The Raven – John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe

image Since I’m a fan of Cusack and Poe, I had every intention of seeing this movie when it came out in theaters last April. I went to "Abraham Lincoln" and thought this movie would make a great "double header" so to speak. But for some reason, the idea simply slipped out of my head. Before I knew it, the movie had come and gone. And when I asked if anyone had seen it, no one knew what I was talking about. It’s disappointing, because overall, I found myself liking this movie.

The plot is a bit ridiculous, as a murderer bases his crimes on the works of Poe. But this isn’t the first time a movie has been made with this premise. I seem to recall some other low budget horror movie using the same concept. See, it’s not so outrageous.

We find Poe in a rather beleaguered state. He’s on the verge of intoxication or in need of "fortitude", he’s nearly broke since he can’t get any of his reviews published and he doesn’t have another "Tell Tale Heart" in him. As the editor says, "write me something that sells." He’s also at odds with his beloved’s father who thinks he’s nothing but a drunk, opium addict and atheist. Needless to say, Edgar is down on his luck.

And then he finds himself at the center of a series of murders based on the his macabre short stories. But emulating Poe isn’t enough, the killer captures Emily and forces Poe to try and figure out who’s behind the crimes. At his subsequent murder scenes he leaves clues as to his identity and the whereabouts of Emily. The murder also forces Poe to write about the murders, blending fact with fiction so they can be told in the following day’s newspaper column. He wants Poe and himself immortalized in the press.

Are you with me so far?

I found the atmosphere, costumes and quirky nature of Cusack as Poe to be very enjoyable. I love period piece movies, and unlike some, I’m not going to throw a fit because a movie oversteps a few historical details. It claims to be a work of fiction, not a documentary, so getting a few details wrong to push the story along is alright with me. If you put a Ford Mustang on the grounds of Downton Abbey, we have an issue. If you get the wrong color of paint on a building, I don’t care.

This is a slow paced movie that makes multiple leaps to keep the story going. Not everything falls in line from one scene to the next, and the action is just as much focused on Poe writing his account of the murders as the acts himself. In same cases it almost seems like he’s relishing his new muse. He’s inspired to write. The story flows. The ideas leap to the page. He’s once again back in the limelight.

The two things I really liked is that Detective Field isn’t your usual bumbling idiot of a cop so many of these use these days. He’s smart, focused, clever and determined without being an asshole. He has skill and knowledge.

We also have Emily who won’t play the victim. She tries to escape. Uses her wits. Doesn’t give to hysterics and keeps a level head. Also, a nice change of pace from what we normally see of female lead in these kinds of films.

It seems like most people gave this movie a pass. Sadly, I was one of them. But now that it’s available again, I’ve made amends. The story is a little thin, but the atmosphere and acting help to smooth that over. It’s not the type of movie to have you jumping in your seat or scratching your head over the complexities of the killer motives. In fact, when all is said there still won’t be feelings of enlightenment. But as they say, the point of a journey is not to arrive.

Between this and 1408, you might have the makings of a fine night of the macabre with John Cusack.

Raven ~ John Cusack

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The Dead Matter

image Holy Mother of Crap that was awful!! The first five minutes should have been a clue, but I struggled to stay on until the end and look what it go me. Some times independent movies are a real gem. Some time not. Sadly, the only good thing about The Dead Matter is the soundtrack. Only “The Rage” tops Dead Matter as a craptacular movie.

This movie is plagued by the trifecta or horrific acting, completely limp plot and shockingly juvenile special effects. Some of the makeup effects weren’t too bad, if this were a remake of the Michael Jackson, Thriller video.

The plot is simple, there is an evil amulet in the form of a scarab that can control the dead. On a completely separate note there is a new synthetic form of blood for vampires. Or is it a diet drug? Or is it liquid crack rock? How the two go together is still a mystery to me. And I’m not watching it again to try and find out. But moving on. Somehow a woman who’s lost her brother will use it to try and raise his rotting corpse. But not until she’s done hanging out with the currently rotting corpse she managed to conjure during a seance out in the woods at the Cairn stones. They will go and see the sites, go to the bar for a beer and head out for ice cream. It’s such a tangled mess.

There really is no point to this movie. There story makes no sense. There is no reason to follow along with these people, and the voice of the female lead sounds like a 5 year old on helium. Was it dubbed in? Truly, there is nothing good about this movie except the soundtrack. Midnight Syndicate makes a beautiful soundtrack and they should stick with that. Produce some movies to go with the score, but for the love of god, hire some real actors. Where the hell did you find these people? This is proof that you shouldn’t have your friends and neighbors star in your movies. Seriously, what the hell is up with that blonde wig? That should have been the first clue something is wrong with this movie.

