Friday the 13th Part IV The Final Chapter

I remember being scared by this poster at the video rental store as a kid.

This movie caused quite a stir when it was released for its gruesome violence and abundance of blood and guts. These days, it’s very tame. It’s got nothing on any of the modern horror releases, but does it hold up in any other way? Kind of? It is a quantum leap in quality compared to its predecessor in the series, but it’s not a good horror movie.

So, I had such fun watching part 3, that I decided to give this one a chance. From the opening moments I could tell the budget had been raised and the filmmakers were actually trying. The lighting is motivated and moody. The camerawork is steady. The actors are actually trying, and the script has attempted character arcs. It’s not much, but compared to the last movie it’s a masterpiece. The opening shot of this film is a long tracking shot that is better in everyday than the entirety of part 3. The most fascinating thing about these two films is the quality of the filmmaking on display.

The plot is a little different this time. A family lives in a cabin on Crystal Lake. A bunch of teens are moving into the house next door. Jason escapes the morgue and returns to Crystal Lake to murder everyone. The family dynamic is the only new things here really. Otherwise it’s just murder by numbers for this series.

What did I like about the film? The practical effects. Seeing real fake blood is always better than cgi. Watching a prop hand her cut off is so much more satisfying than a computer generated fake. The final demise in the film is genuinely impressive bit of practical effects work that I loved. A head gets cut in half and the eyes twitch and look around. It’s gruesome, but great work.

The characters all have issues and storylines. Jimmy is worried about being bad in bed. Sam is worried about her boyfriend Paul and his wandering eye. The cool guy Ted is shown he’s not so cool. Everyone is killed before their story arc can be completed or just after the arc is completed. Jimmy’s moment of sexual triumph is cut short by his murder. Sam never gets to find out Paul didn’t cheat on her before she’s killed. And Ted is proven to be a loser and then dies. This doesn’t work because their deaths are inevitable. They never get a chance to fight back. They are surprised and killed before they ever realize they’re in danger. This creates a nihilism that just taints the entire film. Nothing matters. Death is inevitable. Did you care about these kids? Too bad! You shouldn’t have cared. Nothing matters.

In the previous film, they didn’t have character arcs except for the final girl and maybe one other, but that’s it. They were merely archetypes to get sliced and diced. This movie spent too much time on the characters without giving them a fighting chance in their own narrative. If that’s what they were going for, then job well done. But it doesn’t make it any fun to watch.

On top of that, it’s not scary. Jason has a magical ability to teleport wherever the movie wants him to be. In one moment, he’s murdering Jimmy in the kitchen. In the next instant he is hanging off the side of the house so he can pull a girl out of the second story window. In the next moment he is in the basement to beat up a boy who went to check the fuse box. This zaps any suspense out of the film. If we know Jason is in the kitchen, and Jimmy walks into the kitchen, we are on edge waiting to see if Jimmy will escape. If Jason pops up every time a character walks into any room, it just becomes monotonous.

It’s not bad enough to be fun. It’s not good enough to be scary. It’s too unpleasant an experience to be a good time at the movies. It’s not my cup of tea. D

Friday the 13th Part 3

Every year, I try to give one of these movies a try. I’ve never found one that was any good. These movies are terrible. However, this one achieved a level of terrible so profound that I actually had a lot of fun while watching it.

If you don’t know the series, Camp Crystal Lake is a lovely summer camp that is stalked by a brutal murderer wearing a hockey mask named Jason Voorhees. His likes are murder and walking around the woods at night. His dislikes include teenagers having sex, teenagers partying, and teenagers in general. For some reason, every year the camp reopens and a new herd of nubile teens show up to get slaughtered.

This movie follows the formula to the letter while adding one new element… 3-D! You know it was a 3-D movie because people are constantly pointing to the camera, throwing things at the camera, or jumping at the camera. Every couple of minutes something will get thrown at the camera just to remind you it’s in 3-D. It’s like a weird punchline at the end of every scene. A very normal scene of two people talking ends with one character randomly pointing at the camera. There’s a whole scene where two guys are having a yoyo contest and the yo-yos are headed straight for the camera. It’s a really cheap ploy that adds nothing and distracts constantly. They are trying so hard and failing so miserably that it’s actually entertaining.

Every element of this movie is poorly done. The acting is stiff and lifeless. But it is so stiff and lifeless that it becomes hilarious after a while. Hearing people say lines like, “but I DO like you” with the emphasis placed on every wrong syllable is fascinating to watch. It sounds like the speech mode on my laptop. The emphasis is all wrong. The tone is monotonous. It becomes truly hilarious after listening to these robot people talk for an hour.

The terrible acting isn’t helped by the horrendous writing. Give a fifth grader a crayon and a piece of paper and tell them to write a script and you’d get something better than what is written here. The script has no understanding of human behavior or the ways in which real humans interact. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that an alien wrote this script after watching humans for a couple of hours. My favorite moment is an exchange that goes something like this… “I like you.” “I don’t know.” “You don’t like me I can tell.” “I’m going to go outside for a few minutes. Then we can talk.” She walks five feet away and stands awkwardly in front of the door. It’s so bizarre that it becomes hilarious. I laughed out loud constantly.

This movie has two jump scares that worked on me. One comes late when Jason is hanging from the barn. He lurches toward the final girl, and it got me. The other is at the very end, and it’s a fake out involving a duck. Loud ducks are just naturally startling. Other than that the scares are boring. There’s one hilarious moment where Jason walks out onto a dock in full light with a harpoon gun. He just casually lumbers along. He’s not trying to hide or sneak up on the girl. In fact, she talks to him as he approaches. He then casually raises the harpoon gun. She watches him do it as if it’s no big deal. He shoots her. She dies. He slowly walks back to the cabin. It’s so nonchalant that I laughed. I can’t imagine a less scary scene. It was amazingly bad.

Every element of this movie is so bad and so poorly done, that I ended up having a lot of fun during it. It pushes the envelope of quality so far that it falls off the desk and shatters on the floor. It’s hilariously bad, and I enjoyed myself immensely.

It’s my cup of tea. The movie’s quality – F. My experience with it? A

Misery (book and movie)

After years of holding off until I read the book, and waiting to read until after I’ve seen the movie, I finally buckled down and read the novel and watched the movie. Oh boy they’re both great.

The book and film follow the same narrative. A novelist name Paul Sheldon has been writing a series of trashy novels following the romantic and adventurous heroine Misery Chastain. He wants to be free of the character and taken seriously as a writer, so he kills Misery in the latest book and sets off to the mountains of Colorado to write his first “real novel.” After completing his masterpiece he drives down the mountain only to crash in a major blizzard. He is rescued by Annie Wilkes, a former nurse and mentally unstable fan of the Misery Chastain books. She and Paul enter into a psychological battle of wills as Paul realizes that with two broken legs and the roads snowed in he’s her prisoner.

I read the book first, so I’ll start there. This is one of the most horrific and disturbing books I’ve ever read. The book is told entirely from Paul’s point of view, and we are locked into his experience. This adds so much to the claustrophobic feeling of the situation. He is trapped with a crazy woman who will torture him, starve him, and abuse him in any way she can in order to get him to write a new Misery novel and bring back her beloved heroine.

I was anticipating a slow build in the novel. Her madness would unfold gradually over the course of the narrative. Nope. She dives right into the horror. she sets his mangled legs and gets him addicted to pain killers. The descriptions of his pain and drug infused nightmares are quite unsettling. But it isn’t a hundred pages in before Annie is physically harming Paul when he upsets her and outright torturing him when her mood darkens, and it darkens a lot. She torments Paul and commits heinous acts against him that haunt me still.

It’s not all torture though. It’s also a story of addiction and a really fantastic dive into the writing process. King has a beautiful way of describing the act of writing and getting swept along by your creation. He creates an indelible counterpoint to the horror that elevates the narrative.

The film is a different beast entirely while also being exactly the same. The film stars James Caan as Paul, and the legendary Kathy Bates as Annie giving a once in a lifetime performance. The biggest change is that the film opens up the narrative. It’s no longer just two people locked in a room. We now include the local sheriff, played by Richard Farnsworth.

