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New Releases for Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Found Footage 3D

Genre: Horror/Found Footage (Duh)

Directed by: Steven DeGennaro

Run time: 100 minutes

Rating: R

Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: There’s a moment late in Found Footage 3D where Andrew, the director of the world’s first found footage movie in 3D, erupts in an epic rant:

This genre has had two halfway decent movies, one of which was 15 fucking years ago, and every other found footage since then has been garbage. Why do people waste money on this vomit-inducing amateur crap?

It’s one of many moments in Found Footage 3D where the creative brain trust speaks directly to its audience and sets the bar super high, as far as expectations.

It was at that moment, I wrote in my notes: They have to stick the landing HARD.

Well, kick my ass and call me Mary Lou Retton, not only did they stick the landing, but writer-director Steven DeGennaro and his very-capable cast have delivered one of the best found footage movies ever made.

Found Footage 3D is everything a horror fan can want. It’s insanely meta and consistently hysterical throughout. The acting is well above-average. The practical effects are top-notch, and the computer-generated imagery is thoroughly believable.

What I love most about this movie is that it’s just not afraid to tell it like it is.

The cold open sets the tone immediately when producer/writer/star Derek (Carter Roy) shows off the title card for the movie-within-a-movie that they are shooting to Andrew (Tom Saporito). All it says is, “Six months later their footage was found.”

Andrew: It’s a little cliched, don’t you think?

Derek: This is how every horror movie starts!

Andrew: That’s why it’s called cliched.

Throughout almost every scene, the cast is basically explaining the intricacies of the found footage genre and pointing out all of the tired tropes that typically undermine even the best of artistic intentions. Such is the reasoning for attempting something so ridiculous as a found footage movie in 3D. It doesn’t have to be good to be memorable.

Derek: How do you make a good found footage with no budget, no star, no special effects budget? You need to get people talking. You need something to generate buzz. Like being the first something. Sharknado, piece of shit movie, but first. Massive success.

Andrew: I don’t think piece of shit movie is what we’re looking for.

Derek: Of course not!

Driving to the secluded cabin that Derek has secured for a dream price, the crew stops at a backwoods, middle-of-nowhere filling station. They spy two old codgers sitting on the front stoop. They cajole them into being part of the movie by instructing them to warn the group about going to their cabin destination. Only, once the old guys learn where they are actually going, the warning becomes real.

It turns out a brutal murder-suicide took place in the cabin. In fact, it’s never even been cleaned. When the crew arrives, there are still blood stains on the floor and wall and all the furniture is overturned, evidence of a struggle or fight.

Things immediately get weird. Screams ring out from the surrounding forest. Everyone thinks they are being terrorized, but Derek has set-up a welcome to put everyone in the right frame of mind by staging the screams.

The first scare is always a fake scare, he tells Andrew and Carl (Scott Allen Perry), the droll but hilarious camera operator.

It’s such a ballsy approach, to not only foreshadow bigger and better chills to come, but also to basically boast to an audience that you know exactly what they’re expecting and you’re still going to surpass expectations.

Eventually, Derek clues in the crew about the history of the cabin.

Carl: You brought us to a haunted house where a husband killed his wife, to shoot a movie about a husband who kills his wife?

Derek: Yeah!

Carl: So dumb. You guys are so dumb.

It’s like watching Joe Namath all-but-guarantee a Super Bowl victory. There’s no way such hubris can or should be rewarded. But, with each new scene, Found Footage 3D not only doubles down on its promise; it delivers.

The blistering third act, which dives even deeper in the meta pool by inviting an actual writer from to visit the set, is gratuitously gory and genuinely scary. It barrels along until the final frame, the money shot to embody the golden rule of the found footage genre, with confidence, without making a single misstep.

I first heard about Found Footage 3D about six or eight months ago, and I’d been waiting patiently but anxiously for the chance to finally watch it. Usually, such a long lead-time can breed disappointment because of heightened expectations. That’s not the case here.

Found Footage 3D is a delight. It’s like that last remaining box under the Christmas tree that you have no idea what’s inside. You approach it cautiously, because everything you asked for has already been delivered, but once you open the lid and peer inside, you can’t help but shout in joy because sometimes an unexpected gift turns out to be the best gift of all.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Yes.

Nudity – No. Gore – Oh yes.

Drug use – No.

Bad Guys/Killers – Ghosts, man, they can be a killer.

Buy/Rent – Buy it.

Ghost Stories (Shout! Factory, 98 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Most weeks, a movie like Ghost Stories would be BVB’s featured review. Still, the new feature from co-writers/co-directors Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman should not be overlooked.

Ghost Stories employs a great set-up. Two paranormal debunkers – one famed, the other trying to gain name recognition – meet. The legend asks the upstart to debunk three cases that he never could because he believes all three are proof that the paranormal exists.

That’s all the liftoff that Ghost Stories needs to launch into the three individual tales, each one more unnerving and unsettling than the last.

Dyson and Nyman get a big assist from Martin Freeman, who stars in the second story, but really the film succeeds on the strength of its script and the wonderful practical effects it showcases.

If you love truly creepy ghost stories, Ghost Stories should be on your radar for the next lonesome night you find yourself sitting in the dark and wanting to be scared.

Truth or Dare (Cinedigm, 90 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Writer-director Nick Simon’s follow-up to his divisive The Girl in the Photographs is a surprisingly strong imagining of a popular childhood game called Truth or Dare.

Make no mistake, Simon’s movie is superior to the recent Blumhouse release by the same name.

Truth or Dare opens in 1983 with a guy on a roof, struggling to maintain his balance while crazy, paranormal shit is happening all around him.

Jump forward to present day, and kids still talk about that night in 1983 when seven people died playing the game.

A new group of friends heads out on an excursion. The organizer waits until they arrive at their destination, the house from 1983, to announce that he found the residence on a website called scary And then he tells his friends they’re also going to play the game inside.

Not two questions into the game, and everything goes to shit. One girl asks another if she slept with her boyfriend. The accused says no, and suddenly everyone’s phones go off with a text: LIAR.

After several rounds, which include some decent dares and near-kills, Truth or Dare takes a huge swerve, which was completely unexpected, but it actually works. The film holds stead, adding new rules to the game, which are proffered by none other than Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street). The best rule is that dares can be shared to help the participants survive.

It turns out Nancy herself was the last woman standing in 1983, so she knows what she’s talking about.

The film’s third act is an escalating series of crazy, dangerous dares that help heighten the suspense, leading to a nice little gut punch of an ending.

Again, if you went to the theater to watch Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare, and found yourself let-down and disappointed, fear not. This is a much better movie with better kills that plays out exactly how the Blumhouse version should have.

Lake Placid: Legacy (Sony, 93 minutes, R, DVD): As much as the original Lake Placid needed a foul-mouthed and feisty Betty White to goose an otherwise tepid creature feature, the seventh (!?!) film in this inexplicably enduring franchise needs her even more 19 years later. (Sadly, there is no cameo)

Lake Placid: Legacy tries to appeal to a younger generation who were still in diapers, or yet to be born, way back in 1999 when the first film debuted, by focusing on a group of adrenaline junkies/eco-terrorists who agree to attempt to make one last environmental statement before hanging up their placards and anti-corruption chants for good.

Surprisingly, for the first half-hour to 40 minutes, Legacy is not terrible, but that’s before the big toothy crocodile makes its first appearance, after the group has descended deep into the bowels of a secret research facility on an island in the middle of a massive lake.

In fact, there’s barely any on-camera kills at all early on.

Once the huge flesh-eating predator does become an on-camera mainstay, however, Legacy just goes to hell. The majority of kills remain off-camera, which is simply inexcusable for this type of drive-in flick. And then the creative brain trust decides to rip off both Jaws II and Jaws by staging two final fights with the beast, first with a sparking electric cable and the second, which results in the hero substituting himself for Captain Quint, trapped within the crushing bite of the crocodile.

The most surprising thing about Lake Placid: Legacy happens once the credits roll, when you realize that Joe Pantoliano had a minor role in the movie.

Avoid at all costs.

Also Available:

Sid Caesar: The Works

Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji

Bull Season Two

Hawaii Five-O: The Eighth Season



Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Now on Video-on-Demand:

Five Fingers for Marseilles (Uncork’d Entertainment, 120 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): The wholly-engrossing, South African neo-western, Five Fingers for Marseilles, opens with an epic introduction before chugging straight-ahead into its tale of five disparate children, raised along-side colonial rule and transportation, who fancy themselves anarchists and activists, but grow up to be a far-cry from their youthful selves.

