Rings- Too Little, Too Late

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Rings, the third film in the American Ring franchise comes more than a decade after The Ring 2. Like the first two films, Rings focuses on a cursed video tape, and the mythology surrounding it. Since it’s 2016, one might expect Rings to focus on social media, and the way a video can go “viral”. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Instead, the movie delves deeper into the history of the tape, creating a boring, disjointed narrative.

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Rings follows two college aged students (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz and Alex Roe) that become involved with the tape and the mystery of Samara. When Holt (Roe) begins attending college, he is convinced to watch the tape by his professor, Gabriel (Johnny Galecki). Gabriel believes the tape provides absolute proof of life after death, and he has created a club dedicated to watching and spreading it. While the tape is a sure death sentence, that death can be avoided if you have someone else watch it. Julia (Lutz) watches the tape to save Holt. After that she begins experiencing visions of Samara, the legendary girl from the tape. These visions, accompanied by clues from the tape lead Holt and Julia to the small town where Samara was born. The couple struggle to put the pieces together, before it’s too late.

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Rings has some intriguing stuff in it. The idea of a club being built around the tape is a good one. The film also shows the innovative ways the tape can be viewed and shared. However, these aspects of the movie are minor and are never given enough time to fully develop. Instead, all of the emphasis is put on Samara and her history. The 2002 Gore Verbinski film did an excellent job of detailing Samara’s story, Rings only adds details that are both unnecessary and confusing. In the final act, Rings attempts to redeem itself by adding a plot twist involving Vincent D’Onofrio. Unfortunately, it falls flat.

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In addition to the details of the story, the film suffers from a distinct lack of worthy characters. Julia and Holt lack personality. Their love story feels hollow. There’s just nothing there to make the viewer feel attached to them. The film would be much better, if it followed Gabriel the professor, and his obsession with the tape.

Finally, there’s Samara herself. She’s a creepy character by nature. However, Rings attempts to make her more menacing by adding excessive makeup and CGI. She’s reduced to a silly parody of the Samara/Sadako fans have come to know and love.

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Rings isn’t a terrible film, it’s just boring. The plot is too tedious. On the surface it seems like the story makes sense, but it can be picked apart with ease. It does nothing to enhance or further the franchise. Rings played it too safe. Director, F. Javier Gutierrez attempted to copy the format of the Verbinksi film, but had little success. The end result is another sloppy, paint by numbers horror film.

 

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Split- M. Night is officially back!

Every horror fan knows that M. Night Shyamalan has had a rocky career. He’s hit some high highs, but unfortunately he’s also hit some extreme lows. In 2015 he gave us the Wayward Pines series, which I’ve yet to finish, but showed promise. He also released The Visit which falls into a weird gray area where it manages to be both awesome and awful. His latest film, Split places him firmly back into good filmmaker territory, well at least for now.

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Split follows a teen outcast (Anya Taylor-Joy) and two of her classmates (Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula) that are captured by a man with multiple personalities (James McAvoy). The girls must figure out how to stay alive, and how to protect themselves from their attacker’s 24 identities.

Split relies on heavy tension and well crafted characters to hold the viewer hostage until the very end. Each one of McAvoy’s personalities is unique and feels like an actual person, or perhaps even something supernatural. He sheds personas with ease, allowing him to shift back and forth between characters. Like his captives, the audience is left waiting for him to snap and change into someone or something else.

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The film tackles issues of mental illness and abuse with an unexpected level of compassion. Split makes you feel for McAvoy’s character, even as he commits horrific crimes. There is great deal of debate about whether Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder even exists. For the purposes of Split, DID is both a gift and a burden. McAvoy’s character, possesses a multitude of talents, due to the diverse nature of his personalities. However, it makes life difficult for him, as he essentially has 24 identities competing for control, and some of them have bad intentions. In addition to DID, Split also delves into abuse. Both the protagonist and the antagonist are victims of child abuse. This is intriguing, because in a sense it makes them kindred spirits, who have wound up on different paths.

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Split is a great theatrical horror film to kick off 2017. It’s smart, it has fully developed characters, and one hell of an ending. Hopefully M. Night can keep producing quality work like Split.