I think the sheriff is one of the keys to the films success. With a book you can read at your own pace. I took breaks. When things became too intense or disturbing, I put the book down and watched silly YouTube videos or decompressed in other ways. With a movie, you are locked in for two hours. You don’t get to take the same kinds of breaks. The movie provides those breaks with the sheriff. He makes the horror endurable.

The movie is so well made. It’s wound like a clock and springs to life from the opening moments. It clicks along with a skill that isn’t often present in new films. The movie is incredibly tense and suspenseful. It takes the scenes of the book and turns them just enough to make them riveting film scenes.

There’s a difference between a good book and a good movie scene. In both book and film, Annie forces Paul to burn his masterpiece. In the book, we’re in Paul’s head as he weighs Annie’s reactions. His mounting fear at her potential reaction makes for a riveting read. In the movie, we see Annie’s growing anger and her casual way of dousing him with lighter fluid. Through careful shot selection and great performances, the tension builds and builds until it culminates. By giving Annie action and filming it effectively, they’ve turned a book scene into a movie scene.

The biggest thing we lose is Paul’s point of view. The book burning is probably the biggest loss. In the novel we have a much greater sense of how important that book is to Paul, and how devastating its loss is to him. The movie shows us, but it doesn’t scratch as deeply.

The hobbling scene is another example. Reading that scene in the book was one of the most horrendous and disturbing things I’ve ever read. The scene in the movie is famously horrifying, but in a different way. I didn’t feel it on the inside like I did with the book. The movie builds a sense of dread and terror. It twisted me in knots in anticipation of the horror to come. Both are great, but it’s a very different experience.

One is a great novel. The other is a great example of filmmaking. I really loved both. I appreciated each I’m their own way. I don’t think I’ll ever reread the book. Those pages are seared into my memory forever. But I would watch the movie again anytime. The expansion of the story and additional elements make it an exceptionally entertaining film.

Both are my cup of tea. A for both.

Midnight Mass

Have you ever wanted to see a two hour vampire movie stretched out to a seven hour miniseries? Do you like endless monologues? Do you want a horror show without any real scary elements? Then Midnight Mass is the show for you.

A few years ago the great horror director Mike Flanagan created double hits for Netflix in the Haunting series. Both Hill House and Bly Manor were creepy and frightening series that I personally loved. I had hoped to review Flanagan’s latest horror series episode by episode like I had done in the past. The problem was after two episodes I quit the series. I found it tedious.

I decided to give it another chance after all Mike Flanagan had never let me down before. I made it through another couple episodes before quitting again. I was bored by the monotony of character having revelations, giving monologues about those revelations then having more revelations.

Finally I buckled down and hit the last few episodes. Did the finale change my opinion? Not entirely.

To begin, this series is set in a fictional fishing village on a remote island. The simplest way to describe the story is Stephen King’s book Salem’s Lot except on an island and with a lot of Catholicism.

Riley Flynn, played by Zach Gilford, is a former altar boy returning to his hometown after a stint in prison following a drunk driving accident that left a girl dead. He finds the island has changed in his absence. The towns population is dwindling. His former flame wild child Erin, played by the wonderful Kate Siegel, is now pregnant and devotedly religious. The biggest change though is a new priest who comes to the Catholic parish. He’s played by Hamish Linklater, and he’s bringing more than a renewed fervor for the church.

Why did I dislike this show so much? It has a solid premise. It has an incredible cast. Every performer is giving A+ work. They are great across the board. Flanagan’s director is solid. He frames shots well. He uses lighting in a very clever and atmospheric way. Flanagan the writer however created seven very boring scripts.

Flanagan is known for writing monologues. They’re usually very good monologues. Here he forgot the cardinal rule of show don’t tell. He never shows us anything in this series. He just has a character sit down and tell us everything about what happened, who was involved, and how it affected them. So little happens in the first three episodes that I fell asleep and gave up on the show. Instead people talk about what happened ad nauseam.

He has also buried his conflicts. Riley is living with his parents after his jail time. His father is upset, but this never culminates in conflict or even simmering tension. It mostly just involves averted glances and monologues about fishing.

The central supernatural element is kept hidden until four episodes in. There are hints and jump scares throughout, but these don’t create real intrigue or suspense. It just left me waiting for something interesting to happen.

The only scenes that have real dramatic spark are between Riley and the father. Riley lost his faith in prison, and the father challenges him to find faith again. These have some good philosophy and conflict, but they aren’t enough to sustain five hours of tv.

I’m complaining a lot about the monologues, but some of them are very good. Flanagan has good ideas buried underneath all the words. What Flanagan needed was an editor to go through his scripts and cut out every other word.

I’ll give an example. Erin tells the local doctor that she believes vampires have infested their town. After she said it Erin admits how crazy she must sound. The doctor then monologues about a scientist who ran a hospital. Babies were dying. He studied it and found that doctors should maybe wash their hands before deliveries. It was a radical idea for the time. His insistence on the idea landed him in an asylum. Years later he was proven right. So no the Doctor doesn’t think Erin is crazy. A five minute speech culminated in a one word response. The story the doctor tells is interesting, but all the doctor had to say was no, and we could have saved a huge chunk of the series runtime. One monologue like that is interesting. Ten of those in every episode is boring and inefficient story telling.

He has some interesting ideas about religion and how religion can be used toward evil ends. He has some genuinely scary ideas in the final two episodes about the madness of crowds and groups. Religious zealotry is the real villain in this story. But he didn’t need seven hours to get that point across.

I’m honestly a little angry at this show. I’m angry because I spent seven hours watching this show when I should have spent two. I’m angry because there wasn’t anything scary about it. I was never on the edge of my seat. I never jumped. I never had a lingering if dread or suspense. I was bored. And the cardinal sin of any movie if show is dullness.

It’s not my cup of tea. D

False Positive

This Hulu original is an update on Rosemary’s Baby. It’s not very good. They took a horrifying idea and forgot to write a second act making it a very dull affair.

The film follows a couple having trouble getting pregnant. The couple is played by Ilana Glazer as Lucy and Justin Theroux as Adrian. They seek out the help of Adrian’s former mentor and now the worlds foremost expert on IVF treatments Dr. Hindle played by a deliciously off kilter Pierce Brosnan.

The procedure goes well, too well in fact. Lucy now has triplets, two boys and a girl. However complications force them to make a choice; keep the two boys or keep the girl. Lucy chooses the girl but begins to suspect something is wrong with the pregnancy.

Then nothing happens for an hour. There is no build up of tension as Lucy’s suspicious deepen. There are no reveals and betrayals that drive Lucy through the story. There are no lies and deceits that warp Lucy’s send of trust and reality. It’s just a dead zone for an hour until the climax.

There are a bunch of dream scene fake outs. For example Lucy is following her husband into a hotel. She sees him engage in an affair. Just then there’s a loud musical cue meant to serve as a jump scare then Lucy wakes up. These happen all the time in horror movies. When done we’ll like in the Night House, they can be disorienting and scary. When handled like this it’s monotonous and cheap. Especially when they do it every five minutes. They’re just trying to fill time in an otherwise scare free movie.

When the movie finally wakes up in the last half hour, it throws a bunch of twists at us that anyone who stayed awake would have been able to guess. Then there’s a bloody confrontation and a vague ending.

I wanted this movie to be better. It’s a rich setup. Pregnancy fears are ripe material for horror. This movie has all the potential in the world to be amazing, but they didn’t write a second act. A strong start and a big finish doesn’t make up for an hour if nothing. There’s no central conflict during this hour. There’s no real sense that Lucy is going crazy. She just wanders through the movie while everyone around her says pregnancy brain a lot.

I will say that Pierce Brosnan is very good. There’s one good aspect to this movie and that’s his too familiar, smug, Cheshire Cat performance. He’s good. Too bad nothing else is.

Not my cup of tea. D

Spoilers.

So here’s what happens. Adrian made a deal with Dr. Hindle. Hindle used his own sperm to impregnate Lucy. He wants to populate the world with his own offspring. In exchange for a partnership in Hindle’s clinic Adrian agree to turn Lucy into the mother of Hindle’s sons.

This is a great idea. It’s horrifying. It’s terrible. It speaks to having your autonomy and power taken away. It speaks to bodily fears about what is growing inside you. It’s also not explored at all here. Because they keep this a secret until the very end the middle section has nothing to explore.

Whenever Lucy expresses concern over her daughter, everyone tells her it’s organdy brain then ignore her. She also ignores her fears too. So there’s really no tension of any kind, just a bunch of dream scene fake outs.

In the end Lucy gives birth to two boys. She confront Dr. Hindle. He explains that he’s been impregnating women for years with what he considers his superior sperm. She then murders him. Then kills a nurse. Then she goes home. She foists the boys onto her husband and walks into the living room. With the remains of her daughter which she found at Hindle’s office. She holds the purple corpse to her nipple and it begins feeding.

Now does this mean she’s lost her mind? I guess. They didn’t build up to her insanity in any meaningful way aside from a couple third act twists that don’t really make sense. It just feels like a non ending that didn’t cap off the themes of the story at all.

I didn’t like this movie.

There’s Someone Inside Your House

This is a really good teen drama, and it’s a pretty good slasher movie in the vein of scream. Now streaming on Netflix this is a pretty good way to spend your Halloween.

The film opens on a high school football star returning home from school. Things seem off in the empty house, but he ignores them. He soon regrets that decision as he finds himself faced with a killer wearing a mask of his own face. Once the bloody deed is done, all of his darkest secrets are exposed to the school

Once at the school we meet a group of friends who have bonded over their social status as outcasts. They try to piece together why the murders are happening and who is behind it all, while trying to protect their own dark secrets from coming to light.

I loved these characters. This group of outcasts is a really strong collection of actors matched very well to their parts. I loved the way in which the film took its characters seriously and gave them time to really explore their inner lives. These are not stock slasher movie teens. These characters feel real and great care was given to exploring each one.

I also liked the slasher element. There are some really creative and creepy kills in the movie. If you have a problem with blood I’d recommend avoiding it but if you’re into bloody slasher films this is a fun addition to the genre.

What didn’t work for me was the big reveal. In the end the killer is unmasked, and they mask a big speech explaining their motivations. I figured out who the killer was about halfway through, and the motivation was lame. I didn’t buy it for a second.

Now did that reveal ruin the movie? Surprisingly no. A bad twist can often kill a movie for me, but this one didn’t. I credit that to the strength of the characters. In the end the slasher aspect was secondary to the strong character work. I still enjoyed the movie. It wasn’t a great movie, but I had fun and the characters worked for me.

It is my cup of tea. B

Ghosts of War

What started as a promising if standard haunted house story goes way off the rails and becomes one of the craziest and dumbest movies I’ve seen. If I had been in a different mood I might have loved it, but the way I saw it, it was a struggle to finish.

A troop of five American soldiers during WWII are all carrying heavy trauma with them as they approach their assignment; staying in and holding a chateau in the French countryside until reinforcements arrive.

The movie is deeply misguided. It thinks it’s telling a deep story about trauma and PTSD when it’s really just mining that trauma fro cheap thrills and jump scares. It opens with a quote from a soldier about the horrors of war. Then we meet our quintet of soldiers lead by Chris, played by Brenton Thwaites. He is clearly suffering from PTSD as he sees a shadowy figure in the woods and nearly opens fire on it until he realizes it isn’t there. Cue jump scare.

The whole troop has issues especially Tappert, played by Kyle Gallner. He has deep set eyes that always look haunted and traumatized. It’s a pretty effective performance in an otherwise bland movie.

Once they arrive at the chateau, things begin going bump in the night almost immediately with strange noises and haunting voices. This is the most effective part of the film. I almost found myself enjoying it. The soldiers are very capable people. These aren’t horny teens getting drunk and high. These are soldiers who deal with the horrors they’re facing with great efficacy. They are smart and strong leads that are simply out of their depth. They don’t make the usual horror movie hero mistakes.

The trouble is the movie decides to pull the rug out from under the audience. It decides to get clever and offer not one, not two, but every twist they can possibly throw onto the screen. It gets monotonous as every ten minutes or so the reality of the characters changes with a sudden reveal. Nothing is real! Maybe we’re the ghosts! Maybe the ghosts are after us! Maybe we’re all insane! Maybe I’m crazy and everyone else is sane! Maybe, maybe, maybe. Then when it is finally revealed what is going on, it’s such a dumb let down that I just decided to ignore it and countdown until the credits finally roll.

