Hollows Grove: Movie Review

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Synopsis:
A group of charlatan ghost hunters head to a haunted orphanage to record an episode of their show, S.P.I.T. (Spirit Paranormal Investigation Team)  They allow a friend along to document their process, and end up talking about how they fake everything.  I have no idea why they do this.  Anyway, the orphanage turns out to actually be haunted and terrible things happen to this crew.

Thoughts:
The movie opens with Mykelti Williamson as director of the FBI, very seriously stating how these tapes we’re about to watch were found at a crime scene, and how watching them means we’re part of the investigation, and yada yada.  It was so sincere and ridiculous that I just had to laugh.  Having a recognizable actor open the movie in that way made it even worse.  There was no possibility of suspending disbelief.  If I’m going to watch a found footage movie, I need to buy in that the events could possibly be real.  Seeing Bubba Blue sit on a desk and tell me he’s with the FBI does not allow me to do that.

hollows-grove-timThen we get to meet our ghost hunters.  And they’re terrible people.  Just the worst.  They’re fronted by Tim, who has one of the smuggest faces I’ve ever seen (which is odd, seeing as how he is played by Heed from So I Married an Axe Murderer).  His right hand man – Roger – is a screaming ball of misogynist comments and terrible jokes, wrapped up in a man who has entirely too high an opinion of himself.  Chad is also there.  He is tall and blonde.  Their producer – Julie – somehow sticks around even though Tim and Roger can’t stop saying terrible things to her.  But I’m sure the paycheck for S.P.I.T. is more than worth it (there is no way this is true).

hollows-grove-groupHarold is following them around with a camera and seems legitimately shocked that their “hauntings” are merely tricks to make it look like things are moving.  At the helm of these tricks is Bill, played by the great Lance Henricksen.  Have you ever wanted to see Henricksen’s hind quarters and part of his balls?  Spoiler alert: you totally see all of that.

Don’t smile at me like that, Lance. I’ve seen too much.

The S.P.I.T. show itself is horrendous.  The awful script was only outdone by the awful performances.  Everything was said with a dead-serious tone, while puns flew around like hotcakes.  (Flying hotcakes, I guess?)  I tried to imagine what it would be like to actually watch the show, and I ended up throwing items at my TV.

hollows-grove-hallwayAll that said…I think I kind of liked it.

This movie was not breaking any ground.  It’s essentially the same movie as Grave Encounters, with a bit of The Last Exorcism thrown in.

I mentioned how the characters were insufferable, but that’s really just an old slasher trick.  Create a cast of unlikable characters so you don’t feel bad when they are killed.  And it worked.  (To be fair, Tim and Roger were the only two I was actively rooting for to die.)  Every time the lights flickered or there was a loud noise, I kept saying, “Please let Tim and Roger die soon.”  I was basically Rob Corddry waiting for Crispin Glover’s arm to be severed in Hot Tub Time Machine.  “This is it.  THIS IS IT!  Oh…false alarm.  Just do it already, ghosts.”

Drop the hammer, ghosts. DROP THE HAMMER.
Drop the hammer, ghosts. DROP THE HAMMER.

The set-up dragged a bit, especially since we all know exactly where this movie was heading.  The ghosts – including the ghost of a psychotic orphan known for slitting throats – were real and the crew would be trapped inside to be taunted and killed.  But not before being haunted for hours.  Soooo much haunting, you guys.

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Even though I knew where it was heading, the payoff was still fun.  Once all hell started to break loose, I had a good time.  One member of the crew got possessed in a fairly confusing manner and decided murder would be fun.  Other members of the crew ended up running aimlessly through the abandoned orphanage, saying nonsensical things like, “Let’s run to the roof to escape,” without any clear plan of what they would do if they were to actually reach the roof.  Doors that were once locked became unlocked, and they ran into them to escape the ghosts in the hallway, not thinking there may be ghosts behind the locked doors as well.  Panic and fear do terrible things to people.  For these people, it caused them to make terrible decisions.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter.  Stay in the hall.  Go into a previously locked room.  Run to the roof.  Run to the ground floor.  Their fate was sealed.  Otherwise, the very official FBI agent wouldn’t be presenting us with the tapes in the first place.

