This week in Tuesday Terrors we have reviews of three new horror films, rating news from The Walking Dead, and a slew of new trailers.
THE TERRIFYING NEWS
Cemetery Dance announces Stephen King special edition. Cemetery Dance Publications is pleased to announce they are publishing a special edition of DOCTOR SLEEP by Stephen King this September. This is the master of horror's much talked about sequel to THE SHINING, which features Dan Torrance and an epic war between good and evil. The Deluxe Lettered Edition sold out in 75 minutes and the Signed Limited Edition sold out in 4.5 hours, but there are still some copies available of the unsigned Slipcased Gift Edition, which is limited to just 1,750 copies. There will be no second printings.
Trailer for new supernatural thriller “The Appearing”. City detective Michael (Will Wallace) relocates to a quaint, small town with his wife Rachel (Emily Brooks), following her emotional breakdown after the sudden death of their young daughter. Michael takes a job in the sheriff’s office, thinking not much will happen in such a quiet town. However, on his first day of duty, Michael is asked to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a teenage girl.
Walking Dead Midseason premiere ratings kill! AMC's mid-season three premiere of The Walking Dead returned with its largest audience ever in series history delivering 12.3 million viewers at the 9pm premiere. The previous record was 10.9 million viewers from the season three premiere on October 14, 2012. The episode is also the strongest telecast for a series in basic cable history for adults 18-49 with 7.7 million. These results shatter the hit series' previous record with an increase of +6% (A18-49) over the October 14, 2012 season three premiere.
Tonner Doll delivers Warm Bodies figures. Tonner Doll Company has released Character Figures based on Summit Entertainment's “Warm Bodies”. Sculpted in the likenesses of the film's lead characters, R and Julie, Tonner's figures will allow fans and collectors alike to bring home their very own, collectible example of the power of human connection. Each figure includes authentic costuming from the film, hand-painted facial features, and multiple points of articulation for dynamic posing. Each figure also comes with a stand for ease of display.
NECA announces Carrie figures at Toy Fair. NECA announced at Toy Fair they are producing figures for the upcoming Carrie remake. You can check out the two versions below.
Trailer for Renny Harlin’s The Dyatlov Pass Incident. Renny Harlin directs this new found footage film. The Dyatlov Pass Incident follows a group of American students on a trek to investigate the true life mystery of nine Russian skiers who befell unexplained deaths while skiing in the Russian mountains in 1959. To this day, their deaths have been one of the most bizarre unsolved mysteries of the 20th century.
First trailer for Final Girl. Umm…this isn’t exactly your usual trailer but here it is anyway. Veronica is a teen at a new school. She's shy and vulnerable - the perfect target for a group of teenage boys who lure girls into the woods to hunt and kill them for sport. It’s only after they get her alone that she turns the tables on them, escaping and revealing she’s armed and knows how to defend herself. Little do they know, Veronica is an assassin-in-training, and she’s chosen killing these boys as her final test. When the dust clears, Veronica will find out if she can be the final girl these boys ever have a chance to hurt.
Trailer for Big Ass Spider! Now this looks Cool! Giant bug fans rejoice! Starring Greg Grunberg, Lombardo Boyar, Clare Kramer and Ray Wise, the film concerns a giant, mutated spider that attacks Los Angeles and the two exterminators (Grunberg, Boyar) that join forces with the military to take the threat on.
THE HORRIFYING REVIEWS
The Possession Blu-Ray Review (Lionsgate)
Most films dealing with demonic possession are typically of the Roman Catholic variety with a priest attempting to exorcise the evil spirit. The Possession doesn’t have a ton going for it but at least it attempts to do something a bit different with the subject. Cylde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) are a recently divorced couple sharing custody of their two daughters Em and Hannah. The daughters are still trying to come to grips with their parent’s divorce when Clyde takes them to his new house. At a nearby yard sale Clyde buys Em an old antique wooden box that has Hebrew letters carved into it.
The box initially appears to be locked with no means of opening it but Em soon manages to find a way to get it open and reveal its strange contents including a dead moth, a tooth, and a ring which she begins to wear. Em soon becomes distant violent, attacking a student in her class and then stabbing her father with a fork. Soon other strange phenomena take place including Em’s room being filled with moths.
As Em’s behavior becomes more erratic, Clyde takes the box to a professor at the college where he coaches basketball, and its revealed that the box is a Dybbuk box, a box that holds the captured spirit of a Dybbuk, an evil spirit out of Jewish mythology. Clyde visits a Hasidic Jewish community in New York, seeking their aid to help defeat the dybbuk that now possess his young daughter.
The Possession is an interesting slant on the genre but with a PG-13 rating it simply doesn’t have enough bite to be an effective chiller. With a miniscule budget of only $14 million, Director Ole Bornedal has to rely more on creating atmosphere than utilizing visual effects. He pulls this off quite well for the most part but can’t maintain it over the long haul. The last 15 minutes degrades into silliness as one of the Rabbi’s tries to force the Dybbuk from Em’s body and back into the box when she is in the hospital. The parents run off with Em to find a private area so the Rabbi can perform his exorcism. No problem because there is no hospital staff to be found. Horror movies are the only times you see a hospital almost completely empty.
I like both Morgan and Sedgwick but just didn’t buy either of them in their roles as parents to young girls, especially Morgan’s role as a college basketball coach. All in all The Possession is a forgettable diversion at best.
The Awakening Blu-Ray Review (Universal Studios)
The Awakening stars Rebecca Hall as Florence Cathcart, an author and ghost-hunter who works with the London police during the 1920s to expose phony spiritualist scams. She is approached by Robert Malory, a teacher at a boarding school to investigate the death of a young student who died after supposedly seeing a ghost. Florence travels to the remote school in the country, a foreboding structure that once was a private home. When one of the students tries to scare her off Florence discovers the boy’s death was a horrible prank gone wrong and that he died of an asthma attack, not of fright.
But as she prepares to leave the school, the real supernatural activity begins. The school nearly empties for the holidays except for Malory, Maud the housekeeper, the groundskeeper, and Tom, a boy whose parents are in India. Florence begins to experience terrifying visions of a man pointing a shotgun at her. She finds a dollhouse-sized model of the school in an otherwise empty room. As she peers inside its windows she sees tiny dolls, arranged in the positions of events that recently happened, including one in which it shows a woman peering into a dollhouse…just as she is doing at that very moment. The events grow more terrifying as Florence tries to come to grips with her own fears that she has long avoided including the death of her lover during World War I.
The Awakening came and went from theaters last summer without making a ripple and it’s easy to tell why. This is a traditional, gothic style horror film that moves to slowly for a lot of people’s tastes. It conjures up images of the work of gothic romanticists with its shuddered rooms, secret panels, and dark, hidden secrets. But this sort of romantic gothic film is going to be a tough sell for modern audiences. While Director Nick Murphy does an admirable job of building atmosphere in the bleak schoolhouse, there isn’t enough freak-you-out scary moments. It’s rated R but that’s a very soft R and has more to do about a couple of brief nude scenes than any terrifying content.
You don’t want to give away spoilers but the film falls back on a plot device that has been overly used in recent years and if you pay attention closely, and watch who is talking to whom, you likely won’t have a difficult time connecting the dots. Most disappointing though is a purposely, cop-out ambiguous ending that screams of a Director trying too cute.
The performances are what keep the film above average. Hall is outstanding as the seemingly self-assured Florence who soon falls apart with her own insecurities. Dominic West is Malory and West is always watchable bringing class and dignity to every role he plays. The Awakening isn’t for everyone but if you’re looking for an atmospheric chiller rather than the typical special effects driven horror, then it is worth a rent at least.
Smiley DVD Review (Arc Entertainment)
Smiley is a psychological slasher film (if one wants to accurately describe it) about the urban myth of a killer who wears a skin mask that has a smiley face carved into it. Similar to the legend about “Bloody Mary”, this finds college students using a random chat room. When they type the words “I did it for the Lulz” three times, Smiley will appear behind the person the message was sent to and kill them.
Ashley (Caitlin Gerard) is a meek college student, out on her own for the first time, sharing a house with another girl named Proxy. Ashley dresses in clothes that make June Cleaver look like Nikki Minaj (and yes I did just make a Leave it to Beaver reference) but soon wild friend Proxy has her drinking and smoking pot. While at a party Ashley hears the myth about Smiley but doesn’t believe it. The following day, Ashley and Proxy are chatting with a guy and try out the Smiley myth. They are shocked when the killer appears behind the man, killing him. They are terrified but don’t report the incident to the police.
Ashely soon finds herself stalked by the killer and having nightmares. She seeks help from one of her professors as well as a nerdy tech geek named Binder but it doesn’t help. Ashley begins to descend into delusional paranoia and even a detective (Keith David) dismisses her claims thinking she’s nuts or on drugs.
Smiley has the twist ending that seems prerequisite in horror films these days but the problem is that Director Michael Gallagher tips his hand. It’s simply too easy to deduce that the other students are involved in Ashley’s torment. Why is a killer who is summoned by typing a phrase three times all of a sudden stalking Ashley on the streets? Most of the actors overplay their roles which also serve to tip you off. Frankly an actual Jason or Michael Myers serial killer would have been more interesting and the Smiley mask was kind of freaky.
Smiley does feature a couple of veteran actors in Keith David and Roger Bart and they do bring professionalism to what is otherwise a cast of unknowns. But David’s role is brief and he doesn’t show up until more than an hour into the film. There’s not enough mayhem and gore to appeal to fans of slasher films and it’s not smart enough to succeed as a psychological horror either.
Tim Janson is a columnist and reviewer for Mania Entertainment. He writes Level Up, the weekly look at videogames and the horror dedicated column, Tuesday Terrors. Tim has written for Fangoria, Newsarama, City Slab Magazine, Twitch Film, and Cinefantastique. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). Be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter.