Movie Reviews 20

Restraint (2008)
A great Aussie thriller that adds some substance to the staid old ‘couple on the run’ motif. In this case the young couple on the run from one murder find themselves murdering yet another innocent victim, and now have to find immediate refuge. They coincidentally find a nice local mansion that seems desolate enough. The twist here is that the local occupant has agoraphobia and can’t leave the house himself. Instead of just offing the young man, the couple are enticed by their opulent surroundings and decide to cash in on their hostages riches. The best option they learn is to make withdrawals from his bank, but this also requires that the woman take on the disguise of being the occupants former fiancee in order to convince bank officials. Great atmosphere and acting by the entire cast along with a believable script make this an exceptionable find from the cheapie bins. This is the kind of movie that vindicates all the dregs I’ve watched over the year in order to find unheralded gems.

El Chupabra (2003)
El cheapo movie is more like it. I can take all the crap that a low budget movie has to offer (or not offer really) but what I can’t accept is something that does not have a high cost associated and that’s borderline intelligence in a script. Just because a movie is low budget does not mean that the script has to be lazily written. Here is a movie with a half dozen actors and a half dozen locations. Fine. But why does half the cast always seem to converge in the same spot in a city the size of LA for no apparent reason? Because the writer wanted to bring the actors together and just couldn’t write a decent script to make it plausible. A bad guy picks a REMOTE spot near a harbor so that he can discreetly dump a body. Just as he does so, our protagonist wannabe police officer (really an animal control officer) just happens along that very spot and sees the attempted body dump. If that wasn’t enough, just a few minutes later the real cop in the story shows up at the same exact REMOTE spot. If that wasn’t insulting enough, freakish coincidental run ins like this happen again later in the movie. The goat sucking chupacabras in the movie were downright geniuses compared to the writer. Skip this one.

Shutter (2008)
Taking more than just a riff of Japanese horror, the producers of the American remakes of Ju-on (The Grudge) and Ringu (The Ring) team up with Japanese director Masayuki Ochiai for a movie based on not one but two common motifs: ghostly images that appear in photographs and having the victims of accidental killings return to haunt their supposed killers. From those points of view there is not much new substance to offer. Most of the movie is set in Japan which makes it even more familiar territory for J-Horror fans. Starring Joshua Jackson (Fringe) and the lovely Rachael Taylor as newlyweds, the couples problems start just as they arrive in Japan for their honeymoon and a coveted photo shoot for the husband who is familiar with both the territory and longtime relocated friends working in Tokyo. As the wife is driving at night she hits a young woman, but there is no body to be found after the accident. It is then that some of her and her husbands camera images begin to have the apparitions. But the haunting gets creepier with mid day live visual sittings as well. The wife learns that the woman in question was someone her husband and his buddies knew before. Sure enough, the past relationship slowly unravels to some more sinister and sordid details as the wife digs deeper. While I would categorize this as a re-thread movie, it is interesting enough and does offer some twists that make it good enough for me to give it a thumbs up.

Anonymous Rex (2004)
I thought this would be some cheap horror movie with a humanoid dinosaur as the creature. Instead I got a very odd but surprisingly entertaining (if not altogether convincing) science fiction movie. Staring Daniel Baldwin with cameo roles by Faye Dunaway and Isaac Hayes, the far fetched storyline goes something like this: Dinosaurs were never extinct, but have been with us all along, and sometime in history have a developed a highly technologically advanced means of disguising their true appearance and now blend in as a sort of secret society. Pretty silly and full of holes, not the least of which is why hide at all. Even sillier is the main story in which some rebellious dino’s want to force a sort of grand revelation while the ruling dinosaur ‘committee’ who like to make decisions based mahjong tiles want to remain secretive. The movie is about some of the dinos being murdered and one dino (Baldwin) uncovering the plot by the rebel dinos. As silly as all this sounds, I found myself enjoying the movie. The dino CGI effects are god awful, but the audacity of someone even trying to pull off such a movie is part of the charm. There are a few comical moments as well and I’m guessing (now that I know that this was a Sci-Fi channel made for TV movie) that this was a test pilot for a TV series. Whether or not this was the case, if you want a light hearted silly movie that you can laugh at and laugh with at the same time, I would suggest you watch this one. Just remember all the silly elements I warned you about.

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