Ouija: Origin of Evil

Like most horror movie fans, I was not impressed with the first Ouija film. It was flat and lacking in almost every aspect. For that reason, I didn’t plan to spend my hard-earned money on a prequel (this film takes place before the original). The surprise part of my story is that my daughters dragged me to see it and I really liked it. It was a whole different concept than the first film and it worked on many levels to be what I feel is one of the strongest horror films of 2016.


Ouija: Origin of Evil

Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso, Henry Thomas

Directed by

Mike Flanagan

Written by

Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard

Other Info

Horror, Thriller
Fri 21 Oct 2016 UTC
IMDB Rating: 7.0

As with many horror films, it does take a while to really get going. In fact, despite some good scares and creepy atmosphere in the middle, the best scares are in the last 1/3. A story must be told so I get why they have to tell it calmly in the beginning. There are two daughters: an 18 and 9-year-old. They live with their mother and their father has died. The mother runs a psychic medium business out of a parlor in her house. She gets customers in touch with their dead ones and she knows what she does is a scam. She has no guilt because, as she tells her daughters, she is helping these grieving people. Her daughters know it’s all BS. I must mention this was directed by Mike Flannigan (Oculus, Hush) who I have tremendous respect for. He really made a good horror film here and I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future. Spoilers ahead.

There is a rather intricate plot here which reminds me of recent horror films like The Conjuring 2 and Lights Out. In a way, it was too busy for me but I appreciated the story, it sort of came together and worked in the end. Again, it was very complicated. Does anyone miss movies like Halloween where horror is simple?

After one daughter gets seemingly possessed by a demon spirit and helps her mother do readings, the older one meets a boy and reports strange letters her sister wrote in Polish to the headmaster priest at their school. And, that priest is “sort of” dating their mother but not really because he made a vow he won’t break. See what I mean by complicated? It gets more complicated. Suffice it to say Nazi German history weaves in and … well, the ending is sad beyond what you normally would see in a horror movie. Bring your kleenex.

All in all, despite the convoluted, overlong plot, I really liked the scares and creepy atmosphere in this film. I would recommend it as a 7/10 for horror fans.

Nine Lives

Nine Lives is a Disney-like film that reminded me a bit of Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Since I review movies quite a bit, I pay attention to the critics. Since they were not kind to this film, I let it leave theaters. My 9-year-old daughter asked me to watch it with her tonight and I was amazed at how funny and well-made it was. This is another reminder to not trust the critics.


Nine Lives

Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Robbie Amell, Cheryl Hines

Directed by

Barry Sonnenfeld

Written by

Gwyn Lurie, Matt Allen

Other Info

Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Fri 05 Aug 2016 UTC
IMDB Rating: 4.6

The cat they got to play in this film is great. He’s very fluffy which makes you want to hug him. Unfortunately, I could never have a cat that hairy because it sheds and makes my nose itch. But this cat does great on the screen. I had feared there wouldn’t be enough cat stuff for my daughter after reading the premise of the film. I’m happy to say there is enough cat-on-screen time to satisfy the kids’ curiosity.

Christopher Walken is great in this, though he plays nearly the same role as he plays in Adam Sandler’s Click. There are a couple of scenes where he says things that are downright spooky. They aren’t spooky like a horror movie but rather like Goosebumps spooky. Jennifer Gardner is beautiful and does a great job as the wife and mom. Kevin Spacey is hilarious as a “Trump-like” business mogul who doesn’t spend enough time with his family.

After demonstrating to the audience he is an egomaniacal workaholic, Kevin Spacey’s character stops by a creepy cat store in a last-ditch effort to buy his daughter a cat for her birthday. The shop owner, Walken, puts a mystical spell on Spacey that later switches him into the cat’s body and vice versa. Through a course of events, the family and Spacey learn about themselves and it’s a hilarious ride as they go.

This is not a perfect film by any means. The jokes are all canned and it needs cat jokes and cat images often to keep it palatable. My 9-year-old laughed all the way through so that says a lot for its appeal to young kids. I thought it was cute and it gave me a chance to laugh with my daughter and enjoy some funny cat scenes. They indeed are the best part of the film. I recommend this one for parents to see with their 5-12 year olds as a light bonding movie where everyone can relax and have a laugh. I think the critics were way too hard on this one.

‘True Detective’ – Season 1

This is a really cool tv series on HBO. The executive producers are stars in the first series: Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. They are famous dudes who had a common vision. They present the “real” side of detective work, the kind that takes its toll on the cops doing it.

True Detective

Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch

Directed by

Cary Joji Fukunaga

Written by

Nic Pizzolatto

Other Info

Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Sun 12 Jan 2014 UTC
IMDB Rating: 9.1

Though it starts rather slow, once you get the idea that they’re flashing back to what has happened, the slow interviews make sense.

Two detectives are on the prowl for a killer who is obsessed with the occult. There is a matter of leaving antlers on a naked woman who’s been killed in a sacrificial way. This image permeates the entire first season, which is the ony one I have yet seen.

As the cops slowly deteriorate as individuals, they continue chasing down this killer, even after a decade and more go by. One detective has lost his wife and child to a murderer, another likes to cheat on his wife “for the good of his family.” He claims the job requires it since He gets so depressed from chasing murder all day. Hmm.

The last episode is great. We finally get some closure but that doesn’t really feel like completion. I’m looking forward to watching the next season which will feature Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell. In conclusion, I recommend this HBO show for a binge watch or otherwise because it’s really well scripted, filmed, and overall well-made. If you can get through the first three episodes and get hooked, you’ll be addicted to the end.

Luke Cage

Luke Cage is the latest output from Marvel. I just started watching the early epsiodes on Netflix. The show has it all: a tough, relatable hero, villains, a few attractive love interests, and a superpower that will be hard to beat throughout the show. It may be considered different in that Cage is black but I find the immersion in his small Harlem community entertaining and enlightening. How many seasons will it power out? Time will tell.


Luke Cage

Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Theo Rossi, Alfre Woodard

Written by

Cheo Hodari Coker

Other Info

Action, Crime, Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
IMDB Rating: 8.1

Cage is a hangdog dishwasher trying to make ends meet with two jobs. He lives alone in a small apartment and gets chased down by the little old landlady. I think they are trying to show us a good-hearted guy, humble, and trying not to use his superpowers. He hangs out at a barbershop and gets to know “Pops,” the owner quite well. In fact, he is like a father figure to Cage. There is another surrogate son in the picture, he’s the mafia leader running an organized crime ring in the city. I have a feeling there will be a lot of friction between these two. It could perhaps resemble a Lex Luthor/Clark Kent rivalry.

Cage’s superpower appears to simply be indestructibility. He gets stabbed and knives break, shot and bullets fly off. It doesn’t appear he has a weakness yet, I am only on e3. I find it a highly entertaining show. I recommend it for anyone who likes Marvel superheroes or thriller tv.

Rogue (2007)

This independent horror thriller crocodile film scared audience in theaters about a decade ago. It was your basic “gigantic animal terrorizes a small eccentric group” film, like Jaws. It’s great entertainment but does it compete with other successful movies like it?



Michael Vartan, Radha Mitchell, Sam Worthington, Caroline Brazier

Directed by

Greg McLean

Written by

Greg McLean

Other Info

Action, Adventure, Horror, Thriller
Thu 08 Nov 2007 UTC
IMDB Rating: 6.2

The protagonist is a travel writer who has never done more than a review in print. He’s on a wildlife boat tour with less than 20 others and they end up marooned being forced off their boat and out of the water by a huge crocodile.

The story consists of these people trying strategies to escape the crocodile with some having deadly results. This croc is big and he’s fast. For an independent film, the cgi is pretty effective. His body slithers and strikes deftly. He does “the death spin” when he gets a person on his jaws and that is terrifying.

This is a fun thriller. It has a list of well-known characters and the script if pretty good. It builds suspense with the help of a dramatic score and appears to have been filmed on location in Australia. As in most horror, the victims all have flaws and come from different levels of society. The monster, in this case a croc, is the great equalizer that cuts everyone down to size regardless of income or station. For fans of the horror/thriller genre, I definitely recommend this, it’s a lot of fun.

