Starry Eyes (2014)

starryeyes00Sarah starts out her day in front of a full-length mirror, trying to pinch an inch.  She fails admirably which is good because she works at a Hooteresque joint called Big Taters.  It is also good for her other career: aspiring actress.

She sees a casting call for a movie called The Silver Scream and registers to audition. One of her friends says she hopes that is just a working title.  Despite a performance-anxiety nightmare the previous night, she gives a great audition.

She gets a callback.  In the 2nd audition, she is asked to disrobe.  She is subjected to a strobe light which has a great effect on both her and the viewer.  It freaks her out so she is finally able to “let herself go”.  It keeps the viewer’s rapt attention with the bursts, the after-effects, and gazing intently to see if we get to see the titular Big Taters.

She finally gets to meet the producer, but he is more interested in slipping his hand up her skirt.  So she bails and begs for her job back at Big Taters.  Within 24 hours, she completely sells out and calls to beg for another chance with the producer.  Which she is given.  Actually, I’m sure that little pill her indie director friend gave her played a role also.

starryeyes11At the producer’s house, the pill is taking effect and she collapses on the floor.  Which is convenient as she gets in the casting crouch and services him.  She wakes up back in her own really sloppy bedroom.  She is still kind of spaced out and looks awful.

She gets progressively more disgusting, fighting with her friends, peeling off fingernails, drooling black goo, vomiting up maggots, killing her friends, and there is a thing crawling around in her stomach.

At this point, I am really reminded of Contracted and Pretty Dead where we see pretty girls devolve into vampires or zombies.  I would include Life After Beth in that category although Aubrey Plaza ain’t everyone’s cup of Earl Grey.

starryeyes24She is literally reborn from the ground.  There is a gift box awaiting here where she emerges from the earth.  As I recall — and it gets fuzzy here — it contains lingerie.

Whether she wears it to walk home or barter a cab ride is not clear.  In the next scene, her roommate finds her under the sheets of her bed, nekkid.  My interpretation is she walked home naked, but maybe that’s just me.  Then some stuff happens.

As I recall, she is now part of the vampiric cult, and puts on a pentagram.

Note to Self: Don’t send the disc back until you write the post.  Seems like I enjoyed it, but damn if I can remember how it ended, and I just saw it two days ago.  It was better than this post — that I can say with confidence.


  • Many of the girls in this film seem to have enormous teeth.  And I say this having just watched Kimmy Schmidt.  Luckily I like big giant teeth.
  • Been trying to come up with a good slogan for Big Taters.  Nice Tots?  I da Ho?   Clearly I have failed.
  • I liked the title The Silver Scream.

Needle (2010)

needle02After the credits, an old an old man is assaulted by an unseen attacker who leaves a hole in his chest like he was shot by a cannon.

This unpleasantness passes quickly, then we cut to a college campus where it is quickly demonstrated that Australia’s production of Elle Macpherson was no fluke.  Just to further drive home the point, one of the girls is in a lesbian relationship with a French Exchange Student.  This is just the kind of craftsmanship that is sadly lacking in American movies today.

Ben is visited at his room by Mr. Joshua, a representative from his father’s estate.  He has brought Ben a box found in a storage unit.  Ben is ready to ready to eBay it, but understandably uses it first to entice some girls back to his room.

One of the group fatefully records their image with some sort of picture-taking device that does not have a phone in it, and actually is able to produce said image on paper — how retro!

needle04Ben’s ne’er-do-well brother Marcus shows up at the room.  Somehow this drifter has secured a gig with the police as a crime scene photographer.  He is generally a good guy throughout the film, but is immediately set up as unlikeable, and pulls that off perfectly.  I think it is the haircut.

Ben discovers the box has been stolen.  An unseen person begins cutting up the aforementioned photo, and inserts one of the gang’s headshot into the machine.  After adding some liquids, the machine produces a waxy doll that can be used for voodoo-like effects.  It also seems to wreak havoc on electrical systems.  The mystery person uses the doll to inflict numerous fatal cuts on the victim.

needle17The gang is pretty quick to draw a connection between the missing box and their dead friend.  Another of the gang has their picture inserted, and the box again works its magic.  It is more grizzly this time as not only is the victim sliced by an invisible knife, he has limbs lacked off.

The mystery figure is revealed, the motive is disclosed, and there is a proper comeuppance.

Overall, a nice little film with mostly likeable characters, a few shocks, and good pacing.


  • Mr. Joshua is a pretty unusual name not to be a callback to Gary Busey in the first Lethal Weapon, but there seems to be no connection.
  • Ben’s professor was Jane Badler from V. The good one.

