Underground 35 Reel Review

After two decades the iconic underground horror film “What’s in the Basement” is being rereleased in theaters. The movie is very niche and sparks the interest of local actor Eric(Eric M. Boso), who decides to attend a showing. After being stood up initially by his date, Dani(Danielle Talbot), Eric agrees to a later showing and waits for her in the lobby. He soon meets two of the theatre’s employees, the sarcastic and snooty Megan(Emily Hoffman) and the downright strange Seth(Daniel Alan Kiely). Around this time Eric begins to realize that something is not right. Maybe it’s the old theater giving him the creeps or the back story behind the horrifying “What’s in the Basement”. Whatever it is, Eric isn’t prepared for the events that are about to unfold.

Underground 35 is a short horror/suspense film that also adds in a fair bit of comedy. Directed by Eric M. Boso & Derek Stewart, Underground 35 tells of a horrible event that befalls a group of theatre goers. One of the elements Underground 35 nails is in the direction. The camera movements are smooth and natural. The movie within a movie aspect is also well done. It captures the feeling of actually being in the theater and experiencing the events as they unfold. The character development is great with each character having their own distinct personality. Eric M. Boso does a fantastic job in the lead role, giving Eric a natural and identifiable feel. The mystery element is a welcome addition to Underground 35. It’s captivating and keeps the audience engaged, but also leads to some unfortunate plot decisions.

The main criticism I have with Underground 35 is with the lackluster ending. During the beginning of the film I really appreciated the down to earth feel of the story. It’s relatable and the love of theaters and movie making was greatly appreciated. During the middle of the film, when introducing more eccentric characters, I naturally started to guess what might happen to Eric. Unfortunately, the ending was too predictable for my taste. I felt a curveball was needed to nail the ending. Not something to throw off the naturalistic storyline, but something different than the fastball that was thrown.

Overall, Underground 35 was an enjoyable and entertaining watch. The acting and direction gave the film a relatable feel while the mystery carried my interest throughout. The ending left a little to be desired but didn’t ruin the journey. I recommend this film to anyone who enjoys multi genre films with witty dialogue and unique characters. 

I give Underground 35 4 out of 6 reels

Vivarium Reel Review

Tom(Jesse Eisenberg) and Gemma(Imogen Poots) are ready to settle down and start a life together. For them, the first step means finding the perfect home. They soon find a real estate agency, Prospect Properties, which specializes in finding affordable homes for first time buyers. Real estate agent Martin(Jonathan Aris) greets Tom and Gemma in the lobby and tells them about Yonder, a brand new housing development. Despite his strange and eccentric ways Gemma and Tom decide to follow Martin to Yonder. It couldn’t hurt just to look, right? After the viewing it’s decided that the hundreds of identical houses and overall creepy esthetic of Yonder is not for them. Tom and Gemma get into their vehicle and drive away. There’s only one problem, entering Yonder is a lot easier than leaving.

Vivarium is a horror/mystery directed by Lorcan Finnegan. Similar in style to shows like The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror, Vivarium takes seemingly mundane activities and turns them on their head. In this case we see purchasing a house and starting a “normal” life through a different lens. Vivarium does an exceptional job in making the viewer uneasy in experiencing what is happening to Tom and Gemma. As the mystery deepens we see parallels to our own lives, which is a quality all the great horror morality tales have. Through great storytelling, writing, cinematography, and acting we see Vivarium‘s message being delivered. One of the standout cinematic elements was the unnerving visual of the rows of uniform houses, brilliantly playing off of the fear of being lost. Also, after being introduced a half hour into the film, Senan Jennings delivers one of the most uniquely horrifying child performances I’ve ever seen.

As is common with this genre, I can safely say Vivarium won’t be for everyone. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, depending on the type of film you’re making, I do feel Vivarium leans too bizarre. The more unbelievable the scenarios the more the audience may disconnect with the real life connections being made. Vivarium has an interesting and powerful message about the pitfalls of structure and normalcy that gets lost in the increasing horror and chaos. 

Vivarium is an incredible addition to the expanding library of horror/mysteries. The genre has seen a revival as of late with Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Us seen as shining examples. Vivarium stands right next to these films as one of the greats. I would recommend Vivarium to anyone who enjoys their horror mysterious and incredibly weird.

I give Vivarium 5 out of 6 reels.

Kuningasmies (The KingMan) Reel Review

Osku(Niko Hill) and Raimo(Tapio Kauma) are best friends. Sure, Raimo can be annoying, stubborn, and a huge asshole but the man sure knows how to party. That’s why Osku invites Raimo out to his uncle’s cabin in the middle of nowhere for the weekend. Just Osku and Raimo, drinking and having fun. Absolutely no worries. That’s until some strange creatures start to arrive and ruin Osku and Raimo’s good time. Raimo is having none of this, however. Raimo will defend his territory. Raimo is The KingMan.

Written and directed by Tapio Kauma, Kuningasmies (The KingMan) is a action horror/comedy similar to films like Army of Darkness and Zombie Land. The film follows Osku and Raimo as the try to find a way out of their absurd situation. The pair play off of each other nicely as their contrasting personalities lend to most of the laughs during the film. Tapio does an exceptional job in character building. Each person introduced is as quirky and hilarious as the last. The jokes are well written and excellent in complementing the unique qualities of each character. The practical effects are also amazing. They’re over the top and bloody in a way that’s quite hilarious.

One criticism I have with Kuningasmies (The KingMan) is a lack of frightening scenes. Most of the horror relies on blood and gore and it would be amusing to see Osku and Raimo in situations where they appeared more scared. The story also leaves too many unanswered questions for my taste, but is a minor complaint as this genre of film doesn’t need too many things explained. This also leaves open the possibility for more stories in the Kuningasmies (The KingMan) universe, which would be enjoyable.

Overall, Kuningasmies (The KingMan) is an excellent action horror/comedy. It’s light on the scares, but the copious blood and gore more than make up for this. The character and world building is wacky and delightfully absurd. I recommend Kuningasmies (The KingMan) to people who enjoy horror/comedies that lean heavily on the laughs. You can watch Kuningasmies (The KingMan) on YouTube and maybe we’ll see a prequel or sequel set in this universe in the years to come.

I give Kuningasmies (The KingMan) 5 out of 6 reels.

The Bleak Reel Review

Hey, have you watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Cannibal Holocaust? How about Audition or Martyrs? Oh, oh, you’ve watched 2 Girls 1 Cup and Mr. Hands. Right? I got another one for you. Have you watched The Bleak? Nope, forget I said anything. I didn’t mean to bring it up. Then again, maybe you’re curious. Maybe now you can’t get The Bleak out of your head. This guy is telling me that I can’t handle The Bleak? I’ll show him. I’ll watch it. Just remember, what’s been seen cannot be unseen.

The Bleak is an extreme horror experience directed by James Bell. Set up as an anthology the viewer goes on a journey through multiple horrific and violent set pieces. From otherworldly monsters to serial murderers nothing is off-limits when it comes to The Bleak. The special effects, done by James Bell and Mae Bell, are noteworthy because they are truly incredible. Anyone interested in practical gore is going to love the miles of intestines splayed and gallons of blood sprayed in every frame of The Bleak. Another positive would be the soundtrack composed by Kids Kill Kids. The beeps, blips, and constant droning of electronic noise really heightens the shocking scenes that are playing before the viewers eyes. 

Beyond shock value and whispered about curiosity The Bleak doesn’t have much more to offer. The story is basically nonexistent as none of the vignettes are related as far as plot. The way they connect is creative, however, as characters often show up in each other’s scenarios. Character development is lacking as most of the individuals spend their time killing or running away from being killed. The dealbreaker when it comes to reviewing The Bleak is the content. I cannot express this enough, if you do not wish to view extreme scenes of violence, rape, torture, and murder do not watch The Bleak under any circumstance.

That being said curiosity is a weird thing. The Bleak is a challenge to find and a challenge to watch. Everybody enjoys a challenge, right? Just like a child reaching out to touch the top of the stove burner for the first time, you might find yourself in a similar situation. Sitting in front of your television with a DVD copy of The Bleak in your PS2, finger hovering over the play button. Ready to be burned.

I give The Bleak 2 out of 6 reels.

Happy Mother’s Day Reel Review

(Message to readers: Happy Mothers Day is a sequel to Cindy’s Birthday Party. Cindy’s Birthday Party has been previously reviewed and can be found at Cinemaslice.com.)

It’s been many years since Jonas(Martin James) vanished without a trace after attending Cindy’s(Gracie Demski) birthday. Cindy is now a teenager and has invited her friend, Samantha(Maryann Fisher), over for a party. It’s Mother’s Day and it seems like a nice gesture since Samantha has no one to celebrate with. Soon enough Mr. Gremshaw(Dan Busch), the caretaker, shows up and leads Cindy and Samantha to the basement where Cindy’s mother(Donna Madison) is ready to celebrate.

Happy Mother’s Day is a horror short written and directed by August Aguilar. The film is a sequel to Cindy’s Birthday Party, which was also directed by August. Happy Mother’s Day is a horror fest, filled with crazy characters, that has improved in many ways over its predecessor. One criticism I had with Cindy’s Birthday Party was the many unaddressed questions. Many answers are given in Happy Mother’s Day, while also maintaining enough of the mystery that good horror thrives upon. Another fantastic addition was the practical gore effects done by Ryan Smith. They boosted the short’s entertainment value to another level. Also, I have to mention Gracie Demski’s portrayal of Cindy. That blank stare and subtle eye twitch really creeped me out.

One criticism that I have with Happy Mother’s Day is that the plot is familiar. Nostalgia and reverence to earlier film is important, but ultimately too much can lead to predictability. The question mark of Cindy’s family remains, however, and because of the revelations in Happy Mother’s Day I’m excited for more. If another sequel is in the works I hope to see some interesting plot choices added to the other excellent improvements.

Overall, Happy Mother’s Day was a bloody good time. The characters were unique and interesting and the makeup effects exceptional. The story was formulaic but didn’t disrupt the film’s quality. I recommend this film to fans of 1970’s horror, particularly films with sadistic family units.

I give Happy Mothers Day 5 out of 6 reels.

Quarantine Reel Review

Another exciting episode of The Night Shift is ready to begin filming. Tonight reporter Angela Vidal(Jennifer Carpenter) and cameraman Scott Percival(Steve Harris) are shadowing the firemen of the LAFD. Things remain relatively calm until a call comes in from a nearby apartment building. George Fletcher(Johnathon Schaech) and Jake(Jay Hernandez) respond to the incident, with Angela and Scott in tow. A resident of the building, a Ms. Espinoza(Jeannie Epper), is acting very erratically. She’s extremely aggressive toward others and there’s a mysterious thick foam emerging from her mouth . . .

Quarantine is a 2008 found footage horror film directed by John Erick Dowdle. Based on the 2007 Spanish film called REC, Quarantine is excellent at capturing the grimy look and claustrophobic feel of the original. The setting of the century old apartment building lends an authenticity to the creepiness. Old places tend to have an air of mystery which creates apprehension and unease. The makeup and effects work are also exceptional. By the end of the film you’ll be on edge and the creature design has a lot to do with that anxiety. Ms. Espinoza was on my mind for days after my first viewing.

Quarantine isn’t without faults. The main criticism is a classic among the horror genre. Everyone in Quarantine is doing something stupid at every turn. Given our current situation in the real world, this statement may seem to ring true. I, however, am not talking about “that’s not what I would do” stupid. I’m talking about “that’s not what ANYONE would do” stupid. Like backing against a door made mostly of glass when you know a monster is on the other side of that door. Which happens in this movie. Literally.

Despite an over abundance of bad decisions being made by multiple characters, Quarantine isn’t without its merits. The setting and creature designs are high quality and do most of the work when it comes to scares. Quarantine is a visually frightening found footage freak show and I recommend it to anyone who is willing to turn off their brain for a scary good time.

I give Quarantine 3 out of 6 reels.

28 Days Later Reel Review

28 days ago an animal rights activist group broke into a research testing facility. Their intentions were good, wanting to free a large group of caged monkeys. During the release, however, they soon learn that the primates carry a dark secret. 28 days later, Jim(Cillian Murphy) wakes up in an abandoned hospital. The building and surrounding city are in ruins and seemingly every human has vanished. Upon entering a church, Jim slowly begins to realize what has happened when he encounters a horrifying scene. After being saved by survivors Mark(Noah Huntley) and Selena(Naomie Harris) all three must work together to escape the terrors they will encounter.

28 Days Later is a 2002 apocalyptic horror film directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland. Redefining the genre as we know it the movie popularized one of the most horrifying movie monsters, the fast “zombie”. I put zombie in quotes because in 28 Days Later you don’t see the traditional undead zombie. Instead we get another version, one that is just as chaotic, unpredictable, and constantly hungry for anything that moves. The film revolves around these infected humans and are what provides the brilliant tension, eerie scenery and relatable characters we see throughout the rest of the film.

It’s tough to find a critique during the entire runtime of 28 Days Later. The set design is impeccable. The serenity and loneliness of an abandoned London is perfectly captured. This, along with the haunting soundtrack, is what builds the suspense that is soon broken by the shrieks of the infected. Essentially, it’s a movie full of beautifully crafted and well thought out jump scares. The nuanced relationships between the characters we meet trying to escape the city are emotional. By the end of the film you’re rooting for them to conquer every obstacle they meet.

I cannot praise 28 Days Later enough. A true modern classic in horror cinema, it nails everything it sets to carry out. Do the main characters make some decisions that are questionable? Sure, but considering they are human you see them learn and grow from these choices in a world were decision-making is a deadly game. I solidly recommend 28 Days Later to anyone who enjoys horror or great movies in general.

I give 28 Days Later 6 out of 6 reels.

The Unwelcoming House 2 -Reel Review

Joe(Joe Covarrubias), his wife, son Landen(Landen Covarrubias), and family dog Bailey finally escaped the house that terrorized them for weeks. They believed that they had left behind the sadistic Larry Adams and his ever-present walking cane. Unfortunately, Joe slowly began to realize that this wasn’t the case. He saw Larry Adams everywhere he went, continually being haunted by his presence. When Bailey dies under mysterious circumstances Joe decides that he must go back. Deep down, he wants to go back. Joe has to learn more about Larry Adams and the demonic presence that seems to surround him. Once again Joe must enter the Unwelcoming House.

Joe Covarrubias, director of The Unwelcoming House, is back in this superbly creepy sequel, The Unwelcoming House 2. Done in the same found footage/documentary style as the first installment The Unwelcoming House 2 ups the ante in a few key areas. First off, the pacing of this film is better. Joe goes back to his earlier home for a week and the nights are clearly delineated for the viewer. This layout makes the move forward fun for the audience as the tension and scares build throughout the movie at a brisk pace. Secondly, the mystery surrounding the house and Larry Adams is better explained giving the viewer context as to what’s going on. The pacing and detailed back story lead to scares that would impress any fan of the found footage horror genre.

A couple of criticisms I have with The Unwelcoming House 2 are ones similar to that of the previous installment. Once again, the story has plot holes that could have been better explained. One is the fact that an entire house filled with valuable items is abandoned. This is barely addressed and no matter how scared Joe was it’s hard to believe he would never try to retrieve some of these items. Another unfortunate problem is with the ending. A tactic that Joe has previously used throughout the films now seems to get him results, without explanation. Because of this the final confrontation feels anticlimactic to a certain degree.

Overall, The Unwelcoming House 2 is a successful sequel in The Unwelcoming House saga. It’s better paced, delivering well crafted scares that range from unnerving to horrifying. Some plot holes still remain but are fewer than there were in the original. For these reasons I recommend The Unwelcoming House 2 for fans of the original film wondering what ever became of Joe and his son Landen.

I give The Unwelcoming House 2 5 out of 6 reels.

The Unwelcoming House – Reel Review

Joe (Joe Covarrubias) is a typical, run of the mill family man. He lives in Mount Pleasant, MI with his wife, son Landon (Landon Covarrubias), and Bailey the family dog. There’s only one problem plaguing this idyllic family. Something or someone has started to haunt their home. What started as harmless noises, such as footsteps and eerie creaking, has escalating into something much more sinister. Joe now has to protect his family by diving into the houses history. A history that has the potential to violently harm not only Joe but also the ones that he loves the most.

Directed by Joe Covarrubias, The Unwelcoming House is an intensely creepy and unnerving found footage horror film. Some notable aspects of this movie are the methods of filming and the superbly scary scenes that arise from this style. Found footage is the coined term for this type of movie, but it would be better described as a fictional documentary. Joe is shooting footage to document his ghostly findings and nobody is really “finding” his work. Due to this you get a more steady and deft hand guiding the camera. This gets rid of the distracting and sometimes annoying “shaky cam” style. Another appreciated aspect of this film is the way the delivery of the script. A natural way of speaking lends to more believable dialogue in found footage films and Joe really nails this performance. 

One criticism of The Unwelcoming House is the strict adherence to the found footage horror formula. The film stays true to this blueprint and, in doing so, makes things a bit stale in terms of plot. Characters get explained away in convenient ways, a MacGuffin explains the demons ties to the home, and a few other elements echo popular found footage horror movies. None of these are deal breakers, however, as the film overall is impressive and technically well made.

The Unwelcoming House is a horrific and terrifying look into one chapter of a family’s struggle with a demonic entity. The story is an homage to found footage horror films of the past almost to a fault, but is technically proficient and the dialogue is expertly delivered. The Unwelcoming House is definitely a welcomed edition into the pantheon of found footage horror. 

I give The Unwelcoming House 4 out of 6 reels.

Cindy’s Birthday Party Reel Review

Cindy’s(Maddie Giorgio) big day has finally arrived. She is excited about her birthday and her mother(Merri Field Giorgio) has a special event planned. It’s a birthday party and the guests are starting to arrive. Jonas(Dylan Busch), one of the guests, gets out of the chauffeured limo and Cindy greets him at her front door. Jonas soon notices that no other guests are at the party. His suspicions further arise when Cindy tells him to go down to where the party is being held. Down into the basement.

Cindy’s Birthday Party, directed by August Aguilar, is a technically proficient and incredibly well acted horror short. The direction and writing are noteworthy due to the use of child actors in the film. It’s clear that Maddie Giorgio and Dylan Busch knew exactly what they were performing and that they had a full understanding of the story being told. The planning, along with some improvisation mixed in, seemed to work well as the children moved and talked very naturally in the environment. This fine acting along with an excellent buildup of tension and suspense in the plot are clear strong points in Cindy’s Birthday Party.

Some criticisms of Cindy’s Birthday Party are a lack of originality in the premise of the film and some unanswered questions which left a few holes in the plot. The celebratory atmosphere of the birthday party counteracted nicely with the ever-present creepiness of the story. Unfortunately, it also felt like a fancy dress being put on a basic “lambs being led to the slaughter” scenario. Perhaps if some questions were partly answered, like where are the birthday guest’s parents and who is the chauffeur bringing them, this may have livened things up. The mystery behind the thing in the basement, however, was fantastic and correctly was left to the imagination.

Cindy’s Birthday Party is a suspenseful and wonderfully acted horror short. It maintains the creepiness throughout and rarely relies on cheap jump scares. The plot is a tad basic which a few answered questions could have fixed, but the overall product is only slightly effected. A big recommendation to anyone who enjoys horror that slowly chills you to the bone.

I give Cindy’s Birthday Party 4 out of 6 reels.