Friday, October 22, 2021

Ominous October - Mass Hysteria (2019)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Mass Hysteria (2020)
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Length: 66 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: First-Name Films, The Horror Collective
Director: Arielle Cimino, Jeff Ryan
Writer: Jonathan T. Coleman, Christopher O'Connell
Actors: Geena Santiago, Jeff Ryan, Scott Swayze, Alexandra Dietrich, Luke Deardorff, Destry Allyn Spielberg, Robert D. Murphy, Matt Perusse, Louis Cancelmi, Charlie Pollock, Daniel Alvarado, Michelle Veintimilla, Jessica Richmond, Molly Sidell, Kellie Moon, Hannah Wagner, Chloe Eaton
Blurb from IMDb: A group of Salem witch trial reenactors find themselves at the center of a modern day witch hunt.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’m not often surprised by the movies we see. Sure, a twist might catch me off-guard, or I might like something more or less than expected – but this surprised me more in the way that Slaxx (2021) did than something like The Sixth Sense (1999). It altered my expectations in ways that most movies don’t.
It started out cute, in a home-brew kind of way. If I had to make any comparisons, I’d have said it felt like it was in the same category as something like The Gamers (2002). Low budget, kind of funny, nothing that would stand up to the big-name flicks, but watchable. Even enjoyable.
What started campy and mildly interesting, turned menacing in the last ten minutes (or so).
The twist really brought the creep factor. It would have been a decent movie either way, but I wouldn’t have labeled it much of a horror film until that script flipped at the end.

I was shocked.
I think what made it scarier than it probably set out to be, was that it made sense.
My knee-jerk reaction was that it didn’t, but after thinking about it for a few minutes, I bought it. I saw the logic in it. When horror has some of that logic, it just hits harder.
I think Mass Hysteria is really worth it. I’d recommend gathering some friends and getting some popcorn so you can have some real fun with it. It’s a great flick for a teenage Halloween sleep over. Maybe not the youngest teens, but 15 and above.

Cat’s Point of View:
I am pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that I have a great appreciation for stories surrounding the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s. Mass Hysteria is set in the modern era pre-pandemic but it beautifully taps into the spirit of its title and the location of its setting for some entertaining satire.
One of the things I appreciated the most about Mass Hysteria was that it didn’t take itself too seriously. The movie leaned into the tropes surrounding tourists and their expectations for a macabre historic locations, such as Salem, and it was glorious.
It’s clear that there was a bit of a shoestring budget involved, but they got the most bang for their buck by letting the audience imagine most of the grisly violence occurring – rather than having to engineer the physical effects for it all to happen on screen. There’s something to be said about the mind’s ability to fill in the blanks with horror movies. What we imagine can be far scarier than anything an SFX department could put together.

So much of Mass Hysteria is over the top, but it works – right down to the customized license plate on a jacked-up truck featured in the later part of the film.
It even managed to throw me a little. I thought I had the plot all figured out in the beginning. I thought it was easily predictable – I was wrong.
If you’re looking for a serious flick to sate your thirst for horror this Ominous October, Mass Hysteria might not be for you. If you are, however, looking for an entertaining romp into the dangers of religious zeal paired with mob mentality and dumb tourists; the shenanigans that ensue here would be a fun addition to your Halloween viewing.
If you have access to Shudder, I encourage satire fans to check it out.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.2/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3.5/5
P.S. Short scene during the credits.
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Ominous October - There's Someone Inside Your House (2021)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: There’s Someone Inside Your House (2021)
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 96 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Netflix, Atomic Monster, 21 Laps Entertainment
Director: Patrick Brice
Writer:  Stephanie Perkins, Henry Gayden
Actors: Sydney Park, Théodore Pellerin, Asjha Cooper, Dale Whibley, Jesse LaTourette, Burkely Duffield, Diego Josef, Zane Clifford, BJ Harrison, Emilija Baranac, Jade Falcon, William Edward, Anthony Timpano, William MacDonald, Andrew Dunbar, Ryan Beil
Blurb from IMDb: The graduating class at Osborne High is being targeted by a masked assailant, intent on exposing the darkest secret of each victim, and only a group of misfit outsiders can stop the killings.

Selina’s Point of View:
Although There’s Someone Inside Your House did take the road most traveled many times through its story, I found it mostly acceptable.
It had that 90s slasher feel to it: a bunch of teens with exploitable secrets getting stabbed in creative ways. There was even a subtle reference to I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997).
The thing is, I thought what would pull it apart from other films with the same inspiration would be the masks. During our monthly trailer stream, I noted that I thought adding the aspect of the killer wearing the face of the victim was fascinating. I really thought that was going to add something different to the story, change the climax up.
In reality, it was barely a gimmick.
I thought it would be more parallel to the idea of Freddy attacking during dreams, instead it was more parallel to Jason wearing a hockey mask. If anything, it was a red herring.
What really pulled it apart from other films was the update to the social commentary.

There’s Someone Inside Your House really dove into the political and social discussions that are prevalent in today’s society. Racial tension, gender, privilege, gentrification, etc. Any subject that triggers a huge response was in the script – even if only in one background line (such as miscarriage).
I don’t mind those discussions. In fact, I actively seek them out. I try to keep myself educated, and I jump at the chance to talk to people smarter than me that can help me in that goal. That said, even I felt parts of There’s Someone Inside Your House went a little heavy handed. No one likes to be preached at. Even with a good message. 
I didn’t hate it, but I understand the reviews here.
I just think if you push past those not-as-subtle-as-they-thought lessons, it’s pretty solid. It has a decent twist, the bloody setting is what one would hope for, and it’s been updated to fit our current times.
At the very least it makes me want to read the book it’s based on. At the most, it was an acceptable vehicle for Asjha Cooper (All American, Black as Night, Chicago Med). Even at the points in the film that made me sigh, she was still worth watching.

Cat’s Point of View:
There’s Someone Inside Your House. Just that phrase alone was enough to give me a queasy feeling – especially when you’re dealing with the horror genre. You really don’t need to even see a trailer to get an idea of what was going to happen. It’s refreshing to occasionally get a movie that’s straightforward from the title.
Though, when I saw the title for There’s Someone Inside Your House I imagined the film would take a direction somewhat like When A Stranger Calls (2006). It instantly called to mind that old babysitting urban legend. Instead, this film delivered something a bit different. I’d have to say that There’s Someone Inside Your House is closer to a mashup of I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) and Scream (1996). In fact, this production seems to give nods to both films within the setting and dialogue.
I was intrigued when I learned that There’s Someone Inside Your House was a book adaptation. I might just add this one to my ever-growing to-read list. Maybe. After learning that, I found myself wondering if the book, itself, is a love letter to those aforementioned films or if that was a decision made for the screen. Understandably, since I haven’t read the book I couldn’t advise whether or not they ‘got it right.’
There might be an advantage to skipping the teasers on this one. The story fit squarely into a more modern era with social media, smartphones, and the like. Paired with the new twist on the masked marauder, the material stepped up to stand out – a little. I don’t think it was enough to completely emerge from the shadow of those older horror classics, however.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s Someone Inside Your House was a gripping thrill ride. The visuals were on point and the cast was great. I don’t have any quibbles with acting or even cinematography. I even enjoyed the soundtrack. It was good…diverse… inclusive, even.  I appreciated that There’s Someone Inside Your House touched on modern social issues that we deal with in the current day. It was just predictable. I’m not sure it landed as twisty as the production team would have liked.
Let’s take a step back, though. The entertainment factor for There’s Someone Inside Your House was high, even if I could see where things were going. I still felt dread seeing ajar doors and the social vigilante revelations. I could easily see this working well with Halloween parties or high school sleepovers. I’d even say there’s some room to develop a party game or perhaps a betting pool regarding the predictable elements of the movie. Discussions that this film might inspire could either be brilliant conversations of revelation… or could become a volatile dumpster fire.
Whether watching alone or with others, There’s Someone Inside Your House is a decent way to burn through some of the hours during this Ominous October.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 48%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 18%
Metascore – 45%
Metacritic User Score – 3.5
IMDB Score – 4.8/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 3/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, October 18, 2021

Ominous October - Muppets Haunted Mansion (2021)