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

Middle school years are probably the worst in life for many people. The storms of adolescence are just starting to pour down and it is most certainly a struggle learning to be a young adult. This film takes a candid shot of that. This is a preview of the film.


Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

Griffin Gluck, Lauren Graham, Alexa Nisenson, Andrew Daly

Directed by

Steve Carr

Written by

Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer

Other Info

Animation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy
Fri 07 Oct 2016 UTC

It was a lot slower than the trailer made it look. There are two basic elements to the story: Rafe’s home life and his struggles with the Principal. I was reminded several times of the film Big Fat Liar. Kids in the theater laughed when the Principal got smacked or booby-trapped the same way my son laughed in Big Fat Liar when the antagonist turned blue. No one turns blue but the Principal vertainly gets his for being a jerk and worshipping the almighty standardized test.

Kids in middle school are going through changes. Not just mental ones but physical hormonal ones as well. They are exploring love relationships and trying to figure out how the world works. This film gives them a goofy space to laugh and feel free. Because I appreciate that about “Tween” and “Preteen” films, I can’t be too hard on it. Now that I’ve said that, the acting was substandard and as I have already mentioned, the story is very slow. I’d recommend this as a haven for middle schoolers because of the music and the subject matter. I think that’s who it’s marketed at. I’m not sure other ages will enjoy it as much but it is a fun family movie regardless.


Contact was the first film to really take on extra dimensionality in space exploration. It was written by the master Carl Sagan himself so right there you know it’s worth watching. (Also there’s the fact that 2 original Alien cast members are in it) It’s the screenplay however that made me say to myself “Out damnned spot” many times while watching the thing, not the concept nor the cast.


Though the drama side of it is tedious and at times a laborious crawl, the concept and visuals in the last 1/4 make up for that. From space enthusiasts to backyard star gazers, this is a winner you shouldn’t miss.

Jodie Foster would have been an excellent choice as a wife for me. I know, she has married already but I definitely feel a kinship with her. She is amazing in the late seventies show Freaky Friday and I have admired all her work since then. She is amazing in Contact. There are some truly gripping scenes between her and her father that would make a grown man cry (well, they kind of did). If you must know the part, leave a comment and I’ll tell you 😉 Speaking of notable moments, the opening of this film could be a powerful short on its own. It travels out into the solar system’s reaches, beyond, and into other systems as recorded by Hubble. It’s really well done. It’s the kind of this you could have on infinite repeat as you’re waiting for guests to arrive at your home party. (scroll down for the video)

This film was Robert Zemeckis’ brain child. After Back to the Future, what can a director do, right? He did Romancing the Stone as Well that burst Kathleen Turner onto the scene. Who, by the way I would accept as a third wife. I hope my wife doesn’t read this, although recently she shared she had a thing for the guys in Peaky Blinders. Well? To each her/his own. Anyone who says Kathleen Turner wasn’t high grade hot in Peggy Sue Got Married might not have a pulse. But I digress …

That leads me to Matthew McConaughey, who I am doing a podcast about this week to be aired soon. He’s great, that’s it. I could complain he tries to be a heart-throb and achieves in being a something else throb but I won’t. He is a priest of sorts in this. A man of the cloth who has lost his way in modern science and astronomy. He is the voice of faith on the main character’s shoulder. Don’t worry, it isn’t done in a packaged, Biblical God sort of way. It’s more an issue of faith. There is a sort of transformation in her as a result of Matthew McConaughey’s character. It was less than moving for me but I imagine Bible thumpers who are somewhat open minded will find it deep and astounding. I on;y say that because that used to be me. I’m more interested in the idea of the space travel and again, the visuals in the last 1/3 of the film. I have yet to see something that terrifying and touching at the same time. AND it’s not really fast, Zemeckis stretches the experience so we can really develop an idea of what it happening.

This is a remarkable film that unfortunately tries a little too hard to be an amazing dramatic piece. I think it could have been half as long if it avoided a lot of that and stuck with the special effects and the theories about “life out there.”

I give it a 7 out of 10 because while great sci-fi, it languishes in misplaced drama writing a good portion of the film.

Instead of a trailer, here’s that opening scene I told you about. Enjoy. Do you think I’m more right or wrong about this film? Please leave me comments with your opinion! This would be a great film to discuss right here!

Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Produced by Robert Zemeckis
Steve Starkey
Screenplay by James V. Hart
Michael Goldenberg
Story by Carl Sagan
Ann Druyan
Based on Contact
by Carl Sagan
Jodie Foster
Matthew McConaughey
James Woods
John Hurt
Tom Skerritt
Angela Bassett
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography Don Burgess
Edited by Arthur Schmidt
South Side Amusement Company
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures

Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan’s Labyrinth has more creatures than Star Wars and a historical story that will have you ranting and raving from your seat. Sometimes the scary creatures we fear become our salvation and the humans we trusted become our curse.

pans_posterThis film is a monster feast for the eyes. Guillermo del Toro takes us into a child’s imagination of horror and art. It’s been called by the director the “sister” film of The Devil’s Backbone. Both are about children in the ghost world and both take place in the Spanish Civil War. It differs in how there are faeries and fauns instead of ghosts. This might make it a fairy tale. No, it’s much more than that. This film may be dark in hue but it shines as a spectacle accomplishment of cinematic art.

Like Backbone, this is more a drama than a horror film. There are more scary moments here than in the other but it is meant to create a sense of another world:

“In 1944 falangist Spain, a girl, fascinated with fairy-tales, is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the center of the labyrinth. He tells her she’s a princess, but must prove her royalty by surviving three gruesome tasks. If she fails, she will never prove herself to be the the true princess and will never see her real father, the king, again.” -IMDB
Her real father is the real horror here. She goes to the labyrinth to escape him and reality. We see 2 competing worlds throughout the film. She must learn to not be afraid and to make a new paradign shift to understand where the dead stand in regards to the living. When you fear your mortal surroundings, animal and insect company seems preferable.

This adorable young girl somehow survives the hateful acts of “The Captain,” her stepfather. She is a hero for this. I felt it was saying when war is all around one, that one might lose her/himself in a hobby or discipline. Could it be that our protagonist has such a strong imagination that she sees the faun with other lovely, haunting creatures? This is just one interpretation of this film. It’s an entrancing film and I recommend it to all who read my blog. A classic for sure.

Riley on Film grade: A

STARRING: Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Sergi López, Ariadna Gil, Maribel Verdú, Álex Angulo, Roger Casamajor, Sebastián Haro, Mina Lira, Federico Luppi, Ivan Massagué, Chema Ruiz, Manolo Solo, Milo Taboada
DIRECTOR: Guillermo del Toro
STUDIO: Picturehouse
RATING: R (For intense violence and language)
LANGUAGE: In Spanish with English subtitles

The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

Fans of horror films know that some are genuine works of art like the Monalisa or Starry Night. They look past the things that shock others etc. to unearth a spectre of understanding of human greatness on the screen. This film is one of those for many horror fans. I truly hope more people, including non-horror fans, get a chance to see this lovely foreign film.


The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi

Directed by

Guillermo del Toro

Written by

Guillermo del Toro, Antonio Trashorras, David Muñoz

Other Info

Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Rated R
1h 46min

5 Stars5 / 5
What are ghosts? Why do we get scared as children when we hear ghost stories? These are primal questions we may never have a scientific answer to. In this film, ghosts are beings that are stuck. They keep doing the same thing and it is thought of as haunting. Carlos is a boy in an orphanage in the Spanish civil war. His father has died in battle but no one tells him. Instead, he is abandoned at a small orphanage. In front of the orphanage is a mammoth sized defused bomb. This is that backdrop and setting for this drama that contains elements of horror.

