They’re Watching – 5 gnomes

They’re Watching (2016), 1 hr 35 min, Comedy, Horror, Thriller

“The renovation of an old house in a village somewhere in Eastern Europe will bring the crew of an American home improvement TV show, up against superstitions, misunderstandings and bloody violence.”

Shot in the found footage style, a Home Improvement show follows along as an American woman buys a dilapidated old house in the country somewhere in Eastern Europe. Six months after the purchase, the crew returns on a follow-up visit. The house was so bad that they expected her to be sitting in the middle of a mess, crying because she’s in over her head. But before they re-visit the subject of their show, they spend time in the neighboring village, which is (surprise surprise) filled with superstitious villagers. And boy are they a creepy bunch! The American crew sees things they’re not supposed to see and manages to ruffle a lot of feathers. The clueless-and-stupid-American trope is strong here. Eventually, they leave the village to do what they came to do and find the house beautifully restored and the American lady very happy and content in her new home.

The bodies don’t start piling up until much later in the movie. After another foray to the village and more feather ruffling, they return to the nice secluded house for some good old fashioned slaughter. The villagers have run amok! But why?

I almost didn’t watch this because of the “comedy” tag, but I took the chance and was very glad I did. I can see why it was labeled a comedy, but I didn’t find it particularly funny — parts were amusing, but overall there was little funny about the movie. That being said, it was fun! The clues are there, and the ultimate reveal is satisfying and worth it. I would not only see this movie again, but I’d buy it. Must see!

You can see it on Netflix and it’s available on Amazon here: They’re Watching

Convergence – 5 gnomes

Convergence (2015), 1 hr 40 min, Action, Mystery, Thriller

“A detective must fight for the redemption of his soul when he finds himself trapped in a mysterious hospital that serves as a gateway between heaven and hell.”

First off, the Netflix description was very different than the IMDb description, which meant I went into this not expecting much. (The IMDb description was more accurate, btw.) But when I saw Clayne Crawford — you may recognize him from Lethal Weapon the series — I had to re-think things. It was possible that he took a crappy movie just for the work — actors gotta eat too — but no, Convergence was really good!

We’ve seen the basic premise before: a person wakes up in an unfamiliar location and must fight mysterious persons or entities to survive. At some point, they realize that they’re actually dead and fighting for their souls. Convergence twists that basic premise enough that the story is not only compelling but satisfying. On the one hand, it’s a horror movie – he’s fighting an entity that seeks to destroy him. On the other, it’s a movie about coming to grips with the past and his life — redemption for himself, sure, but salvation for others as well. Very nicely done.

My only complaint, and it’s a small one, is that the Captain’s character, (played by Mykelti Williamson), is oddly drawn. He’s acting shady throughout, and it’s true that there’s a reason, but the main character reacts like this weird behavior is normal. Slightly annoying, but despite it, I’d see Convergence again.

You can find Convergence on Netflix, it’s also available on Amazon here: Convergence

Area 51 – 3.5 gnomes

Area 51 (2015), 1 hr 31 min, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

“Three young conspiracy theorists attempt to uncover the mysteries of Area 51, the government’s secret location rumored to have hosted encounters with alien beings. What they find at this hidden facility exposes unimaginable secrets.”

I don’t know why I love “found footage” movies so much, maybe it’s the first person pov without the nausea inducing craziness a la Hardcore Henry. That being said, they have a tendency to be long on boring crap and short on action. While Area 51 has its share of boring crap, that section is short enough to not be annoying. The acting was decent, the characters were solid if not a little typical.

I was let down by the vague reasoning for the excursion though. I’ve noticed that depending on the premise, this is a common problem with “found footage” movies. The documentary or reality show crew handles it better because the premise is clear. Here it basically comes down to “I want to break into Area 51 because I wanna!” Given the weak reasoning, it made sense for his buddies to want to back out, but not so much for them to give in repeatedly and let him have his way.

Also, the movie is set in our modern post-911 world, which means heightened security measures should be in effect — that being the case, they got into the installation pretty easily. I mean, there are tons of conspiracy theories around aliens and Area 51, you would think that if there really was something going on, the security wouldn’t be that easy to thwart. If the government can’t afford to secure their captured aliens behind retinal scanners, maybe they can afford more than one guard? Your average prison has more security! They also managed to get to obviously Top Secret alien stuff pretty easily, given that they were only going on hearsay and rumors. They have a half-assed hand drawn map, and were able to read it easily. No wrong turns. It was just way too easy.

All that aside, when they get caught – and of course they get caught — the ensuing chase and capture is not what I expected. It was this thrilling ending that saved the movie for me. If you’ve got Amazon Prime and an hour and a half to kill – go for it!

You can watch it here: Area 51

Wake Wood – 4 gnomes

Wake Wood (2009), 1 hr 30 min, Drama, Horror, Thriller

“The parents of a girl who was killed by a savage dog are granted the opportunity to spend three days with their deceased daughter.”

I love this movie! The creepy factor is perfect. All the elements are there: a quaint, old, Irish village in the middle of nowhere, grieving parents, an impossible wish granted with ancient elemental magic. The ritual was appropriately gruesome, the limits appropriately harsh – so much goodness here!

Of course, parents shouldn’t play with dead things. What happens if they don’t want to let her go? What happens if their daughter refuses to go? There is a price to be paid for interfering with the laws of nature. Will they ultimately learn their lesson?

I thought Pet Semetary was creepy, but Wake Wood does a fine job of ratcheting up the creepy a few notches – 4 solid gnomes! If you like movies about people who just have to have their way, damn the consequences, you’ll like Wake Wood.

You can see it on Amazon here: Wake Wood

BLDNG – 1 gnome

BLDNG (2015), 1hr 27 min, Horror

BLDNG“Max makes movies like the other 99% of the douche bags in Los Angeles. After accessing a dilapidated building for his first animated film shoot, he is locked in after losing his keys inside the highly secure building. Once trapped inside, the bratty kid ghost of Little Leah begins her games with Max, driving him to the brink of insanity with annoying requests to play, torture and crying.”

I watched this movie because it sounded like it would be fun. It was not.

If it had been shorter, it would have been better. As it was it took FOREVER for him to get locked in, then the haunting was just unwatchable.  Cheap visual effects, Halloween make-up. It went on, and on, and on. Self-indulgent, and uninteresting. The description makes it sound like they were making fun of the genre, but I didn’t get the sense of that in the movie. They were serious, it was just bad. Save yourself!

Necromancy – 5 gnomes

Necromancy (1972), 1hr 24 min, Horror

“Orson Welles plays the head of a witches’ coven in the town of Lilith, where he needs the powers of Pamela Franklin to raise his son from the dead.”

There’s something about horror movies from the 70’s – they were earnest little things. This is no different. It’s campy, and over the top, but what really makes the movie is Orson Welles. On the face of it, it’s a dumb little movie, but he plays Mr. Cato with the full conviction that you’d expect from an actor of his caliber. Like Christopher Lee, Donald Pleasance, and Vincent Price – he knows the movie is not destined for an Oscar, but that doesn’t stop him from showing up and doing the work with all the seriousness of a professional.

The storyline is freaky. Lori Brandon has a bit of magic in her – she was born with a caul. Her husband tells Mr. Cato this at a business meeting and the occult-obsessed toy factory owner not only gives him a job but invites them to move to his company town – Lilith. There she finds an odd hedonistic group of youngsters. They’re all witches, all members of Mr. Cato’s coven. All lured with promises, and none can leave.  There are no children in the town – Mr. Cato has forbidden it since the death of his son. But that’s all going to change now that his son is coming back.

Everyone in the town is so nice, and creepy. They all expect Lori to fall in line because she has no choice. Merely driving into town became her acceptance of her place in the scheme of things. For the magic to work, there must be balance. For every life returned, a life must be given.

Orson Welles makes this movie. He’s present in every scene, even if he’s not onscreen. See it and bask in his greatness – must see!

The full movie is available on YouTube, and on Amazon here: Necromancy