Movie Review: SWEET, SWEET LONELY GIRL – flat, bland, and dull, this “horror” movie fails to capitalize on its few good elements.

I’m hard to please when it comes to movies, I admit.  But I’m not an unduly harsh critic, I don’t think.  I know what I like, and I know what works for me in a movie, especially in the horror genre.  In my recent review of Lavender, a “vengeful ghost” movie, I said that entries in the horror genre need not terrify, but they should at least have a noticeable “creep” factor.  Let’s face it, it’s tough to actually terrify an audience these days, which is why so many horror movies rely – too much – on the jump scare.  Done right, it enhances a horror movie, but in many cases, lack of atmosphere and good, old fashioned decent writing leads to the jump scare to carry the weight of the horror movie on its weak shoulders.  But what happens if you create a horror movie that has neither atmosphere, nor jump scares?  You end up with a movie like Lavender, and one I watched the other night, Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl, written and directed by A.D Calvo, who I’d never heard of before.

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Movie Review: LIFE – shameless A L I E N ripoff, with characters acting so stupidly you’d think you were watching Prometheus.

Dumb movies are everywhere, it’s a sad fact.  In many cases, the box office reflects it (the recent flop known as Baywatch, for example), because the trailers are completely crap.  Other terrible movies will make a pile of money theatrically because of gee-whizz CGI, like the punishing Transformers series, but those kinds of movies tap into a different kind of vibe.  Sometimes people just want a burger and fries, and don’t care about the content.  While the Transformers movies are not my thing, I’ve had a burger myself a time or two, so I understand the appeal.  But what if you’re not trying to make $1 billion at the box office?  What if you’re trying to make a horror movie to do business in the $150M – $350M range?

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Movie Review: RAW – daring, and different kind of horror movie, but the scenes of college life are cliche and banal.

Raw, the critically acclaimed French-Belgian movie written and directed by Julie Ducournau is described on many sites as a “cannibal” themed horror movie, but while that’s literally what happens in the movie, it’s as much about cannibalism as the Antonia Bird movie Ravenous was back in 1997.  Human flesh may be consumed here, but this is what Stephen King would call a vampire movie, using his archetypical definition in Danse Macabre, his fine non-fiction look at the horror genre.

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Movie Review: A SERBIAN FILM – it’s one of the most notorious movies ever made, but is it any good? A resounding YES.

It’s fair to say that A Serbian Film is the most vilified horror movie of our generation.  Other generations had Salo, Cannibal Holocaust, and The Men Behind The Sun, and A Serbian Film, made in 2011, joins the club of horror movies with scenes that are so extreme they come to define the movie itself.  I’m willing to bet that just like those other movies, A Serbian Film is also one the most vilified horror movies that’s actually never been seen by its harshest critics.  If you’ve heard of the movie, you’ve also heard of that scene, and you may have already made up your mind about it and decided not to see it – which would be a shame, because it’s a truly effective, character-driven horror movie.  I don’t often review movies older than a couple of years, but this is an exception.

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Movie Review: ALIEN:COVENANT – serves the franchise better than Prometheus did, but suffers from the same maladies.

I’ll begin by getting it out of the way first: I hated Prometheus.  In terms of the franchise that was unleashed upon the world in 1979, it’s one of the weakest of the six core movies (I’m choosing to ignore the two crossover Alien v Predator movies) for a couple of reasons.  Though in saying that, I give it props for the same reason I do 1986’s Aliens, namely the attempt to try to do something different with the concept.  If you’re going to add another film to a franchise, you should at least do something unique.  Let’s face it, the actual concept of Alien is not sophisticated: human beings find a desolate planet in deep space, get infected with an alien parasite which becomes something they have to destroy … or they’ll be destroyed by it.  It suffers from the same self-limiting curse that comes with success: how do you make it just different enough without alienating the people that filled the studio coffers first time around?

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Movie Review: FROM A HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET – what starts off as a reasonable genre fusion, devolves into a silly, underwritten mess by the end.

Watching From A House On Willow Street last night, I was reminded of The Atticus institute in a number of ways, but what went through my mind was not so much the end result, but of the premise itself, and how the filmmakers completely failed to exploit it.  In The Atticus Institute, the premise is: what if demonic possession was a real thing, and could it be weaponized?  Of course, that’s not what the actual movie was about, but to me the real story should have been that laid out in the premise.  In From A House On Willow Street, the premise actually is the actual plot, but it’s handled badly: a group of would-be kidnappers abduct the adult daughter of a wealthy family, only to discover that she is possessed by a demon.  Ransom meets The Exorcist.

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Movie Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN – a remake of the 1960s original that’s too bland and featureless to justify its own existence

Although I haven’t seen the original The Magnificent Seven for the best part of 20 years, I still retained enough memory of the plot to try comparing it with the 2016 Antoine Fuqua (Southpaw)/Denzel Washington, and from those hazy memories, there didn’t seem to be many large deviations from the plot.  Instead of a village being raided by bandits, it’s a small (and kind of unconvincing) western town bullied into submission by Bartholomew Bogue, a mining company owner (played by Peter Sarsgaard) who wants the surrounding land, and the vein of gold under it.  After a brutal opening wherein Sarsgaard’s armed goons kill a few of the more rebellious townsfolk, the widow of one takes it upon herself to seek vengeance, and a way to stop Bogue from plundering what remains of the townspeople’s land.

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