Willow Creek (2013)

willow05For anyone who thought Blair Witch was too action-packed, had too many scares, had too much character development, was confused by the complex arcs, and thought the ending was a little too definitive — this one is for you.

Jim and Kelly are going to the site of the famous Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot video to make a documentary.  Like all documentarians and DJ’s in the movies, there is not a chance in hell anyone would sit through their production.

They do stop by many interesting sites in the area — Bigfoot Burger, a huge Bigfoot mural, a Bigfoot statue, Bigfoot Avenue, Bigfoot Hotel, Bigfoot Bookstore; sadly there is no Bigfoot Shoes.  Most of the other people in the small cast are actually citizens of Willow Creek who make their living in jobs created by the Bigfoot economy.  In some cases, they were not told this was intended to be a fictional movie.

This movie isn’t a slow-burn; it’s a no-burn.  Really nothing horrific happens for the first half except we have to see Jim’s butt.  Luckily the leads are not the usual hateable assholes; and the eccentric characters and touristy sites in the town are interesting.  It is 43 minutes in that we get the first hint of anything — a jump scare that turns out to be a raccoon.

willow03At the 47:30 mark, a lengthy static shot begins.  The camera never moves, there are no edits other than one blink to total darkness.  Jim is awakened by a knock.  The couple is tormented by subtle sounds at first.  Then, something walking around, some grunts and howls, maybe a woman screaming, something hitting the tent.  All of this developing very slowly, I can imagine this being intense in a theater.

Jim is fairly stoic, but does communicate that he is scared. Kelly is more emotional in a fearful, but not crazy way.  It was like Paranormal Activity in that you spent extended periods of time just waiting for something to happen.  The fact that there were stretches of nothing works in the picture’s favor.  I was tensed up to prepare myself for what I expected to be an explosive conclusion to the scene.  It didn’t really turn out that way, but does that negate the suspense I felt?

I had the scene lasting 18 minutes, although 19 seems to be the standard everyone uses in reviews.  It could even be up to 22 depending when you start it.  But does it really matter?  As dawn breaks, they reasonably decide it might be a good idea to head home a little early.

Naturally, at this point they become lost.  It could be another Blair Witch nod, but they’re in the woods — getting lost is kind of a given (speaking only from personal experience). They even use the ol’ “I’ve seen that tree before” trope.  Compounding the fear of being lost, they begin hearing the same eerie sounds from the previous night.

There is an encounter at the end, but not necessarily what we expect.

Overall, I liked it, but can understand a lot of people being put off by the first half which is just getting to know the leads and some folksy characters.  It could have benefited by something early in the film, but since it was found-footage, that gets a little dicey.

It might have helped if they showed the original Patterson-Gimlin film they frequently reference.  Maybe it was a cost issue since this was clearly a low-budget joint.  But it does leave a certain er . . . 800 pound gorilla not in the room.   This is like if Oliver Stone had not ponied up for the Zapruder Film in JFK.

I give it 3 out of 5 toes; but the big ones, not the pinky and its neighbor.


  • I was a fan of Bobcat back in the day.  He comes off like a good guy in the commentary.
  • Bobcat’s original concept was to do this as a Christopher Guest type of satire on people who attend Bigfoot conventions, but he decided that would not be very nice. See — what a good egg.
  • The leads seem to be his rep company as both have made three movies with him.
  • A rare DVD watch, so I got to hear the commentary which was interesting.

Ghostmaker (2011)

ghostmaker01“Last year this footage started to appear on the internet.  As of today the identity of these people remains unknown.  The following film is inspired by their story.”

Well, this is new: A film that only claims to be inspired by the events rather than being based on them. I’m not sure that is better.  In this genre, based on is always an obvious lie; but inspired by flat out tells you this is show-biz.  No matter — this is a fun ride.

College student Kyle needs money for college necessities like textbooks and crystal meth so he is working for a cleaning service.  While clearing out an old woman’s basement, he finds a coffin with a window in the lid.  The film immediately becomes terrifying as it reminds me of having to sit through that episode of Ray Bradbury Theater which also featured a coffin with a view.

The old woman makes him promise to destroy it, but he thinks he night be able to sell it on eBay.  He opens it up to clean it out and discovers the cushions lift out.  Inside he finds a clockwork device with more wheels and gears than the Antikythera Mechanism.

ghostmaker04With his friend Pratt, Kyle finds an antique book with a drawing of the coffin which is called a Ghost Machine.  It was created to simulate the sensation of a near death experience.

They test it out first on a goldfish.  Seriously.  I appreciate that they are scientifically weighing the risks, but a goldfish?  Couldn’t they find an ant?  The fish appears to die, but does wake up, leading the brain-trust to proclaim the device safe for humans.  Fairly ludicrous, but more-so as we learn about the device.  It uses sound waves as part of the process — do goldfish have ears?  And plunges a needle into the back of the subject’s head — did the bowl mysteriously spring a leak?

