horror, movie, movie review, mystery

April 12th, 2018 Movie – Urban Legend

urban legend

Urban Legends. Everyone has heard of at least one in their life time and probably told just as many to other people. The good thing about urban legends is that they can be the setup, and sometimes the basis, for a horror movie. Well, someone decided that why use just one urban legend when you can do a whole movie about a lot of them. Now I first heard about this movie and I will admit that my curiosity was piqued about it but I never went to see it in theaters, choosing to rent it when it came out on video. During the dying Blockbuster days, I picked up a copy on the cheap so let’s see if this was worth it as I watch today’s movie, Urban Legend.

The plot: A young woman named Michelle is driving on the highway when it starts raining. Finding herself low on gas, she stops at a run down gas station and is startled when the attendant suddenly appears at her window. Michelle hands him her credit card and after starting to pump her gas, the man looks inside her car then heads into the store. A few minutes later, the man returns and stutteringly tells her that her credit card company is on the phone and needs to speak with her. Nervous, Michelle grabs a can of mace from her purse and heads inside but when she picks up the phone, she hears the busy signal just as the attendant locks the door. The attendant tries to grab her but she fights him off, and tries to leave, macing him when he manages to grab her. Using the phone to break the window, Michelle climbs out and rushes to her car and drives off, leaving the attendant standing there screaming that someone was in her back seat. Michelle drives away, still freaked by the encounter when she sees someone rise up from her back seat and kill her with an axe. At Pendleton University, Parker Riley is telling the story of a supposed massacre that happened at Stanley Hall to Natalie Simons and Brenda Bates but their friend Paul Gardner, who works for the school newspaper, discredits the story as a hoax. Later, Brenda and Natalie walk by a hole in the wall of a dorm that supposedly is able to summon the dead and they try it only to be scared by another friend, Damon Brooks, before Natalie heads back to her dorm room. The next day, Brenda, Natalie, Parker, and Damon are attending Professor Wexler’s class on urban legends when he has Brenda and Damon come up to do a demonstration disproving the legend about pop rocks and soda. As they leave class, Brenda and Natalie see Dean Adams and security guard Reese Wilson removing all of the school newspapers in the bins due to Paul’s story about Michelle’s death. As everyone talks about Michelle’s death, Natalie appears to be especially freaked out by it but doesn’t say why. That night, Damon invites Natalie out to talk about Michelle’s death and he takes her out to the woods but apparently used it only as an excuse to try and hook up with her. Natalie punches him and tells him to take her back and he relents, stepping out of the car to use the restroom. As he is finishing up, someone sneaks up behind him and starts strangling him with a rope. As Natalie yells out for him to hurry up, she is confronted by someone wearing a hooded parka and quickly gets back in the car. As she tries to start the car, she hears something scraping on the roof, not realizing it is Damon, whose is hanging from a tree limb above her and his feet are barely touching the roof of the car. Natalie manages to start the car and drives off, unknowingly hanging Damon as the rope was tied to the car’s trailer hitch. Natalie tries to run the stranger over she finds the car can’t go forward any more due to the rope so she puts the car in reverse and ends up crashing into the tree, and Damon’s body falls onto the hood of the car. Natalie runs back to the college and tells Reese what happened but when they go back to the scene, they find the car and body missing and Reese thinks Natalie is on something. Natalie tries telling her friends but Parker says that it is probably Damon playing a practical joke like he always does. As they keep talking, Natalie realizes that Damon’s death and Michelle’s are similar to urban legends and she heads to the library to get a book on urban legends, running into Sasha, Parker’s girlfriend and campus radio DJ, as she does. Meanwhile, Natalie’s roommate Tosh is attempting to arrange a hookup only to be attacked in their room. Natalie walks in but, having turned on the lights to find Tosh having sex before, she mistakes Tosh’s muffled cries as her having sex and simply keeps the lights off before heading to bed. When she wakes up, Natalie notices a pool of blood near Tosh’s body and finds that she has been murdered and the killer had written “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the lights” in her blood above Natalie’s bed, mimicking another urban legend. As the paramedics are brought in to take away the body, Dean Adams and Reese talk with Natalie and Adams tries to convince her not to say anything to the police. Paul follows her out of there and asks her what is going on and shows her a picture of Michelle’s yearbook and asks why she didn’t say she knew Michelle. Natalie tells him her theory and Paul doesn’t really believe her but decides to help her check out the truth behind the Stanley Hall Massacre. They go to look at the school records only to find the records for 1973 are missing and when they ask the janitor if he knows anything, he says to talk with Wexler. They head to Wexler’s office and getting no answer, Paul breaks in. When they start looking around, Natalie finds a secret room with a hooded parka and an axe inside but they are caught by Wexler. Natalie and Paul are taken to Adams’ office and they asks him about the massacre but he doesn’t answer, telling NAtalie she is lucky to have gotten accepted as she has a reckless endangerment charge on her record and tells Paul that he has been kicked off of the school paper. Later, Natalie goes to see Brenda at the pool when she sees a parka clad person approaching her and she tries to warn her, breaking a window before the person is revealed to be another swimmer. As Brenda tries talking with Natalie, Natalie reveals to her that she knew Michelle and that when they were in high school, they played a joke based on an urban legend and ended up accidentally killing someone. Meanwhile, Adams is preparing to leave when he is spooked by Reese, who says they should get some more security for the weekend but Adams refuses, wanting to keep everything quiet and under wraps. As Reese leaves, Adams is attacked when someone underneath his car slashes his achilles tendon, then runs him over with his own car as he tries to crawl away, impaling him on the parking deck’s security spikes. At the newspaper, Paul is cleaning out his desk when he finds an old newspaper showing that the massacre did happen and Wexler is the only survivor. Brenda convinces Natalie to come to the Stanley Hall Massacre party when she runs into Paul, who tells her she was right. Paul explains his theory about Wexler and how he might be the killer and as Natalie gets frightened, he says he won’t let anything happen to her. Paul kisses Natalie but they are caught by Brenda, who has a crush on Paul, and she calls Natalie a slut and runs outside, where she sits on the steps and cries. Paul tries to convince Parker to stop the party but when Parker mocks him, he tells Natalie he is going to go get some help. Meanwhile, Parker gets a phone call from someone saying he is going to die but when Parker checks the caller ID, he notices it is coming from Damon’s room. Thinking it is Damon playing a joke, he asks if this is the legend about the babysitter and the call is coming from upstairs but the caller says it is the legend about the old woman that dries off her dog in the microwave. Parker checks the microwave to find his dog has exploded inside and when he goes to the bathroom to throw up, the killer attacks him and force feeds him some pop rocks and drain killer to kill him. Sasha leaves the party to work her shift on the radio and as she takes a call, the killer kills her producer and attacks her while she is on air. Natalie hears Sasha screaming and heads over to the station only to see the killer kill Sasha. She heads over to Paul’s dorm to get him and tells him what happened and he says they should leave, but Natalie is starting to get suspicious of him. The two run into Brenda and they tell her Sasha is dead and they all leave in Paul’s SUV. As they drive, Natalie complains about a smell and they stop at a gas station to see if the phones work there. Paul heads inside to try the phones while Natalie and Brenda wait in the car but the two hear Wexler’s alarm and find his dead body in the back. The two girls run through the woods back towards campus but get separated and Natalie ends up getting picked up by the janitor. As they are driving, Natalie sees his parka and thinks he might be the killer and tries to get out of the car but he tells her the doors won’t open from the outside. As they keep driving, they see a car approaching with it’s lights off and the janitor flashes his high beams to alert the other car but Natalie realizes it is the killer in Paul’s car, as the car turns around and follows them, constantly flashing it’s high beams at them and eventually forcing them off the road. The janitor dies in the crash and Natalie and manages to reach the campus, where she hears Brenda screaming. Going to find her friend, Natalie heads inside the abandoned Stanley Hall, only to be attacked by Brenda. When she comes to, Natalie finds herself tied to a bed and Brenda explains that the man that Natalie and Michelle killed was her boyfriend and she was getting her revenge. Brenda starts to cut into Natalie to mimic the kidney thief legend when Reese shows up to rescue her. As Natalie frees herself, Reese starts to frisk Brenda, who pulls out a switchblade and slashes her. Reese drops her gun and Brenda and Reese struggle for it before Brenda manages to shoot Reese, then points the gun at Natalie. Paul shows up and tries to talk Brenda out of shooting Natalie but Brenda points the gun at both of them. Reese shoots Brenda in the arm, causing her to drop the gun and Natalie picks it up and shoots her, knocking her out the window. Natalie and Paul check on Reese, who is bleeding but still alive, and they leave to get help but as they are driving down the road, Brenda appears in the back seat and tries attacking them with an axe but Paul slams into the side of a bridge and goes flying out the windshield and plunges into the river below. Some time later, at another college, some students are talking about the murders when Brenda, still alive and under a new identity, says that they are telling it wrong and says she will tell them how it really went.

