Wednesday, January 23, 2013

V/H/S, Wake Wood, and The Possession

Thanks to a completely jacked-up sleep schedule I recently had the opportunity to enjoy three horror movies in a single day. A few years ago this wouldn’t have been a big deal or even worth mentioning, but nowadays it’s a remarkable event.

I’ve been craving horror ever since seeing Texas Chainsaw 3D. Well, that’s not quite right – ever since writing about Texas Chainsaw 3D. It wasn’t until I wrote my review that I realized how much I had enjoyed the movie. I think my initial uncertainty came from the not-awesome experience of watching a movie at the Studio Movie Grill. But anyway, writing about that fun and odd movie made me want to see more good stuff.

Netflix is good for that. I was awake at 4 AM the other day. This isn’t unusual for me, but I had woken up a couple of hours before. My shifts have been switching between days and nights more often than is normal, so I got home at 5 PM after working twelve hours, fell asleep around 9, and woke up at 2 AM or so. After putting together my post for later that day, I decided it would be a good time to watch V/H/S.
            These aren’t going to be my normal, unnecessarily long recap-style reviews. Just a few thoughts on each movie and my opinion on whether you should see them or not. Lord knows I’d like to string these out and get three days’ worth of posts, but I don’t think I can.


My automatic response to found footage movies is to think they’re probably going to suck, but if they don’t they’re going to be great. There tends to be no middle ground with these things. I remember hearing some positive things about V/H/S before it came out and then some not-so-positive things after. In addition to some negatives here and there, Mrs. Troublemaker watched it and said it wasn’t any good.

Despite all of that I was still curious and mostly was intrigued by the format – some guys get hired to break into a house and steal one VHS tape, end up watching some other tapes, bad things happen.

Right up front let me say that the main story is a neat device for explaining why we’re seeing all of these random recordings, but otherwise is useless. The characters are forgettable except for the one guy with a mustache and the only reason you remember him is because he has a mustache. The story isn’t particularly scary or clever – it’s just there to get things going. The dudes break into the house and find all these stacks of VHS tapes and have to watch them to figure out which one they’re supposed to take. It kind of doesn’t make any sense, but whatever. It gets us to the point where some shitbag sticks a tape in a VCR and the real fun begins.

The first story is about three dudes – one very scummy and the other two slightly less so – who get a hotel room with the intention of bringing inebriated females there to nail them. One of the guys is wearing spy camera glasses so he can record the evening. Whee! They eventually meet a couple of likely candidates, but once they get back to the room things go horribly wrong. It’s a story that you can see going downhill, but you don’t quite anticipate just how badly things are going to go. And the ending is just fucking nuts. 
The second one is about a couple on a road trip. The guy is a little weird and controlling. The setup for the ending is sort of subtle and there are only two truly shocking scenes, but it’s a good little story about relatable people.
Number three is a play on Friday the 13th. A girl brings three acquaintances – a slut, a prude, and a jock - out to a secluded lake. Like the rest of the shorts, things go horribly wrong. This one is a little awkward and the acting isn’t quite as good as the others, but the payoff is cool. With some better editing it could have been great, but as things stand this one is my least favorite of the shorts. Still solid, though.

The fourth short is all video chat between a girl and her boyfriend. They’re having a long-distance relationship and the girl – who seems to have some mild mental problems – thinks her new apartment is haunted. This one is creepy and sinister as fuck and bugged me out the most. There were several parts that absolutely made my skin crawl and the ending left me… not disturbed, exactly, but definitely creeped out.

Finally we have the big story and the one that actually became a bit of an internet thing. I don’t know if the producers leaked the footage or what, but this is the haunted house one. It has a slow build, but once it gets there shit gets fucking crazy. The guys in it are pretty good and likable and the story is super basic but gets the job done. This one is based more around visuals than anything else, but they are effective.

I definitely recommend V/H/S. It’s on Netflix, so there’s no reason not to watch it. It isn’t the best thing ever, but I had fun with it. I think it would be a good group flick. I can definitely see me watching again at some point.

4 out of 5

Wake Wood

Like The Woman In Black, Wake Wood is from the revived Hammer Films. While this one is not a period piece, it is just as distinctly Hammer in both atmosphere and content. This was actually the first release of Hammer’s comeback.

The story takes place in a small town where a couple loses their only daughter to a dog attack. They discover that there is a way to bring her back for three days. They choose to do this and everything goes just fine and none of the villagers are weird or creepy and nobody gets their throat sliced right the fuck open by pure evil and they find a way to keep their little girl forever and ever!

Ha! I’m kidding. Things go horribly fucking wrong.

This movie is very dark and emotionally charged. There are slow parts, but the tension is so thick from what has been set up that it’s all just an effective part of the build. And the ending. Hoo, boy. 
I started this one at about 6 AM, fully expecting to fall asleep while watching it. I did not. As a matter of fact, I had to watch a couple of episodes of It’s Always Sunny afterward just to get it out of my head. Highly recommended.

4 out of 5


The Possession

I watched this one the following night with Mrs. Troublemaker. Or that night. Or whatever. Shift work, man. It fucks with your days. And nights.
This is from Sam Raimi’s Ghost House studio and stars the utterly awesome Jeffrey Dean Morgan and the normally quite likeable Kyra Sedgwick. They play a divorced couple with two daughters. Every actor in this movie is great. I was drawn just as much into the family dynamics as I was to the horror story. And let me tell you – the story is utterly fucking horrifying. Like with Wake Wood I don’t want to go into too many details. Suffice it to say that me and the missus were both thoroughly creeped out. I got even more creeped out when I found out there’s a for-real dybbuk box out there somewhere. I don’t know where. Not because I haven’t looked into it, but because the last person to own it – the last in a long string of people who suffered various misfortunes while the box was in their possession – took it to a group of rabbis to have it re-sealed and then hid it away somewhere and won’t tell anybody where.

I am not overly superstitious, but I am fairly open-minded. This movie was definitely worthy. I’ll be buying it when I come across a used copy. I really hope there is some sort of documentary about the actual box. The whole “Based on actual events” thing has kind of worn thin and become more of a trigger for eye-rolling than anything else, but The Possession made it work. It was just as effective as Drag Me To Hell, but in an entirely different way.

5 out of 5

I feel like the less you know about all three of these the more you will enjoy them. If you’re at all curious about any of them, just watch them. Don’t go look stuff up.

I should mention that after The Possession was over we watched Goon. We wanted a laugh to cleanse our collective palate and a movie starring Sean William Scott as a dumb hockey guy sounded good. And it was. To a point. The first hour or so was definitely hilarious, but the shtick got old. I fell asleep a couple of times and Mrs. Troublemaker got up and went to bed. I was so bored I turned it off and went downstairs. I don’t think it was bad, it just wasn’t good enough to overcome our utter lack of interest in hockey. It’s on Netflix, so it can’t hurt for you to check it out. And by “you” I mean Little Pond if you’re reading this. You’re the only person I know that gives a shit aboot hockey.



  1. I thought Goon was pretty funny. And I was pretty impressed with myself last weekend when I watched all 4 Alien movies + Prometheus in the same day. I will confess that portions of Alien 3 were watched in 1.5 speed though.

    1. It's wild to actually be able to do a movie marathon, isn't it? And I really like Alien 3. Not Fincher's best, obviously, but there's plenty there to enjoy, not the least of which is an appearance by the eighth Doctor.