Frazier Park Recut (9/10)


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)


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.

The Girl in the Photographs (8/10)


Colleen works at a grocery store in Spearfish, South Dakota. Someone is leaving creepy photographs of dead, multilated young women around her workplace where she will find them. The cops can’t connect them to any crime, and don’t think they are real. Meanwhile, in LA, a scuzzbag photographer learns about the photographs and is pissed that someone came up with the idea before him. He decides to base the ad campaign he’s been hired to shoot on the idea of crime scene photos. He flies out to Spearfish with some bimbos in tow to do the shoot. Once there, he meets up with Colleen and decides she needs to be his new star. All the while, a couple of freaky-deak serial killers continue to practice their “art”.

First off, this movie is notable for being the final project of the late, great Wes Craven, who executive produced. And it’s a good one. While not particularly scary, we have lots of great characters and performances, particularly Claudia Lee as the lovely Colleen, the focus of everyone’s obsessions, and Kal Penn as the hilariously obnoxious and pretentious photographer. Nice levels of horror, drama, and comedy mix to make a very entertaining movie. Also features two extremely perky boobs. Highly recommended.

Solo (7/10)


New-school take on an old-school formula. A teenage girl who has suffered some sort of trauma involving water takes a job as a counselor at a lakeside kids’ camp, presumably as a way to face her inner demons or some such. As a new counselor, she is required to do a “solo” – two nights camping on her own on an island away from the others. But is she really alone?

So this is another entry in the “survival horror” genre, as the girl faces off against a threat on the island. Ultimately, the success or failure of a movie of this sort boils down to two things: Is the threat credible and interesting, and does the protagonist make reasonable choices to combat or avoid the threat? Yes, and yes. It’s also very lean, moving the story along with little exposition, while still establishing the characters well enough that you can understand their motivations and have at least some concern about their survival. Overall, not the most original story, but very watchable and well made, and with at least a couple of interesting new ideas. No boobs though.