 

Lola’s Top Ten Worst Films of 2016

While 2016 was mostly a good year for the horror genre, there were still some major flops that slipped through the cracks. My list consists of the films that were not necessarily the worst, but the ones that I found most annoying. I’ve ranked them accordingly.

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There isn’t much to say here. I think Wentworth Miller had some sort of gothic trope check list that he used to create this script. The sad thing is, he’s an excellent writer. Stoker is a favorite of mine. If you want to see a good gothic thriller starring Kate Beckinsale, I’d go with Stonehurst Asylum.

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9. Holidays

There have been some great anthology films of late. Unfortunately, Holidays falls into the weird and stupid category next to The ABCs of Death. The best segment of the batch is the Kevin Smith one, but even Smith’s piece seems lacking. The worst one is the Saint Patrick’s Day one, which crams a shitty 90 minute film into about 15 minutes.

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I know many of you are going to disagree with me about this one. I liked the director’s first film, Blue Ruin, but Green Room seemed sloppy and nonsensical. It was drastically underlit, and I frequently couldn’t tell where the characters were in relation to one another. I’m also confused as to why this massive group of white supremacists couldn’t wipe out a few punk rockers. Finally, I have to talk about Patrick Stewart. His performance was almost unwatchable. He mumbles his way through the whole damn movie, like he’s sedated or something.

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7. Intruder

If I were ranking these films based on how poorly they were made, Intruder would be at the very top. This Netflix original had little to offer except unintended laughs. The most cringe worthy scenes are the ones where Moby attempts to act. Also, why can’t that girl see her stalker when he’s standing right next to her while she’s in the shower? She better get her peripheral vision checked.

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6. The Purge: Election Year

The Purge is a fun concept, and I enjoyed the first film and parts on Anarchy. However, Election Year just took it way too far. I didn’t hate this film, but it was just trying too hard. There were moments and characters I enjoyed, but the film as a whole felt like silly political propaganda.

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5. Ghostbusters

Ok, so Ghostbusters isn’t a horror movie, but horror sites covered the hell out of it and it has ghosts. To be honest, I couldn’t sit through the entirety of this film. The jokes fell flat as a pancake, and the characters made my flesh crawl. Whoever thought this script was good must’ve had their streams crossed.

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4. Morgan

This film had so much potential to be smart and scary. Instead, audiences were forced to endure some needless action scenes and an obvious plot twist.

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3. Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever gets the award for most pointless remake of 2016. Ever wonder what would happen if you took the exact same script, and reshot it with different actors? Yeah, neither did anyone else.

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2. Blair Witch

The Blair Witch happens to be one of my very favorite films. When I heard about the new film, I was pretty excited. The trailer looked good, and I knew it was in the capable hands of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a messy, confusing rehash of the original. Dumbest part of the movie? The drone, definitely the drone. They set it up to be an important part of the film, and then did nothing with it, what a waste.

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1. The Darkness

This film is so rubbish, it’d be comical if it wasn’t so sad. The trailer offered promise of an unusual ghost story, with Anasazi gods at the heart of it. Unfortunately, the Anasazi gods were only a minor part of the film. Instead, the audience was forced to endure haunted house 101 gimmicks, and a family that is full of dysfunction and low on likability. Kevin Bacon, you can do so much better.

 

 

The All Hallows’ Haunts 2016 Awards

With 2016 almost in the books and 2017 right around the corner, the team here at All Hallows’ Haunts thought it would be fun to look back at what we thought was the best of the best in 2016. So, without further ado, here are the All Hallows’ Haunts 2016 Awards.

