Frazier Park Recut (9/10)

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NOTE: This review originally appeared on Red River Horror.

Friends and amateur filmmakers Tyler (Tyler Schnabel) and Sam (Sam Hanover) are working to put together their first feature before Sam moves across the country to be with his beautiful girlfriend Jen (Monica Marin-Diaz). The movie starts with behind-the-scenes footage of their pre-production, where they meet and cast Tom Morris (David Lee Hess) for the role of a creepy Groundskeeper. The trio head from Los Angeles to Frazier Park, California, where they have rented a cabin in the woods via Airbnb.

The found-footage horror movie they are shooting follows two brothers (played by Tyler and Sam) who are going to clean out their late mother’s cabin, where they unexpectedly encounter the Groundskeeper. The brothers soon discover a dark secret about the Groundskeeper that leaves them fighting for their lives.

Outside of the movie-within-a-movie, tensions are rising between Tyler and Sam. Tyler feels that Sam’s head is out of the game from his frequent video chats with Jen, while Sam is alarmed by Tyler’s constant tinkering with the script. To bring a spark back to the production, Tom becomes much more assertive in the filmmaking process and begins to document his own efforts to add conflict and drama to what he feels is a failing, cliched, and inferior project. As the friends’ movie runs ever more off the tracks, how far will they go to make the day’s scenes?

Frazier Park Recut is a refreshing addition to the ever longer-in-the-tooth found footage genre. The choice to wrap a found-footage horror film around a found-footage horror film is a great one, and the skillful blending of the behind-the-scenes footage with scenes from the “actual” film leads to both humorous and creepy moments. The dialogue in the behind-the-scenes footage, largely improvised by the actors, seems natural, while the dialogue in the movie-within-a-movie is a bit hackneyed and delivered a bit woodenly — this is not a criticism, it is an intentional feature of the storytelling. In fact, one of the funniest moments of the film comes when one of the actors delivers an intentionally awful one-liner in a key scene in the movie-within-a-movie. All in all, this is a great first feature by some very talented filmmakers. Highly recommended.

The Good Neighbor (8/10)

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A couple of teenage douchebags decide to conduct an “experiment” on their cranky old neighbor (perfectly portrayed by James Caan) by outfitting his house with surveillance cameras and electronic gizmos designed to make him believe he is being haunted. Unfortunately, he’s already haunted by his past, and things absolutely do not go as planned.

This is definitely a “the less you know, the better” type of movie, so I’m not going to give any more detail on the plot. Suffice it to say, this is more of a multi-layered drama than a horror movie, and it is very successful in what it sets out to achieve. Highly recommended. And James Caan is freakin’ excellent.

RWD (8/10)

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Two doofuses (doofi?) with a YouTube ghost-hunting show go to investigate a family’s haunted house out in the woods, but they got the date wrong and the family is out of town. So, instead, they wander around the woods and find an old silo with a creepy underground complex below it. They investigate the complex and decide to make their latest episode about it instead of the haunted house. While wandering, weird things begin to happen, they catch glimpses of people that look surprisingly familiar, and then some sort of weird sparkly stuff comes out of a laptop monitor and sends them… back…

This was an interesting take on the usual found footage ghost-hunter shows that are ubiquitous right now, mixing in some mind-bending sci-fi concepts that I shouldn’t talk about too much for fear of spoiling the fun. The actors are also rather amusing in their doofusness (doofosity?), and the tonal shift late in the movie from deadly silliness to deadly seriousness is handled quite well. Definitely worth a watch.

An American Ghost Story [aka Revenant] (6/10)

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An under-employed writer (in other words, a writer), girlfriend in tow, moves into a house where a man slaughtered his family and then killed himself. The author hopes to meet the house-ghosts and write a book about it.

The ghosts show up, are very friendly, tell him everything he needs, he writes the book and makes millions of dollars, and marries his reasonably attractive girlfriend. The End.

Haha, not really! Actually, the ghosts rearrange the furniture and attack the reasonably attractive girlfriend with the kitchen cabinets, so she moves out, leaving our sad writer all alone in the ghost-house. After that, he starts wandering around the house, talking to disembodied voices of kids, and playing with stuffed animals.

So, this is a very simple, super-low-budget, single-location movie without a lot of action or special effects, at least until the end. It does establish a good story and spooky atmosphere, and pays off pretty well at the end with some simple, but well-done, practical effects. And, for once, it’s not found footage, which is a nice plus. No boobage, reasonably attractive or otherwise. Overall, pretty slow for most of the run, but not a bad watch.

Infernal (7/10)

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A couple have a kid who is weird and can’t stop brushing her hair. Is she autistic, or the devil? Spoiler alert: It’s that second thing.

So this is basically a found-footage hipster version of The Omen. While not the most original idea, or even slightly original, it does a pretty good job of being creepy and actually works, for the most part. They really needed to cut back on the cricket sounds in the background though, really freakin’ annoying. No boobs but still worth a look.