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As you can tell, this is by no means a great movie.  It’s not even a very good one.  But it can be enjoyable if you go into it with the right frame of mind.  Know that the characters are terrible people, but also know that they will die soon.  Know that the beginning is a bit slow, but also know that it will pick up.  And, again, that they will die.

Rating: 2/5

Rorschach: Movie Review

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Hey guys, BadAssGeek here. All movie lovers know what it feels like when you discover a movie that surprises you. You go into it with little-to-no expectations and find yourself blown away. When that movie is over you find yourself excited and can’t wait to tell everyone you know about it, but it’s 2 a.m. and you have to wait. If you’re like me you pace the kitchen replaying all the best scenes in your mind and counting the hours until you can spread the word. For me that movie is Rorschach, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Full disclosure: I can be kind of a dick. It’s true; just ask anyone who knows me. The director of this film, C.A. Smith and I follow each other on twitter and I kept seeing mentions about this film but never bothered to watch it. I heard it was found footage and also heard that it was free to view online (you can view on many sites, the best probably being the director’s YouTube page) and I began to mentally roll my eyes. I was convinced it would be some buddies that grabbed a camera and went out in the backyard to have some fun then called it a movie. I was so wrong , and I owe the director, the actors, the crew and everyone else a big apology.

In this day and age of spoiler-filled trailers and overhyped marketing campaigns, it is hard to go into a movie blind but that is just what I did with Rorschach. I literally knew nothing about this film and boy did it leave me all kinds of giddy. The film is a classic haunted house tale told with assured direction and strong performances and it delivers a level of satisfaction not found in many movies made with much larger budgets.

As I have stated, this movie is found footage. There are basically two camps when it comes to found footage: those who still enjoy it and those who feel it is played out and should just disappear. I feel that found footage, when done right, adds a whole other level of creepy to horror films. There is something about the immediacy and the boots-on-the-ground feeling that pushes all the right buttons for me. Well, Rorschach is found footage done right.

Written and directed with a competent and assured hand by the aforementioned C.A. Smith, Rorschach tells the tale of two paranormal investigators (played by Ross Compton and Ricky Lee Barnes) who are looking into the strange goings on at the home of single mom Jamy (Jamy Gillespie) and her young daughter Ashlynn (Ashlynn Allen). Simple enough right? We’ve seen this a million times. Well-developed characters and strong performances are what separates this movie from the pack.

In my opinion, actors in found footage movies don’t get enough credit.  While other actors get to perform their roles, found footage forces you have to act without performing. As anyone who has had someone point a camera at you and tell you to act natural knows, it is very hard to do. I sometimes forget how to walk. Every one of these actors nails it.

When they arrive at the house our investigators are told of strange noises and things moving by themselves or disappearing altogether. They are also told of strange horrid smells coming from nowhere and ghostly voices whispering from dark corners. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the plot because you should go in as blind as you can. I will say that this is a movie that gets under your skin and stays there. C.A. Smith knows how to build tension and dread with an expert touch most directors need many years to formulate. His timing and pacing is just about perfect. When you find yourself in a tense scene waiting to see if something is truly going to happen he makes you wait just long enough that you think, “okay, it’s not happening this time”. Then it does.

Let me tell you right now, this is not a jump scare movie. If you want jump scares there are a million tweener horror movies out there to scratch that itch.  Feel free to knock yourself out with one of those. This is my favorite kind of horror film; it is quiet and creepy and gives you a total sense of unease. I promise you by the time this movie is over you will be asking yourself if you left that bedroom light on or did it come on by itself. This is the kind of film that makes you jump after it is over, when the sound of the water heater knocking about makes you crap your pants.

