THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN: IT WOULD HAVE BEEN SCARY EVEN WITHOUT THE PARANORMAL ELEMENT

THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN-United States-90 Minutes 2014

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Jill Larson as Deborah Logan in The Taking of Deborah Logan

Jill Larson as Deborah Logan in The Taking of Deborah Logan

Anne Ramsay as Sarah Logan in The Taking of Deborah Logan

Anne Ramsay as Sarah Logan in The Taking of Deborah Logan

Michelle Ang as Mia Medina in The Taking of Deborah Logan

Michelle Ang as Mia Medina in The Taking of Deborah Logan

Directed by Adam Robitel

Written by Gavin Heffernan and Adam Robitel

I added a couple of new horror films to my queue at Netflix the other day. They include Mine Games, Mr. Jones and the film reviewed here, The Taking of Deborah Logan. The film is an interesting and intriguing foray into ‘found footage’ filmmaking and alongside Bobcat Goldthwaite’s Willow Creek it may indeed be one of the best films of the genre.

If there is any one thing that I fear about growing older it is that I would be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The loss of my identity, my memories and finally my life frightens me far worse than cancer, heart attack or whatever death has been chosen for me.

Writer-Director Adam Robitel and co-writer Gavin Heffernan weave a tale of a woman’s struggle with Alzheimer’s that takes a hard left into the world of the paranormal. What they fail to realize is that by chronicling her struggle with the disease they’ve made a film that is scary enough without the inclusion of the supernatural.

A film crew documents every waking, and sleeping, hour of Deborah Logan and her daughter Sarah’s life as Deborah’s illness advances at an aggressive rate. At first she displays the normal behavior associated with Alzheimer’s patients-she forgets the name of a bird that she painted. She blames one of the members of the film crew for a missing garden spade that is found in the freezer. As she worsens her behavior cannot be explained away in medical terms. She tears relentlessly at her skin. She levitates from the floor onto the kitchen counter. She utters French, a language she does not know, in a guttural tone. She repeatedly dials a number on a switchboard that is that of a missing and presumed dead child murderer. Is there a malevolent force that is controlling Deborah Logan in her weakened state of mind?

Despite the usual faux pas associated with ‘found footage’ films and an ending that seems tacked on and therefore a letdown The Taking of Deborah Logan is nevertheless an effectively creepy, scary horror film. Robitel and Heffernan know just when to ratchet the suspense at the right time and to the right level. The film doesn’t seem rushed and that’s a good thing. At the risk of sounding like one of those “Won’t you please give generously so we can find a cure?” commercials I will say that at the end of the day The Taking of Deborah Logan might be labeled as a horror film but it is a horror film whose premise is rooted in a disease that is all too real.

NO TRIVIA 

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Jill Larson also appears in Shutter Island and Manhattanites.

Anne Ramsay also appears in Planet of the Apes (2001) and A League of Their Own.

Michelle Ang also appears in The Tribe and Big Momma’s: Like Father, Like Son.

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WRITTEN IN BLOOD SCREAM QUEEN OF THE MONTH-NOVEMBER, 2014-SHARNI VINSON

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November’s Scream Queen of the Month comes courtesy of inspiration from Derek at Crustula and his recent article on his favorite modern day Scream Queens. Of the six women that he features-Danielle Harris, Sheri Moon Zombie, Sharni Vinson, Addison Timlin, Katharine Isabelle and Amber Heard-three have been featured as Scream Queens of the Month here at Written in Blood.

That number now increases by one.

Sharni Vinson was born on July 22, 1983 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. She began singing, dancing and acting at an early age and is well known for her portrayal of Cassie Turner in the long-running Aussie drama Home and Away. Her film credits include Step Up 3D (2010), Blue Crush 2 (video, 2011), the sharks-loose-and-shopping-for-humans-in-a-flooded-supermarket movie Bait (2012), the remake of 1978’s Patrick (2013) and finally her role as the final girl with a few tricks up her sleeve in Adam Wingard’s home-invasion thriller You’re Next (2011, released 2013).