This movie isn’t as deep as it thinks it is. It isn’t as scary as it wants to be. It isn’t as entertaining as it should be.

I said in a recent review that I like jump scares when done well. I hold to that, but this movie almost made me regret ever saying that. This movie is so full of jump scares that are so obvious and telegraphed that it is almost impossible to be surprised by anything that happens. The constant barrage of jumps along with the endless plot twists just left me feeling worn out and weary of the whole thing.

It’s streaming on Netflix, but you can skip it. Not my cup of tea. D

Spoiler territory…

So the soldiers are in a French chateau where the aristocratic family who owned it were murdered in the house by Nazis. Their spirits haunt the house with a malevolent force. However, one of the troop is killed in a Nazi attack. Before he dies he tells them all that it isn’t real. None of it is real and they need to remember. They begin questioning their reality.

Then Chris begins to suspect that his troops are lying to him. That maybe they’re all crazy and trying to trick him to his own demise. Then they are driven out of the house by the spirits and leave. They begin to wander the same fields in circles always coming back to the same spots and seeing the same people. Are they all ghosts trapped in purgatory?

Then they return to the house and begin to study up on the family. They weren’t French. They were Afghan. They laid an evil curse on the troops for failing to save them. The more they uncover about the family, the more they know they need to atone for their sins during the war. They find the bodies of the family and bury them.

But that only makes them stronger! The ghosts attack the soldiers when suddenly, Chris is pulled out. He is in a futuristic lab. It turns out the whole things was just a simulation designed to help soldiers traumatized by war deal with their grief. Okay…

But Chris insists that something is wrong with the program. The ghosts fo the real family they failed to save in Afghanistan were haunting the computer program! The real ghosts were haunting a computer program to get at the soldiers. He insists on being sent back into the simulation to save his friends from the spirits. He re-enters the simulation and starts over at the beginning of the movie.

Was that dumb or what? Who thought this was a good plot? I thought it was so dumb. They threw literally every plot twist they could think of at it, and it still sucked.

Arachnophobia (1990)

What a delight this movie was. It has great characters, a strong story, and genuinely terrifying conclusion. This is a horror movie for people who don’t like horror movies. It is creepy and fun without being too intense. This one deserves to be checked out this Halloween.

The film opens with a team of researchers in the remotest parts of Venezuela. They encounter a new species of spider. They’re big, ill tempered, and smart. They are the top of the food chain and prime horror movie monster material. One of these spiders hitches a ride back home with one of the researchers to a small California town called Canaima. Also moving into Canaima is Dr. Ross Jennings, played by Jeff Daniels, and his wife and kids. They are getting out of the big city life and settling into a quiet life in the country. He is set to take over the patients for the retiring town doctor. Little does he know that the evil spider has set up shop in his barn.

The spiders multiply and spread throughout the town claiming victims of every person they encounter. It’s classic monster movie fair, but this movie improves upon the formula with a strong story and cast. The spiders become almost background to the story of the Jennings settling into their house with rotting wood. The retiring doctor reneges on his promise to Jennings and doesn’t retire leaving Jennings high and dry. And finally, the glorious John Goodman shows up at about the halfway point playing the most eccentric and hilarious exterminator in movies. He is absolutely wonderful. His name is Delbert and every line he has is hilarious. He is so much fun to watch.

This movie is a lot of fun, but it also made me jump out of my seat twice. The climactic scene takes place in the cellar. The big mama spider is coming after Jennings. This scene is so effective because we’ve spent so much time with Jennings that I really cared about him and his family. And because it’s so well executed that I couldn’t help but jump. Really great stuff.

The other thing that impressed me throughout the film is that they used real spiders throughout it. There was no cgi in 1990 (at least not of the caliber that could have convincingly rendered thousands of spiders.) There were puppets used only for a couple of more intense stunt work. For 90% of the movie we’re seeing real spiders running around threatening the actors. It adds a level of intensity knowing that these are real spiders actually on set with the characters. It’s great.

I first saw this movie probably 25 years ago. My family rented the VHS, and we all huddled around the TV one night. I remember loving it then. The spiders were creepy. Delbert was hilarious. The story was compelling even to a 6 year old. It was scary without being nightmare inducing. I vividly remember my dad’s stern warning never to turn a can of spray paint into a flame thrower like one character does in this movie. I asked if I could if there was an evil spider infestation. My dad said, “No, not even then.”

I say all of this to illustrate that the movie isn’t too scary or intense for younger viewers and families. If you don’t like horror this is going to be a perfect movie for you this Halloween. It has enough creep factor and enough scares to satisfy without pushing it too far. This is a fun Halloween movie. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

I loved it. It’s for sure my cup of tea and my favorite horror movie I’d watched so far this year. A+

The Wind

Streaming on Netflix, this frontier horror film will leave you wondering if anything you just saw was real. It has some solid scares and some creepy implications that will stay with you.

The movie opens at the middle of the action with Lizzy, played by a lovely Caitlin Gerard, alone in a vast plain after the tragic death of her only neighbor’s wife. Her husband accompanies the bereaved into town with the body and leaves Lizzy by herself to tend the homestead. Things begin to get creepy however as Lizzy is set upon by a demonic force hellbent on getting her.

However, as we see her life in flashback we see that not everything is as it at first seemed and Lizzy might not be so innocent or reliable as a narrator. On her way into the frontier she is given a book about demons and the demons of the American West. Was this enough to conjure up the evil that torments her? Her neighbors were Emma and Gideon, played by Julia Godlani Telles, and Dylan McTee respectively. It seems Emma took a shine to Lizzy’s husband Isaac, played by Ashley Zukerman. Was this flirtation enough to drive Lizzy to extremes? Or was Emma beset by the same demon that now plagues Lizzy?

The movie is full of questions like these and kept me on my toes. I was wholly convinced at various times that Lizzy was one hundred percent sane and that she was one hundred percent crazy. The key for me is that it never feels manipulative. I never felt like the movie was jerking me back and forth just to trick me. We are placed firmly in Lizzy’s perspective and her mental state guide’s our perception of her reality. It’s really strong work.

I often like jump scares. I know it’s not fashionable among horror fans to like them. They are, often rightly, derided as low horror. When cheap movies set up cheap jump scares, it’s just bad filmmaking. When a movie plays its cards well and gives me a good jolt, I love it. I am all on board with that kind of jump scare. The slow methodical build up. The dread and suspense that you don’t even realize you’re feeling. I love it. This movie exercises some really good jump scares and unleashes them on the audience. It’s a lot of fun.

I like the performances. I love the cinematography. There’s a great creepy moment when a passing minister comes calling in the night that is just a great scene in general. This was a really solid little horror film.

My biggest gripe is the ending. I felt disappointed by the lack of conclusion and the lack of solid finale that the film offers. I wanted a more out of the ending, and I think a lot of viewers will too. In my experience a movie with an open ended conclusion is usually disappointing.

That said, it was a really good ride. I had fun with it. It raised my hairs, and gave me the chills. For that I’m saying it is my cup of tea. A-

Spoiler territory. Turn back now anyone who doesn’t want to know what happens.

Okay, so in the movie we have two farmsteads about a mile apart. Lizzy and Isaac have been out there for a year or so. They lost their daughter and moved out to the farthest reaches of the American west. On the way they encounter nothing but graves as everyone who’s ever tried to farmstead this land has died or deserted the land. Lizzy is given a brochure about demons.

After a time, the other farm becomes occupied by Emma and Gideon. They are young and naive about the challenges facing them. Isaac and Lizzy offer to help. As they spend more time together, Emma becomes infatuated with the handsome and capable Isaac. He spends more and more time there. Eventually Emma becomes pregnant.

It’s not made clear exactly how it happened, but a pregnant Emma came into possession of Lizzy’s gun and shot herself with it. Isaac and Gideon take her body and the body of the baby into town. Lizzy is left alone. A dark shadowy smoke descends upon her. She shoots at it and seems to injure it. That night she is tormented. Classic bump in the night stuff.

Finally, Isaac returns and accuses her of killing Emma. Lizzy denies it talking about the demons. Isaac attacks her. He may be possessed by the demon or Lizzy might be seeing things. She eventually shoots her husband and sits in the prairie bleeding from her injuries. She might die as the screen fades to black. You can see how that conclusion might be disappointing.