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September 2015

A Mile Underground: An Area 51 Movie Review

 

 

2015-09-08-16-59-10--1669309235

 

AREA 51

 

Directed by: Oren Peli

Written by: Christopher Denham; Oren Peli

Released: 2015, Paramount Pictures/ Paramount Insurge

 

 

Starring:

Reid Warner as Reid

Darrin Bragg as Darrin

Ben Rovner as Ben

Jelena Nik as Jelena

 

Immediately, I was pretty pumped about this. A found-footage film with aliens?? Sign me up twice! Write an ok script with some alright acting and some rad alien jump scares. Sounds easy enough. This film has these things…but for me, it misses the mark. In all honesty, most found-footage films miss the mark these days. Mostly, they just make me appreciate The Blair Witch Project more. That being said, this film crash landed in my living room, so let’s dissect what’s inside

The Back Story

I ran across the trailer for this back in April. I’ve been a fan of some of Peli’s work. Mostly just the first installment of the Paranormal Activity franchise (the only other film he’s directed) and the television mini-series The River he created had promise. But most of my fan-dom comes from his ability to throw money at fantastic movies, namely the Insidious films and The Lords of Salem. That’s right, I said it…The Lords of Salem is amazing. It’s beyond artistic and looks so damn amazing! But that’s not what we’re here for. Area 51. Hmmm. Armed with a budget of $5 million, Oren set out to make his sophomore film.

The Meat

The film opens with three friends, Reid, Darrin and Ben, getting crunk at a house party, complete with shots, beer pong, skinny dipping, bad game and an exciting 3 seconds of karaoke. After a few bars of 8-mile-esque freestyle, the house goes black. When the lights come back on, Reid is gone. We catch a glimpse of him in the woods behind the house and then finally reappears in the middle of the road as Darrin and Ben drive home.

 

Cut to 3 months later. Reid is now obsessed with aliens and has planned a mission to break into Area 51. He has convinced his 2 pals to tag along and is armed to the teeth with breaking into restricted government army base gadgets. The 3 take off on a road trip to Vegas to meet Jelena, a girl who’s father worked at area 51, then “killed himself” after he was fired. She, also, has to know what’s going on there and ends up meeting up with them when they get there.

 

These 3 guys go through quite a bit in order to get onto the base. Breaking and entering, meeting up with some “experts” and talking to a lot of locals that claim to have seen ufos. And even more narrow escapes. They literally make it look a little too easy to get into one of America’s biggest “secrets”. Not to mention that this Reid kid must be  loaded to have access to these devices he’s brought with him.

 

Once inside, they progressively make their way down; a mile underground. This is said to be where the actual base is and everything above ground is all a cover. Their main objective is S4, a level of the base where the true holy shit stuff is held. Easily thwarting security guards and workers, Reid, Darrin and Jelena make it to S4, but stuff begins going sour. Finally discovered after running around this top secret base for 2 hours, Darrin makes a break for an escape while the other 2 push forward. Turns out…Ben is the only smart one as he opts to stay at the car…but it ends up not mattering. The climax is done well. Some creepy scenes and some really well done effects help push this film back from the edge of just terrible.

The Verdict

The found footage sub-genre has steadily been on the rise in quantity, but the decline in general terror. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some very terrifying found footage movies being released, but it seems like a low ratio of great compared to forgettable. This film has its moments, but ultimately falls into the latter. I, personally, didn’t care for any of the characters whatsoever. I wanted to. I tried to jump on the Reid, Darrin and Ben train. I couldn’t. Still…to this very second, I can’t wrap my head around just how easily it was for these twenty-somethings to wander around this base. It took some clever work to get in, but just some ducking and running once inside. I don’t know. Call me nit-picky,  but it threw me for a loop. Like I said earlier, there are some pretty amazing special effects in the finale. Big ups to Nick DeRosa, Chris Hampton and Bryan Smith. Oren as well, for that matter. Also, some pretty great acting happening in some scenes from Warner, Bragg, Rovner and Nik. Just not all the way through. In my opinion, check it out if you’re a completist. If not, watch Digging Up the Marrow. Yeah…I said it.

 

My Rating: 3/10

 

Spooked,

C

 

 

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Happy 30th! It’s Party Time! A Return of the Living Dead Review

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Return of the Living Dead

Directed by: Dan O’ Bannon

Written by: Dan O’Bannon (Screenplay), Rudolph J. Ricci, John Russo, Russ Streiner (Story)

Released: 1985; Fox Films Ltd.

Starring:

Clu Gulager as Burt

James Karen as Frank

Don Calfa as Ernie

Thom Mathews as Freddy

That’s right, boys and ghouls… August 16, 2015 marked the 30 year anniversary of one of my favorite fright films of all time; RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD! When I think of the films that started my love of the genre, this one has to be mentioned (along with Children of the Corn, Creepshow and Creepshow II). Now, when I say I was obsessed with this blood bath, I mean I was obsessed; specifically for a week during a summer. My poor VHS copy has been spun through the loops a couple dozen times…like, know this movie better than the back of my hand. It’s literally a party! There’s humor, gore, frights, jump scares; even an absolute tear-jerking scene involving Frank and a cremation chamber. Yikes. So, grab your copy, throw on your favorite Tarman tee, grab a bowl of “live brraainnss” and try not to rip your arm completely off your shoulder for the 30th birthday extravaganza! Do you wanna party? It’s party time!

The Back Story

Return has a history that’s full of big names in the genre, as well as a few hiccups that almost prevented the film from being made. John Russo, who co-wrote the screenplay of Night of the Living Dead with George A. Romero, wrote the novel version of Return after gaining the title rights to ‘Living Dead’ (hence the Night of the Living Dead references).  He was approached to write the screenplay for Return and accepted, and wrote a version that had very close ties to the novel. That…would be an amazing read.

Originally, the studio wanted legend Tobe Hooper to direct this film, but he backed out in order to direct Lifeforce. Dan O’Bannon was brought on to add some of his own creative juices to the Return script, but with the project not having a director, the studio offered the director’s chair to him. Fun side note…O’Bannon wrote the screenplay for Lifeforce, so his ties with Hooper got him the job of directing this megaforce.

O’Bannon had a few stipulations before diving headfirst into Return; he wanted to change the script. Almost completely different from its original form. He added in the group of punk kids that changed the landscape of the film. The budget for the film was around $4 million, which it eclipsed on its opening weekend. Great moves made to ensure a great movie that I could watch over and over again.

The Meat

The film begins with the two loveable screwballs, Frank (James Karen) and Freddy (Thom Mathews). Karen is a god of television and screen, with roles in Invaders From Mars, Wall Street, The Unborn, a very familiar role in Return II (alongside Mathews) and countless numbers of television shows. Mathews is a genre master in his own right. He will always be remembered by me and genre hounds in his role as grown-up Tommy Jarvis in Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives. He also plays a role in the 1986 film Dangerously Close, one I haven’t seen but looks amazing. Thoughts?? Let me know!

Anywho, Frank and Freddy work at a medical supply warehouse in Louisville, KY. Freddy is new and Frank begins creeping the youngster out with a story of how Night of the Living Dead was based on a true case and the warehouse received drums from the military by accident and bodies are in the drums. When showing them off, Frank accidentally opens one of the drums, shooting a poisonous gas in their faces. To make matters worse, the gas reanimates the dead!

Their boss and manager of the warehouse, Burt (Clu Gulager), I’d called to help clean up the mess…and destroy the living dead running around the warehouse. Destroy and brain and the zombie dies, right? Nope. So they devise a scheme to burn the bodies using a nearby crematorium ran by Burt’s friend Ernie (Don Calfa). Note: not a sesame street reference. Frank and Freddy aren’t looking great and Burt’s rabid weasels story has gotten bodies into the oven…but the trouble is just beginning. Freddy’s punk rock, badass friends are partying hard in a nearby cemetery. When the bodies are burned, the gas is released into the atmosphere, causing rain clouds to release acid rain. It sinks into the soil and brings the dead to life, causing mass chaos with brain hungry zombies that run full speed and take fools out like the Seattle linebackers. Now the party starts!

The Verdict

This, hands down, is my absolute favorite zombie film. Probably my least favorite sub-genre, but there are always exceptions to the rule. Return of the Living Dead not only is an exception, but it stands in my top 10 horror films of all-time. Gulager, Karen, Mathews and Calfa all deliver amazing performances and keep the action, comedy and terror going the entire time. I didn’t talk much about the gang of ruffians, but they honestly take this film from great to baller status. Trash, Suicide, Tina and Spider (just to name a few) are all hilarious in their own ways and turn up the acting when it comes to dread. O’Bannon’s directing and writing are really on display in this one. He takes an apocalyptic atmosphere and makes it just as fun as it is terrible. And this thing bumps with an awesome soundtrack featuring T.S.O.L.,The Damned, The Cramps and an unbelievable theme performed by 45 Grave. You know the song. If you haven’t seen this piece of gloriousness, then do yourself the biggest favor of the week and watch it!!!

My Rating: 8.5/10

Spooked,

C

Update! Right Back To It!

Hello All!

Sorry about the short hiatus. We here at Glynn Avenue Massacre have been experiencing some changes. Now we’re back! And better than ever!

New changes! The Glynn Avenue Massacre crew has grown in numbers! I’m pleased to announce the three new members of the family: Scott, Chase and Dan! All three will be helping with reviews and will be the co-hosts of the Glynn Avenue Massacre Podcast coming soon!

So huge news from our neck of the woods. Stay posted on the podcast and keep tuning in for new reviews. I have been working on a couple that will be posted this week. Here’s a hint on the next one…rabid weasels. Got it? Well come back to read my opinion on that 80s gem!

Spooked,

C

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