TV credits include Home and Away, CSI: NY (2008), My Boys (2008), NCIS (2009) and Cold Case (2010).

Put your hands together and give a round of applause for the Written in Blood Scream Queen of the Month Scream Queen of the Month for November, 2013: Sharni Vinson!

THE DOWN UNDER ON SHARNI V:

Started dancing when she was 3.

A founding member of Australian pop group ‘Girlband’.

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THE SOSKA SISTERS MAKE A SUPERIOR SEQUEL WITH SEE NO EVIL 2

SEE NO EVIL 2-United States-90 Mins. 2014

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Glenn 'Kane' Jacobs as Jacob Goodnight in See No Evil 2

Glenn ‘Kane’ Jacobs as Jacob Goodnight in See No Evil 2

Danielle Harris as Amy in See No Evil 2

Danielle Harris as Amy in See No Evil 2

Katharine Isabelle as Tamara in See No Evil 2

Katharine Isabelle as Tamara in See No Evil 2

Directed by Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska

Written by Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby

Let’s face it-when we see the WWE Studios logo appear at the beginning of a horror film (or perhaps any existing film genre for that matter) it doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence that what we are about to see will be any good. The original See No Evil had the distinction of having been directed by a former porn director, Gregory Dark. Then there was the post-apocalyptic thriller The Day which received mixed reviews at best. The haunted mirror flick Oculus took WWE Studios one step forward in the credibility department and the rancid Leprechaun: Origins negated that by taking WWE Studios two steps backward.

This brings us to See No Evil 2. Directed by the super-talented twins Jen and Sylvia Soska the film may indeed be what turns WWE Studios into a credible and reputable production company. Before you begin to think that the cheese has slid off my cracker I ask that you please allow me to tell you why I believe this to be so. I believe it to be so because the Soska Sisters take a (somewhat) traditional approach to the slasher film genre to bring us a sequel that is in every way the superior film to the original. They put a group of partying,drinking, horny young people in a single setting where they are picked off one by one by a remorseless, indestructible killer that sees their fun as sin that must be punished.

See No Evil 2 begins immediately after the events of See No Evil. Morgue attendants Seth, Amy and Holden receive the victim’s bodies from the first film as well as the body of mass murderer Jacob Goodnight after he flatlines and is pronounced dead in the ambulance. If there were only three victims then See No Evil 2 would either end quickly or move at an agonizingly slow pace for its 90 minute run time. However, it’s Amy’s (Danielle Harris) birthday and when she cancels going out to drink with her friends and brother to help her co-workers with the bodies of the victims and with Goodnight himself her friends and brother crash the morgue and bring the party to her. Soon after a resurrected Jacob Goodnight is ready to slice, dice and kill his way through the entire lot of them. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

I have to give credit to whoever decided to cast Glenn ‘Kane’ Jacobs as a sadistic serial killer/mass murderer. Of the lot of WWE Superstars who have been cast in films-including John Cena, Randy Orton and Mike ‘The Miz’ Mizanin-Jacobs is the only one that seems comfortable with the role he is playing. Danielle Harris is her usual reliable self as well and it’s easy to see why she is such an immense favorite amongst horror and slasher movie fans.

I do have one complaint and it is a very minor one. After seeing Katharine Isabelle as such a strong character in the Soska’s American Mary it is a shame to see her as such a complete bimbo in See No Evil 2. Then again I protest too much as I enjoy Miss Isabelle in practically anything I see her in.

With the exception of their entry ‘T is for Torture Porn in The ABC’s of Death 2 I have seen every one of the Soska sister’s feature films. Dead Hooker in a Trunk was a promising start. American Mary was a disturbing masterwork and now See No Evil 2 is a welcome addition to the slasher genre. Their next film is called Vendetta and I for one can’t wait to see it.

TRIVIA

During the opening credits when it says “Directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska” The corpses are that of both directors.