Crafting and shepherding a large cast against such an ambitious and sprawling endeavor would challenge even the most seasoned director, but Michael Matthews makes it look easy, delivering an impressive first feature that never loses sight of its end goal.

The five fingers are Tau (Vuyo Dabula), also known as “the lion,” the hothead who acts without thinking; his brother, Zulu; Pockets, the rich kid; Cockroach, the scrawny, always-picked-upon runt; and Pastor, the contemplative one. And one should never overlook Tau’s childhood love, Lerato (Zethu Dlomo).

Early on, in an effort to thwart a colonial-led visit to Railway, the five fingers take action, which results in a stand-off where Tau kills two white guards. He immediately flees Railway, leaving Zulu, Lerato and the rest to fend for themselves.

Fifteen years later, Tau has grown to become an unpredictable and feared criminal. When he returns to Railway as a man, he finds much has changed. Zulu is dead, leaving a son angry over his loss, who believes Zulu’s death was Tau’s fault. Pockets is now mayor. Cockroach, angry and still bitter, is police chief. And Lerato is struggling to protect her father and their business from a local crime lord who extorts money in return for ‘protection.’

The crime lord is named Ghost, and his henchmen are the Night Runners. Matthews expertly frames Ghost’s introduction inside the little town bar run by Tau’s father. It’s impressive and memorable.

A creeping sense of dread, of fate finally coming home to roost, permeates Five Fingers, which only serves to elevate the film into the same stratosphere reserved for such genre classics as Unforgiven and Django Unchained.

There’s very little unnecessary exposition. Matthews’ steady hand eliminates everything but that which is vitally important. And when the final showdown does arrive, viewers will have no idea of the outcome or the final fates of the five fingers.

Highly recommended.

Cold Skin (Samuel Goldwyn, 108 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Coming less than a year after his last release, the lackluster demonic possession thriller, The Crucifixion, French director Xavier Gens needed a return, if not necessarily to the brutal form he displayed in genre classics Frontier(s) and The Divide, at least to displaying the creativity that marked his earlier, and best, work.

Cold Skin may not be a grand-slam, bases-loaded home run in the bottom of the ninth, but this loving ode to all things Lovecraft at least holds your attention and delivers an interesting and surprising take on love, isolation and what it means to be human.

The year is 1914 and a young man, referred in the credits as Friend (David Oakes), arrives on a remote island to spend a year monitoring and documenting weather changes and wind speeds.

Friend finds one other living soul on the island, the reclusive lighthouse steward Gruner (Ray Stevenson).

The isolation suits Friend as he is clearly trying to escape from some even in his life. He sets up in a tiny cottage and begins to work. He discovers a set of journals with strange drawings of fantastical creatures, giant lizard beings eating men. Almost immediately, at night, the cottage is attacked by unseen adversaries. Friend wounds one of the assailants after seeing a webbed claw sneak under his front door.

Friend disrupts Gruner’s routine, who advises that Friend should have stayed on the boat that ferried him to the island.

The second night, another attack, but also the first good look at the amphibian creatures trying to swarm the cottage. Friend inadvertently burns the cottage down. He is forced to seek refuge with Gruner, and makes a startling discovery. Gruner knows about the creatures, and even keeps one, a female, as a companion.

Friend’s first night in the lighthouse sets the stage for Gens to execute a nicely orchestrated and filmed attack by the sea creatures. Stevenson is great as Gruner, a man who has given up ever returning to “normal” society. He has made his bed with the Sleestak-like creature, but he did not count on the creature developing an affinity for Friend. An odd love triangle develops.

While the bulk of Cold Skin focuses on the increasingly brazen efforts of the island’s creatures to rid the lighthouse of humans once and for all, Gens deviates on occasion for some spectacular sequences, including a fantastic steampunk-y underwater effort by Friend, decked out in an old-school dive suit, to capture some dynamite from a sunken ship. It’s a wonderful moment that Gens frames very well so as to make it appear as if viewers are watching a live-action fish tank.

Cold Skin isn’t Gens best, but it is a (thankfully) huge step up from his last, and it reaffirms him as a director worth keeping up with and waiting to see the next story he conjures.

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