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The MFF Survival Guide: Surviving Movies With “13” in the Title

February 5, 2016

After watching The Final Girls I’ve started asking myself an age-old question. What movies could I survive if I was teleported into them and couldn’t simply run away?

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I can’t pull a Dr. and sprint away.

The question is incredibly important and I decided to tackle it headlong. I figured a great place to start would be in movies with “13” in the title. More often than not movies with 13 in the title mean doom, gloom and a lot of pain. The following post examines if I could  survive movies like 13 Assassins, 13 Ghosts, Assault on Precinct 13, The 13th Warrior, Friday the 13th, District B13 and Apollo 13. .

1. Friday the 13th

Chance of Survival – 0 – 5%

If I was transported into this film it would be very similar  to the Camp Bloodbath scenario in The Final Girls. The kids knew what was going on but still ended up as serial killer fodder. The camp counselors in Friday the 13th meet a grisly death and the only person left alive is the final girl. I’d have no chance. The best thing I could do is delay Mrs. Voorhees long enough for others to get away.

Best chance for Survival – Don’t have sex. Don’t get drunk. Don’t Investigate. Don’t get in a Canoe. Don’t trust middle-aged women. Don’t try to fix the generator. Hide somewhere and stay there.

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2. Thir13en Ghosts

Chance of Survival – 3%

You are trapped in a house that is powered by evil ghosts who just so happen to be on the loose.  You are dead. I guess the only way to survive would be…..actually, I would be dead. Even if I had a knowledge of the ghosts and had a Spaceball’s esque tape of the proceedings I would meet a violent end.

Best chance for survival – There is something about a ghost being created out of true love so I would stay close to the family and let Matthew Lillard be the hero. While Lillard is getting snapped in two for his bravery I would be chilling behind the door hoping the ghosts don’t wise up. I would just relax behind that ghost blocking door and hope the eventual house explosion doesn’t kill me.

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3. 13 Assassins 

Chance of Survival – 6%

One word. Hide. The carnage that makes up the final battle is insane and there is no way I could fight my way through it. If I tried to fight I would be the first one dead and the only way I could help the good guys is if the bad guys tripped over me. I would just stay on a roof and throw rocks Hobbit style until they caught up with me. Skilled warriors couldn’t survive in 13 Assassins so I’d be in a whole lot of trouble.

Best chance for survival – Hide. Hide like I’ve never hidden before. Find a nice hut somewhere and hope that nobody falls into the cozy nook.

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4. Assault on Precinct 13

Chance of Survival – 50%

Two things could happen here. I survive the gang onslaught and find my way into the secure basement. Or, I meet a violent end while a John Carpenter synth score blares in the background. Not many people survive Carpenter’s R-rated action fests but he gives you enough hope in thinking you could dodge enough bullets to walk out slightly scathed.

Best chance for survival – Pull a Jack Burton and hope something knocks me out while the heroes and villains wipe each other out.

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5. Apollo 13

Survival Rate: 100%

Tom Hanks is on board. I’d be cool.

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6. District B13

Chance of Survival – 17%

I would blow out my knee immediately and become fodder for the bad guys. Parkour isn’t meant for 6’4 Swedish people so I would just be hurting myself everywhere. Also, I’d feel terrible for the populace because there is no way I could get to the bomb on time.

Best Chance For Survival – If a foot chase broke out on open ground I might have a chance of hiding long enough for the bad guys to forget about me. If Dolph Lundgren can star in a movie called Hidden Assassin then I could surely mimic him

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7. The 13th Warrior

Chance of Survival – 83%

I am big Swedish guy who is smart enough stay out of the action and not do dumb things that put me in the range of the crazy cannibals. If I found myself in the action I would stay close to Buliwyf and hope he wipes out everyone around us. A decent amount of vikings and villagers lived so I would stay close to the tough guys and hope for the best.

Best Chance for Survival – Hope that I have an awesome moment where I realize the bad guys are only human and I go on a rampage resulting in me being the battle MVP. Or, I get knocked out and fall under something where I won’t get smooshed by cavalry. It worked for Bilbo in The Battle of the Five Armies.

