Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Spending a sick day with ghosts

I took a sick day yesterday. Battling a cold over the weekend caught up to me. Every time I get a cold during the summer, I half-convince myself that it is Captain Trips and the world is about to end.

It wasn't Captain Trips and I'm feeling much better today, thanks.

I did use the time alone to catch up on a couple movies. I watched Sinister 2 and We Are Still Here. 

Let me tell you, even though I was stoked to the gills on DayQuil, I enjoyed both of these movies.

The first Sinister has become one of my favorites. I love movies about writers. Call it a crutch, but I can't help it. Horror movies with imaginative and creative people in lead roles fascinate me. Sinister 2, however, takes away that element and instead gives us a single mom hiding her two boys from an abusive father. The recurring character is Deputy So-and-So (James Ransone), who still doesn't get a real name.

Ransone has a beat-down look that fits this film and his new role as a private detective devoting his time to tracking down Baghuul, the demon who gets kids to murder their families. He encounters Courtney Collins (Shannyn Sossamon, whom I has always enjoyed), and her two boys Dylan and Zack.

The boys have been in contact with Milo, a previous victim/proxy of Baghuul. Milo and other spirits have been grooming the boys with films and other media of previous murders.

The media range from the 8mm film of the previous movie, 16mm movies, and even vinyl. The set up and presentation of each murder is much more in-depth than in the first film and come almost too close to seeming like snuff films. It's disturbing to watch and even more so in context considering that these artifacts are being used to push a young boy into murder.

Sossamon is well-cast as the mom on the run but the roles of Dylan, Zach, and Milo are almost interchangeable. None of the young actors stove out in a way that made me believe they couldn't have played one of the other roles as equally or as blandly. But, hey, they are kids and hardly any one knocks it out of the park their first time at the plate.

The abandoned house Courtney has chosen to sequester Dylan and Zach in (site of a previous Baghuul murder) is excellent and its dark corners and outbuildings are used to further the plot.

I don't think this sequel will be as remembered as the first, but as far as sequels go, it's worth a viewing.

We Are Still Here, on the other hand, is worth more than just a viewing. It's worth a serious examination of multiple horror tropes, period films, and casting. It is, to say the least, brilliant.

Starring Barbara Crampton (currently in a career resurgence), Andrew Sensenig, Larry Fessenden (who I haven't liked this much since Session 9), and Lisa Marie (also a bit of a career resurgence although not on the level Crampton is having), We Are Still Here is a haunted house/creepy small town movie set in the late 1970s.

Sounds just about perfect, doesn't it?

Crampton and Sensenig play the Sacchetti, a middle-aged couple who recently lost their son in a car accident. They buy a New England home that has been empty for years and then weird stuff starts happening.

All this seems like a cliche haunted house story and you'd be right, up to this point. But then we see the ghosts. Normally, I am all for keeping the ghosts as shrouded in darkness for as long as possible. the ghosts in this house, however, are too cool to hide. They appear as totally burnt bodies with streams of red running beneath hardened black skin and boiling white eyes. if volcanoes took human form, they would look like this.

After enough weird shit goes down, Anne Sacchetti calls her friend May (Marie) to visit the house. May has some psychic ability (and in the '70s, everyone knew someone who did), and brings along her husband Jacob (Fessenden). More weird shit ensues, the Sacchettis' son appears as one of the ghosts, and Jacob steals the show during a possession scene.

At one point, my cat Binx started clawing at the window screen behind me to be let in. The moment he started scratching coincided with a tense and sound-driven moment in the film. I can admit it: scared the bejesus out of me.

And then there is the small town conspiracy thrown in. All of this leads to the pitch perfect delivery of the film's final line by Paul Sacchetti.

OK, no more plot from me. If you dig ghost/haunted house stories, you need to see We Are Still Here.  This is the feature debut for writer/director Ted Geoghegan and I expect even bigger and better things from him in the future. Unlike the boys from Sinister 2, Geoghegan crushed this one.

Both films are rated R and were released in 2015.

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