Movie Review: The Campus

The Campus delivers on chills while paying homage to the breadth of styles that horror has to offer.

After her estranged father’s death, Morgan (Rachel Amanda Bryant) returns home for his funeral. She holds more hostility than love for her family, having been cast out before her eighteenth birthday, and uses the opportunity to burglarize her father’s business. But when she breaks into the studio campus after hours, she finds herself with more to worry about than security and shadows. Morgan finds a fate that she never knew waited for her—a supernatural death warrant her father signed before she was born—and falls into a rabbit hole of terror. She must discover how to escape the cycle of violence before she loses not just her life, but every piece of her soul.

Not satisfied with settling for a single horror subgenre, director Jason Horton uses a unique premise to blend many into one coherent film. Monsters, gore, psychological terror—they all have their place in The Campus. Each new style plays off the others, creating an atmosphere where the next fright waits just around the corner, or just behind the door, or maybe within Morgan herself. The question isn’t if Morgan will die a grisly death, but in which way?

Morgan is far from likable at first—too brash to gain sympathy and too bold for her own safety—but when the reality of her situation sets in, so does true fear. As a uniquely self-aware heroine, Morgan seems to know the ins and outs of horror films and just how to play the system to maximize her changes of survival, not that it saves her from repeated, gruesome deaths. She’s a scream queen who makes all the right choices while confronting her demons, metaphorical and physical, and still can’t escape. It’s the inevitability of the situation that breaks her and brings the audience along for the ride.

The Campus is set largely within the combination film studio and house where Morgan grew up. It’s a paragon of Hollywood—the perfect home that is really just a set with the reality of the studio just out of shot. This plays well with the fragmented personality of the film, showing the disparate aspects of Morgan, her life, and her soul. The confusing layout and mix of professional and personal turns the campus into a labyrinth. It asks the question: which parts of Morgan’s personality are real and which are simply a production? As the movie progresses, the fronts that Morgan puts up are stripped away and we see more of her natural self.

The Campus is a solid horror flick, one that horror addicts will enjoy regardless of subgenre preferences. It takes a new look at horror, hitting on popular themes and ideas in a way that keeps them fresh. There are monsters, blood and gore, and plenty of twists and turns for viewers who want to keep guessing until the last second.

The Campus is available to watch NOW on Amazon Instant Video.

Advertisements

Movie Review: Caller ID Entity

The messages are real.

Caller ID Entity is a modern horror think piece, capitalizing on a form of reality driven fear that has become increasingly popular lately. The movie derives from actual messages and testimonials of people claiming to have been the victims of mind-control experiments. While the messages themselves are harrowing, creator Eric Zimmerman transforms them into more than the crazed ravings of deranged individuals. The film asks: whom can you trust when you can’t trust yourself?

Caller ID Entity follows four young men—Dale (Denny Kirkwood), Miles (James Duval), Noah (Nathan Bexton), and Tristan (Triton B. King)—after they enroll in an unusual graduate study program run by Dr. Adam Whitney (Douchan Gersi). At the beginning, they all believe the goal of their research is to understand the causes of psychopathy, but, as the practicalities of their studies grow increasingly disturbing, the men realize that they’re into something far more sinister than they could have imagined. They are the latest victims in a mind-control experiment that challenges the very basis of humanity. The film follows them as they spiral deeper into madness and discover a network of survivors trying to expose the people who used them. They must separate truth from paranoia and find justice before time runs out.

Set in urban Los Angeles, Caller ID Entity capitalizes on the masses of humanity to reinforce the movie’s themes. People are portrayed as pawns—easily disposed and forgotten. Cellphones and cameras are everywhere in the city. When that technology can be used to hijack the mind, the threat is everywhere.

The cinematography reinforces this further. Caller ID Entity pulls from a variety of genres, using filming styles from documentaries, reality television, and experimental film. The result is a story that feels as if it takes place just on the fringe of reality. It walks the edge between life and fiction, between the belief that it could be true and the conviction that it is too crazy to be so.

Flashbacks, flash-forwards, and interviews break up the narrative, creating a looming sense of doom. We suspect throughout that there is no happy conclusion for the characters, yet we cannot turn away from their downfall. We are kept in suspense, hoping for any outcome other than the one we’ve glimpsed and wondering how anyone could fall so far.

The story has more than one basis in reality. A psychology experiment in the 1960’s found that people are willing to commit atrocities if pressured by an authority figure (interested? Look into the Milgram Experiments). This premise finds new life in Caller ID Entity, where the four young men find themselves involved in increasingly sinister experiments, spurred on by Dr. Whitney with encouragement that it is all for the betterment of mankind. While we may sit back and say we would never do anything so twisted, science says otherwise.

Caller ID Entity does not employ jump scares or extreme gore, but if you’re looking for a form of speculative science fiction or experimental horror that piggybacks off the everyday, this film is for you.

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor:Lavender

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kinds her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

She is also the founder of CrystalCon, a symposium that brings both Science Fiction & Fantasy writers and STEM professions together to mix and mingle with fans, educators, and inventors in attempts to answer a new take on an age-old question … which came first, the science or the fiction?

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it is so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

The Website

The Fanpage

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Live Action Review! by Crystal Connor: All Girls Weekend

All Girls Weekend Facebook

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those ‘ kinds her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

She is also the founder of CrystalCon, a symposium that brings both Science Fiction & Fantasy writers and STEM professions together to mix and mingle with fans, educators, and inventors in attempts to answer a new take on an age-old question … which came first, the science or the fiction?

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it is so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

http://podiobooks.com/title/and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after

Live Action Reviews! by Crystal Connor: Siren

Susanne L. Lambdin

Noel Saabye

Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains.  Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.

She is also the founder of CrystalCon, a symposium that brings both Science Fiction & Fantasy writers and STEM professions together to mix and mingle with fans, educators, and inventors in attempts to answer a new take on an age-old question … which came first, the science or the fiction?

When she’s not terrorizing her fans and racking up frequent flyers miles by gallivanting all over the country attending fan conventions and writer’s conferences she reviews indie horror and science fiction films for both her personal blog and HorrorAddicts.net

She is also considering changing her professional title to dramatization specialist because it so much more theatrical than being a mere drama queen.

WordsmithCrystalConnor

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

@notesfromtheauthor

@Fromtheauthor

Download your free copy of …And They All Lived Happily Ever After! from Podiobooks.com and see why the name Crystal Connor has become “A Trusted Name in Terror!” 

And They All Lived Happily Ever After!

 

Guest Blog: Archer’s Review of The Blair Witch

I am taking a departure this week and reviewing a movie that is still in theaters.

First, a brief recap for those who haven’t seen the original. The first Blair Witch Project came out in 1999 and launched an entirely new genre of “found footage” films, which makes use of hand-held cameras, cell-phone videos, and other portable media to bring the action down to ground level and more fully immerse the audience in a first person point-of-view experience. The use of this medium tends to convey a grittier, shakier, and (presumably) more genuine feel to the film.

The original Blair Witch Project contained only three characters who become lost in the woods of Burkitsville, Maryland as they searched for clues to the existence of the Blair Witch, the ghost of a former town resident who had been murdered in the late 1700s for practicing witchcraft. The movie deftly played on our fears of the occult and the unknown without needing to travel much beyond our own imagination because even though we didn’t ever see the Witch, we were definitely privy to its supernatural presence and the havoc it could wreak. 

The Blair Witch Project was really a love-it-or-hate-it film. The novelty of having the entire movie made from stitching together footage found after the fact was a refreshing change of pace for many, though for some the shaky cinematography, frequent cutaway scenes, and often grainy imagery was a turn off for many. Personally, I really liked it. I especially liked what was missing from the movie: a sound track. Without a musical score to complement or set up the scenes, the viewer lacked an emotional compass and was left to process the movie in real-time alongside the characters, which I felt made the story more compelling (if not exhausting). 

Blair Witch (2016) picks up 22 years after the original film. It stars James Allen McCune as the brother of Heather Donahue (the shrill, teary-eyed, snot-dripping girl who got everyone in trouble in the first Blair Witch). James receives a previously unreleased video clip of the Burkitsville Woods from an anonymous source in which catches a fleeting glimpse of what he believes is his sister. Filled with a renewed sense of hope that his sister may still be alive, he enlists the help of three friends to help him track down the source and search for clues to his sister’s disappearance.

James McCune “James”

Callie Hernandez “Lisa”

The “anonymous source” turns out to be two trailer park redneck nerds who insist on coming along though their motives are not entirely clear. And I kinda felt like I needed them to have a plausible reason because, well really, why the hell would you want to accompany a group of college students into supposedly haunted woods? But whatever, I’m not a screenwriter or casting director and neither is anyone in the group of four so the trailer park kids end up being added to the potential victim pool ostensibly as guides and we’re off to the woods.

_DSC0143.ARW

_DSC0143.ARW

corbin-reid

BW16 follows the same general formula as the original but with notably less success. Whereas the original Blair Witch relied on a couple of hand-held cameras of marginal quality, BW16 has at its disposal a dizzying array of video and electronic devices including earbud cameras (picture), walkie talkies, GPS positioning devices, and even a camera-mounted drone that can be operated by cell phone. 

All of this advanced technology seemed to have been included in an attempt to have the best of both worlds: the point-of-view perspective that are the hallmark of found footage films and the ubiquitous third-person omnipresence of mainstream productions. Unfortunately, this approach did not ever pan out. 

For one thing, the movie drifted away from what makes 1st-person films unique. Namely, the sense of helplessness that comes from being restricted to a very brief range of visual vantage points as the viewer navigates the story with little more than the landscape directly in front of the characters. Another shortcoming of the arsenal of devices in the beginning of the movie was that hardly any them were included in any meaningful way. I mean, these kids were equipped better than most SEAL teams. Certainly, the writers could have found a way to make use of at least some of that gear. I think including the aerial perspective of the forest from a drone could have opened up a world of possibilities. And are at least two dozen ways I can think of off the top of my head to incorporate GPS tracking in the movie (e.g., tracking any character – or part of a character – that goes missing). I mean what’s the point of teasing the viewer with all of this cool equipment if you’re not going to use it? 

But if the prospect of advanced technology was an attempt to drive the film in a new direction, a veritable minefield of horror movie clichés fought equally hard to anchor it in more familiar themes. So in addition to irritating characters squandering state-of-the-art equipment and making poor decisions in questionable circumstances, the writers decided to revert to some tried and true horror logic-defying flaws including but not limited to:

Cliché, faulty logic, or obvious plot device                                                                                               

  Frequency

Pulling on a door handle instead of turning the knob                                                        

 4

Flashlight winking out for no reason                                                                                      

13

Someone jumping unexpectedly into the scene out of ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOWHERE                      

8

Character running off in a random direction searching for some other dipshit who got separated from the group                                                                                                                                                                              

  24

Some idiot screaming at the top of their lungs to locate their friends with no success                                  

  9

Let me take a moment to address this last point.

If you’re lost at night in woods that are purportedly haunted and you lose track of your friends, the one thing you absolutely DO NOT DO is fucking yell for them at the top of your lungs. That’s not going to help anyone and it’s probably going to end up getting you and everyone else in your group killed. Here’s why:

Scenario #1 – They can’t hear you. In this case yelling louder will only give your position away. If they’re hurt or helpless, there’s not much you can do for them anyway. Better to save yourself (to quote Darwin: “fuck ’em”). 

Scenario #2 – They can but are deliberately not responding because they fear doing so would give away their position. This usually means they are vulnerable and have likely either seen what it is that is trying to kill them or have witnessed what it is capable of (e.g., eviscerating other campers, skull-fucking a bear, etc.). The more you yell, the more likely it is this thing will find you and eviscerate and/or skull-fuck you.

Scenario #3 – They hear you but rather than being motivated by self-preservation, they actively want this hell-beast to kill you instead, which means that your “friend” is a selfish asshole who’s only looking out for him/herself and doesn’t give a shit about your well-being. In either scenario 2 or 3, your best course of action as the searching party should be to question the value of having such a friend in the first place and ultimately decide that you’re better off without them. 

In the end, there were just too many competing priorities by everyone involved in the making of the film but there was no unifying vision of what the end product was supposed to be, which left Blair Witch feeling heavy on ambition but light on substance. Perhaps if they had just stayed true to their roots, it would have been a much better experience.

Get it? Roots? Because the movie takes place in a forest with trees that have…aw, forget it.