When a Stranger Calls – Rating 2.5 out of 5

It’s the classic tale of an attractive teen that helps out a friend with an “easy babysitting job”. She is then tainted with bangs, crashes, shadowy figures, noises from all parts of the home and an endless series of phone calls where the unknown caller is ultimately in the same house.

When a Stranger Calls is a formulaic, by the numbers, uninspired teen horror movie that is ultimately pointless and disappointing. It’s painfully predictable with a whole slew of characters who could be the villain. We have the mysterious housekeeper, the son who might or might not be back from college, the obsessive boyfriend, the drunken friend, the children she is babysitting but that we don’t actually see, and even the parents themselves who become unavailable whenever she tries to call them. Even the police officer she tries to get help from seems less than excited to investigate.

There are lots of bumps in the night, plenty of dark scenes (curse those power outages that always happen in these kinds of movies) and plenty of weapons conveniently located around the house. There is plenty of suspicion building, but there is no doubt about what’s going to happen. The babysitter is tormented, runs through the house knocking things over in the dark and hurting herself, frantically tries to find the housekeeper and the son but to no avail. She must face the evil alone while trying to save the children.

Nothing new in this movie except a minor amount of excitement and suspense.

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After Dark Horror Fest – 8 Films To Die For

After Dark Horror Fest – 8 Films To Die For

Well I can’t say these movies are to die for. In fact only two of them really stand out while the rest really don’t offer much.

There are certainly better films out there to watch, but as a series this isn’t too bad. It shows a lot of promise in many cases and hopefully with some more practice some of these directors and writers will have some quality goods to show us in the future. Unfortunately some of the other movies in this series show some of the real clichés and pitfalls to making this type of movie. While sometime we get good stories in a low budget (Reincarnation) we also get typical fair (the Abandoned).

In case you want to keep up here is my ranking for this series from best to not so best…

The Hamiltons
Penny Dreadful
Wicked Little Things
Dark Ride
The Abandoned

I give Lions Gate full credit for putting these out. It’s definitely good to see something other than high budget Hannibal films coming out. Hopefully we will see a new horror fest with all new title in the not too distant future. While not all showcase films they are worth renting. For the most part they set the mood for a creepy night of movie watching.

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The Hamiltons – After Dark Horror Fest – 8 Films To Die For

The Hamiltons – After Dark Horror Fest – 8 Films To Die For

“The Hamiltons seem to be the picture-perfect American family. They are hardworking community members; giving to their local charities, attending town hall meetings and always respectful of their neighbors…except for the fact that they usually end up killing them.”

Boy, talk about dysfunctional family! The Hamiltons are 4 siblings trying to get along in the world after their parents have died. They have sold the farm they grew up on and now move from town to town, house to house. David (the eldest) is trying to keep things together while his younger siblings (Darlene and Wendell) seem to keep getting themselves in trouble. Francis, the youngest, is just trying to blend in and deal with the squabbles his family seems to have.

Not long after we meet the Hamiltons we realize something isn’t quite right. Wendell has a bad temper and keeps lashing out at people and bringing unneeded attention to the family. But as we progress we see Wendell has more than a bad temper he has a penchant for subduing victims and locking them up in his basement.

Serial Killers?
Deranged Morticians?

As we dig deeper into this demented family we see Francis trying to break free. He doesn’t want to turn out like them and feels they have now gone too far. He tries to get help, tries to get them caught and tries to help the victims.

There is some good acting in this. Samuel Child (David) plays the stiff, awkward and creepy older brother who looks like a mortician. He is full of parental concern and dark humor. He really pulls off innocent, creepy neighbor. He reminds me of (Danny Faster) the mortician character we see in the X-Files.

Joseph McKelheer (Wendell) shows some great acting as the deranged and out of control brother. He has a strong screen presence and will hopefully bring some other deranged characters to life.

I have to say this movie is one of the best in this series. There are some unanswered questions (such as how did the parents die) and a few predictable moments, but overall this is a good movie to watch. Dark humor, tense moments and a plot that keeps moving forward make this worthwhile.

This one is a keeper and is one you will probably watch more than once.

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The Gravedancers – After Dark Horror Fest – 8 Films To Die For

The Gravedancers – After Dark Horror Fest – 8 Films To Die For

“A group of friends’ lives are invaded by a trio of hostile ghosts after they engage in a drunken bout of gravedancing during a wake for an old chum.”

It’s a pretty simple plot – three friends attend the funeral of a friend and then go out to the cemetery to toast his life in private. After several drinks they come across a poem someone has left which tells them to dance and celebrate life. Their night of merriment turns into terror as they become haunted by the spirits of the graves they danced on.

The spirits seek revenge for the desecration and with the help of a paranormal psychologist and his assistant they come to discover the sordid past of the lives they’ve crossed. They also come to realize the poem they read was the first part of a curse they have unleashed. They have until the next full moon to undo the damage or switch places with the damned.

Each member of the party is subjected to the visions of violence and death that their dead partner committed. They hear voices, see spirits and in some cases see their own death.

The doctor figures out a way to undo the curse by reburying the bodies. Gravedigging ensues and everything that could go wrong does. In the end there is a violent showdown with the spirits under the full moon as they try to keep alive.

The movie works really well as a low budget thriller – right up until the end. The special effects are cheesy and seem completely out of place for this movie. Nothing else in the movie used CGI and it worked fine. The movie relies on lighting and costuming to make the movie look good. The final scene is a complete let down and in all honesty pretty much ruined the movie for me. Up until then I really liked it. Very little gore but it had a great mood to it. It had the classic elements of things moving in the background and people being in the wrong place to make you jump.

All in all this is one of the better movies in the series. Unfortunately it came off the rails in the end. However, it’s still worth renting for the rest of the movie. Not destined to be a classic by any means, but not a bad movie if you have nothing else to watch.

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