Jacob Goodnight is referred to as the “God’s Hand Killer”. This is the same nickname given to the killer in the movie Frailty.

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Glenn Jacobs also appears in See No Evil and MacGruber.

Danielle Harris also appears in Stakeland and Hatchet III.

Katharine Isabelle also appears in American Mary and Torment.

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THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (2014) IS ART IMITATING ART IMITATING LIFE AND IT’S NOT BAD

THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN-United States-90 Mins. 2014

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Addison Timlin as Jami and Spencer Treat Clark as Corey in The Town That Dreaded Sundown

Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Based on the 1976 film “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” written by Earl E. Smith

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is based on the true story of the ‘Moonlight Murderer’ that terrorized Texarkana in the 194o’s. If you’re not aware of this then that’s okay; this remake of the original film which was based upon those very same murders is quick to remind us of this. It then moves into nostalgia mode as it shows the original film being shown at a drive-in on the Arkansas side of Texarkana before slamming us back into modern times with the brutal murder of a young student and a warning to his date from the assailant to “remember Mary”.

If this seems a bit confusing to you then I must apologize. It is my writing that is perplexing and not the film. The remake of The Town That Dreaded Sundown is not perplexing in the least as it seams images from the past film and incorporates them and uses them in the present day movie. Yes, a few things are changed for the sake of modern times. For instance it is a young gay couple who are the victims of the knife attached to the trombone scene that was depicted in the original film.

The remake of The Town That Dreaded Sundown could be considered a case of art imitating art imitating life. This is not a bad thing since the film pays homage to the original film and to the crimes that inspired it without making either seem gratuitous or exploitative. Addison Timlin is good in her role as Jami; the young girl who gets too close to the killer for her own good. Veronica Cartwright, Edward Herrmann, Gary Cole, Joshua Leonard and Anthony Anderson are excellent in their supporting roles as is Denis O’Hare in his role as the son of the director of the original film, Charles B. Pierce. O’Hare’s casting is not surprising as it appears that he is a favorite of producer Ryan Murphy as is evident of his being cast in 3 out of 4 seasons of Murphy’s hit television show American Horror Story. His character is important to the film as he casts a red herring as to the identity of the copycat killer.

The 1976 edition of The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a semi-classic that deserves an update. For this reason I compare it to When A Stranger Calls-another semi-classic that deserved, and received, an update. Sadly, the remake of ‘Stranger’ was an exercise in blandness; ‘Town’ is the winner of this race.

NO TRIVIA

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Addison Timlin also appears in Odd Thomas and Stand Up Guys.

Veronica Cartwright also appears in Alien and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Gary Cole also appears in The Brady Bunch Movie and One Hour Photo.

Edward Herrmann also appears in The Aviator and The Lost Boys.

Joshua Leonard also appears in The Blair Witch Project and Hatchet.

Denis O’Hare also appears in Milk and Michael Clayton.

Anthony Anderson also appears in The Departed and Hustle & Flow.

 

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THE REAPING COULD HAVE BEEN SO MUCH BETTER

THE REAPING-United States-99 Mins. 2007

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Hilary Swank as Katharine in The Reaping

Hilary Swank as Katharine in The Reaping

David Morrissey as Doug in The Reaping

David Morrissey as Doug in The Reaping

Idris Elba as Ben in The Reaping

Idris Elba as Ben in The Reaping

AnnaSophia Robb as Loren McConnell in The Reaping

AnnaSophia Robb as Loren McConnell in The Reaping

Stephen Rea as Father Costigan in The Reaping

Stephen Rea as Father Costigan in The Reaping

Directed by Stephen Hopkins

Story by Brian Rousso

Screenplay by Carey W. Hayes and Chad Hayes

The Reaping is a movie that I have had on my DVD/Blu-ray shelf for well over a year. I have hesitated to watch it because of the negative word-of-mouth that has circulated about the film since its release in 2007. To make a long story short I looked at the credits on the back of the DVD case and was firmly struck by the level of talent that worked on the film. You have two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank in the lead role; David Morrissey, who was fantastic as the Governor in AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead; the extremely talented and always reliable Idris Elba and to round it off the film features Stephen Rea in a small but important supporting role. The Reaping even features future The Conjuring screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes. With all the talent this film showcases then who is to blame for its poor quality and bad press?

Katharine, once an ordained minister, has lost her faith in God and now spends her times debunking His miracles by proving that science, not divine intervention or intention, is the cause for them. She is summoned for her expertise to a small town in Louisiana to investigate a river whose water has allegedly turned to blood in the same way as the ten plagues of the Bible. Pretty soon there are frogs dropping out of the sky, livestock dying, boils, locusts and the whole kit and kaboodle. The only difference is that the town doesn’t blame God for their trouble but instead they point the finger at a (quite) pretty twelve year-old girl. Is the child a conduit for the wrath of God or is there a darker force at work here? It all sounds pretty scary, right? Wrong.

So where do we affix the blame for The Reaping being such a bad movie when it could have been so much better? On Hilary Swank? Granted, her acting in this film is lackadaisical but seriously she just came off of training with Mr. Miyagi and she has two Oscars to her credit. Therefore, she has a right to be lackadaisical.

How about we lay the blame on the shoulders of David Morrissey or Idris Elba? Again, no. Both were fine in their roles-especially Morrissey; Elba wasn’t given very much to do. Do we blame AnnaSophia Robb as the little girl, Loren McConnell? Come on, that would be like blaming Charlie Brown for Ebola. So at whom do we point the finger of shame and blame?

I choose director Stephen Hopkins. His direction is so heavy-handed and sensationalist that if the man had not become a filmmaker he would have fit right in at the National Enquirer writing articles about Bat Boy and the Kardashians. The only decent film the man has ever directed was Predator 2 and the only reason that was any good was because of Gary Busey and Danny Glover.

So what have we learned here? We have learned that if you have a good idea, a good story, good actors and good writers that it is best that you have a good director to put it all together in a cohesive style. Otherwise your movie may suck just like The Reaping does.

TRIVIA

The film portrays the city of Concepcion, Chile, as a warm, tropical, Third World small town. This caused a furor in Concepcion, with people walking out of the theaters and others calling for authorities to ban the movies.

Filming in Louisiana was interrupted by Hurricane Katrina.

While Katherine and Ben are at Doug’s house the first night for dinner, Katherine drinks “Purple Haze” beer.

The 10 plagues from the Bible are: river and water sources turn to blood (Exodus 7:14-25), amphibians (commonly believed to be frogs)(Exodus 7:26-8:11), gnats (or lice)(Exodus 8:12-15), wild beasts (Exodus 8:16-28), disease on livestock (Exodus 9:1-7), unhealable boils (Exodus 9:8-12), hail mixed with fire (Exodus 9:13-35), locusts (Exodus 10:1-20), darkness (Exodus 10:21-29), and death of the firstborn (Exodus 11:1-12:36). In the movie, it replaces the gnats with lice and puts it as the 6th plague, after boils. It also mixes hail, locusts, and darkness, putting locusts first, then darkness and hail of fire.

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Hilary Swank also appears in Million Dollar Baby and The Resident.

David Morrissey also appears in Blitz and The Other Boleyn Girl.

Idris Elba also appears in Prometheus and Pacific Rim.

AnnaSophia Robb also appears in Because of Winn-Dixie and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Stephen Rea also appears in The Crying Game and Citizen X.

 

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The 100 Scariest Horror Novels of All Time

jmount43:

I just had to reblog this amazing post. So many books here that I have read and so many that I have not. My personal reading list just got a little longer.

Originally posted on Horror Novel Reviews:

Compiling a Top 100 list isn’t easy. I’m bound to offend some and win over others. That’s the nature of the beast, I suppose. Whether you agree with this list or not, you should be able to track down a few new treasures you’ve been missing out on, and you’ve got time to line up some reading material for Halloween. Anticipate loads of familiar names to fill this one up (a few are featured multiple times), but don’t be shocked if you stumble upon some fresh names as well. Check it out, from vintage classic to modern masterpiece, novella to full-length novel, these are the greatest 100 horror books on the market!

100. A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood

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Alison’s Littlewood’s A Cold Season didn’t win over hearts unanimously, but I found it extremely creepy, fully engaging and chilling to the marrow. There’s a slick Wicker Man vibe to this…

View original 1,160 more words

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ANNABELLE OFFERS A FEW CHILLS AND LITTLE THRILLS AS A PREQUEL TO THE CONJURING

ANNABELLE-United States-98 Mins. 2014

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Annabelle Wallis as Mia in Annabelle

Annabelle Wallis as Mia in Annabelle

Ward Horton as John in Annabelle

Ward Horton as John in Annabelle

Alfre Woodard as Evelyn in Annabelle

Alfre Woodard as Evelyn in Annabelle

Directed by John R. Leonetti

Written by Gary Dauberman

There’s an effectively frightening scene near the midway point of Annabelle. My wife and I both felt the goosebumps grow on our arms and she leaned over and whispered that she felt a chill run down her spine. My response in return was “Good because up to now this movie has been completely boring.”

Annabelle as we know is a prequel to last year’s creepy and genuinely scary The Conjuring and of course the titular object, a haunted doll, is featured in the prologue of that film and the same scene is featured as the prologue here, in Annabelle. The powers that be came up with the notion that if Annabelle the doll was scary for five minutes in one film then it would be equally scary and carry a 90-plus minute film. I have to hand it to them; it must have looked good on paper.

The plot of Annabelle is interesting and it does play out quite well. A young expectant couple, John and Mia Gordon,  move into a new home and the husband buys the doll for his wife as a gift. That same night they endure a home invasion from the members of a satanic cult and when one of the cult members is killed her blood drips on the doll and before you know it the paranormal activity commences. As usual it starts out small-a sewing machine that turns on by itself, finding Annabelle in unexplained locations and rocking chairs that seem to rock on their own a little longer than they should. When things escalate and we realize that the demonic force behind Annabelle is after the Gordon’s infant child things begin to pick up and the film becomes scary despite borrowing (stealing?) from better horror films; Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist being two of them. Unfortunately it’s not enough to save the movie.

The problem I saw with Annabelle was not so much in the direction and the writing-although neither was a big help seeing as how there were way too many convenient plot devices to keep the movie going; it was in the characterization. The Gordon’s, especially Mia, move around as if they’re on Prozac and it seems as if she doesn’t raise her voice above a whisper except when necessary. The other thing that burned my balls is that, until the finale, Mia didn’t express all that much concern that her child was in danger from supernatural and sinister forces. There are a few scenes where Mia is noticeably afraid but for the most part she barely registers. I also had fun with the technical and historic mistakes I caught in the film, some of which I list here:

In one scene there is a bag of Taco Doritos on the kitchen table. Doritos were introduced in 1966. Taco Doritos, as far as I can tell, were introduced in 1968. Annabelle takes place in 1967.

In a scene where John is holding the Gordon’s infant daughter the blanket she is wrapped in switches perspective from front to back.

Part of Annabelle takes place six months later and yet the Gordon’s baby looks no older than she did prior.

Am I nitpicking the film? Yes and I certainly don’t apologize for it. In the right hands Annabelle could have been a film to rival The Conjuring in terms of genuine fright. Instead we get this lifeless, disappointing mess.

TRIVIA

The real Annabelle doll is a large “Raggedy Ann” doll. The Warrens had a special case built for Annabelle inside their Occult Museum, where she resides to this day.

Annabelle is the first name of the actress who plays Mia.

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Annabelle Wallis also appears in Body of Lies and X-Men: First Class.

Ward Horton also appears in Letting Go and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Alfre Woodard also appears in Primal Fear and K-Pax.

 

 

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