Kyle tries it first and discovers that it transforms him into a ghost.  He is able to move about unseen, even through walls, while his corporeal body still lies in the coffin.  His buddy Platt tries it with similar results.  Kyle’s wheelchair bound roomie Sutton tries it, and naturally is able to walk.

ghostmaker06Kyle compounds his meth addiction with an addiction to the device.  One feeds the other as he uses the device to plan robberies in order to score more meth.  Eventually he sees the destruction that his actions are causing and realizes he must break the cycles of both the meth and the coffin.

Sutton is seduced by the device’s ability to let him walk again.  The more he uses it, the further more enslaved to it he becomes.  He uses the device far more than anyone else and experiences the most changes.  He uses the device to spy on Kyle’s girlfriend Julie, eventually stealing it to protect it from Kyle.  He rats out Kyle as a meth user and abducts Julie.

Platt falls down some stairs and dies.  OK, his story is a little thin.

The film looks great, and has great pacing and score.  The acting is a little spotty, but not distracting.  There is a strange flatness to the movie though, which I am at a loss to describe.  Maybe because there are no extreme highs or lows, no big jump scares, no big twists.  It even has an ending that ties things up maybe a little too neatly.  Maybe all that works in its favor — it succeeds by not doing anything wrong.

But the important thing is that it succeeds.  Highly recommended.


  • Originally titled Box of Shadows.
  • The name on Julie’s medicine bottle is Julie Strain.
  • Not crazy about that cover.  While death is personified in the film, it looks nothing like that and does not carry a scythe.  The cover is actually far less interesting than the reality for a change — the old switch and bait.

Under the Skin (2013)

undertheskin01I had no idea what was going on in the opening scene.  Typically I will attribute that to the alcohol. If I still don’t understand it in the morning, then just general stupidity,  I don’t think I was alone on this one, though.

It was hypnotic in a 2001 sort of way.  Slow deliberate moves, bright lights being eclipsed.  It even ends with a fast motorcycle trip, the scenery zipping by like Dave Bowman’s trip through the stargate.  And yeah, we get the giant eyeball.

The biker pulls over, goes down an embankment, and returns with a dead Scarlett Johansson thrown over his shoulder.  Against a stark white background, we next see her dead body being undressed by another ScarJo, who puts on the clothes.  Nice choreography so that there is one nekkid ScarJo at all times.

The next morning, ScarJo takes a rape van out for a drive.  After a trip to the mall, we get a long sequence of mostly POV shots as she drives, scanning the crowds on the sidewalks.  Finally she spots a man that seems to be random and speaks the first words of the movie 14 minutes in.  She asks for directions, which he provides.  Then she asks another stranger for directions.  And another.  And another.

She leads a number of men into a dark building.  And I mean pitch-black, void as a Joan Crawford blackout,  so that all we are seeing is their bodies.  It gets all art-housey again as the men follow ScarJo’s path.  They sink as if mindlessly walking into a tar pit, but she continues walking.  She turns, they are gone, and she walks back along the same path, as if she were actually consuming the men.

I’m still on the fence with ScarJo, even after watching Lucy this weekend.  She hits all the marks, but is she a good actress?  Is she beautiful?  The ambiguity works to her advantage.  She works without inhibition here, exhibiting her body frequently.  It is not a typical Hollywood body, but something — while great — that seems attainable to a normal guy.  She plays an alien (given away by the poster) who knows that her looks can reel men in, but not really understanding the mechanics.  She knows to buy the lipstick, how to apply it, but doesn’t understand the male response.

undertheskin04Even as she tries to hit the marks as a human — showing mercy to a disfigured man, eating diner food, attempting a real sexual relationship — it is clear that is she a true “other” only going through the motions.  Her core lack of humanity is seen repeatedly.

Under the Skin was hypnotic for about half the running time, then my interest tapered off a little.  It probably could have achieved greatness by trimming 10-15 minutes off the run time.  As is, I can still recommend it, but entirely understand if becomes tedious to some.


  • I can see that she had to be a brunette for this role, but really she should stick to the blonde look.  Even in Lucy, the brunette look just does not work for her.  Even less than here.
  • No one in the film is credited with a character name.  Many of the men were supposedly non-actors “tricked” into performing.  Claims like this are almost always a lie.
  • Third in this week’s “Under the” trilogy after Under the Bed and Under the Bed.
  •  “Hey Jonthan, we can go with the poster that gives away a major plot point, or the one that will reel in the dudes wanting top see some Scar tissue.  Whaddya think?”

He chose poorly.