Movie

Andy’s Pick- Hush

Lola’s Pick- Train to Busan

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TV Show

Andy’s Pick-  The Exorcist

Lola’s Pick- Stranger Things

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Creepy Album

Andy’s Pick- Metallica- Hardwired To Self-Destruct


Lola’s Pick – Birdeatsbaby- Tanta Furia

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Book

Andy’s Pick- Maggie Goes To Hollywood & Maggie Reloaded by Kate Danley

Lola’s Pick- I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

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Convention

Andy’s Pick- Midsummer Scream 

Lola’s Pick – Midsummer Scream

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Unique Event

Andy’s Pick- Serial Killer Speed Dating

Lola’s Pick- Halloween Club’s 4th Annual Spookshow

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Play

Andy’s Pick- Demonic Housewives

Lola’s Pick – Wicked Lit

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Haunt

Andy’s Pick- Knott’s Scary Farm

Lola’s Pick – Knott’s Scary Farm

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Haunt Show/Attraction

Andy’s Pick- Queen Mary’s Freak Show

Lola’s Pick- Micah Cover’s Haunted House Calls

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Maze

Andy’s Pick- Shadowlands (Knott’s Scary Farm)

Lola’s Pick – Shadow Lands (Knott’s Scary Farm)

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Scare Zone

Andy’s Pick- The Hollows (Knott’s Scary Farm) 

Lola’s Pick – Fiesta de los Muertos

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Lola’s Creepy Christmas Countdown- Part 2

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(I do not own any of the images featured.)

Alright guys, it’s round 2 of my Creepy Christmas Countdown! We’ve reached the top five, and there’s no turning back. Please let me know in the comments or on Twitter what your favorite films of the holiday season are.

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5. Dead End

There are so many reasons to love this movie. From the flesh eating lady in white to the severe psychotic breakdowns, Dead End is the gift that keeps on giving. Dead End follows a family on their way to a holiday gathering. They become lost, and all hell breaks loose as they face their deep-rooted resentments and the evils that lurk in the surrounding forest. You thought your family holidays were hell, just wait until you see what these people end up going through.

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4. Dead of Night- Christmas Party

Dead of Night is one of my all time favorite films. Unfortunately it’s a little tricky to find. I used to have it on dvd, but then I got in a car accident and someone stole my movie case from my car. It’s a long story. Car crashes and theft aside, Dead of Night is well worth seeking out. The Christmas portion of the anthology film is the nightmarish tale of a young girl who attends a party at an old mansion. While playing hide and seek, she ends up finding a young boy who wants her to stay and care for him forever. Like the rest of the film, Christmas Party is understated and provides a lurking dread that is like the falling snow, light but constant.

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3. Gremlins

I don’t like to judge the tastes of others, but if you don’t enjoy Gremlins than you’re just a big Scrooge. Gremlins takes the third spot on my list for its originality, its charm, and for the adorable Gizmo. Although it’s a film that can and should be enjoyed by the whole family, in my book it’s still a horror movie. If you have doubts, just watch that scene where Gizmo first starts spawning furry little demons. If that doesn’t constitute as body horror, then I don’t know what does. As a final word of warning, if you’re planning on getting anyone a gremlin this Christmas, I’d recommend you thoroughly go through all the rules.

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2. Black Christmas

It’s weird to think that Bob Clark directed Black Christmas and A Christmas Story. I guess he had a lot of Christmas to get out of his system. Black Christmas is one of the few slashers where the killer is never fully identified. This makes the film terrifying on a whole different level. My favorite part of watching Black Christmas is trying to discern WTF is going on in those weird phone calls. To this day when the phone rings, I still worry that the call is coming from inside the house.

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1. The Nightmare Before Christmas

For my top favorite creepy Christmas film, I’m going full on cliche. It may be the obvious choice, but that doesn’t make The Nightmare Before Christmas any less brilliant. This movie has everything! It’s got glorious stop-motion, a touching love story, life lessons, and best of all both Christmas and Halloween.

 

 

 

 

Lola’s Creepy Christmas Countdown- Part 1

It’s that time of year again, folks. Yes, the time of year where shoppers lose their minds, families are forced to bond against their will, and everyone feels the acute sting of loneliness. All joking aside, Christmas is a blast! One of my favorite ways of celebrating is to pull out my favorite spooky Christmas films and TV episodes. I’ve always felt that these little pearls of holiday gore are rare and hard to come by. However, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that there’s actually quite the selection available. So today, I present part 1 of my top 10 creepy tales of Christmas, wrapped in human flesh and topped with a bow. Enjoy!

