Friday, October 16, 2020

The Mortuary Collection (2020) - Shudder Spree


Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: The Mortuary Collection (2020)
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Length:  108 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: AMP International, Trapdoor Pictures, MVK, Front Row Filmed Entertainment, Loona Film, Shudder
Director: Ryan Spindell
Writer: Ryan Spindell
Actors: Clancy Brown, Caitlin Custer, Christine Kilmer, Jacob Elordi, Ema Horvath, Jennifer Irwin, James Bachman, Barak Hardley, Sarah Hay, Ben Hethcoat, Mike C. Nelson, Brennan Murray, Michael Bow, Tom Woodruff Jr., Bradley Bundlie, Sam Eidson, David Fierro, Alison Gallaher, Kirk C. Johnson, Josephine McAdam
Blurb from IMDb: On the cusp of retirement, an eccentric mortician recounts several of the strangest stories he's encountered in his long career, but things take a turn for the phantasmagorical when he learns that the final story - is his own.

Cat’s Point of View:
When we are set to watch a horror anthology, I tend to flinch a little. I think I’m scarred for life from my experience with The ABCs of Death (2012) movies. I find myself with an inner-mantra repeating the wish over and over again - ‘please let it be different in a good way.’
I’m excited to report that my wish was fulfilled. The Mortuary Collection was actually one of the best representations of a cohesive horror anthology I’ve seen in a long time.
I believe that it really helped that the film maintained a singular voice throughout with writer/director Ryan Spindell (The Root of the Problem, Two Sentence Horror Stories, 50 States of Fright). While anthologies that showcase multiple writing styles and direction are great for showcasing filmmakers so that you could be introduced to someone new and interesting, it often just causes the overall film to become scattered. There’s also the potential for a disparity with the quality of each segment. Not so, here!

One thing that really helps cinematic anthologies is the framework ‘glue’ that holds the individual stories together. I tend to enjoy them more when there is a larger tale that is the umbrella for all of the contents within. In this case, it’s a retiring mortician sharing ghastly tales of some of the poor souls that have ended up needing his services.
I really enjoyed the dynamic between ‘old-school’ mortician played by Clancy Brown (Hail Caesar!, SpongeBob SquarePants, Billions) and the ‘new-school’ recruit, portrayed by Caitlin Custer (Teen Wolf, Shut Up and Dance, Extraction). Their banter supports the framework well. They were also brilliant casting choices.
Overall, I was fairly impressed with the effects used here. I could tell there were a good deal of practical special effects – some more effective than others. I appreciated that there was a good balance both with the gore and the more subtle use of CGI. I loved that some of the grisly bits were left more for the imagination. Sometimes the mind’s eye can be infinitely worse than anything actually shown on the screen.

The atmosphere of the whole throwback era was also interesting. It was fun to see all the rotary phones everywhere.

I do have one caution, however. It seems that this film is an expansion on the concept from Spindell’s short The Babysitter Murders (2015). If you don’t want to be spoiled for the whole thing, for the love of Bob don’t watch that first. It would really take the punch out of some of the twists and turns.
Our Shudder Spree scored another hit! I really enjoyed this macabre collection of morality tales, and it fits right in with the spooky season. This is more along the lines of what I’d hoped for with the first movie that kicked off our Halloween scare-fest. If you’re looking for something to watch in between handing out candy, this might be a great addition for your holiday plans. The anthology segments offer natural pause points where you might not feel like you’ve been interrupted overall.
Even if you don’t plan to hand out treats, since some areas are recommending against the annual candy collection due to the pandemic, this would be a great movie for staying in with a mug of cocoa and a fuzzy blanket. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 95%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – none
Metascore – none
Metacritic User Score – none
IMDB Score – 6.7/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – R
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Nekrotronic (2018) - Shudder Spree

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Nekrotronic (2018)
Genre: Action, Comedy, Horror
Length: 99 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Create NSW, Entertainment One Features, Guerilla Films, Hopscotch Features, GEM Entertainment, Culture Publishers (CP), Entertainment One, Momentum Pictures, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, eOne Films Spain
Director: Kiah Roache-Turner
Writer: Kiah Roache-Turner, Tristan Roache-Turner
Actors: Ben O’Toole, Monica Bellucci, Caroline Ford, Tess Haubrich, Epine Bob Savea, David Wenham, Berynn Schwerdt, Jay Gallagher, Felix Williamson, Ron Smyck, Goran D. Kleut, Jessica Racz, Nic Westaway, Dave Beamish, James Formosa, Jonathan Formosa, Alex Jewson
Blurb from IMDb: A man who discovers that he is part of a secret sect of magical beings who hunt down and destroy demons in the internet.

Selina’s Point of View:
Let’s face it. After our last movie, absolutely anything would have been an improvement. That said, this film was more than just that, it was amazing.
I remember seeing the trailer when it came out and being intrigued. It looked like a B-movie, but the fun kind. What I saw today exceeded those expectations.
It wasn’t a B-movie at all. It had a decent $10 million budget and it shows. A lot of the graphics were on point, as well as the soundtrack, acting, sets, and just about everything else. Now, I’m not saying it wasn’t campy. It was incredibly over-the-top, but that’s what they were going for, and it works.
What surprised me the most was how well written it was.
Now, I’ll admit, that there were some very typical aspects to the script. There was one point in the film that I guessed a line of dialogue before it was spoken. There were also some plot tropes. Still, when the characters were talking to each other, or reacting to circumstances, it felt organic.
I want to talk about another part of the film that impressed me, but first I need to discuss a pet peeve I have with newer horror films.
As technology has evolved over time, horror movies seem to have tried to ignore it. For example: everyone has a cell phone these days. Instead of addressing that in story, most new horror flicks just default to the ‘out of service’ trope. I hate that. Especially since it would be so simple do something with it. I mean, a 911 operator is still going to accuse you of a prank call if you ring them up about ghosts or vampires or something. Seriously, even if you get through to someone, who’s going to believe you watched someone get possessed? Just saying the phone is ‘out of service’ is a cop out.

You can’t write a script for 1960 and make it work today without adjusting it to fit the evolutions of our world.
Well, you can, but it wouldn’t make sense.
That kind of thing really digs at me. I want newer horror films to take advantage of our modern technology. It seems like creators see the upgrades as a hurdle when, in reality, it has the ability to be a new source of terror.
That’s one of the reasons the plot of Nekrotronic works so well. Characters had a find a way around modern-age technology, or find a way to handicap it. Nothing was done for them. The script used cell phones and the internet – even augmented reality – to tell the tale. It’s because the creators acknowledged the state of our 2018 reality that I was able to become so immersed it.
I also need to compliment Caroline Ford (Anti-Social, Carnival Row, Free Rein) for her acting. Everyone was great, but there was one scene where Ford was post-battle and had blood all over her face. There was a bit of crying involved, and she went for it. It wasn’t ugly-crying, but she was dropping tears at such a level that she was leaving clean streaks through the blood make-up as it went on. It was impressive.
Nekrotronic was pure campy fun. It had all the spirits, demons, and other paranormal creatures you could want for a Halloween movie marathon – and there was a ton of comedic gold mixed in. Although it’s not a movie for critics, this is an entertaining flick for people just looking for something fun.
It’s a Shudder exclusive, and I think it’s worth getting the subscription for.

Cat’s Point of View:
For a little bit, I had Nekrotronic confused with another movie. Whoops. I realized the error of my notion as I watched the opening credits and failed to see the name I was expecting as director. The name is really immaterial, honestly. I just knew then that I wasn’t sure what to expect anymore. I didn’t mind, and my gamble was paid off because Nekrotronic took me on one hell of a ride.
I have an increasingly positive opinion about Australian cinema. Nekrotronic adds to the growing list of good movies that have come from the ‘land down under.’ Of course, there’s always the bonus of getting to listen to glorious Aussie accents throughout the production. I digress…
This movie had a little bit of everything in it. There were huge elements of sci-fi, a generous helping of horror, and a liberal sprinkle of comedy. It was a recipe for delicious fun. I laughed, gasped, and had a blast watching the demon-vanquishing escapades.
I know I was harsh on the last film’s effects, but the distance between that movie and this one could be measured in light-years. Nekrotronic had quite a few elements that required effects. The core supernatural essence of the story called for some heavy-duty cgi, at that. The production got a lot of bang for their bucks here. Nothing felt hokey, and it was seamless enough that I believed every second of it.

This movie even gave me a lot of warm nostalgic fuzzies, as it felt like they paid homage to some classic 80’s horror movies such as Lifeforce (1985) and Hellraiser (1987). There were even some heavy influences from Ghostbusters (1984). I loved how the story drew on these elements without blatantly trying to copy them. It made those tidbits all the more enjoyable to watch.
Some moments were even reminiscent of the zombie horror genre, and even that was done well in setting itself apart from that popular trope. That being said, this was definitely not a throw-back movie. It was clearly set in the current age, if not a little further in the future. There were some great references that cemented that for me.
I really enjoyed the cast, as well. The story gets big kudos for having strong female roles in general, but the ladies portraying them on screen also kicked ass. Monica Belucci (The Brothers Grimm, The Whistleblower, Mozart in the Jungle), Caroline Ford, and Tess Haubrich (Alien: Covenant, Bleeding Steel, Treadstone) were all solid in their roles. Of course, the main character wasn’t a lady – but that’s ok! I was completely invested in the bumbling intensity of Howard, played by Ben O'Toole (The Water Diviner, Hacksaw Ridge, 12 Strong).
To sum up, this was a really well-rounded movie with a little bit of everything in it – and all done well, in my opinion. I had a really good time watching, and barely noticed the passage of time. I think this would be a wonderful addition to a spooky marathon, or just for viewing in general for this Halloween season. It was another killer edition to our Shudder Spree.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 39%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 76%
Metascore – 25/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.8/10
IMDB Score – 5.5/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4.5/5
P.S.: There is one mid-credits scene.
Movie Trailer:

Monday, October 12, 2020

Psychotic! (2016) - Shudder Spree


Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Psychotic (2016)
Genre: Horror, Mystery
Length:  87 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Destruction Inc Films, Terror Films, GoDigital, Premiere Digital Services
Directors: Maxwell Frey, Derek Gibbons
Writers: Maxwell Frey, Derek Gibbons
Actors: Aldous Davidson, Cirocco Dunlap, Clint Keepin, Courtney Maginnis, Danielle Grace, Derek Gibbons, Holland Kemp, Katie Hawthorne, Kristen Martin, Maxwell Frey
Blurb from IMDb: A group of hard-partying Brooklyn hipsters are stalked and savagely murdered by a masked maniac known as the Bushwick Party Killer.

Selina’s Point of View:
This is one of those days when the notes I take are longer than the actual review. There’s not much to say, it all boils down to one thing.
Psychotic is awful. It’s not even ‘so bad it’s good’, It’s just objectively bad.
Nothing about it feels natural. The story is not even a little original, the acting sucks, and the writing is very nearly as bad as what you would find in The Room (2003). In fact, it almost feels like that’s what they were going for.

It takes itself so seriously, though.
Movies like this, generally, there’s a bit of self-awareness to it. The writers will inject a little humor to make it all easier to swallow. That humor takes away from the absolute monotony of watching the whole thing. There’s nothing of the sort in Psychotic. Sitting through it is difficult. It’s like a punishment.
Don’t waste your time. There are many other films on Shudder that would be perfect for the Halloween season. 

Cat’s Point of View:
I'm pretty sure the production team for Psychotic tried to hypnotize its audience into liking this movie – and failed. There’s a swirly animation effect at the beginning and end of the film. It’s the kind of thing you typically see when people are trying to hypnotize in cartoons and the like. I don’t know if anyone can convince me otherwise. I’m pretty sure you have to actually be under the effects of mesmerism to like this movie. I certainly didn’t.
There was nothing that distracted from the flaws, and those were huge and glaring. Everything felt so forced. The acting was sub-par, the dialogue didn’t feel natural, it was clear the effects were low-budget, and everything else was all over the place.

I could tell that the cinematographer paired with the effects crew tried to use some nifty tricks to elevate the material. While it supported the trippy vibe of the drug-laced movie overall, it did nothing but make it harder to watch. The background electronica and ‘killer theme’ desperately tried to give us an 80’s slasher feeling of nostalgia. I got the point, but the rest was just so horrible that it fell flat.
Try as I might to find a single redeemable thing to discuss with this film, the only thing I enjoyed was the rolling of credits at the end. Our spree took a Psychotic wrong turn with this one, but I’m sure there’ll be more good movies in store for us as we continue to explore Shudder in October.

There are so many other titles available on Shudder and other platforms that I’d say just skip over this one.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 3.5/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 0/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 0/5
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – R
Movie Trailer: