Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Early Review: Extinction (2015)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long

COMPANY: Hollywood Vision

RUNTIME: 107 minutes  

FORMAT: Screener

PLOT: Deep in the Amazon jungle a research team lead by a respected Professor strive to protect vulnerable and endangered species, but when their guides abandon them they soon realize they are in the hunting ground of prehistoric apex predators.

REVIEW: Those that are familiar with my review work know how much I love Found Footage flicks, in addition to how much I love dinosaur flicks, so suffice to say I was pretty excited when a screener copy of this new dinosaur-themed Found Footage flick fell into my lap for early review. Some of these, like Area 407, are absolute crap while others, like The Dinosaur Project, actually turn out pretty fun and decent. So where does Extinction, aka Extinction: Jurassic Predators, fall in that list? Sadly, while there's some stuff to enjoy here, it probably should have just stayed extinct.

One of the biggest faults of Extinction I feel, is that it just goes on for way too long. B-Movies should be kept short and sweet. Longer runtimes are great for big budget theatrical epics, but for movies like this, they're best kept on the shorter side. No matter how much I can overlook crappy acting and questionable effects, even I get sick of them when they begin to overstay their welcome, and there was just no need for this movie to be fifteen minutes shy of two hours. Especially when you factor in that there was so much of this movie that could have been tightened up a bit and trimmed here and there.

With that said, most of the movie was also already an unintelligible mess, even without further cuts. It just hops around from scene to scene, and cuts from scene to scene so quickly that it's impossible to really know what's going on and why it's happening half the time. I'd say the average scene lasts about 30-60 seconds before jarringly cutting to the next 30-60 second scene. Putting aside the fact that it makes the entire movie difficult to follow, due to this there's also no build up or suspense to most of the scenes where things actually happen, because we'll just quickly cut from the middle of a conversation or some such mundane scene during the day, right into the middle of their camp being attacked that night. Then while mid-attack is still going on, we'll cut back away from that and suddenly to them wandering through the jungle the next afternoon and talking about the night before.

This kind of quick cutting and jumping around aimlessly, with no narrative, plagues pretty much the entire movie and ruins any attempt at suspense. Not to mention it just makes a giant mess of the entire movie, making most of it impossible to follow and difficult to get any sort of characterization to come across from our main cast. For instance, it's about 45 minutes in before we even really find out what the initial goal is of this group of people and exactly why they're in the Amazon and filming to begin with. Even Area 407, as much of a mess as it was, had way better characterization than this movie.

It also doesn't help that I found that I didn't really want to know these characters. They're pretty much all badly-acted, to a groan-inducing level, and things were made even worse by what can only be described as the most annoying and whiny cameraman in a Found Footage movie, ever. The dude would never just shut the fuck up or stop doing the most atrociously stupid shit you can think of. The only real mystery in this movie is not how dinosaurs can still be alive, but instead how this annoying idiot managed to survive until the end of the movie. Oh, and another reason to want this guy dead in the movie? For a professional camera man, he really couldn't keep the camera steady at all. It was overly shaky and brought about the most sever case of motion sickness that I've felt in a Found Footage movie to date, rivaled only by maybe my theatrical viewing of Cloverfield. However, the main female lead was really easy on the eyes and she was constantly wearing tight tank tops throughout the entire movie, so at least there was some good eye candy here, if nothing else.

What annoys me most out of all this though, is there this movie actually had some great potential. Unlike Area 407 which was pretty much mostly unforgivable shit through and through, this movie did have some redeemable qualities and there were hints of a actual genuinely good movie under the surface if just a little more care was given in some aspects. For instance, while it may have been almost an hour in to the movie until we actually see the dinosaur that's been stalking them, I was actually ok with that as, due to the over-long runtime, we still get a good solid 45 minutes after that point that's filled with lots of good long looks at the dinosaur, plus leading up to that point we got lots of frightening roars, growls, and an admittedly-pretty awesome and creepy night time tent scene, so even before it showed up on-screen in the flesh, it wasn't entirely absent from the movie. Plus I loved the jungle scenery (a bit more on that soon) so I was actually really liking just watching the characters trek through it all. When the dinosaur in this movie does show up though, and we get tons of great long-lasting looks at it, we get to see pretty quickly that it's surprisingly done with practical animatronic effects as opposed to the much-more common badly-integrated CG effects that's in most B-Movies these days. I'm always saying that practical effects are not always better than CGI, and that I'd rather take good CGI over bad practical any day of the week, plus you can do so much more with CGI, however the dinosaur animatronic looked really good here, so I was pretty impressed with it most of the time. Although with that said, there were some points while it was moving around that it didn't come across as too convincing, as its motions were really unnatural and fake, and during these moments, more often than not, it just looked like it was a borrowed prop from the Walking with Dinosaurs Live Stage Show.

As mentioned above, I actually really enjoyed the scenes that were simply the characters wandering through the jungle. The scenery here was great, and provided a lovely visual treat, as jungles are one of my top favourite movie settings, and unlike most B-Movies that just get some random backyard forest to stand in as a jungle, this place that they filmed in actually is a real jungle. I'm not sure exactly where this movie was shot, but wherever it was it was damn convincing as the Amazon, and it looked nothing short of beautiful. That, mixed with the fun use of an actual animatronic dinosaur, and the fact that the leading lady was easy on the eyes and always in tight tank tops, at least made this movie a very pleasant experience, visually, despite all the issues I have with it as a whole.

It's just such a bummer that everything else on display in Extinction didn't deliver as well. The impossible-to-follow narrative, bad acting, annoying characters, and terrible camera motions are all bad enough as it is, in any movie, but the fact that this one goes on for way too long only leads to showcasing these issues even further as due to the movie's length they're on display even longer than they usually would be. There is potential for a pretty decent movie somewhere in here, it's just, unfortunately, not this specific cut that we got.

If you'd still like to check out Extinction (or Extinction: Jurassic Predators as it's called in some places of the world) and decide for yourself how you feel about it, you'll be able to check this one out via VOD services such as Itunes starting on June 2nd.

4/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward

Saturday, May 16, 2015

SuperFast! (2015)

REVIEW BY: Michael Banno 

COMPANY: The Safran Company

RUNTIME: 99 minutes  


PLOT: Rookie cop Lucas White goes undercover in a street racing crew as they scheme to rob a crime boss kingpin in this parody of the Fast and Furious franchise.

REVIEW: I'm a huge fan of the Fast and Furious franchise. I've highly enjoyed every film they've made, with Tokyo Drift being a bit of a weaker entry for me than the rest. When I heard the makers of all those dreadful "Fill in the Blank Here" Spoof movies were making a spoof of the Fast and Furious films, I have to confess that I was curious to say the least. Than when the trailer came out and I viewed that, while it may not have been the funniest thing I've ever laughed at, what I did see seemed okay to me and certainly better than 99% of what I saw of all their countless other spoof movies

So how does SuperFast! stack up?

I have to admit, I actually found that it was quite enjoyable. It's one of those spoof movies that are more story-based and follows an actual plot, as opposed to just random spoofing of every relevant reference out there, with no direction whatsoever, like most of those other spoof movies do. Sure, there was some of that included, but it was mostly all wrapped up within an actual story-driven plot, and I have to say I actually got some genuinely good laughs out of it.

Take most of the main characters from the first The Fast and the Furious, take a few of the other main characters from Fast Five, and then throw in some story elements from the original The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and Fast Five, and you'll essentially have the basics of SuperFast! down pat.The characters on display here are meant to represent the different Fast and Furious characters and most of their names are taken from the actors that played those roles in the Fast films, except for Lucas, who is clearly the Paul Walker character of the movie. But for instance, Vin, Jordanna, Michelle, and Rock are all names of characters in this spoof that correspond to those actors' characters from the Fast films.

The action is, at best, decent. It's a spoof movie so obviously nothing is really going to be taken seriously in this, but the action for what we get, is nicely done in a comedic kind of tone and fit the style of the movie quite well. Just don't go in expecting any kind of large extravagant well-shot thrilling action set pieces, is all.

Unlike what the other Spoof movies tend to do, there are no real spoofs of other big franchises or references to whatever else is 'in' in pop culture right now, sticking mostly solely to the one franchise and topic it set out to spoof. It also seems to know exactly what it is, never treating itself like it's anything more than a simple cheap Direct-To-Video cashgrab spoof,and even references that fact within the movie itself, during a 'team recruitment' scene.

Overall, despite my low reservations towards this one due to my knowledge on all those other god awful spoof movies, I have to say that SuperFast! definitely didn't disappoint, and dare I say I actually rather enjoyed it quite a bit for what it is, which is a mindless fun spoof of the Fast and Furious films and nothing more, nor does it try to be.

I love the Fast and Furious films and I'd gladly watch this again alongside them as I chuckled quite a bit, and even found myself full-on laughing more than I expected to. In the realm of all those quick cashgrab spoof movies, this one is without a doubt one of the better ones, if not the best one. 

7/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Early Review: Pernicious (2015)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long

COMPANY: Beneton Films

RUNTIME: 95 minutes  

FORMAT: Screener

PLOT: It was supposed to be an adventure of a lifetime as three young girls spend the summer in Thailand. But their adventure quickly becomes a nightmare when the trio unleashes the spirit of a murdered child with only one thing on her mind - revenge. 

REVIEW: Originally due out in 2014 but still not yet released, Pernicious is a movie I've been waiting a long, long time to check out. While it's not made by The Asylum, it does have Asylum-Regular James Cullen Bressack writing and directing it. Bressack is responsible for a couple other Asylum movies I've got reviews for on here, 13/13/13 and Blood Lake, both of which I may not have thought were great by any means, but still enjoyable. And considering my love for Asylum, anybody that does work for them has my undying loyalty for all future projects. In addition, this horror movie also happens to star two Asylum Regulars as well, hottie Jackie Moore from Atlantic Rim and 100 Ghost Street, and the always-beautiful Ciara Hanna re-teaming with Bressack from their time together on Blood Lake. Hanna is also quite well-known for playing the Yellow Power Ranger on Power Rangers Megaforce and it's second season Super Megaforce, that franchise's 20th Anniversary season.

Seeing as how I'm already quite familiar with these three fine folk, and the fact that they worked together on a horror movie (which is, without a doubt, my favorite genre), you can see why I'd be super stoked for Pernicious and why I was absolutely thrilled to be sent a screener copy by the awesome people at Hillin Entertainment and Benetone Films (a production company that also, as it happens, is responsible for many Bollywood movies that I also enjoy. Yes, you did indeed just read that correctly).

And the wait was worth it as I ended up having a blood-soaked blast with Pernicious! Not a perfect film (I'll get to those reasons soon enough) but certainly an enjoyable one for B-Movie Horror fans, and the hard work, care, love, and dedication of those behind the scenes really shone through. 

The plot is a simple enough one – A trio of girls gone to Thailand on a program to help teach school kids English end up being put up in a house where a little girl had been tortured, murdered, and encased in gold to be a statue. When one of the girls removes an item from the sacred spirit house, a dollhouse-sized shrine of sorts to the spirit of the dead gold girl, it causes the spirit to come alive and haunt the girls, harassing them when they're awake and then possessing them whenever they fall asleep. That's really all there is to the plot, but that's fine as when it comes to horror movies I don't look for, nor necessarily want, an overly convoluted plot. Simpler is sometimes better in this case. And I have to say, I really loved the Thailand location. Not only did the movie take place there and was steeped in Thailand superstition and mythology, but it was actually also shot there as well, a rarity for B-Movies outside of East Africa, Romania, and the U.S., and the movie is much better for it. Thailand is such a beautiful place and Pernicious shows off that landscape, culture, and their mythology quite well and respectful, and I honestly believe this movie wouldn't have been nearly as good had it been essentially the exact same movie but set and filmed in some small random town in the U.S.. The confusion, worry, and panicking of being new to living in a place you don't know, in the middle of a culture you're not familiar with, and having your life fall apart as things just keep going wrong around you is something that just couldn't have been accomplished as well had this been a local-set story. Plus, as mentioned before, the scenery and location-shooting of being in Thailand itself was just beautiful and not something that could have been replicated had it been shot elsewhere.

I'm not sure if that decision had been one made by the studio or the director, but I wouldn't be surprised if it had been James Cullen Bressack's, simply because almost every other directorial choice he made with this movie turned out to be pretty good. For example, this movie is filled with tons of unique and interesting camera angles, movements, and transitions that lift this above the other mundane cookie cutter directing jobs of most B-Movies. Not to say that's a bad thing for them, as B-Movies aren't meant to be made as fine art, but it's still always a great surprise and pleasure when one rises above the rest in one or more departments. Out of the three movies of Bressack's that I've seen now, this is without a doubt the best one, and the most professional. With that said, I do feel like he could get some practice in with tightening up some scenes and cutting out some filler. There are a few scenes scattered throughout that I feel went on just a bit too long. Nothing really all that major, but it did get tedious at times and I think those said scenes could have been shortened and the movie would have been stronger for it.

As for the lead actresses Jackie Moore, Ciara Hanna, and The Young and the Restless' Emily O'Brien, while they were a blast to watch and I enjoyed watching all three, the acting from them was kind of all over the place, and while some scenes were genuinely great and even laugh-out-loud funny when intended, there were other scenes where they just came across stiff and bland as if they were reading from a teleprompter or almost like they were having trouble with the dialog, to the point where quite often it almost seemed like conversations between them were being ad-libbed as opposed to being recited from a screenplay, with characters repeating things that have already been said and gone over, and even personalities seeming to switch around and come and go, depending on the scene. With that said, whether it was a scene where the acting was great or one where it was a bit more poor, these three main leads always had great chemistry together and I never once stopped believing they were close friends. I followed production on this movie in its early days, and there were behind the scenes photos of the lead girls goofing off and going out to hang out, and I have no doubt that their real life friendship helped that chemistry come through all the better in the movie. Also, adult fans of Power Rangers will be thrilled to know that Ciara Hanna gets to flex her acting muscles in this movie far more than the producers of Power Rangers ever let her, and she turns in a much better performance here than she was able to under the constraints of that show, even during the aforementioned scenes where the acting is a bit clunky and not up to par with the rest of the movie.

One of the things that these three leads do always play well, is frightened. Not once during the entire movie, when there was a scene of one or more being scared and frightened and were panicking, did I not believe them or find it groan-inducing. And trust me, there is quite a lot of scenes dealing with them being scared, and most of them worked great  and were genuinely creepy. Some of the CGI-based scares didn't quite work for me though as they came across a bit too cartoony as opposed to scary, but the brutality of the death scenes and torture scenes more than made up for that. And oh yes, gore hounds will find lots to love here as this movie, if nothing else, is bloody as hell, unforgiving, and totally relentless. Right from the opening moments with a crying frightened child being tied to a chair, tortured, and murdered in a satanic-esque ritual, to the blood-soaked brutal climax, this movie is certainly never short on the bright red stuff. There were some scenes that even I had a hard time watching, mostly when it came to a three-way torture scene during the first time the main leads get possessed. The one thing I seem to always have a hard time watching in horror movies, is anything dealing with eyeballs. I just can't stand seeing eyeballs being gouged out or penetrated or any of that, so suffice to say there was at least one scene in this movie that I actually had to look away from for a few seconds - something that I haven't done with a horror movie in quite a long time.

Pernicious is a horror movie, made by an Asylum director, funded by a Bollywood company, starring a Power Rangers actor. As far as things I'm interested in goes, this had the perfect formula and while it may not have been a perfect movie, it was certainly damn well an enjoyable one. Director James Cullen Bressack seems to be refining his talent with each new movie he puts out, and while Pernicious is still a bit rough around some of its edges, it's still easily his best work yet and considering how each movie he does just gets better and better, this is one of those horror directors that many might not know about right now, but I would love to see where he's at in five years time as I can easily see him breaking out big into the horror scene in just some short time.

This isn't a movie for everybody, as the level of blood and gore here might turn some people off that aren't big into the horror genre. Lord knows even I had trouble watching some of the torture scenes here and about 90% of what I watch is horror movies. But if you're a horror movie fan and don't mind a bit of blood and gore and want to check out something new and interesting, with a few genuine creepy moments, three beautiful and talented lead actresses (even if that talent may not come through in quite all of the scenes), gorgeous Thailand scenery, and some really fun, unique, and interesting camera tricks to be found in it, than you can't go wrong with Pernicious when it hits VOD services and a limited theatrical run on June 19th.

7/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Early Review: Road Wars (2015)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long

COMPANY: The Asylum

RUNTIME: 90 minutes  

FORMAT: Screener

PLOT: When an amnesiac wakes up in a desert-covered post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a rabies-type virus, he must band together with a small group of survivors.

REVIEW: It's no secret that here at the B-Movie Shelf my favorite B-Movie production company is The Asylum. Their movies may not always be the best-made, but they are almost always a hell of a lot of fun, and really, being entertained is the main reason I love watching movies as much as I do. Regardless of quality, as long as I'm entertained and have a good time watching a movie, than I'm loving it. Suffice to say, you can see how I'd be stoked for each new Asylum release as soon as it's announced, and luckily once in awhile I'll be graced enough to receive a screener copy before the official release, as was the case with Asylum's latest Mad Max mockbuster, Road Wars.

Road Wars is more than just a Mad Max mockbuster. Sure, it has all the regular stereotypical Mad Max ingredients, such as a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland, characters with classic 'futuristic' 80's style clothing and hair styles wearing various facepaint, thick round sandstorm goggles, custom helmets and headgear with horns and the like on them, driving around in decked out battle vehicles filled with spikes and various weaponry, in addition to rival desert gangs going to battle with one another. Make no mistake, this is a Mad Max mockbuster through and through. However Road Wars has one further ingredient that you'll be hard pressed to find in a Mad Max movie – Vampiric zombie creatures!

Yes, this movie spices things up and sets itself apart from the abundance of other Mad Max knock-offs by adding in the danger of vampiric zombie creatures! Now I'm actually getting sick of zombies being in every single thing this day in age, however with Road Wars they include a fresh little twist. I hesitate to call these things either zombies or vampires, as they only come out at night, sunlight burns them, they drink blood - all things that a vampire does, however they act and move around like the typical Hollywood zombie, and if one bites you then it isn't long before you succumb and turn into one yourself, going through the motions that a regular zombie victim would usually do when bit. They call these creatures Nightwalkers in the movie, but for the purpose of this review I've personally come accustomed to calling them Zombires. And they don't just show up in one or two scenes, ohhh nooo, they're pretty much the main focus of the movie, showing up either one at a time or in large groups consistently throughout the movie, hindering our characters at every turn. There's even a pretty fun, albeit short, scene where the characters locate a Zombire nest in an underground cavern and head on down during the day to hunt them while they assumed they were asleep. Even the backstory on why the world is not a post apocalyptic wasteland ties into the whole Zombire virus outbreak, so it's not like Zombires were just added into the movie randomly and serve no real purpose, like is so often the case with other movies of this kind these days.

Actually, along the lines of tying the Zombire outbreak into the desert wasteland setting of the world, this movie does a phenomenal job at world building in general via it's dialogue; it really does feel like this is a pre-existing fully-realized universe and we're just popping in to view this one moment or event before popping back out again at the end of the movie's runtime while the rest of this universe continues moving on without us. However, the one aspect I don't quite get, though I'm willing to overlook it for the sake of the whole Mad Max mockbuster angle, is that there's all these characters driving around in vehicles and getting into vehicular chases and where the hell are they finding all this fuel for these vehicles? Sure, there was one scene near the beginning that had a couple charcaters scoping out a gas station, but with the amount of desert tribes that seem to be mentioned throughout, plus the ones that we actually see, plus all the vehicles everyone seems to own and the amount they drive can fuel be this plentiful this far after the apocalypse, yet drinking water is so incredibly rare and scarce? Just a minor nitpick, but one worth mentioning since it crossed my mind on more than one occasion while watching.

Certainly not a nitpick though is the actors and characters on display here. All these characters were unique and easy to tell apart from one another (something that you sometimes run into issues with in these Mad Max ripoffs), and the movie does a great job at really making you care about what happens to these folks, going so far as to actually be genuinely emotional when they get killed off, no matter if they were around for half the movie or only in one or two scenes prior, there's an emotional backbone to this movie that I was surprised to find, but glad I did as I'll never, ever, complain about a movie, especially a B-Movie (where I don't really expect it from) to have genuine emotion in it like this. And trust me, it really won't be long into the movie before you start feeling that attachment to these characters, and that also goes a long way to making the action scenes a bit more tense than they normally would be, because you really don't want to see any of these characters get offed. While some of that can be attributed to the writing and directing of Asylum-regular Mark Atkins, a large round of applause has to also go to the actors themselves for turning in such great performances. You can have the best writing and directing in the world, but if the actors aren’t up to snuff than any emotional impact goes right out the window, but every single actor in this movie turned in top-notch performances and left me highly impressed.

And oh yes, there is plenty of action scenes, as while there is a shortage of drinking water in this movie, there is certainly no shortage of antagonists, from the plentiful blood-drinking Zombire creatures to the mischievous rival desert raider gangs, there's tons of obstacles for our band of characters to go up against throughout the movie, so suffice to say things never get dull or boring in this one at all, and all the action scenes here are tons of fun to watch. Anybody that enjoys gunplay will certainly have a blast with most of the action scenes as, much like with fuel in this world, the characters seem to have no problem at all getting their hands on ammunition. Not that I'm complaining, because lack of ammo would have meant less awesome action scenes.There's even a really great unexpected twist that I didn't see coming, which leads to the climatic action set piece of the movie and is easily my favorite of the action scenes as all chaos breaks out and it pretty much becomes a free-for-all where pretty much anyone can and does switch sides.

Fans of Asylum's work will certainly no doubt love Road Wars as much as I did, and even if you aren't someone that usually likes Asylum films I still suggest giving this one a shot as it was a step above the usual Asylum fare. The only aspect of it that kind of bothered me a bit, and the only real complaint I have, is that the ending is horribly abrupt and sudden, leaving me kind of feeling like "Wait, that's it?" It comes out of nowhere so quickly that it almost feels like the actual ending was cut out of the movie, going straight from the middle of the climax into the end credits.

Still, when that's the only complaint I have, than that's not too shabby at all. With Hansel vs Gretel, Bound (review still to come), Avengers Grimm, and now Road Wars, it seems like Asylum has another great year in store for us, especially with San Andreas Quake coming later this month and Mega Shark vs Kolossus, 3-Headed Shark Attack, and of course Sharknado 3 having all already been announced for the month of July. As for Road Wars, you can check this one out for yourself on DVD and VOD services as of this Tuesday, which is May 5th.

9/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward

Friday, May 1, 2015

Hunting The Legend (2014)

REVIEW BY: Bobby Lepire

COMPANY: Red Arctic Films 

RUNTIME: 95 minute 


PLOT: In 2008, a deer hunter was taken by something in the Alabama woods. Only his rifle, blood and a 16" footprint were left behind... Five years later, his son seeks revenge.

REVIEW: Hunting The Legend is able to set itself apart from regular Found Footage fare a little bit by setting itself up as an actual documentary (I hesitate to use the term mockumentary, as I believe that would imply a silliness that's  not found here). I know that sounds odd, given that other movies, including the most famous Found Footage movie of all time, The Blair Witch Project, did that exact same thing, but within the genre as of late with the likes of Frankenstein's Army (not bad, but probably would have been better if it wasn't of the Found Footage style), Chronicle (lots of fun), and even Cloverfield (a blast), that just ape the style, without presenting any sort full narrative thread. That thread - the making of a documentary about the Sasquatch in the filmmakers' woods - does give it a refreshing feel to the whole overdone affair. 

It's just too bad that not much else here feels that original or engaging.

But first, let me get the rest of the positives out of the way. Our trio of characters, all playing fictional versions of themselves - Christopher Copeland, Hannah Wallace, Jeff Causey, and their camera operator Justin Steeley (who is also the writer and director of this movie) - all give natural and believable performances, with their friendship from growing up together coming through in spades. This is one of the only things to keep the audience engaged but it does such quite well. Most of the supporting cast comes off as equally at ease on camera, which is a pleasant bonus. However, this unfortunately excludes the biggest supporting role, the Man In The Cabin, as portrayed by Stan Copeland. He's this cranky old geezer, warning the kids about what they're doing (so in other words, just a bad stereotype), and Copeland never comes off as scary as he's meant to be in his introduction, nor kooky enough to have the audience questioning if what he is saying is truth or not. He's just there, spewing random lines, failing to make any kind of impression at all. 

The lighting and cinematography, as far as Found Footage films go, are quite well done, with some great use of headlamps, and the camera's forced POV perspective does give a scene or two some genuine tension. The audio design is better than even that, as it is nicely subtle, never getting too loud or ambitious, and lets the sounds in the dark mess with our heads.

Unfortunately, Steeley doesn't have much grasp in how to let a scene play out. Most of the scenes in the movie just sort of come in, and then fade out, without any sort of build-up or forward momentum. For example, one of the three leads gets separated, and the other two are calling out his name, looking for him; a few minutes later they find him next to their dog, explaining how he just got a little lost. No mention of seeing something weird, or jump scare once all three are reunited, just nothing happens at all, which made that series of scenes pretty pointless. And having an occasional one or two scenes like that is fine, but the whole movie pretty much plays out this way - just one scene, going to another, with nothing at all really happening happening. This causes the whole movie to be quite a bore to watch and a chore to sit through.

To top it all off, it's not even worth it to sit through all those pointless scenes since, come the end, we get virtually no Bigfoot action whatsoever, or even the hint of such a thing, so again, it was just all so pointless. Say what you will about The Blair Witch Project or the phenomenal Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes, but even when you couldn't see the action in those, you could see or hear its effects on the cast of characters. But here, we don't even get that luxury.

Within the realm of recent Found Footage movies, this pales in comparison to most (Earth To Echo is bloody brilliant), and in the wake of a lot of recent Bigfoot movies, it too fails to impress much. Which is sad, as Justin Steeley seems like a pretty competent director, but as a writer he's terribly cliche-orientated and can't produce any thrills.

5/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward

Lake Placid vs Anaconda (2015)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long

COMPANY: UFO International

RUNTIME: 86 minutes


PLOT: Giant crocodiles go head to head with giant anacondas and the town sheriff must find a way to destroy these monsters before they kill the whole town.

REVIEW: With SyFy's very short-notice announcement of Lake Placid vs Anaconda not only actually being a thing, but airing in just a few days time, I took it upon myself to quickly watch and review each of SyFy's previous Anaconda and Lake Placid sequels. In short, I didn't like Anaconda 3: The Offspring or Anacondas: Trail of Blood much at all, but I loved the hell out of Lake Placid 2, Lake Placid 3, and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter.

As for Lake Placid vs Anaconda, I've watched it twice now (Once for pure enjoyment and then again a second time for the purposes of this review) and honestly I'm still not sure how I feel about it. There's a lot I enjoyed about it, but also just as much that I disliked about it, making me kind of feel like I'm sitting on the fence here, which I guess goes with the theme of my reviews, since one set of movies I disliked and the other I loved.

The movie is definitely more Lake Placid than it is Anaconda or even a fair mix of the two. The story centers around Black Lake (the lake from all the Lake Placid movies) and it's nearby companion, Clear Lake, as the massive crocodiles get loose from their electrified fence enclosure set up in Lake Placid: The Final Chapter and heads to the next nearest lake on the search for a massive food source, it includes two returning characters from the Lake Placid sequels (Reba as played brilliantly by Yancy Butler and The poacher Bickerman played by Robert Englund, now missing an eye, a leg, and a hand after his fate at the end of The Final Chapter), and tons of crocodiles. Tons. As in, every five minutes or so. In contrast, the Anaconda portion of the movie deals with no returning characters (though the daughter of John Rhys-Davis' character from the Anaconda sequels is here as the main villainess type character, now in charge of her dad's company), and the anaconda snakes themselves, after the intro scene, don't even show back up in the movie again until after an hour into this hour and 25 minute movie, and than only gets two or three quick scenes before the movie is over. It almost feels like this was always planned as a Lake Placid 5, but someone decided to last-minute rewrite the script to make it a brief crossover with SyFy's failed Anaconda franchise.

It also didn't help that the very brief portions of the movie that did focus on the Anaconda storyline was pretty much just yet another identical rehash of both Anaconda 3: Offspring and Anacondas: Trail of Blood, something that I was already complaining about come Trail of Blood, and after watching all these movies back-to-back I'm just getting really sick of now. See, this go-around the daughter of John Rhys-Davis' character is now in control of the company and has continued the Blood Orchid/anaconda experiments, and wishes to combine the DNA of her genetically-engineered snakes with that of the rare Black Lake crocodiles in the hopes of getting better results, so her and her team of mercenaries hire Bickerman (having somehow survived The Final Chapter, though not unscathed) to escort them behind the electrified fence and into the crocodile zone of Black Lake to capture one such croc. Of course things go wrong, people die, the fence gets destroyed, and both the snakes and the crocodiles get loose. Sheriff Reba (Yes, you read that right, she's a sheriff now – more on that in a bit) and a Wildlife Official (played by B-Movie regular Corin Nemec) must hunt down the escaped crocs before they make a meal out of some vacationing sorority sisters, while Bickerman, the evil company woman, and her mercenaries travel through the woods and try to hunt down and recapture her escaped snakes. Just like in The Offspring and Trail of Blood. Even bringing Robert Englund's Bickerman back from the dead served no purpose whatsoever, seeing as how he played no real part in the movie other than to just follow other people around and complain the whole time, and than get killed off again (well, sort of). That's the extent of his role in this movie, so it confuses me as to why they felt the need to bring him back from the dead just for that.

Likewise, I really can't get behind making Yancy Butler's Reba the Lake Placid town sheriff. Not only does it not make any sense from a legal standpoint (the amount of years it would take her to get to that position, not to mention her criminal record would have prevented her from ever even being able to get into law enforcement) but it also makes no sense from her character's standpoint from what we know of her and her personality from the previous two Lake Placid movies. Sure, in The Final Chapter there was even a scene that showcased how much she hates dealing with regular town folk in an official capacity and how awkward she feels having people coming up to her looking for answers. However, this character has remained consistently hilarious, and played to perfection by Ms. Butler each and every time, that I'm willing to overlook any leaps in logic with her new career choice simply because I love having her in these movies. She's one of those characters that every time she so much as opens her mouth, you know you'll be rolling on the floor with laughter soon after. Plus, there was a nice little inside joke for fans of the series in regards to the fact that there's been a different sheriff of the town in each Lake Placid sequel so far.

Unfortunately, other than Yancy Butler and one of the more comedic and self-respectful sorority sister 'hopefuls', the acting in this outing is pretty atrocious, even from Corin Nemec who usually turns in a better performance than this. Adding to that, the movie also tries to play as more of a comedy than any of the previous entries from either series, and while some of the humor I admit was pretty funny (mostly when it came to dialogue from Yancy Butler or the aforementioned single interesting sorority sister character), the majority of it just didn't hit well with me and I found myself rolling my eyes and groaning more at the majority of the stuff I was meant to laugh at. It also certainly didn't help that there was hardly any characterization on display here and absolutely zero chemistry between anybody. That mixed with the many failed attempts at humor caused most of the scenes to feel as flat and lifeless as an anaconda victim.

Speaking of anaconda victim though, the attack scenes were actually loads of fun for the most part. Sure, some of the crocodile attacks got a bit repetitive after a while, since there's only so much you can do with them and they did take up most of the movie's focus (and really, once you have a crocodile hiding under a person's bed and attack them out of anger when them having sex causes the bed to repeatedly hit the croc on the head, or when you have a stubborn self-centered sorority sister get angry at the crocs for ruining her day and ends up punching one in the face, there's not really any place else to go after those, hahaha), but we also got some fun deaths and chase scenes involving the snakes once they finally did show up, including an awesome-looking car-crushing shot, a wink back to the 'snake comes up close to person's face' shot from both The Offspring and Trail of Blood (and done a second time in this movie as well but involving a crocodile instead of an anaconda), a nest of baby crocs swarming over someone, and of course any time that the anacondas and crocodiles squared off with one another, with both species' winning a battle or two, depending on the scene. The movie may lack quite a lot of things, but fun and/or cheesy animal attack scenes is certainly not on that list.

As for the CGI effects for these animals...well like with the Lake Placid sequels, they're kind of back and forth depending on the scene. In some shots they actually look halfway decent, but in plenty of other shots, especially when they have to interact directly with the actors, they more often looked pretty terrible, even by SyFy Original Movie standards. The designs of the CG models actually looked pretty good to be honest, with what is probably the best-looking snakes in a SyFy Anaconda movie yet, but when it came time to interact with real people or objects, that's when the effects fell apart. And even though the crocodiles' design looked great, it also looked totally different from the design of them in all the other Lake Placid sequels, creating a bit of a visual continuity gap. Not a big issue mind you, but still worth noting as I do love continuing continuity whenever I can get it in these movies. Although speaking of continuing continuity, I have to mention that I do love the fact that the electrified fence surrounding Black Lake that was constructed during Lake Placid: The Final Chapter is still up around the lake. I had convinced myself and prepared myself for the possibility that the new filmmakers would ignore/forget about that aspect from the previous movie (an aspect I loved), just because that's usually how things go in these kinds of movies, so I was super-thrilled to see that it was not only included but part of the plot actually revolved around it as well!

As you can tell, I'm very on the fence here. As a pretty big B-Movie fan, especially of the SyFy Originals variety, there were indeed some aspects of Lake Placid vs Anaconda that I loved and had a blast with, however there's just as much that I also hated as well. It also doesn't help that the movie ends quite suddenly and abruptly, having left me feeling robbed of a proper climax, especially since the movie very heavily hinted at some new crossbreed Crocaconda creature showing up, I had thought for sure that was going to come into play for the climax, but frustratingly absolutely nothing at all came from it other than some characters briefly talking about the possibility during the intro scene.

If I had to place it somewhere in the rankings of the other SyFy Anaconda and Lake Placid sequels, I would certainly place it above both Anaconda movies but below all the Lake Placid movies, and while it ended up not being what I hoped it would be, it was still an entertaining enough quick ride for at least a one-time watch, and despite how frustrated I was at a lot of things in this movie, I'd still be pretty excited for another one if they ever decided to do a sequel. I just hope they remember to include the damn Crocacondas in the next one.

5/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward