper echelon of the corporate grind. This film was rather cathartic in harmlessly playing that sort of fantasy out in this vicarious screen experience. (Seriously, kids don’t try this at home.)
By far, this is my favorite movie within our Shudder Spree so far – and I feel like it will be hard to top this. Of course, I intend to approach each film with an open mind. I’m just saying.
You can bet I’ll be steering anyone I can towards this title. This splatter-fest would be ideal for someone who wants something good and bloody for the Halloween season without the side-effect of second-guessing the things that go bump in the night.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 85%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 64%
Metascore – 62/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.2/10
IMDB Score – 6.4/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating5/5
Trust the Dice Parental Advisory Rating: R
Movie Trailer:

Monday, October 5, 2020

Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017) - Shudder Spree


Streaming Services: Shudder, DirecTV, Pantaya
Movie Name/Year: Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Mystery
Length:  83 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Filmadora Nacional, Peligrosa, Videocine, Raven Banner Entertainment, Shudder, AMG Entertainment, Karmafilms Distribution, Periscoop Film
Director: Issa López
Writer: Issa López
Actors: Paola Lara, Juan Ramón López, Nery Arredondo, Hanssel Casillas, Rodrigo Cortes, Ianis Guerrero, Tenoch Huerta
Blurb from IMDb: A dark fairy tale about a gang of five children trying to survive the horrific violence of the cartels and the ghosts created every day by the drug war.

Cat’s Point of View:
As we continue along our Shudder Spree for October, I couldn’t help but cross my fingers at the start of this movie – in hopes that it would both live up to my expectations and be significantly better than the first film we watched. I am quite happy to report that this experience was a full 180 degrees from the tedious other movie. Tigers Are Not Afraid deserves all the plethora of accolades it has received – and then some.

Rather than its numerous award wins and nominations, I’m more impressed by the high praise given this film by horror masters Stephen King (It, Pet Sematary, Doctor Sleep) and Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, The Shape of Water, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark).

Enough about what other people have said about Tigers Are Not Afraid. Let’s dive in to my own experience.

Sometimes foreign language films can be a bit onerous to watch, because of the split attention between the action and the words flashing across the screen. I was very thankful that this was a Spanish-speaking movie. I have a loose grasp on the language, and so I didn’t have to rely entirely on the subtitles (and the translation missed a few expletives here and there). That freed me to more thoroughly experience the film. Let me tell you – this was a rollercoaster.

I was invested from the beginning. I loved the street-tag art, and how it helped frame the story. I felt real dread for the plight of the children in the lead roles. Life under the thumb of cartels is no joke. I bought in on every gritty experience of these drug war orphans.

I adored the practicality and whimsy of the chalk and its representation of the three wishes. The fantastical elements of the story were deftly portrayed so that it was easy to suspend my disbelief. I also appreciated the vague and nebulous appearance of some of the supernatural manifestations. This wasn’t a splatter-fest and didn’t rely on horrific visuals to elicit fear, dread, or other emotional responses.

The young cast was seriously impressive, considering they didn’t have prior acting experience and weren’t even given copies of the script. The production team gave them improv classes and shot in chronological order so that they could capture the genuine reactions of the actors. These kids have bright futures ahead in the industry if they continue to pursue their acting careers.

I do not think I was adequately prepared for the emotional rollercoaster here. I actually cried at one point, and the dread as I worried about the plight of these kids was nearly gut-wrenching. For that reason alone, this will be a ‘one-and-done’ viewing for me. I don’t think I could put myself through that again, in spite of the fact this was an excellent film.

 Tigers Are Not Afraid is a safe bet to add to your spooky season watch list. 

 Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 97%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 85%
Metascore – 76/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.4/10
IMDB Score – 7.0/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – R
Movie Trailer: