Review: Downrange’s Simple Premise Leads to a Simply Bad Movie

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Six stunningly attractive but vapid teenagers are driving through the middle of nowhere when they’re stopped by unexpected car trouble. In the case of Downrange, they get a flat tire. Three of them decide to sit leaning on the car while it’s jacked up as the dreamy Jeff (Jason Tobias) changes the tire. When he gets the flat off, a shell casing tinkles onto the road. The next shot kills him. The shooter takes out another teen before the four remaining get to cover. The rest of the movie follows them as they try to survive. It’s not very good.

It’s a familiar setup. The Texas Chainsaw MassacreThe Hills Have Eyes, and more than a few other great horror films start by trapping their characters in the middle of the nowhere with vehicle trouble. All of those movies do a lot of things better than Downrange. One is to characterize about the killer. Downrange obstinately refuses to give the audience anything more than a few shots of him drinking water, reloading, or point of view shots through his scope. The question of why he’s doing this isn’t ever answered.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

Ghost Stories Relies on Jump Scares to Spice Up a Preachy, Boring Riff on Dickens

Ghost Stories follows Professor Phillip Goodman (Andy Nyman), an atheist who has dedicated his life to debunking paranormal phenomenon. His hero, Dr. Charles Cameron, had done similar work before disappearing under mysterious circumstances. Cameron reaches out from close to the grave to give Phillip a message about life: Goodman should spend more time with his family. Also, ghosts are real and he has three cases that Goodman won’t be able to solve.

The first section is by far the scariest. Goodman meets Tony Matthews (Paul Whitehouse), a night watchmen, in a bar. Having the principal character as a guard is excellent because it satisfies the question of why that idiot is investigating the strange noises. Tony had to because it was his job. As he creeps through the abandoned asylum, directors Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman pepper the audience with jump scares to great effect and strange sets. It’s knuckle bitingly scary.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

Indie Horror Reviews

I’ve been reviewing indie horror films at Wicked Horror for the last two years. Here are three of the latest flicks I got to review with their scores.

Imitation Girl was the best of the three, by far. I scored it an 8/10. It’s not frequently enough that I get to write a review of a movie that I really loved, and I’m grateful to Natasha Kerami for letting me really be positive in my review of her movie.

My experience writing about Day of the Dead: Bloodline was a bit different. Limping in at 4/10, it made a good case for not remaking the late great George A. Romero’s movies.

Delirium wasn’t much better. It was capable, but didn’t take any risks creatively and was ultimately unsatisfying.

Making Readers Squirm: Sound in Peter Straub’s Ghost Story

For four years, I did most of my reading on the T, Boston’s incomplete answer to New York City’s subway system. At times, it was hard to focus. Personal space doesn’t exist on public transit. On bad days, for worse people, headphones don’t either. There were fights (mostly verbal), stops (always physical), and the occasional panhandler. One of my measures of a good book became whether it could immerse me enough to tune all of that out. While visiting Boston to celebrate the start of 2018, a scene in Peter Straub’s Ghost Story that sucked me in so deep I missed my stop.

Ghost Story is a modernization of the gothic ghost story tradition, pulling readers through frame after frame while a present day horror story plays out. Part 3 of “The Chowder Society: The October Stories” stands on its own as a perfectly paced, thousand word nightmare though. It starts with Straub crippling his character and introducing danger by writing, “[Ricky] was unable to leave the bed; but even if his muscles were working, he knew with the same knowledge that he would not be able to escape whatever was coming” (78). It seems simple, but it’s integral to the creation of tension in the scene. Something is coming. Ricky can’t escape… 

Read more in the Corvidae Courier pages 18-19!