The ghost is referred to as Santi, or “the one who sighs.” He looks a little like a zombie but he can talk and probably use reason. He was once a boy just like Carlos. Santi seems to be somewhat of a protector of the orphanage. His mute eloquence speaks volumes about how war is hell and how men can be overwhelmingly evil.

This film is a beautiful painting. Guillermo del Toro calls it his “most personal work.” When the boys get into their mischief, I couldn’t help but imagine a young Gullermo there. The horror is scant but it serves it’s purpose in telling this entrancing story. The characters are so well written and played, I felt I was watching a live university theater production. There are tons of quotes shared by the narrator and after watching it I felt wiser. There are subtitles and the film is entirely spoken in Spanish. Still, the cinematography and deft writing kept my eyes glued to the screen. I do speak Spanish but I am not a native speaker. I gladly read the subtitles that capture some subtleties of the language. This is beautiful film to watch and to listen to despite the subtitles. There is so much else here. Any horror film lover must see it and even if you aren’t one, this is an incredible drama with ghosts, fantasy, and revenge.

The antagonist is a class A asshole. I’ll spare you the spoilers but you will enjoy a few things surrounding his story. Towards the end you start to wonder who is a ghost and who is not. All in all, this beautiful piece of cinema serves to display the hell of war. It also raises the question of what ghosts are. Can they exist outside of religion? When we fear them, perhaps we lose sight of their help. Guillermo has said in so many words that we should not fear the dead as ghosts but the living. When we examine war and what it does to people, even children, we should remember that suggestion of his.

The Neon Demon


The Neon Demon

Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves

Directed by

Nicolas Winding Refn

Written by

Nicolas Winding Refn

Other Info

Horror, Thriller
Rated R

2 Stars2 / 5
L.A. looks like a cut-throat place for the fashion profession in this film. Elle Fanning plays a 16-year-old girl trying to break in by any means necessary. She’s willing to lie on documents about her age and hang out with dangerous people if it means a chance as a famous model. There’s some fake blood here and a startling wildcat that jumps by the window in the dark but neither of those things constitutes horror. You may be shocked by the ending but I doubt many would consider that a “scare” either. It’s more disgusting than scary. I’ll acknowledge right here that there may be intended metaphors and alternative interpretation going on here. I’ve chosen to not look into that. Mostly for the reason that the film made no attempt to explain it to me.

Keanu Reeves plays the landlord who appears to exploit kids. I thought he did a great job with his voice and movement. It was like he was a different person. That’s a sign of a studied actor. I think Keanu plays the same character again and again but in this one he is unique. So, if you’re a big Keanu fan, this might be worth your time. The celebrity photographer “Jack” is played by Desmond Harrington and he does a pretty decent job looking resolute and creatively twisted. Unfortunately for me, I binge-watched Dexter years ago and I got used to his character there night after night. I kept expecting him to call Jesse “Deb.” Amazon produced this film. I wonder if we’ll see much more of this from them. This film was a basic let down and bombed at the box office proving that hand over fist. The reviews have been polarized, mine unfortunately is closer to the South.

While this film may not be correctly labeled as horror, it is a neon art-film treat for the rods and cones. I was drawn in early on by the visual artistry of the film. Just when you think you’ve seen the best it has, it brings more. The colors are reminiscent of Tron. I think it’s meant to draw us in that way. The director is a visionary influenced by Kubrick, David Lynch and others who have done similar things with color and space. Unfortunately this story gets caught up in a fashion world and doesn’t explore what’s going on in the head of the protagonist. Beside that, the characters are underdeveloped. Having said that, it’s a pretty simple reason to be ascertained why they do what they do in the end.

It’s nice to see a film with a message against underage modeling and what it can do to women. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough horror here to justify being in the genre. I wonder if I speak for anyone else when I say I don’t care to go into a psychedelic reality of modeling, unless it’s Zoolander (I).

If you have patience and you are really interested in how women can exploit other beautiful women out of jealousy, this may be for you. Or, for those interested in an amazing visual experience (strobes and neons) you too may like it. For everyone else I don’t recommend this one, I was rarely entertained as I watched it and the end was quite disappointing.