Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE (Shudder)

Probably the last thing I’ll ever watch on the Shudder streaming service (yet you know me, don’t quote me on that), RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE had at least somewhat of an interesting well rounded idea, some awesome gory, disturbing special effects, and a solid ending. Too bad most of the execution leading to said ending was botched to shit by co-writer/director/co-star Jay Baruchel. I don’t get why this project wasn’t handed to someone with better experience. It’s a short (1 hr and 21 minutes) and watchable film, but I don’t have any desire to ever watch it again because the execution of everything wasn’t very memorable. IMDB describes the film with the following: “A pair of comic book writers begin to notice scary similarities between the character they created and horrific real-life events.” The entire film’s message is about the glorification of violence and criticizes how the depiction of it and the glamorization of serial killers in media can often negatively impact an audience when in reality they are just twisted people driven by no logical motives. That message is very unfocused, blurry yet somehow ham-fisted until the film’s last ten minutes. The other hour and ten minutes is filled with underdeveloped and unlikable characters, and some cringe worthy dialogue. Whoever was responsible for all the blood, guts, and glorious practical effects in this movie deserves a raise and better projects to work on, as some of those images were some of the most realistically disturbing I have seen since last year’s Midsommar.

Recognizable faces Jessie Williams, Jordana Brewster, and Jay Baruchel star in this movie and while Jessie Williams does a decent job with his underdeveloped protagonist, unfortunately for Jordana Brewster, who has always been nice on the eyes and always seems like she wants to be in the movies she’s in, her dialogue makes her performance hammy and too unrealistic, and Jay Baruchel is completely wasted here, playing yet another just depiction of himself. I’m sorry, but other than having a great voice for the lead in the How To Train Your Dragon series, Baruchel is not a great actor, and after this, Goon, and Goon 2, he isn’t a very good writer or director either. I would only want to recommend this movie to you if practical effects and some realistic disturbing images and violence are your jam. One guy gets stabbed about thirty times during the movie and it actually showed each and every jab of the knife into his torso and I cringed every time before impact. I’ll even recommend it to you if you want a decent ending with a decent message of the glorification of violence, but other than that, you are better off watching something else on the streaming service, such as Host or Spiral (NOT Saw 9). This movie is based on a graphic novel, but I have a feeling if a complete rewrite of the script were to have happened, maybe a bit longer with more developed and likable characters, and a bigger yet subtle focus on the film’s messages, there could’ve been something great here. I have a feeling though that Baruchel was just out of his league with this one, throwing random shit on the wall just to see what would stick.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: SPIRAL (Shudder)

First of all, no, this is not Saw 9. This new movie exclusively streaming on Shudder just happens to have the same title of Saw 9, that was supposed to come out in May but due to COVID-19 got delayed till NEXT May 2021. If I were to describe this SPIRAL, it would be Get Out, but with homosexual couples (the title should’ve been Get Out Of The Closet). And a much different story and third act. You’ll see. I promised myself I wouldn’t do another free trial of Shudder on one of my many different e-mails, but this film has gained so much traction in my neck of the woods the past several weeks that I just had to do another 7 day-er and check this out. And I’m glad I did, as out of the three whole Shudder exclusive movies I’ve watched, this is by far the best one, even though the more I think about Host, the more I respect it (both definitely better than the mind-numbing Beach House movie on the app). Per IMDB, it describes Spiral as: “A same-sex couple move to a small town so they can enjoy a better quality of life and raise their 16 year-old daughter with the best social values. But nothing is as it seems in their picturesque neighborhood. And when Malik sees the folks next door throwing a very strange party, something shocking has got to give.” The movie takes place in the year 1995, so it’s kind of at the height of the 90s gay panic if you think about it. The movie works with only a few well earned jump scares because it’s mostly a psychological horror film, filled more with dread and unease than it is meant to be just cheap jump scare plus a lot of gore schlock (although there is one pretty gruesome and emotional earned shot/scene here).

There isn’t really a recognizable face here except for Loclyn Munro, you’ll basically just point him out in the movie and say, “that’s the dude from Scary Movie/Freddy Vs. Jason/etc. The main protagonist here, played by Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (Unreal) is fantastic here. He plays one part of the male gay couple and the film focuses primarily on him. He gets the paranoia, fear, and anger down pat and needed in order to sell the story. I’m not familiar with the writers or director of this, but needless to say the movie works very well within the parameters of what it’s trying to say about fear. There is an exchange of dialogue inside a jail cell near the end of the film that was haunting to think about even after the last word was spoken. Also, this is a movie with an epilogue that actually made the whole movie even better than it already was. Wow, I am at a loss for words and don’t know much more to say about this film to make it a meaty second conclusive paragraph do I? Anything I really say about the story is a spoiler in itself so I can’t get into too much detail. If I had a complaint about the movie is that the male protagonist probably shouldn’t have hid the hatred they receive from the get go, should’ve revealed all and maybe there would’ve been a different conclusion. But if the protagonist didn’t hold things back, there might not have been a movie, so my complaint is moot. So if you have the Shudder app, definitely check this out. Or if you want to do a 7 day free trail thing, check out this and Host, but make sure to cancel before it charges you for a whole month. To me the app isn’t worth it, just like Quibi.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: HOST (Shudder)

Does it really count as a feature length film if the movie is only 58 minutes long? I’m thinking more like a short film, right? But when looking it up (funny how I haven’t done that until now), HOST, a new 58 minute Shudder original movie, does in fact count as a “feature length film.” The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Film Institute, and the British Film Institute all define a feature as a film with a running time of 2,400 seconds (i.e. 40 minutes) or longer. Who’d have thunk that huh? With the movie having a surprising short as shit runtime, my review will probably also be short as shit, because if I talk about it a lot, I’ll end up ruining the scares and surprises. One surprise I can ruin, because it has nothing to do with the plot or twists, is that Host was actually just filmed a couple of months ago during the pandemic and lock down phase of it. Which was itself kind of cool that they were able to produce a half way decent film with all the limitations and time constraints. Per IMDB, it describes HOST as: “Six friends hire a medium to hold a séance via Zoom during lock down – but they get far more than they bargained for as things quickly go wrong. When an evil spirit starts invading their homes, they begin to realize they might not survive the night.” So essentially yes, it is another “desktop/laptop thriller” in the realm of other movies such as Unfriended, Unfriended: Dark Web, Searching, etc. Searching easily being the best of those. HOST ultimately works because of its very effective scares during the 2nd half hour of the film, although fans of this genre, like me, still kind of groan at the set up we have to endure before said scares.

This film isn’t written or directed by anyone you know, and it doesn’t star anyone you know. The acting though is very believable for its genre. The only thing that you’ll have to suspend your belief on is when the six friends either take their phone or laptop around their room and/or house when shit starts going down. Thankfully though, when they end up doing that, the scares are so damn effective that you completely forget about that little detail. The only real problem I had with the film is that none of these films, other than Searching, produce a great hook of a set up to get us engaged at the very beginning. It took be approximately about 15 – 20 minutes to me to get into these kinds of movies. Yeah, I understand that it is supposed to feel real, with these friends hooking up via Zoom one by one and spouting off stupid normal life shit that doesn’t really interest us, there’s just gotta be a more interesting way to do it. Other than that little nitpick, past the 15-20 minute mark, everything is smooth sailing. The scares that hit, they hit hard, and don’t ever let up, even when the end of the film has an actual fucking countdown to the end of the Zoom meeting (and you can easily guess what goes down when it hits :00, still made me jump though). To be honest, I maybe would’ve liked to see about 20-25 more minutes of added on effective scares like they had in the film, but then again, its runtime is about perfect, and adding anything else might have lessened the impact of the other frights. Considering I didn’t like Shudder’s other original film, The Beach House, and turned off Scare Package before that film’s half way mark, Host is the best thing Shudder has to offer right now. A decent one time watch. Still not enough to get me to pay past a free week trial though. Having to pay $5 a month for this service gives me the shivers in general.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE BEACH HOUSE (Shudder)

So THE BEACH HOUSE is the first Shudder Original Film that has been making waves across all social media as actually being quite a decent little horror flick. Not only for the streaming service but as a film in general. So what do I do? My cheap ass signs up for the 7 day free trial, downloads the app, then cancels the membership immediately so it doesn’t charge me $5 a month when I forget about it in a week, watch only this film, and then delete the app and get it out of my life until the next buzzed about film comes out. Then I’ll just use a different e-mail to sign up. It’s in the 70 something percent range in Rotten Tomatoes so I thought people could’ve been right, then again, the horror film Relic released last week to rave reviews, and I didn’t care much for it. So what about The Beach House? I’ll answer that question with a question. Is it just me, or is everybody kind of tired of pandemic ‘horror’ films right now due to the situation we are in? If not, I certainly am. While the film is very adequately made, a half way decent slow burn, and makes good use of practical effects for once, when the end credits rolled, an “eh” escaped from my lips. While it is better than this past weekend’s Relic, I think I just am not into ‘pandemic like’ films right now, especially horror ones. Will it stay that way once this is all over? Right now, my gut tells me yes.

And that feeling is honestly being a little unfair to this movie. It was made long before COVID-19. It’s decent. And I’m going to go ahead and give it a recommendation to you, my zany readers, because it is more ambitious than the other shit I saw offered on Shudder as I scrolled around its library. And the practical effects, in the big pay off second half of the film, were very well done. Also this film has some gorgeous cinematography and shots. But kind of like, fuck, maybe almost exactly like Color Out Of Space, I didn’t really care for the characters and their plight, the dialogue, there was not enough that was explained, it didn’t have a clear set of rules, and the slow burn was a little too…well…”slow burn-y”? I definitely will not recommend that you watch this while eating or have just eaten. And I definitely will not recommend this to you if you in any way, shap, or form are either A. Squemish (especially right now with COVID-19) or B. Just tired of the pandemic so much that anything remotely even possibly relating to it will dig up bad memories for you. Other than that, if this description from IMDB peaks your interest, I will tell you to go ahead and give it a gander: “A romantic getaway for two troubled college sweethearts turns into a struggle for survival when unexpected guests – and the surrounding environment – exhibit signs of a mysterious infection.”Although I didn’t care for the characters, the actors were halfway decent, especially the lead girl, played by Liana Liberato. This would be director Jeffrey A. Brown’s first big break, as he’s directed only two other short films and has been a part of Location Management in big films like Spider-Man 3. He proves he has learned a lot being a part of the miscellaneous crew in a ton of other stuff as well. He definitely has an eye behind the camera.

But his screenplay writing, again, just like the duo that wrote Relic, needs a bit of work. On the other hand, maybe he wrote based off of budget, and if given a bigger budget before writing down the road, could do more unique things. Shit doesn’t finally start to go down until a little before half way through the film, and by then the ‘slow burn’ felt kind of tiresome, especially when the 45 minute set up didn’t have much in the way of character development to get you to care for anyone. And the pay offs were okay but not of the caliber that they needed to be. They needed more information and a grounded set of ‘virus’ narrative rules to function. If I were to watch this movie again it would only be for technical analysis and merit. And it isn’t like I don’t care for David Cronenberg-esque body horror, John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my favorite films of all time, I just think right now isn’t the best time for me…or any one for that matter to be watching a film like this. Even though the body horror is nice and subtle, and it is only used when needed in its tight 87 minute run time. It doesn’t over do it. It’s a solid and noble effort, but just watching a film of that stature is not in my best interest based on how grumpy I have been since March of 2020. Fuck, even though I love the films Outbreak and Contagion, the only thing I can think about if I were to watch them right now is how badly I would want to throw something very, very hard at my television screen.