Urban Legend met with poor results from the critics, holding a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Elements of Scream reappear in a vastly inferior vehicle.” In keeping with the movie’s title and theme, 11 urban legends were reenacted and another 5 were referenced during the film. When Paul and Natalie walk into the hidden room in Professor William Wexler’s office, a puppet of Freddy Krueger can be seen just before they see the axe, which is a nod to Robert Englund, who plays Wexler in the movie but is most famous for playing Freddy in the Nightmare On Elm Street movies. The movie was a box office hit, earning $72.5 million off of a $14 million budget and would spawn 2 sequels.

I had high hopes for this movie but it honestly was kind of a let down. The acting was ok, with all of the main characters doing ok jobs, and I mean just that. They were ok but nobody really wowed me and in some cases, they could be embarrassingly bad. I personally liked Robert Englund as Wexler, who made for a great red herring in the movie. I also liked Loretta Devine, as her character of Security Officer Reese Wilson made for some unintentional comedic relief at times. The story was interesting and I did like how they tried using the urban legends to make unique kills instead of making it a stereotypical slasher movie. The special effects were ok, but I feel like they could have done more with some of the kills. Good idea but poor execution (no pun intended) make this just another average horror movie.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

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action, crime, drama, movie, movie review, thriller

September 17th, 2017 Movie – The Skulls

the skulls

Ahh, the turn of the century and a time when you could actually go out on a date to the movies and get some snacks for the cost of one ticket now a days. I know in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I watched a lot of movies in the theaters, honestly more movies than I can remember off hand. I do remember going to see this movie in the theaters down in Savannah on a date with my girlfriend at the time. Even though I bought it on DVD (another Blockbuster purchase), I honestly haven’t watched this movie in years but I do remember liking this movie when I first saw it. Now let’s see if it still holds up as I watch today’s movie, The Skulls.

The plot: Luke McNamara is a local “townie” that is able to attend Yale on scholarships while also working in the cafeteria to help cover the costs. As he tries to figure out how to afford to go to law school, Luke heads to a rowing competition, where he is the captain of the team and has lead them to 3 championships. As they prepare for the race, Luke is unaware that he is being observed by two men, who are considering recruiting him to be in The Skulls. After winning the competition, Luke is celebrating at a bar with his friend/roommate Will, who is also the coxswain of the rowing team, and Chloe, who Luke has feelings towards. Will tries to convince Luke that he should tell Chloe how he feels but Luke says that he can’t, as he feels like he has nothing to offer her since she comes from a wealthy family. As Luke complains about how much all of his tuition is costing and how much he will end up and how the Skulls will supposedly help him pay for all of that if he is selected to join but Will warns him that if it’s secret, it might not always be a good thing as they walk by the Skull’s campus house. As they are eating pizza up in Chloe’s dorm room, Luke receives a phone call asking if he is ready to be reborn and instructing him to another payphone. Luke rushes off, with Will and Chloe trying to figure out where he is going, and after following a series of instructions, Luke drinks a drugged drink and ends up passing out. Luke regains consciousness and finds himself inside a coffin and finds several other people also exiting coffins. Suddenly, two hooded figures welcome the new members to The Skulls and assigns them a test to steal the mascot from a rival secret society. The group head to the society’s building and one kid, Caleb Mandrake, quickly jumps over the moat to reach the door. When he says it is locked, Luke jumps over and manages to pick the lock and the two manage to climb the tower and steal the mascot, a weather vane shaped like a python. When Luke returns to his dorm room the next morning, Will and Chloe start asking him questions about what happened but Luke says he doesn’t want to talk about it. When Will asks him point blank if he is a Skull, Luke tells him he doesn’t know but Will doesn’t believe him. The two start arguing and Chloe tries to get them to calm down but when Caleb calls for Luke, Will gets even more upset that Luke is picking his new friends over his old ones. Chloe leaves as well, looking hurt over Luke’s actions and when Luke talks to Caleb, Caleb tells him to look under his pillow and Luke finds a box containing a Skull medallion. Luke, Caleb, and the other recruits arrive at the Skull’s ritual room and are paired off into “soulmates”, with Luke and Caleb being paired together, and inducted into the Skulls by the Chairman of the order, Judge Litten Mandrake , Caleb’s father. After leaving the room, Luke heads to Chloe’s room to apologize and asks her to dinner but when he finds that he has an additional $20,000 in his bank account, Chloe realizes that he is a Skull but Luke tries to convince her to be happy for him. The next day, Luke, Caleb and the other Skulls are invited to the Skull’s island retreat and Litten introduces Luke to his soulmate, Senator Ames Levritt, who takes a liking to Luke due to their similar backgrounds and hands him a card, saying to call him if he needs anything. Luke then goes to talk with Caleb and comments on the tension between him and his father and Caleb says that Litten is ambitious and wants to be on the Supreme Court and has been trying to pass on that ambition to him but Caleb doesn’t know what he wants yet. After returning from the island, the new Skulls find gifts in the form of new cars waiting for them and they all quickly speed off. The next day, Luke sees Will in between classes and comments on his missing practice and Will tells him he is working on something secret. Elsewhere, Caleb is at boxing practice and when he heads to his car, he finds the window is smashed and someone has stolen his key to the Skull’s building. Caleb goes to find Luke and asks to borrow his key, saying he left his key inside the building, and Luke hands it to him. When Caleb gets to the ritual room, he finds Will in there taking pictures and accuses him of taking his stuff and Will admits to it and goes to hand him his key but says he doesn’t have the rule book on him. Later that night, Luke feels bad about his argument with Will and heads to the newspaper room to apologize only to find Will’s body hanging from one of the beams. The detective in charge of the case, Detective Sparrow, starts to question Luke about Will’s death but is stopped by the University Provost, Martin Lombard, and Luke leaves with Chloe, while Caleb offers his condolences. As movers are packing up Will’s stuff to send back to his home, they uncover a secret drawer in his desk and Luke realizes that Will was doing an article about the Skulls and had Caleb’s book. After the funeral, Chloe tells Luke she knew Will was doing the article but had been asked to keep it a secret and asks Luke if the story got Will killed. Luke tells her he doesn’t know but she can tell that he is not being completely honest and calls him out for lying as she leaves in tears. The next day, Sparrow talks with Luke about the case and tells him that Will had a contusion on the back of his head, indicating something violent happened before he died and that his suicide was possibly staged. At a meeting with the Skulls, the group are brought to a room to reveal their deepest secrets and Luke volunteers himself and Caleb to go first. After they are sealed into the cage and lowered into the well, Luke subtly questions Caleb about what happened to Will but Caleb refuses to answer