This week we review four films ranging from just ok to really great: “47 Meters Down”, “Grave Encounters 2”, “The Funhouse” and “Storm Warning”.
Welcome to another edition of The Cine-Files, a weekly film journal where I share what I’m watching each week and rate each film on a color scale, inspired by my love of Sour Patch Kids candy — green for the worst films, orange for average films, red for the great films, and blue for the absolute best of the best.
I apologize for taking a couple of weeks off, but I’m excited to be back with four more mini reviews of films ranging from a passable way to kill some time to must see horror greatness.
47 Meters Down (2017, directed by Johannes Roberts)
Mandy Moore is the exotic seafood entree for Mister Sharky in this, an admittedly tense and entertaining, but entirely too tame, hotties-in-ocean-paradise-peril flick. For me, this one was another late-night time burner while waging a war that is all too common for me these days: not tired enough to sleep, yet it’s 3AM. With a glossy Hollywood b-movie, lemon-lime Gatorade, and some Doritos, the late nights are actually becoming quite enjoyable.
I wasn’t expecting much from the movie, and that’s exactly what I got, so I apologize for not having anything to say about nothing at all. It was entertaining, though, and it held my interest for most of the 1 hour and 29 minutes. Deep sea cage diving is a new topic for aqua-horror, so it had a certain freshness factor. Bad things rarely happen during dives (like a one-inch thick metal wire snapping from the oppressive weight of a pair of twentysomething women), but in this case bad things definitely do.
I’m not a diving expert, but they seemed to sink to the bottom of the ocean with hardly any pressure problems. Once the cable snaps and they’re dropped to the ocean floor, the threat of losing oxygen is more intimidating than the sharks. But they do make some admirable attempts at eating the girls, and there is one really surprising scare/attack with an unexpected outcome.
The PG-13 rating backfires here tremendously. I mean, I’m not asking for gritty realism, but in this situation, lines like “OHMYGAWD I’M SO SCARED!” would not exist. “WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK JUST HAPPENED, OOOH FUCK WE’RE FUCKED!!!” would exist. Come on, Hollywood! The ‘tweeners know the dirty words.
Grave Encounters 2 (2012, directed by John Poliquin)
Grave Encounters is one of my all-time favorite found footage movies. It takes a simple and familiar premise that I love (a ghost hunter reality show) and turns it into real reality. The paranormal investigators come under violent attack from multiple nightmarish entities. I scare easy, and I love ghosts, so watching this and letting my imagination run wild with it was a blast!
Grave Encounters 2 starts really well. There is a montage of authentic YouTube reviews for the original, which then seamlessly brings us into the college dorm room of our main protagonist, a film student named Alex. He isn’t very impressed with the movie, and dismisses it. Helmet and goggles on, we’re going downhill!
For the first 30-40 minutes we hang out with Alex and his little group of unlikable friends, as they film each other drinking, puking, and playing practical jokes with their testicles (ugh). I guess this is all meant to help us bond with the characters, but it does not. Even the characters clearly intended to be nice are not very nice at all. This is the film’s major toxin, and the reason why it isn’t very good.
Alex begins to get odd emails and messages from someone (or, duh, some thing) connected to the haunted asylum featured in the original movie. He becomes increasingly enthusiastic about the messages, and concludes the film is indeed real. And of course, he wants to go to the asylum himself and get footage.
Hence, the unappealing Alex and his obnoxious friends go to the asylum and begin filming. Night-vision, green-tinted screens flood with pale, squealing wraiths in hospital gowns as Alex and his friends explode with panic and run. And argue. And get lost. And rattle and swing their cameras. Unfortunately, it evolves into a reality-bending fantasy at the end, which throws the previous 90 minutes in the garbage disposal.
I’m giving this a semi-decent rating only because there are some great ghosts and sound effects, and I just personally really enjoy the whole ghost hunter motif. I hope the third one is better. Yes, a third one is on the way: the budget was $1.4 million, and it made $8.2 million, so that makes it a pretty solid and profitable hit.
The Funhouse (1981, directed by Tobe Hooper)
I’m not going to get into the Poltergeist debate. I wasn’t there, and I don’t know anyone who was. What I DO know is that Poltergeist has an overwhelmingly Spielbergian vibe to it. I’ll say no more. The Funhouse has no Spielbergian whimsy, not a pinch, none whatsoever. It’s pure, delicious 80’s slasher trash (in a good way).
Two couples visit the seedy traveling carnival when it arrives in their town. They are warned not to go, because it is rumored to be involved in a few murders. To compound their irresponsible behavior (that also involves pot-smoking, making fun of a crazy old lady who says “God is watching you”, and mocking the authenticity of a fortune teller), they decide it would be a kick to hide in the carnival funhouse all night. For kicks, you know.
They have an unfortunate encounter with the funhouse barker and his son, who live in the funhouse. Well NOW YOU’VE DONE IT!! You’re in a horror movie now, kids. Time to start dying! And they do, by the mad hand of a mutant albino (the son of the barker, once he is unmasked). As they run and hide, they are trapped in a labyrinth of funhouse scares, surrounded by creaky animatronics and chipped, splintered old puppets.
What gives this movie a little bit of otherworldly bite is the fact that every employee in the carnival is played by the same actor in a different costume (Kevin Conway). It is intentionally obvious, and never explained, which adds an understated supernatural element. The funhouse itself is dusty and decrepit, and the effigies on display all look like they’re about to spring to life and attack the couples. The funhouse attraction itself is a big selling point for this movie.
Made by Universal, The Funhouse revels in its setting. And if you’ve ever been to a carnival, you know the smell of the dirty hay grounds and the freshly-popped three-day-old popcorn. Your house will fill up with that smell.
Storm Warning (2007, directed by Jamie Blanks)
You don’t need very good eyesight to see how often the phrase “torture porn” gets thrown around, flying through the air like summertime fruit flies. I guess you could aim one of those at Storm Warning, although I would call it a survival horror movie more than a torture porn horror movie. But the gore is cruel and unflinching, so that means FUN FUCKING MOVIE!!
A young couple, on holiday, take a trip to the Australian marshlands to go sailing. A storm leaves them stranded on a small stretch of land, and they have no choice but to rely on the kindness of others for help. What they find is an unoccupied, grimy, and cluttered old house. They enter the home, thinking that it’s ok to do that, and when the occupants return, it’s the couple who are scared, and not the other way around. What we get are two brothers, all very uneducated, mean, and sexually foul. Like, animal porn videos. That kind of foul.
After an extremely humiliating dinner, the couple are taken to a barn and chained up. Pappy will know what to do with ‘em. Pappy is the really mean one. The girl, Pia, has some very clever escape tactics. Like always, I’ll keep the “OMFG” scenes a secret, but tease you with just one. It involves one of the brothers being slowly torn to shreds with dozens of fishhooks. Remember Hellraiser? “Jesus wept.” I’ll say no more. The final girl, Pia, is very resourceful, and is also uniquely brave (you’ll see). Pappy and the brothers end up bloody, fleshy mush, and the couple live to fight (with each other) another day.
Wow, this was a blast. I get a real kick out of these kinds of movies. The kind that are basically just excuses to show off twisted imaginations and good effects work. And the effects are so good. The fishhook guy will blow your mind. The camera stays on him for a long time. And then there’s Pappy. As usual with naughty horror movie rednecks, there has to be some sexual vengeance. Pappy is the lucky one to get the dick destruction.
I’m very confident that this review will encourage you to want to see it. This is the kind of write-up that a non-horror viewer would read and immediately decide not to see it. On the other side of the coin, you awesome people will hopefully read it and check out the movie immediately.