Don’t Look Up (2009) (movie review)

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I totally told you NOT to look up!

Marcus is a director yearning for a chance to make a comeback in the film industry. He’s also prone to having visions of ghosts, which leads him to a haunted movie set in Romania. It seems that in the 1920s, a director (Eli Roth, really playing against type here) was trying to make a movie based on a gruesome local legend. However, the movie was never finished, as everyone around died horribly. Cue Marcus and a brand new crew, which unsurprisingly does not fare well either, what with people being flung from balconies and a mean case of eye-eating flies.

First, a warning to Eli Roth fans: he may be third-billed, but he’s only in the movie for a couple of minutes, never to be seen again. Ditto Shiloh Fernandez. However, Henry Thomas (remember him as Elliott from ET?) is worth sticking around for.

The movie has some surprisingly creepy and disturbing moments, like when a horrifying old man shows up with a goiter full of demon baby.

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Sweet dreams…

It’s also a somewhat original idea—the folktale part, not the movie within a movie part I mean.

Unfortunately, it’s very confusing. My biggest issue is with the legend being filmed. It revolves around a woman named Chavi who makes a deal with the Devil that her first-born child will in turn bear him children. The kid, Matya, is vilified by the townspeople for being born with the Devil’s mark, and is subsequently tortured…as an adult. She was supposed to have been imprisoned her entire life because her only function was to be a baby house, but her mother is significantly upset when Matya is killed. It’s also baffling in other, more spoiler-y ways.

It feels slow-paced even when gory stuff is happening, and none of the characters are particularly compelling or even all that likable. I would have been a lot more enthusiastic for a movie about the first crew that tried to film Matya’s story. Not to mention how the close-ups of Matya’s eyes are a pretty blatant rip-off of Sadako’s eye in Ringu:

(Which I guess should be less surprising, given that the film is a remake of a Japanese movie.)

That said, I enjoyed it more than I’m letting on. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for a standard ghost story in an exotic locale.

Campfire Tales (1997) (movie review)

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Anthology-style movie. The wraparound story is of four teens (including Christine Taylor and Chris Masterson) who are stranded in the woods after a car crash, and they’re telling each other stories to pass the time, as one does. “The Hook”  concerns a pair of young folks (Amy Smart and James Marsden) menaced by a hook-handed maniac. “The Honeymoon” is about newlyweds Valerie and Rick (Ron Livingston) in an RV menaced by murderous creatures. “People Can Lick Too” tells the tale of Amanda, a young girl who is menaced (it’s a very menacing movie) by a crazy guy while home alone. “The Locket” shows drifter Scott (Glenn Quinn) who meets a mysterious woman with a haunted house.

The stories  are based on urban legends, so to anyone familiar with the genre (I’m a big-time nerd for it) or who has seen either Urban Legend or Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, the first three segments might be predictable. Also, the stories the film is based on are short and punchy by nature, and the movie fairly creaks with the effort to stretch to a full 90-ish minutes. However, the legends are presented and retold in pretty original ways. “The Honeymoon” took me almost to the end to figure out its legend of origin.

It has its silly moments, like in “Honeymoon” when Rick struts around naked and yells, “I just had great sex!”

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Stop it! You’re killing me!

I was curious about why Amanda’s parents were gone all night for a parent-teacher meeting. Also, the twist ending has a few issues—you’ll see when you get there. It does have some eerie moments, mostly in “Honeymoon,” as the killers are never explained.

I love late-90s slasher movies (as long as they’re not about Jason or Michael Myers), and this one is packed with nostalgia and plenty of entertainment. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for something fun and a touch creepy.