Rorschach is also special by today’s horror standards in the way you actually care about these people. These actors never allow their roles to become caricatures. When Ricky and Ross investigate they keep trying to find ways to prove that there is really nothing going on; that Jamy and Ashlynn have just scared themselves into this haunted fantasy. As their explanations become more and more reaching you realize they are not being condescending; they are truly scared and trying to whistle past the graveyard. When it becomes obvious that something is wrong with this house they stay by Jamy and Ashlynn’s side because they are decent guys, even when it is painfully obvious they have no idea what to do.

Little Ashlynn is good in her role as well. Child actors can sometimes make or break a film like this but she gives her character a mix of innocence and world weariness no child should have.

As good as the guys and Ashlynn are, Jamy Gillespie is the glue that holds this whole thing together.  She is great. Never devolving into overacting or histrionics, she reacts how just about all of us probably would. At first she is frazzled but embarrassed to even be talking about it. Later that is replaced my weariness and anger, and finally just an overwhelming hopeless fear. You really feel for her, as you do for all of them.

The finale of Rorschach is understated and the film is made all the scarier because of it. If the director had tried to tack on some overly produced BIG SHOT at the end, I feel it would have lessened the impact. Instead we get a satisfying ending – rare in found footage – that is just as creepy and effective as the rest of the film. When Rorschach was over I felt like I had just been told a great ghost story while sitting round a campfire. I can’t think of a better compliment than that. To C.A. Smith I say this: I will never roll my eyes at you again.

You can watch Rorschach right here:

The Devouring God: Book Review

Devouring God Cover

The Devouring God
By James Kendley

There’s something strange going on in Fukuoka, Japan. Tohru Takuda and his companions, Suzuki and Mori and his wife Yumi, have found work and a small apartment there.  Rumors abound about a killer who leaves behind everything but the bones of his victims, but there’s no official news of the deaths in the media. Several students are missing, but officials brush it aside as cram-school stress.

Takuda’s new boss gives him a job guarding the Fukuoka Prefecture mental health office. An American English teacher from a private school has made increasingly disturbing phone calls, and the staff fears he will do them harm. There’s something different about this job, something that slides around Takuda’s otherworldly senses and threatens to break his façade of normalcy.

Takuda, Mori, and Suzuki are ghost hunters, recently renowned for saving a village from a murderous Kappa. As they investigate the teacher and his students, they discover an artifact so evil that it could not only kill everyone in Fukuoka but also the whole of Japan. This hunt is different from the rest. Clues come too easily, as if they’re being led toward the answer for the benefit of a third party. The hunters are changing, both physically and mentally, but is it for the better? Or is it part of a corrupt corporation’s business plan?

The Devouring God is the second book in the Tohru Takuda series, but it’s not necessary to have read the first to enjoy it. There’s enough backstory to fill in the gaps–enough to interest me in reading the first book–and gives context to the bigger picture that connects the series.

I enjoyed the vivid sense of place I got from the novel. The city becomes more than just a backdrop here, since the history of the place is important to the plot. Snippets of history, culture and day-to-day life gave the story an extra push that immersed me into the lives of the characters. The author lived and worked in Japan, and his experience as an American living abroad there certainly informs his descriptions.

It’s refreshing to find an urban fantasy that doesn’t rely on a large organization bent on keeping the paranormal secret. If their straight jobs fall through, or they get fired, they’re on the street. There isn’t a secret quasi-governmental agency ready to swoop them off to safety. It raises the stakes, thus improving my enjoyment of the story.

Before you assume this book is all travelogue and mundanity, let me remind you that this is a horror story to the core. There are whispers of cannibalism in the history of this city, and the thing Takuda, Suzuki, and Mori are after is very, very hungry. It drives ordinary people to ritualistic murders that are both beautiful and grotesque in their execution.

If you’re a fan of urban fantasy, Japanese horror or a mix of the two, check out The Devouring God. It’s a bit slow to get started but stick with it as the pieces come together, and it will be hard to put down.