Streaming Service: Disney+
Movie Name/Year: Muppet Haunted Mansion (2021)
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family
Length: 52 minutes
Rating: TV-PG
Production/Distribution: Disney Branded Television, Disney+, Soapbox Films, The Muppets Studio, Walt Disney Television
Director: Kirk R. Thatcher
Writers: Bill Barretta, Kirk R. Thatcher, Kelly Younger, Jim Lewis, Jim Henson, Walt Disney
Actors: Will Arnett, Taraji P. Henson, Darren Criss, Yvette Nicole Brown, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, Eric Jacobson, Matt Vogel, Peter Linz, David Rudman, Julianne Buescher, Alice Dinnean, Bruce Lanoil, Brian Henson, Nicolette Santino, Alex Villa, Alfonso Ribeiro, Ed Asner, Chrissy Metz, Jeannie Mai Jenkins, Danny Trejo, Sasheer Zamata, Skai Jackson, Geoff Keighley, Pat Sajak, Justina Machado, Craig Robinson, John Stamos, Kim Irvine, Quinn McPherson, Sarah Oh, Colleen Smith, Allan Trautman
Blurb from IMDb:  On Halloween night, Gonzo is challenged to spend one night in The Haunted Mansion.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have been a fan of The Muppets my entire life. Between Sesame Street (1969-) and the various Muppet shows, I developed a love for these felted and fuzzy characters very early on. 

The glow of nostalgia is like a warm hug whenever I watch my old favorites such as the Muppet Babies (1984-1991) cartoon or The Muppet Show (1976-1981). I have fond memories of seeing The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) in the theater. I remember sitting with my friends from daycare and getting excited as the curtains drew back from the screen. That is one thing I miss with the modern movie experience. I digress…
Needless to say, whenever there is a new Muppet production available, I am generally right on top of it. (Well, except Muppets Now (2020) but we’re not here to talk about that.)

When I saw that The Muppets were finally doing a Halloween special, I was practically beside myself with giddy anticipation. I didn’t really even care that it was halfway a shameless promotion for the Disney parks’ attraction. Muppets Haunted Mansion is named after (and based on) the Disney park staple, after all. The lovable puppets have put forth a slew of holiday specials in the past, but this is their very first spooky spectacular.
Horror comedy is my favorite flavor of the genre, so this special promised to make me one very happy camper. Of course, calling anything involving The Muppets a “horror” of any variety is really a stretch. I expected spooky-lite.

Muppets Haunted Mansion was also the first production I’ve seen since Kermit the Frog got a voice actor change-up putting Matt Vogel (The Muppets, Sesame Street, Alice Through the Looking Glass) at the helm of our favorite felt frog. I could hear the difference only ever so slightly – but it was close enough that I wasn’t put off. I was having too good of a time to mind – and Gonzo with his pal Pepe the Prawn were the stars of this extravaganza anyway.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never been to Disney’s Haunted Mansion attraction, so I couldn’t tell you whether or not Muppets Haunted Mansion is faithful to the in-person experience. IMDb has some cute trivia tidbits connecting the live park experience to the cinematic treatment, however. My enjoyment was based on the film production itself as a stand-alone.

Let’s get into the meat of the matter.
Muppets Haunted Mansion was everything I hoped it would be.
Everything you could wish for with a Muppets special was included. There were celebrity cameos hidden as Easter Eggs, as well as a random celebrity appearance. All of the beloved characters you would expect to see included were present, for the most part. The jokes were on point, there was razzle-dazzle, and musical numbers highlighted the story. 

The Muppets did their own numbers, but Darren Criss (Glee, Wayward Guide, Yasuke) and Taraji P. Henson’s (Empire, Proud Mary, Ralph Breaks the Internet) performances were also a highlight. There wasn’t too much of any one element, so it felt well balanced. Of course, there was also the customary moral of the story, but it was worked in so that it didn’t feel like the lesson was being drilled into you.

I liked the mixture of special effects between apparitions and how they blended effects with the live Muppets – such as with the floating ghosts. The setting was cool and creepy – but not too much. Very small children might get a bit spooked here and there, but nothing was really all that scary. Of course, some of the Muppets have always been on the monstrous side. They fit right in here.
There were so many nods to the old-school Muppets’ style and flair that it made my heart happy, as well as provided for a lot of giggles. At the same time, the story was grounded in current times – such as with use of cell phones, etc. so that younger, or more current audiences would also feel connected. There was something for everyone packed into this not-quite-hour-long special. Our whole family gathered ‘round for this viewing and everyone enjoyed themselves. I dare say my teen even put her phone down for a bit to watch.
I honestly wouldn’t mind watching Muppets Haunted Mansion again and would recommend it in a heartbeat. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 86%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score - 65%
Metascore – 67%
Metacritic User Score –  7.7/10
IMDB Score – 6.7/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer: