Posts Tagged ‘Jason Blum’

Whenever Blumhouse is involved in a movie, I usually get interested, as they tend to produce high-quality horror films. When I heard about this film, I got interested both because it had an interesting concept behind it, and because I like Tyler Posey (Teen Wolf fan for life!). So even though it got negative early reviews, I decided to check it out anyway, and convinced a friend of mine to see it with me.

I have a lot to say about this film. Let me try to keep this brief.

Truth or Dare follows a group of college students who go to Mexico for their final spring break. While there, they meet a mysterious man who invites them up to an old Spanish mission for drinks and some good, ol’ fashioned truth or dare. However, when they leave Mexico, they find the game has followed them, and it’s now much nastier: you either play the game, no matter what horrific secrets you might have to share, or what terrible deeds you must commit, or you will die. And the game won’t end till all the players are dead.

Now on the surface, I should have liked this movie. In addition to an interesting concept, the film is incredibly well-written. The story isn’t only compelling, but surprisingly, without plot holes. With very simple tricks, they plug up most of the plot holes that would come up in a horror film, let alone one surrounding a game mainly played by children and horny teenagers. Not only that, but the way the film has these characters expose their deepest secrets is so good at making you feel sympathetic, you almost feel their pain. And when they have to undertake some of the dares, you actually get a little afraid for them.

Not only that, but most of these characters are well-written and multidimensional. Most characters in horror films are ridiculously flat, and especially in ones based around games (*cough* Ouija *cough*). But Truth or Dare actually makes these characters more than flat or stereotypes. They have trouble, they have hidden depths, which is only made more clear when characters are forced to reveal dark secrets. This is especially true with the character of Markie, who at first glance is a happy-go-lucky strawberry-blonde, but in actuality is struggling in a number of ways.

It’s helped by the fact that the actors in these films are all really good. I can’t say any one of them gave a bad performance.

But the film has one big issue: its atmosphere. In horror, atmosphere is essential. And this film  doesn’t really have one, at least not one that lasts. Several times, the film does create some tense moments (keep an eye out for the roof scene), and there are a number of great jump scares. But after the tense moment or the jump scare, I found myself winding back down to normal. And in a horror film, you should be kept at a slight tension at every moment. There should be something in the back of your mind that says, “Oh my God, I’m scared, my heart rate is going to increase a little.” And I never felt that way during this film.

And that really brings down the film as a whole.

Still, if it weren’t for that problem, this film would be terrifying. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Truth or Dare a 3.5 out of 5. Despite its lack of atmosphere, I honestly recommend seeing it. It probably won’t leave you scared stiff, but it’ll keep your interest and won’t leave you angry at the actors or the directors like other films I could name (*cough* The Friday the 13th remake is a piece of trash, and I would love to chase Michael Bay around Camp Crystal Lake for that ass-terrible excuse of a film. *cough*). Give it a watch, if you feel so inclined, and decide for yourself.

Go on. I dare you.

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So I recently got back into reading The Complete Fiction of HP Lovecraft, after about a year’s gap since I last dove into his work on my Kindle. I actually got from 15% to 32%, which for a 1112-page book is pretty good, if you ask me.

Now, if you don’t know who HP Lovecraft is, he was kind of the King of American Horror between the reigns of Edgar Allen Poe and current monarch Stephen King, though he didn’t really achieve any sort of fame or influence until after his death. When I read him last year, I found his style old and outdated, and while some of his stories were actually pretty creepy, others were just strange or boring (see my thoughts in Thoughts on Lovecraft: Part 1).

So what were my thoughts one year later, having read several more stories? Well, he still prefers to write like a contemporary of Poe, one of his main influences in writing, which I find still rather irksome (I could parody it here, but I did that well enough in Part 1, so why try and repeat it?). I’m not that big a fan of that style, as I find it stuffy and somewhat boring, so occasionally that made for an annoyance to get through.

And Lovecraft is still a proud and unrepentant racist and xenophobe. Seriously, “The Horror at Red Hook” manages to drag so many non-white ethnicities, including Kurds and Yazidis, through the mud.

And he’s the only author I’ve ever met who’s used the word “eldritch,” meaning sinister or creepy (why didn’t he just use those words?).

But other than those problems, the tales I read in this section of the book were much better than the ones I read in the last one. Sure, the short story “Azathoth,” which was the first mention of the Elder God, is actually just a fragment of a novel Lovecraft never got around to finishing, which was annoying. Imagine, I get to the end of that short piece, and I was like, “Wait, that’s it?” Thank goodness for Wikipedia, which explained to me why I shouldn’t be so angry.

And there was that story, “Imprisoned with the Pharoahs,” which got a little dense with the language and made it annoying to get through, though as a fictional account of one of Harry Houdini’s adventures, it is pretty cool in retrospect.

But other than those two, these were very good stories. They were creepy, dark, and had some pretty nice twists and turns in them. I can see why a few of them have been adapted several times into movies or radio plays and the like. “Herbert West–Reanimator” is a fun tale about one man’s growing obsession with overcoming death and extending life (very Frankenstein), and how that obsession causes a domino fall of events that shows the readers the price of obsession. “The Lurking Fear” felt like a Stephen King novel from an earlier age, filled with elements of insanity, the supernatural, and insane tastes. And “Shunned House” needs to be made into a movie by Blumhouse Productions, because it is freaking scary! It’s a vampire novel that hearkens back to the days when vampires were barely human, and is probably the best of the stories by him I’ve read so far. Imagine a movie version, with James Wan in the director’s seat! No one would see it and think of vampires with Twilight or any of that other sentimental crap out there ever again.

Eek! Rats in the walls! Now I can’t sleep.

Also, “The Rats in the Walls” is great if you want to scare anyone around a campfire. Just saying.

You know, the more I read of Lovecraft’s work, the more I see why he’s been so influential. Sure, his early stories could be rather pointless or silly, and never approached scary, with the exceptions of a few, like “The Tomb” and “The Temple.” But as time went on, as tends to happen, he got better. He figured out what worked and what didn’t. He learned how to get into our heads and make us tremble, make us wonder. He pushed the envelope for his day, introducing elements of cannibalism, satanism, gods that care nothing for us except maybe as snacks. And he did it so well.

And even now, after I’ve decided to take a break from him, I still find myself getting inspired by him. I’ve already gotten a few new novel and short story ideas from his stories, particularly “The Lurking Fear.” I have no idea when I’ll write them, but I think that when I do, they may even chill me.

So yeah, I think I’m definitely a Lovecraft fan now. Last year I wasn’t so much of a fan, but now I think I am. He’s definitely grown on me. And I think I may visit him again someday, perhaps even before the end of the year. Especially if he gives me so many good ideas. And if you like a good scary story and can handle some old-timey writing style, then I suggest you visit Mr. Lovecraft too.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got my own stories to work on, so I’m going to get on that. In the meantime, I hope you have a scarily good time, my Followers of Fear. Until next time!

It wasn’t a dud! It wasn’t a dud! IT WASN’T A DUD!!!

Sorry, had to get that off my chest. I’ve seen so many bad horror films lately, it felt necessary to shout praise of a good one. And I’m not surprised that this one is so good. Leigh Whannell, James Wan, Jason Blum, and Oren Peli all worked together on this film. These guys are known for great, scary films, so when they come together you know you’ve got something worth getting excited for.

The third chapter in the Insidious saga takes place a few years before the events of the first two films. Quinn Brenner, played by Stephanie Scott, believes she’s being contacted by her dead mother, and encourages this contact. This tragically leads to a car accident that breaks both Quinn’s legs and puts her at the mercy of the spirit after her, The Man Who Can’t Breathe. At the same time, Elise Rainier, the medium from the first two movies, reappears to try and help Quinn, while facing her own darkness and a loss that has made her afraid to do what she does best.

There’s a lot to be said on this film, so I’ll try and keep it to the things I think everyone should know before going to see this one. First, the actors all handle their roles very well. Scott, along with Dermot Mulroney and Tate Berney as her harried father and annoying preteen brother, have great chemistry as a family crippled by a devastating loss and pulled together again by the dark events surrounding them. Best of all though is Lin Shaye as Elise, whose personal journey to recover her confidence is extraordinary and heart-wrenching. I almost cheered in the theater when she had finally regained her former airy manner from the first two films. Plus it’s fun to see her first interactions with Specs and Tucker and how they formed the team we met in the first film.

And speaking of the first film, there’s a notable change between Insidious 3 and its predecessors. In the first two films, they built a mythology based around astral projections and the realms of the dead (aka the Further), but Chapter 3 seems to eschew that mythology for the most part in favor of creating a good old-fashioned ghost story, and a great one too. The suspense is powerful, the atmosphere tense and the creepiness of the whole movie, coupled with the amazing visuals and sets, the jump-scares and the screeching violins in the background music, will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the movie.

Creepiest of all, of course, is the villain, The Man Who Can’t Breathe. Honestly, even when you see him fully in the light near the end of the movie, he’s still one of the freakiest looking villains I’ve seen in recent memory. What makes him even scarier than his appearance is that you’re not sure exactly why he’s menacing this girl or where he came from. There’s mention of him living in Quinn’s building long ago, and something about “pets” is also mentioned, but we’re never really sure what his reasons are. And that just adds to the horror factor here.

There are only two major complaints I have with this movie. One is that the character of Hector, the lovestruck boy-next-door, seems like he was going to be a bigger part of this movie than he was. Were most of his scenes cut for time? That, and I feel that the climax was a little cliched and a little too short to be truly frightening, though the ending makes up for that. Other than that, I had a really good time.

All in all, I’m giving Insidious Chapter 3 a 4.3 out of 5. A scary good movie that’s put out of my mind all the bad horror films I’ve seen lately and make me want to tiptoe through the tulips with terrified glee. And if the critics and the box office agrees with me, I think we can expect a Chapter 4 someday. And you know what? Even if it might be a little unnecessary (ah horror, the original junkie for unnecessary movie sequels), I might just be okay with that.

I wanted to see this movie in theaters, but the one near my place wasn’t playing it (or it might have but forgot to post it on their website. Believe me, they did that once). So when I got it recently, I was hoping it would break the string of  bad horror films I’ve seen lately. Sadly, Ouija has only become the latest dud on my list. Even the great horror producer Jason Blum couldn’t make this project terrifying. I blame the fact that Michael Bay also produced this film, and most of what he touches blows up in his face, even if it does make tons of money.

Ouija is about a group of teenagers who try to contact their friend after she kills herself using the titular board game. This causes them to get marked by an angry spirit that seems intent on killing them. From there, it’s a race against the clock to stop the spirit before it gets strong enough to kill them all.

This movie’s good on jump scares, but it fails to keep up an atmosphere of suspense and dread, making the movie a long drag towards the end without even gore or sex to try to make up for it all. The acting is passable, though most of the “teens” in this movie look college age or older. Two of the characters are sisters and that’s supposed to mirror the ghost’s relationship with a living relative, but they don’t go into it enough to actually make the connection more than scant at best.

Still, Lin Shaye from the Insidious films and Shelley Hennig from Teen Wolf both have minor roles in this film, so that livens up the film slightly. Slightly.

I’m going to give Ouija a 1.3 out of 5. If you want to see a horror film and tell your friends that even though you’re a scaredy-cat you weren’t scared, this is the perfect film to be the foundation of that lie. I doubt it’ll ruin Ouija boards for enthusiasts of the game, which is something considering Michael Bay’s track record and possibly the one true positive thing to say about this film.

Still, I can’t say it’ll bring anyone joy to know that there’s a sequel in the works. Not surprising, considering that it made nearly a hundred million dollars at the box office and was made on only five million. Let’s hope the sequel will be several years off and direct-to-DVD, right? And in the meantime, I hope a good horror film comes out soon. I could use one!