it. Afterwards, Luke and Caleb are brought to see Litten and Litten forces Caleb to tell him the truth. Caleb explains that he went to the room and found Will taking pictures and after confronting him, they struggled and Will ended up falling and breaking his neck so he called Litten and Litten covered up the accident in order to protect his future as well as the Skulls. Luke isn’t happy about it but Litten offers him a pre-approved acceptance to any law school he wishes in order to keep the secret. Luke gets in touch with Levritt to try and figure out what he should do and Levritt give Luke the idea about checking the security tapes, as everything that happened would be recorded and comments on how the Council is putting everything into getting Litten onto a Federal Bench, as a precursor to the Supreme Court, and it would be a shame to see anything happen that would ruin his chances. Luke goes to see his old high school friends, who he used to commit crimes with, and convinces them to help him in exchange for giving them his car. They find out the tapes are switched out twice a day and try to follow where the man takes them but Luke loses him in the school’s library. When Luke returns to his room, he is attacked by Caleb, who reveals that Luke’s room is bugged, as is Caleb’s and Chloe’s, and begs Luke to stop digging into the matter. Luke goes to see Chloe and apologizes for what he has done and proceeds to tell her everything. Meanwhile, Litten calls the Council and wants to kick Luke out of the Skulls but Levritt votes against the measure until Litten pulls him aside and shows him photos of Levritt with his 19 year old mistress, blackmailing him into voting for the measure. The next day, Chloe yells at Luke in the cafeteria for writing him a letter breaking up with her and tells him to never talk to her again. After she leaves, Caleb, who was sitting behind Luke, tells him it was a good call, as he feels Luke did it to keep Chloe away from him. Luke then heads up to Chloe’s room, revealing it was an act, and after turning up the music and her shower to insure nobody can hear them, he tries to get her to stay clear of any further involvement but she tells him she is involved because she loves him, and the two embrace and kiss. That night, Luke assaults the security guard as he enters a secret room in the library and steals the tape of the ritual room from the night Will was killed. As he leaves, he is chased down by Lombard and another man but his friends, wearing masks to hide their identities, show up and beat them down, then they all escape with Chloe. Heading back to his friends’ place, they watch the tape and see Will fall and Caleb call his dad and tell him what happened. Caleb wants to call the police but Litten apparently tells him to leave the room. As the continue watching the tape, the see that Will was still alive but Lombard and his men enter and after talking with Litten, they kill him and then take the body to stage the suicide. Luke heads to the police to speak with Sparrow only to find that Caleb is there, having told Sparrow that Luke killed Will. Luke hands Sparrow the tape saying that it proves who killed Will but when Sparrow, Luke, and the D.A. watches the tape, they find it is blank and Luke realizes that Sparrow switched the tapes as he is carried off and placed into an ambulance, where he is sedated and transported to a psychiatric institute that is run by a member of the Skulls. Back at the school, Chloe goes to speak with Caleb and ask for his help in getting Luke out of the mental hospital but Caleb refuses to help her and tells her to leave and she does, but tells him that Will was still alive when he left the room. Chloe is assaulted by Lombard and his men but manages to get away from them and runs into Levritt, who takes her to the hospital. They get Luke out of the hospital and Ames tells her to tell Luke there is only one way out of this and to remind Luke that, “they live by the rules and they die by the rules.” As they leave, they are attacked by another car, which forces them off the road, causing them to crash on an unfinished railroad bridge. Lombard goes to shoot Luke but he is killed by Sparrow, who hands Luke his rule book and tells them to leave. At a motel, Luke tries to figure out what Levritt meant and when Chloe tells him about what Levritt told her, he checks the rule book and figures out what Levritt meant. Luke rows over to the island and as Litten is toasting the new Skulls on ending their Period of Revelation, Luke enters the room and challenges Caleb to a duel. Litten wants Luke to be arrested but when he is reminded that the Skulls’ laws supersede the outside laws, he offers to take Caleb’s place, only for Luke to tell him it is forbidden for the Council members to interfere when the matter concerns their kin. As they prepare to face off in the duel, Luke tries to convince Caleb to tell everyone the truth of what happened, refusing to fire on Caleb but Caleb can’t tell them, but also can’t shoot Luke. Litten grabs another pistol and prepares to shoot Luke but he is shot in the shoulder by Caleb. As everyone rushes to tend to Litten, Caleb grabs another pistol and prepares to shoot himself but he is stopped by Luke, he says it is over. Later, Luke is talking with Levritt and tells him that he knows he orchestrated things to play out as they did in order to remove Litten as Chairman. Levritt admits it and tells Luke he looks forward to working with him but Luke says he is leaving the Skulls. When Levritt says they will find him and call on him but Luke ignores him and leaves, prompting Levritt to watch him and say, “Well done son, well done”, as Luke rows back to the mainland and joins up with Chloe, who was waiting for him.

The Skulls was pretty much panned by the critics, holding a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “The Skulls is full of nonsense and empty of good script and plot.” The movie is based on conspiracy theories concerning Yale’s Skull & Bones Society and though the school is not mentioned by name, there are several references to Yale throughout the film, primarily them referring to the rowing team as The Bulldogs. Despite the poor reviews, the movie was a hit at the box office, earning $50.8 million off of a $15 million budget and would spawn two direct to video sequels.

Yeh, this movie didn’t quite hold up as well as I thought it would. The acting was ok, with Joshua Jackson (Luke) and Leslie Bibb (Chloe) doing a good job in their roles and showing some decent chemistry together. I also liked Craig T. Nelson (Litten) and William Petersen (Levritt) but I thought Paul Walker (Caleb) seemed rather bland. The story was honestly a little weak, with them trying to make a good suspense/thriller but basically threw a bunch of dramatic cliches up against the drawing board and hoping they would stick. The really annoying thing was the hinted familial relationship between Levritt and Luke, as they try and hint that Levritt is Luke’s dad, but waited till the end to drop that dud of a bombshell and did absolutely nothing with it. Honestly, the thing I liked the best about this movie was the soundtrack and while it can sometimes help carry a movie, that is definitely not the case this time. It might be worth watching for some people but this was really a disappointment to me.

Rating: 2 out of 5

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