Posts Tagged ‘Blair Witch Project’


Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 2.59.33 PMRichard’s CP24 movie reviews for “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” “Unfriended” and “Monkey Kingdom.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 3.00.43 PMRichard’s CTV NewsChannel movie reviews for “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” “Unfriended” and “Monkey Kingdom.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!

Metro Canada In Focus: Unfriended #Iknowwhatyoudidonline

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 12.52.08 PMBy Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus

The best horror films are never only about the Double Gs—guts and gore. Sure, part of the appeal of scary movies is that they make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, and that frequently requires a spray of blood or a nightmarish vision of terror in the form of Freddy Kruger or Jason Voorhees, but great horror films are always about something other than the thrills and chills.

To be truly effective scary pictures must tap into a collective anxiety; societal hot buttons that elevate the frights to a new level. For instance, Frankenstein plays on people’s fear of science while Godzilla is an obvious cultural metaphor for nuclear weapons in reaction to the devastation of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and you don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to see Dracula as the metaphorical embodiment of everything from drug addiction and old age to alternative lifestyles and capitalism.

Perhaps the most socially self-aware horror film of all is Night of the Living Dead. It’s got zombies galore but director George A. Romero had the braaaiiins to include a subtext that echoed the contemporary state America’s of race relations, the horrors of Vietnam and cynicism with government. It’s the best of both worlds—a thought-provoking movie that gushes with gore.

Film historian Linda Badley suggests Night of the Living Dead horrifies because the zombies weren’t bizarre creatures from outer space or from Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory, but because, “They’re us.”

This weekend a new film, Unfriended, turns the camera, or in this case the Skype screen, on us in an eerie story about bullying. On the surface Unfriended may look like a cheapo teen horror flick with a cast of unknowns—which it is, but so was Night of the Living Dead—but by basing the plot in the world of social media and the bad behaviour that comes along with anonymous avatars, it becomes a ripped-from-the-headlines comment on a very touchy societal subject.

The movie begins a year after Laura, a popular high school student, was cyber shamed into killing herself. A teenage girl is on a group Skype session when she begins to receive cryptic and threatening messages from Laura’s old account. As the movie unfolds secrets are revealed and the danger is amped up.

The mysterious killer is a hoary old horror convention, but here it’s told in the contemporary language of Millennials. Unsurprisingly, the movie has already sparked the interest of the Y Generation—the trailer garnered almost 300,000 Twitter comments on its first day—who relate to the setting—by-and-large it takes place on a computer screen—and who are all too familiar with the everyday brutality of Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Instagram and Spotify. They understand what a minefield the web can be and the filmmakers realized the narrative possibilities of creating cinema’s first deadly internet troll. Freddy Kruger is your father’s baddie; the new horror comes in bits and bytes.

Similar to Psycho’s Norman Bates or the undead of 28 Days Later, the kids of Unfriended tell a very specific story—the sad tale of a teen suicide—that becomes a universal horror tale by making the characters and setting ordinary and relatable. Like the best of classic fright films, it breathes new life into a form we’ve seen before by recontextualizing it for a new generation.


Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 3.03.11 PMRichard’s “Canada AM” movie reviews for “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” “Unfriended” and “Monkey Kingdom.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!

UNFRIENDED: 4 STARS. “a ‘Blair Witch Project’ for a new age.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 12.50.55 PMIn the old days monsters were usually found in places like Transylvania or in remote castle laboratories, recognizable by protruding fangs or giant, square green heads but Frankenstein and Dracula are now symbols of an older kind of scare fare. Today, as the movie “Unfriended” shows us, the most terrifying places on earth aren’t far flung physical locations but closer-to-home sites like Twitter, Instagram and Skype.

“Unfriended” begins a year after popular high school student Laura (Heather Sossaman), was cyber shamed into killing herself when an unflattering video of her passed out at a party went viral.

Jealous of her popularity, six of Laura’s schoolmates—Blaire (Shelley Hennig), Jess (Renee Olstead), Val (Courtney Halverson), Ken (Jacob Wysocki), Adam (Will Peltz), and Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm)—were chief among the internet bullies behind the distribution of the video.

One night, on the anniversary of their classmate’s death, and during a group Skype session, they begin to receive cryptic and threatening messages—“If you hang up all your friends will die!”—from Laura’s old account. “It’s a glitch!” “Well, the glitch just typed!”

Secrets are revealed and the danger is amped up as they try and save themselves by checking chat rooms like “Do Not Answers Messages From the Dead.” Something is, as they say, srsly messed up. Cue the cyber screams.

The mysterious killer is a hoary old horror convention, but here it’s told in the contemporary language of Millennials who are all too familiar with the everyday brutality of social media. They understand what a minefield the web can be and the director, Leo Gabriadze, realized the narrative possibilities of creating cinema’s first deadly internet troll. Freddy Kruger is your father’s baddie; the new face of horror comes in bits and bytes. After all, what’s more terrifying than a missing “forward” button on an e-mail?

“Unfriended” is a “Blair Witch Project” for a new age. It’s a found footage film of sorts—the action takes place entirely on a computer screen—and there are no bells and whistles. Entire scenes go by with very little or no dialogue, just the eerie clicks of a computer mouse and there is even an homage to the famous “Heather’s extreme close-up” from the 1999 film.

It’s a very modern thriller that relies on old school scare generators like unnerving silence, anticipation and darkness and shadows, while throwing in a little gore—hand in a blender!—for good measure.

“Unfriended” puts very real seeming (although slightly hysterical) teens in an unreal situation. As the stakes rise so do the emotions, so parents, be warned that you may be as horrified by the language as you are by the thrills and chills.


lastexorcism2-poster-smOne of the most used film chestnuts is the “one last job” cliché. As a plot device we’ve seen it in everything from “The Sting” to “The Wild Bunch” to “Sexy Beast” to “Inception.” It usually involves a character’s search for redemption; a release that can only come after doing their usual job/gig/illegal activity one more time. Usually things don’t work out as planned but rarely have the consequences been as biblical as the climax of the aptly titled new thriller “The Last Exorcism.”

Staged like a documentary “The Last Exorcism” follows the exploits of Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a fundamentalist preacher and exorcist. I say exploits because Marcus makes a habit of exploiting the beliefs of his followers for money. He is, more or less, a God fearing man, but despite his fire and brimstone sermons, he doesn’t buy into the existence of demons. He’s like a slick salesman who doesn’t really believe in his product. He does however think the process of exorcism helps people who have faith He’s happy to take their money and business is good. “The Vatican gets the press,” he says, “because they have ‘the movie’” but he is called on to do dozens of exorcisms a year. After reading about a botched exorcism in which a young boy is killed, however, he decides to hang up his cross. He’ll do the fabled one last job for the benefit of the documentary cameras but that’s it. Of course, the demonic doings on the farm of Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum) in rural Louisiana test his faith—or lack thereof—more than he anticipated.

“The Last Exorcism” is part “Blair Witch Project” and part “Wicker Man” with a taste of “Rosemary’s Baby” thrown in for good measure. Despite some gaping credulity gaps—like a documentary crew who stays well past the point when any sane person would have run for the hills—it’s filled with enjoyably cheap and nasty b-movie thrills. By and large there are no special effects, just old school frights like eerie shadowy figures walking down hallways. The scares come from the situation, the characters and the layer of tension that director Daniel Stamm allows to build slowly as he nears the fiery climax.

As I said earlier, along the way credulity is stretched paper thin, and hardcore horror fans will likely see some of the twists coming, but Stamm compensates for that in the casting. One of the worst aspects of these “found footage” faux documentaries is the acting. Too often amateurish performances stand out like sore thumbs in these films, but with very few exceptions “The Last Exorcism” pulls it off acting wise. Particularly strong are Patrick Fabian as the sardonic know-it-all preacher and Ashley Bell as the 16-year-old demon child. Fabian brings some unexpected charm and humor to the role and Bell impresses as she careens from innocent to evil in the blink of an eye.

“The Last Exorcism” isn’t the most startling or original horror film to come along recently, but it is suitably creepy and should make you gobble your popcorn just a bit faster during the scary scenes.

The found footage of missing protagonists In Focus by Richard Crouse METRO CANADA Published: August 31, 2011

apollo-18-8-007The most famous “found footage” film begins with the words, “In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared into the woods of Burketville, Maryland while shooting a documentary. A year later their footage was found.”

Thus began the Blair Witch Project, a movie Roger Ebert called an “extraordinarily effective horror film.” He also called it a “celebration of rock bottom production values” for its rough hewn camera style and effective no-budget scares.

Those are trademarks of found footage-style movies. The premise is almost always the same: someone has recovered film left behind by, as Wikipedia says, “missing or dead protagonists,” and pieced it together to tell a (usually) horrifying story. This weekend, Apollo 18 uses (fictional) found footage from NASA’s abandoned Apollo 18 mission to reveal the reason the U.S. has never returned to the moon.

In the wake of Blair Witch, theatres were overflowing with found footage movies, partially because they’re cheap to make, and partially because audiences raised on reality television seemed to respond to them. Movies like The St. Francisville Experiment, The Last Horror Movie, September Tapes and The Curse tried, most unsuccessfully, to cash in on the box office bonanza of Blair Witch, but [Rec], a Spanish horror film about a haunted building was the most successful, artistically and financially. If you missed the Spanish version you can always check out the shot-for-shot remake, Quarantine, starring Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter.

Less successful but interesting is Redacted, a Brian De Palma war film shot through the lens of one of his characters. De Palma came up with the idea when he was asked by HDNet Films to make a movie for $5 million on HD. In creating the story of U.S. soldiers on a revenge rampage after one of their friends is killed by an IED, he earned the ire of many conservative groups who called for boycotts of the film and producer, Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban.

If the Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity are the commercially successful of the genre and Redacted the most contentious, the most controversial must be Cannibal Holocaust. The 1980 fake cannibal found footage doc that was so convincing the director was arrested and charged with murder. Police believed several actors had been killed on screen but charges were dropped when the actors showed up at the trial, safe and sound.