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John’s Horror Corner: The Boy (2016), a pleasantly entertaining evil doll movie with a ridiculous premise, an awkwardly eerie atmosphere and a straight-faced delivery.

February 4, 2016

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MY CALL: This movie samples heavily from The House of the Devil (2009) and Housebound (2014), but lacks the stylistic magic of either. That said, I found this movie to be quite enjoyable. Not good, mind you, but enjoyable. The delivery is spot on for this otherwise ridiculous premise.

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I know.  This job DOES sound too good to be true!

I walked into this movie with hopeful optimism, praying this wouldn’t be another evil doll movie disaster like Annabelle (2014; podcast discussion of Annabelle). I’m quite happy to say I enjoyed it…yet I would hesitate to call it “good.” It’s fun, it’s enjoyable (in my opinion anyway), but I could see a lot of people getting annoyed with it.

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In the first half of The Boy our very capable director William Brent Bell (Wer, Stay Alive, The Devil Inside) samples heavily from The House of the Devil (2009) as we meet Greta (Lauren Cohan; The Walking Dead). Hired to nanny a young boy while his senior citizen parents are on a 3-month holiday–a little odd, by the way, to hire a nanny you’ve never met to meet your 8-year-old child one day and then spend the next 3 months alone with him as his sole caretaker–she travels all the way from America to a remote manor in England–so remote that, of course, there is no cell reception or internet access–only to find out that the boy is, in fact, a doll which the perhaps disturbed and elderly parents consider to be very much alive.

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The delivery from the parents is awkward, eerie and a bit funny–probably exactly as intended. These nutty parents maintain a dire poker face while referring to the “boy” (strangely named Brahms like he’s some Austrian composer) as if this creepy doll could hear and understand them. But, just like The House of the Devil (2009), the pay is so unreasonably high to conduct such a (suspiciously) simple task that she stays despite the fact that her Creep-o-meter is reading an 11.  Oh, right, and the boy has rules.

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As laughably farfetched as this premise sounds, I felt it was well-delivered and quite enjoyable. They got the tone just right. So if this movie isn’t for you, my guess is it’s because this kind of movie in general isn’t for you. It’s also not gory and more creepy than scary.

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I know what she’s thinking.  The answer is yes, Lauren, this film IS going to reduce you to doing a shower scene.

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And the answer is no, Walking Dead fans, you don’t see her naked.  LOL.  Just some upper thigh action.

My biggest criticism would have to be the needless addition of Greta’s crazy, violent, obsessed and abusive ex-boyfriend. He’s mentioned in the beginning to help justify Greta looking overseas for work, but after a couple more mentions it becomes obvious that we’re going to meet this Mr. Personality eventually. Thankfully it’s late in the movie, but the character adds nothing to the story. In fact, I found his presence aggravating.

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After all sorts of needless drama picks up steam as we get on board the train to crazytown after “something bad” happens to the doll. Any explanation beyond that would surely spoil the ending. But the movie succeeds in maintaining an uncomfortably eerie atmosphere and some of the jump-scares were simply epic…for jump-scares anyway. I really enjoyed them.

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This movie has a ridiculous premise, a straight-faced delivery, and it meets us in the middle with a very entertaining and in no way slapstick experience.

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The MFF Podcast #45: The Best Comedies of the 21st Century

February 3, 2016

MFF

Hello all. Mark here.

You can stream the pod on Blog Talk Radio or download it from Itunes. If you get a chance please rate the review the pod. You are awesome!

The MFF podcast is back and we are talking the best 21st century comedies! I recently broke down the critical/audience data on 370 comedies and figured out the top rated comedies of this century. The list is eclectic (we wouldn’t have it any other way) and the discussion covers everything from Sideways to Out Cold to Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil.

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Horror comedy is still comedy….with lots of college kids killing themselves.

As always we answer random questions and ponder whether Yetis are actually vampire/werewolf hybrids. John Leavengood continues his love affair with Ryan Reynolds and I wax poetic about Wes Anderson. You will love it.

You can stream the pod on Blog Talk Radio or download it from Itunes. If you get a chance please rate the review the pod.

 

John’s Horror Corner: Unfriended (2015), an indie Techno-Horror about a Skype session with a vengeful spirit.

February 2, 2016

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MY CALL: As silly as it may sound, this neither scary nor gory indie Techno-Horror about a Skype session with a vengeful spirit was somehow VERY engaging to me. If you can get me interested in a film that takes place entirely on a computer monitor about a Skype call gone wrong, then you’ve succeeded as a filmmaker. Contrary to all expectations, I found myself introduced to characters that feel like “real people” doing “normal things” and reacting credibly to incredible circumstances–I liked them a lot. These kids all did a excellent job and so did the director and writing team!
MORE MOVIES LIKE Unfriended:
Other technology-linked horror (or “techno-horror”) include White Noise (2005), Pulse (2001, 2006), Strangeland (1998), Other Halves (2016), Stay Alive (2006) and One Missed Call (2003, 2008).

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Contrary to all expectations, I found myself introduced to characters that feel like “real people” doing “normal things” and reacting credibly to incredible circumstances–I liked them a lot.

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After reviewing a video of her friend Laura’s (Heather Sossaman; Desecrated, Fairy Tales) suicide online and the embarrassing party video (posted by her “friends”) that led to her suicide, we meet Blaire (Shelley Hennig; Teen Wolf, Ouija), a cute normal teenager Skyping with her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Storm). They playfully joke about blue balls and virginity and make plans for prom night when they are ambushed on a group Skype call by a couple of their friends…along with a mystery caller who joined the group. What’s weird is that this mystery caller must have answered for Mitch and Blaire, who was in the middle of a strip tease when the call was answered.

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The group (Matt, Val, Adam, Jess, Ken) considers the mystery caller to be a hacker. But things get immediately more disturbing when Mitch and Blaire begin to receive harassing messages from Laura’s Facebook account (or whoever the hacker is)–so Blaire “unfriends” her account.

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This hacker begins to type messages via the others’ accounts and uses their accounts (like Facebook) to post incriminating photos of each other, all the while insisting that it is, in fact, the deceased Laura. Conceptually, this may not sound so cool or edgy, but all this is happening in “real time”–so 90 minutes to us viewers is 90 minutes in the lives of the characters–and Laura threatens that if Blaire hangs up all her friends will die.

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The only hokey thing about this movie are the deaths. While I giggled with satisfaction at the blender scene, the scene is choppy as if from poor internet signal.

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This may annoy some viewers but I liked the flavor and it allowed this low budget flick work for me. Evidently Laura’s vengeful spirit is possessing those who slandered who one by one, and makes them kill themselves. She also gets them to turn on each other, playing vicious mind games with them.

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Who’s up for a game of Never Have I Ever?

It’s all a little juvenile. But then, that’s simply the age group of the protagonists. And I must say how nice it is to see horror victims behaving in ways that largely make sense. They may not think of everything we would, but they are in tough situations which makes their absent-mindedness all too credibly human. What’s more is that they use cell phones, texting, Google searches, Facebook, Youtube, Skype and Gmail…making this the opposite of the communicative vacuum that is the “cabin in the woods” scenario.

I was especially impressed at the nuance in Mitch and Blaire’s message typing; the pauses, the deletions and rewrites, the delays while thinking about how to word something or whether or not to click send, even the scrambling between message boards and Facebook chats. It all felt very believable, very normal–but panicked. You really need to see it to understand, but this simple thing (i.e., the depiction of “typing messages” in a movie) has perhaps never been done better. This doesn’t feel anything like found footage horror, but something else altogether. I almost want to call it social media horror or console horror–“techno-horror.”

This neither scary nor gory movie was somehow VERY engaging to me–and I’m an over-analytical guy in his mid-30s. I’ve got to say, if you can get me interested in a film that takes place entirely on a girl’s computer monitor about a bunch of teenagers on a group Skype call turned-highway-to-Hell, then you’ve succeeded as a filmmaker. These kids all did a great job and so did the director and writing team!

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John’s Horror Corner: Goodnight Mommy (2014), the story of a mother scorned by her children’s distrust…or children scorned by an evil imposter!

February 1, 2016

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MY CALL: This Austrian film is slow but stimulating, delicate yet brutal, and simultaneously sympathetic and cold. Some may comfortably pick a side to trust, but I found my sympathies indivisible across the tortured family. I’d call that a victory despite this film’s blatant premature predictability and a “great reveal” that falls flat.
MORE MOVIES LIKE Goodnight Mommy:
The Uninvited (2009), The Visit (2015), Hide and Seek (2005), Orphan (2009) and Identity (2003), all of which do a better job at maintaining their mystery until the right time.
HOW YOU CAN WATCH IT: I saw this for free with my Amazon Prime Subscription.

Ok. Just to start out, I’d like to warn you that I confidently had this movie figured out after 12 minutes. No joke. I’m normally good at things like that–but in this case I think I was given a little too much a little too soon to piece things together a bit too prematurely. Now, hey, I still enjoyed this film. But something like this could spoil some people’s movie experience. On with the review…

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When first meet the identical twins, Lukas and Elias (Lukas and Elias Schwarz), they are refreshingly playing outside as young boys once did before the advent of videogame consoles, Netflix and the internet. They are clearly the best of friends and do everything together from hide and seek to burping contests on their large family farm estate in the countryside.

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After returning home to recover from a terrible accident that initially goes completely unexplained, their unrecognizably bandaged mother (Susanne Wuest) is not greeted as warmly as she’d like–hardly a kind word is exchanged after the boys coldly deny her so much as a welcome home hug. Clearly any children would be shocked to see their mother’s face obscured by gauze. But this is more than that. In that moment, Mommy earns audience sympathy while being dehumanized in the boys’ eyes. It is evident that the boys doubt that this is, in fact, their mother standing before them.

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Mommy makes her best effort to return to normal, but something is off. One twin (perhaps more disrespectfully than fearfully?) doesn’t speak directly to Mommy but rather whispers in his brother’s ear and, as a result, he is treated unfavorably.

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More things hint that something is off. Mommy insists that she will not see visitors, the boys refer to what dad lets them do but he is never seen or mentioned otherwise, and Mommy essentially never even acknowledges the other brother as if implementing some form of extreme silent treatment. The boys’ somewhat surreal dreams convey the intensity of their distrust and other little hints (or red herrings?) abound, but I won’t ruin any of it for you.

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As the story endures, the boys’ distrust only amplifies and so accordingly does Mommy’s impatience for their acceptance–which is never directly addressed. Their fantasies depict her as a something monstrous and inhuman–meanwhile they literally pray for the return of their “real” mother. Ultimately, the boys and Mommy turn to extreme measures and the film shifts from psychologically uneasy to brutal.

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The greatest fault of this film–other than its blatant predictability–was that when the time came for it to reveal the truth, it just sort of “tells us.” As a whole the film still worked for me, and I’d even recommend it to anyone in search of something different from the horror genre; a change of pace. But realize that to some, this flaw may not be considered as forgivable as it was to me. Furthermore, I was delighted by the editing, cinematography and splendid acting. This was the first feature film for writer/director team Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala and I’m thrilled to see what they do next. There are some intense scenes, just a few with blood, mostly involving the threat or act of domestic violence. But we delve briefly into torture porn during the dental floss, cockroach and super glue scenes.

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This film is slow but stimulating, delicate yet brutal, and simultaneously sympathetic and cold. Some may comfortably pick whom to trust, but I found my sympathies indivisible across the tortured family. I’d call that a victory.

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For a less favorable, critical-but-fair second opinion on this film–just to hear both sides–check out this review [CLICK HERE].

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Goodnight Mommy: A Glossy Horror Film That Prefers Style Over Substance

January 28, 2016

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!

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SPOILERS ABOUND!!!!!

Goodnight Mommy is beautifully filmed horror movie that prefers looking awesome over offering anything that makes the violence redeemable. It is empty calories disguised as art house cinema and is getting a lot of attention because Austria submitted it as their Best Foreign Language  entry for the Academy Awards. Watching Goodnight Mommy felt like slow walk into a spiked wall that is 200 yards directly in front of you. You see the spiked wall off in the distance so there is no surprise as you inch closer and closer.  I knew exactly where Goodnight Mommy was going and despite all the fantastic cinematography and new horror elements it felt familiar.

Normally, I am down for intelligent and critically loved horror but nothing in this film worked for me. It felt like a midnight film met a pretentious (and talented) film student and formed a hybrid that tried to be clever. It bums met out that it has been overshadowing gems like Spring, Creep and Housebound because they are all much more ambitious and earnest.  Over the last two years I’ve written copious amounts about the indie horror boom and loved movies like Bone Tomahawk, Under the Skin and The Babadook. Those movies have a heart and soul and presented their indie horror ideas with clarity and a lack of pretentiousness.

Goodnight Mommy tells the story of a mother returning to her remote country home after facial reconstruction. She is welcomed by her two kids named Lukas and Elias who spend their days patrolling the countryside and burning cockroaches to death. The mother refuses to acknowledge Lukas and only feeds and talks to Elias. At this point it should become painfully obvious that there is only one kid and I was surprised to learn that people didn’t see the twist coming. I am still amazed because I never pick up on twists and I noticed this twist two minutes in. I actually thought it was so obvious that the real twist would be that Lukas was actually alive and the mom was a total jerk. However, that wasn’t the case we get a bunch of mom torture.

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Poor lady.

I totally understand the cool Austrain vibe and adherence to patience but it all felt too obligatory. If you want to watch a movie about body dismemberment I recommend the film Cheap Thrills. It is a ballsy and tough little film about escalating dares. The villains keep their mystery and the two participants are likable and actually grow on you. The violence feels warranted because the filmmakers created a movie where you like the people and their motives seem plausible. It doesn’t gloss itself up or feel too cold because the movie has a purpose.

Goodnight Mommy is artificial in almost every aspect and that prevented  me from caring about it. If you are into midnight horror films gussied up in an arthouse veneer you will love Goodnight Mommy. The violence is nasty and the build up is extreme and will most certainly satiate your need to see super glue used creatively.

The Finest Hours: A Fantastic Old School Film That Does the True Story Justice

January 27, 2016

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The Finest Hours is an old school rescue film that is unpretentious, earnest and a lot of fun. The film is set in 1952 and tells the story of a massive oil tanker named the SS Pendleton that broke in half off the coast of Massachusetts. A nor-easter ripped the boat  apart and left 30 men stranded aboard the ship. In any other circumstance they would’ve certainly perished but between the men aboard the Pendleton and four brave rescuers in a tiny Coast Guard boat they survived. The rescue is still considered the greatest small boat rescue ever and you would have to see it to believe it.

The $80 million film features more than 1,000 CGI shots and does a great job making you feel like you are in the action. I sat squeezing my poor wife’s hand as the 36-foot boat miraculously made its way to the Pendelton without a compass and luxury of daylight. The men aboard the rescue boat should have died about 80 times over yet they kept plugging along in an effort to rescue 30 men in a boat that could only hold 12. The suspense is palpable and if it wasn’t true I would’ve called BS on the whole thing. Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck do a solid job of making you believe they could survive the ordeal and actually inspire men to trust them. Director Craig Gillespie  (Fright Night, Million Dollar Arm) balances action with earnestness and does a fine job juggling all the stock subplots (romance, cranky fishermen, punk crew members) a movie could offer and keeping them in the air.

There are archetypal characters and the cheese factor is high but I was able to look past all of that and embrace the experience. If you leave cynicism at the door I guarantee you will enjoy the journey.  It was a different time and place and I loved the earnest and old school vibe The Finest Hours showcases. The heroics come front and center and  I was really happy to see Casey Affleck playing a hero.

Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) and Tchuda Southerland (Josh Stewart) struggle to keep their ship, the SS Pendleton, from sinking in Disney's THE FINEST HOURS, the heroic action-thriller presented in Digital 3D (TM) and IMAX (c) 3D based on the extrordinary tur story of the most daring rescue mission in the history of the Coast Guard.

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I love when Disney turns its attention towards true stories. I am a big fan of Cool Runnings, Miracle, Million Dollar Arm and Invincible and they’ve all been very motivating. The things that people can accomplish blow my mind and I love when great and unselfish feats are rewarded. I had never heard of the Pendleton rescue before and now I find the whole endeavor amazing. True stories like this deserve the big screen treatment and The Finest Hours does a fine job honoring the rescue party.

Watch The Finest Hours. Appreciate the true story. Never take a boat out during a nor’easter

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