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10. The Children

I’m going to be honest, I don’t like kids. I don’t like them at all. I didn’t even like kids when I was one. That’s why The Children has so much appeal for me. The Children follows a family on Christmas vacation that becomes the prey of their own rabid offspring. These little shits are vicious, and the result is a delightful bloodbath.

 

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9. Wind Chill

I love a good stuck on the road film. Car travel lends itself well to horror. In Wind Chill, two young college students are forced to battle the elements, each other, and the supernatural. This film stars Emily Blunt before she exploded into Hollywood stardom. The Christmas aspect of the movie is relegated to the background, but the winter atmosphere is front and center. The supernatural mystery is compelling, but the real star of Wind Chill is the relationship between the two main characters.

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8. Krampus

If I were to crown a king of holiday horror, it’d be Michael Dougherty. With Krampus, Dougherty takes the humor of Christmas Vacation and gives it a macabre makeover. Fans of horror, have been waiting a long time to see the legend of Krampus come to life on the big screen and Dougherty doesn’t disappoint. The creature design is spot on. From the toys, to the elves, to of course Krampus, it’s clear that there was a good deal of consideration put in to creating a world that could stand on its own. The humans that populate this realm manage to hold their own as well. My favorite performances come from David Koechner and Conchata Ferrell. If you’re looking for a horror film that completely embodies the spirit of the season, look no further.

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7. Tales From the Crypt- And All Through the House

Before the HBO TV series, Tales From the Crypt was adapted into one hell of a movie. The 1972 film opens with “And All Through the House“, the tale of a woman who murders her husband and becomes the target of a homicidal Santa. This story was later used on the show, but I prefer the film version. The story itself is way wacky. The show takes the over the top script in the expected humorous direction, and the result is fun and strange. However it can’t compare to the solemn approach of the movie. The serious nature of the the film version, creates a startling surrealistic contrast between the story and the overall vibe. This is what makes and “All Through the House” so downright freaky. My advice, don’t pick Christmas to murder your spouse.

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6. The X-Files – How the Ghosts Stole Christmas

As much as I love The X-Files, it’s easy to become annoyed with Mulder and Scully. They’re two characters that are flawed to the core, and that’s what makes them seem so human, so real. Still, there’s a lot of stuff I always wanted to rip them each a new asshole over. Well that’s exactly what happens in the season 6 episode “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas“. Over the course of the episode, Mulder and Scully become trapped on Christmas Eve inside a haunted house. There they meet two annoying ghosts played by Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner. These ghosts psychoanalyze the partners exposing their shortcomings and doubts. The episode features a fantastic set and some seriously witty dialogue. To this day, I still use the phrase “paramasturbatory”.

 

Sun Choke-An Artsy Exercise in Dread

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Sun Choke is the second feature by writer/director Ben Cresciman. This horror/thriller follows in the footsteps of other abstract films of late such as Darling and Proxy. Like these examples, Sun Choke focuses on the deep-rooted dysfunction of an individual character, rather than the tangible horror of demons or killers.

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The story follows Janie (Sarah Hagan), a young woman who lives under the control of the possessive Irma (Barbara Crampton). Irma gives Janie increasingly bizarre treatments for an unspecified condition. Irma subjects Janie to vile looking smoothies, magnets, and some grueling yoga sessions. Janie goes along with all of this until she is given some freedom. One day, Janie is allowed out and she spots Savannah (Sara Malakul Lane), and initially mistakes her for a doppleganger. Feeling drawn to Savannah, Janie begins to follow her every chance she gets. She attempts to assume her character. As her obsession grows, so do her violent inclinations. This sets all three women on a blood soaked path of madness.

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The film features bold performances from all three women. Barbara Crampton is particularly compelling as the caretaker whose motives are never quite clear. Sarah Hagan’s performance compliments Crampton’s. Hagan rocks between wounded naivete and animalistic insanity. Sara Malakul Lane completes the triangle with her sexy and compassionate demeanor.

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Sun Choke may appeal to a rather select crowd, but those with a taste for psychological arthouse are bound to love it. The film is most reminiscent of Bergman’s Persona. There are many parallels including an exchange of personality and the bitter love/hate relationship between a patient and a caretaker. While Sun Choke may not be Persona, it is a great film in its own right. It is full to the brim of layered characters, poetic images, and unrelenting tension. This is a film that sticks with the viewer and demands to be analyzed and explored.

What did you think of Sun Choke? Have any recommendation similar to this film? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

3 Horror Films I’m Thankful For

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With Thanksgiving weekend coming to an end, now seemed like the perfect time to analyze what horror films have had a major impact on my life. The films on this list will nod be judged by their popularity or even how good they are, rather this will be a list of personal significance. With that being said, let’s get rolling.

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May– When I think of personal movies, the first film that comes to mind is May. Psychological horror films revolving around disturbed girls hold a dear place in my bloody heart. May came into my life at a time when I was practically hemorrhaging loneliness. To this day I feel like May is a kindred spirit. Ok, so she’s a bit more axe crazy than I am (a bit), but at her core, she’s just a sad, weird girl who wants a friend. From a filmmaking standpoint, Lucky McKee’s little gem taught me that horror films can be quirky, heartfelt, and creepy all at the same time.

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UzumakiTomie was actually my first introduction to Junji Ito. While I love Tomie, Uzumaki is the manga/film that most resembles my own spiral into madness. Confused? Let me explain. For as long as I can remember I’ve dealt with some form of OCD. My case is quite severe, and has been a major hindrance in my life. Uzumaki revolves around a town that becomes obsessed with spirals. Although, the characters in Uzumaki are being controlled by supernatural forces, and my own condition is related to brain chemicals, I still see parallels. The movie follows the manga fairly closely. It even retains its chapter format. I think fans of Lovecraft will embrace Junji Ito and his bizarre spiral fascination.

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Freaks– Anyone that knows me knows I love a good circus. Whether it’s Cirque du Soleil or some barely functioning traveling circus, I love them all. Like May, Freaks, is  a heartwarming, yet gruesome tale of outsiders struggling to be who they are. The film stars actual freaks, and was considered quite shocking for its time. I applaud Tod Browning for taking such a controversial risk. Browning was a major player in Hollywood, but he was still an out of the box thinker. I hope to always show such courage in my own artistic feats.

There you have it, the top 3 horror films I’m thankful for. What  horror movies are you thankful for? Let me know in the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter. Happy Thanksgiving!

Halloween Horror Nights 2016- Part 2

In the first article we did, I told you I was going to go back to HHN to try and experience the mazes I missed the first time around. Well I did it, and I’m sure glad I did. Here’s the breakdown of my night.

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American Horror Story

This was the first maze I hit up. With early entry at 5 now, I was able to get right in and down to the lower lot in record speed. This maze was really enjoyable. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll definitely want to check this one out. I have pretty mixed feelings about AHS, but I loved the first couple seasons and getting to see some of the iconic stuff like the “Gimp Suit Guy” and the Infantata is a feast for the eyes. All of the seasons up to the current one are incorporated and they manage to make them all flow together in a cohesive manner. I will say this maze seemed like it wasn’t as well lit as the others, but that may be because when I went in it was still daylight out and my eyes needed to adjust.

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Blood Brothers

I liked this maze, but I didn’t love it. It was great to see a maze based on TCM 2, but I felt like many of the rooms were too similar. I’m a fan of Leatherface, and especially Chop Top, but other than them, this maze could’ve been related to almost any gory property. There are an excess of bloody body props that were probably leftovers from Saw or Hostel. The best part of this maze is getting to see Chop Top and Leatherface’s rooms. Other than that nothing really stands out.

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The Exorcist

 The Exorcist is my 2nd favorite maze, right behind Halloween. I had heard a major amount of hate for this maze going in, so I was more than a little surprised by the quality. I think Universal made some changes to it, after receiving unfavorable reviews. What ever they did, it paid off. One of my favorite features from the maze is an animatronic  Regan that scales the stares in the infamous backbend pose from the film. Other highlights include projections on the walls of Pazuzu’s face and Regan spitting vomit at you as you walk by.

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The Jabbawockeez

I was giddy going into this show. I’ve long been a fan of dance, and I’ve been meaning to see the Jabbawockeez perform for years. Unfortunately, I didn’t care much for this particular show. There is no denying that the Jabbawockeez are talented to the extreme. The dancing was great, but the overall direction of the show felt lacking. There was just too much cheese and too much focus on positive philosophy cliches. Right when they started talking about the colors of the rainbow and living your dreams I tuned out. My companion loved it, and I’m sure there are plenty of others that will enjoy it, but it jut wasn’t for me. Also, don’t go in expecting anything to be horror or Halloween related, because it’s not.

I’m glad I made it back to Universal for round 2. The new 5PM early entry makes all the difference in the world. The longest line I waited in was about 50 minutes. The shorter wait times made the overall experience so much better, and I felt like I a could appreciate the mazes more without worrying about making it through every attraction. It was probably the best time I’ve had at HHN in years.

Blair Witch – Sticks and Stones

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The Blair Witch Project from 1999 is one of my top 10 favorite films. There is something about that movie that manages to hold me like no other. Despite being such a seemingly simple story, it has so many layers to form ideas and theories around. Ignoring Book of Shadows for now, the original The Blair Witch Project provides a sturdy foundation that leaves plenty of room for a solid sequel. Unfortunately, director Adam Wingard’s new film Blair Witch, leaves a lot to be desired.

Blair Witch, was written by Simon Barrett who wrote two of Wingard’s best films, The Guest and You’re Next. Blair Witch is a direct sequel to the 1999 film. The film follows a group of students who journey into the woods to find out what happened to the characters of the original film. The character James (James Allen McCune) is Heather Donahue’s younger brother. James has always been plagued by her disappearance. His friends Lisa (Callie Hernandez), Ashley (Corbin Reid), and Peter (Brandon Scott) agree to go along and film their findings. Along the way they team up with suspicious rednecks Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry). Of course this is Blair Witch, so no walk in the woods, is well… a walk in the woods. They become lost and soon begin to see signs that they might not be alone. They experience inhuman howls at night, find mysterious stick figures, and the sun never seems to rise. From there things only get worse and worse.

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I don’t want to spoil any specific plot points, but this is mostly a rehash of the original film, but without the mystery. I was hoping for an expansion of the The Blair Witch Project’s mythology, but there wasn’t much said that the first film didn’t already say. They did introduce some time bending elements, which added an extra level of intrigue. However, they didn’t explore that idea enough to make it worth while.

In fact, none of the additions seem to serve much purpose. For example, one of the characters cuts her foot and it gets infected. Then, something starts moving in her wound. When she’s finally able to pull the squirming thing out, it turns out to be some sort of centipede. This scene, although kind of gross and fun has nothing to do with anything else. It never happens to anyone else and it’s only addressed one time.

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Also, at the beginning of the film they introduce a drone that they’re going to be using to help capture the forest. I was excited about this at first. I thought great, this opens up the film. It’ll allow for more angles, rather than just the human shakey cam POV. However, they barely do anything with it, and naturally it’s destroyed early in the movie.

Speaking of the cinematography, Wingard gets way too carried away with the found footage thing. The camera is always moving way too much and way too fast. It never stops. Plus, every character in the film has their own camera, so we’re constantly switching back and forth between different characters POVs. Isn’t completely nauseating. I’ve said it before, I’m a found footage fan, but filmmakers need to know how to be still.

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What bothers me the most about Blair Witch is its utter lack of ambiguity. The 1999 classic had it in spades. Nothing was conclusive. The viewer had to decide on their own whether or not there was anything paranormal going on. I mean I personally always thought there was obvious witchery afoot, but still. Wingard and Barrett’s effort leaves no room for imagination. They don’t give much away about the witch, but she definitely exists. In fairness to them, I doubt the studio would’ve gone for subtlety.

Blair Witch overall isn’t a terrible film, it’s just not doing anything different. It had a couple tense moments in it, but mostly it just made me wish I was watching Eduardo Sanchez’s film. Even for those who enjoyed this film, I don’t think it will leave a lasting impression. It’s such a shame, because this movie had everything going for it. It had hype, creative talent, and good source material. I guess sometimes it’s just impossible to recapture the magic.