A movie this bad makes Grave Encounters 2 look like an Academy Award winner.

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Grave Encounters 2

image In 2011 the "lost footage" of the promising new reality show, "Grave Encounters" was released. The cast and crew went on a journey to find the paranormal and got more than they bargained for. Each member of the crew comes to an untimely end and the host is the last man standing. But his time will come as the building and it’s medical staff look to "release the demons" from him.

As a low budget movie it was pretty good. It had twists and turns, scares and chills. The reactions were mixed with some people loving the amateur look and feel,while others mocked the cheesy special effects.

But what if it wasn’t a movie? What if it was real? What if the real deaths and the real events of the asylum had been bundled up, edited and sold off as a horror movie to cover the costs of the lawsuits and settlements?

That’s how we jump into Grave Encounters 2. Alex, a film students and his friends uncover there might be more to the original movie. The "actors" haven’t been in another movie since. "Sean" hasn’t been seen or heard from again. And then, out of the blue, Alex gets a tip that he might be on the right trail. After setting up interviews and digging deeper he discovers Sean might be in the hospital, according to his mother, who just happens to have dementia. But the clues keep coming and Alex ends up within the walls of the asylum trying to prove the original movie, was indeed real.

Taking it’s cue from the original, the sequel has plenty of jerky camera movements, night vision shots, hallways that lead nowhere and a building that can actually change it’s layout. There are lots of twists and turns and plenty of confusion. This sequel mimics the original in a lot of ways, which may be a good or a bad thing depending on who you are. I liked the atmosphere. It’s dark and creepy and you’re always expecting something to come around the corner. There’s a bit more gore this time around, and still more of those damn rats.

For the most part, the cast is pretty likeable. Alex is a little too Capt Kirk if you asked me, but Trevor as the dope fiend is quite amusing. Alex’s "girlfriend" Jennifer sticks by her man, but we all know in the end, no good will come from their relationship. Tessa is the badass chick you want along no matter what you’re doing. She’s good with the bolt cutters.

If you like the first movie, you will enjoy this one. While it’s not the same movie, so many of the original elements are there that it’s basically a continuation. It’s more comedic than the original, at least while Trevor is around. There story doesn’t become any clearer, in fact, things get a little muddied by the time we hit the end. I have no doubt there will be a 3rd movie in the series to tell us more about the "satanic doctor" and spirits of the ward.

It may not be the greatest of movies, but if you turn down the lights and let this one play, I’m sure it’ll get a jump out of you. It had some laughs, it had some scares, it had some tense moments, it had some cheesy effects. What can I say, I liked it. Let’s face it, it’s not a bad way to spend an hour and a half. A cheesy-ass horror film isn’t always a bad thing.

You can check it out on Amazon or iTunes.

Grave Encounters 2 on Amazon Instant Video

Grave Encounters 2 on iTunes

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Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

image I went to go see Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter last night and without a doubt that is one of the more outlandish movies I’ve watched. We have Abe Lincoln who is trained to hunt down vampires and dispatch evil under the cover of darkness. He’s a master with the axe and his kung-fu moves are pretty decent too.

The story goes a little something like this: Abraham loses his mother to a vampire when he was a child. He seeks revenge for her death, damn near gets himself killed in the process, meets a vampire slayer who teaches him the ways. They become friends and Abraham’s job is to get rid of the demons. He becomes well versed in their fighting and hiding methods and becomes adept at getting rid of them. Meanwhile, he still has a thirst for vengeance.

There is all manner of bloodshed, beheadings, ass kicking, blood spattering and vampires doing the naughty things they do to incur Abraham’s wrath. Overall, it was pretty damn good. Sure, the story was silly, but the action sequences were a hell of a lot of fun to watch. There are quite a few twists and turns to keep you guessing about who the bad guys are. Who’s betraying who? Are these guys really on the same side? How will they defeat the Southern soldiers who just happen to have allied themselves with the vampires. It won’t win any Oscars, but it was fun to watch. It was what a movie should be, a complete suspension of disbelief and pure entertainment.

Considering Batman and Spiderman are right around corner, I don’t think a movie like this is going to last long. Unfortunately, I think it will be shuffled away in light of bigger names coming down. If you want some good vampire entertainment, you probably need to make a move and see this before it’s gone.

There was also a preview for the show 666 Park Avenue on ABC which has my interest. I would assume this is their version of "American Horror Story". It did look interesting though.

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