Movie Monday! #4

Between Nate working late on a night or two and the Superbowl party, we didn’t watch a TON of movies this week, but we got a few good ones in!

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Gone Girl (2014) | Director: David Fincher | Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris. Based on a novel by Gillian Flynn, this movie initially seems to be a straight-forward example of a marriage turning sour and the husband, in a fit of frustration and rage, disposing of his wife… but you soon realize that it’s much more complicated, and psychotic, than that. I won’t reveal any details here but I will say that while Ben Affleck was surely expected to be the star of this movie (not by a long shot), it’s Pike who really steals the show — she embodies the perfect combination of desperation, rage, and sheer lack of empathy. Go see it!

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The Eclipse (2009) | Director: Conor McPherson | Stars: Ciarán Hinds, Iben Hjejle, Aidan Quinn. We found this in the horror section of Amazon Prime which is a really far-fetched genre categorization — it’s more of a realistic love story with a slightly dark subplot (that only comes up once in a while — long enough intervals to make you forget entirely). I thought the acting from all of the stars was excellent — I felt strong feelings about all of them, but especially Hinds. It’s very slow-paced and there’s not much action in the traditional sense, but there is a lot of emotion. I’d recommend it!

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The Woman in Black (2012) | Director: James Watkins | Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds. It’s funny that a week ago I didn’t even know who Ciarán Hinds was, and then suddenly I’m watching two movies in a row that star him. This movie is a great example of the difference in taste between Nate and I — he fell asleep maybe 20 minutes into this movie while I stayed awake for its entirety. I thought it was a very effectively scary ghost story. Daniel Radcliffe was great, of course, and there were many moments when I jumped out of my seat — always a good sign for me. The whole movie has this very real sense of something being wrong, even from the first scene or two… it’s just not until later that you realize how wrong it is. The ending left some unanswered questions in my mind, but overall I really liked it.

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Child’s Play (1972) | Director: Sidney Lumet | Stars: James Mason, Robert Preston, Beau Bridges. Between the director and the cast of actors, this movie attracted my eye… but honestly it never really drew me in. We started it and kept watching both for Preston’s resemblance of Tom Selleck and his overly handsy nature with the boys at the school. In a strange way the school reminded me a bit of the Jesuit high school I attended, which was odd. I did think that while the acting from the main characters was decent, the acting from the actual students — who were the ones responsible for what should have been very disturbing, chilling scenes — was severely lacking, making us instead focus on this somewhat tedious back and forth between the overly stereotypical “good guy” and “bad guy”. It had the potential to be something more but I think it fell short.

Movie Monday! #3

I completely spaced last week and forgot to do a Movie Monday, so now today you get to hear about TWO weeks’ worth of movies! YASS!

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The Manster (1959) | Director: George P. Breakston | Stars: Peter Dyneley, Jane Hylton, Tetsu Nakamura. This was definitely not my favorite. Mad scientist injects an American journalist with a mystery serum and BOOM, Manster! It’s definitely more silly than scary, and I can see it being a cult film, but… it just didn’t do anything for me.

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John Dies at the End (2012) | Director: Don Coscarelli | Stars: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti. I loved this movie, for the most part — the end got a little weird for me, but overall I thought it was great. It’s a great mix of many different worlds — you’ve got a mysterious street drug, time travel, alternate universe, a few scary/disturbing moments, and lots of laughs. Really great, I’d recommend it!

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You’re Next (2011) | Director: Adam Wingard | Stars: Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen. I felt like this movie could have been SO much deeper and creepier than it was. It starts out with an obviously very affluent family reuniting — several siblings meeting up at their parents’ home with their significant others in tow. Very quickly the dinner and chatting (all VERY forced, not creative in the slightest) descends into horror as it’s obvious that the family is being targeted by a group of deranged killers. The action is great, and some of the kill scenes are fantastic (especially at the end)… but I thought the motivation for the kills was severely lacking and kind of boring. The one thing I did love was that the one who saves the day ends up being this badass woman, and not because she managed to escape by the skin of her teeth despite being an idiot the whole movie (as is often the case in these slasher films), but because she had a solid background of survival skills and kicked some serious ass. That alone makes it worth a viewing.

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I Saw the Devil (2010) | Director: Kim Jee-woon | Stars: Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi, In-seo Kim. I thought this movie was brilliant — a fucked up game of cat-and-mouse. It’s true that it’s violent and disturbing, but it’s not in typical slasher movie style where the kills are gratuitous and unnecessary. It shows the true sadistic nature of the killer in an unapologetically graphic way, and makes you believe that he is pure evil. Meanwhile you are rooting for the wronged lover seeking revenge for his fiance’s murder — and damn, does he get it. Some of the fight scenes in particular are among the best I’ve ever seen — on multiple occasions I yelled “holy shit!” at the TV. Very dark, but an amazing film.

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Vanishing on 7th Street (2010) | Director: Brad Anderson | Stars: Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo. This movie was just… no. A mildly interesting idea ruined by shitty dialogue, numerous plot holes, and crappy acting. Hayden Christensen in particular was just too much to handle, and we turned it off after maybe 40 minutes. Boooo.

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The Lair of the White Worm (1988) | Director: Ken Russell | Stars: Amanda Donohoe, Hugh Grant, Catherine Oxenberg. This was just brilliant. A campy dark comedy, it’s definitely more funny and entertaining than scary, but it does a great job at keeping you entertained (if not bewildered at a few points). Hugh Grant is actually hilarious and Amanda Donohoe is damn hot and evil. Worth a watch for sure.

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They (2002) | Director: Robert Harmon | Stars: Laura Regan, Marc Blucas, Ethan Embry. Honestly this movie was just… forgettable. When I looked it up just now to get the photo, I couldn’t quite remember the story… and even after reading the synopsis I said “huh?”. Not a good sign. Another movie where mysterious beings creep in the darkness — yawn. It just wasn’t as compelling as it could be.

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The Dentist (1996) | Director: Brian Yuzna | Stars: Corbin Bernsen, Linda Hoffman, Michael Stadvec. This was… disturbing. Long story short, a dentist finds his wife cheating with the pool boy and fucking snaps. Bernsen does a great job of being convincingly deranged, and with the added creep factor of dentistry in general, this movie was a bit too much — we shut it off after 30 or 40 minutes.

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Bridge Across Time aka Terror at London Bridge (1985) | Director: E.W. Swackhamer | Stars: David Hasselhoff, Stepfanie Kramer, Randolph Mantooth. This was a TV movie which makes so much sense to me now — but it’s totally worth watching just for David Hasselhoff because come on, he’s amazing. We also learned something watching this movie since we previously had NO IDEA that the London Bridge was rebuilt in Lake Havasu, Arizona — totally bizarre. Not the most gripping, interesting, or well acted movie, but definitely fun with some twists and turns.

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The Possession (2012) | Director: Ole Bornedal | Stars: Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick. If you can get past how terrible Kyra Sedgwick is (I just can’t stand her), this movie is pretty alright. A young girl (Calis) buys an antique box at a yard sale, unaware of the malevolent spirit that lives inside. The movie does a great job at showing her slowly but surely being transformed by this spirit in an extremely disturbing way… there’s many moments in the movie that are just downright creepy. Morgan plays his part of the struggling dad trying to repair his relationships well, and it’s overall a pretty good possession movie (aside from Matisyahu of all people showing up).

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A Night in the Woods (2011) | Director: Richard Parry | Stars: Scoot McNairy, Anna Skellern, Andrew Hawley. I’m generally a huge fan of handycam-style movies — I think they can have a realness to them that makes them much scarier than others. This did have some aspects of that, but I thought it struggled. A few of the scary scenes relied more on surprise and oftentimes on simply having a huge blast of noise shock you — not so fun. The story took forever to really take off… a large chunk of it is just setting up the characters in a super boring way, and making you dislike 2/3 of them. You get this vague idea of a storyline but it’s never mentioned again, so when the action DOES get going you’re more confused than anything else. Ugh, disappointing.

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Phantom of the Paradise (1974) | Director: Brian De Palma | Stars: Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper. This was a recommendation from my brother-in-law and it was spot on. I won’t tell you too much but the story is engaging, the characters all all sufficiently flawed, and it’s downright mesmerizing all the way through. Watch it!

Movie Monday! #2

I am pretty excited about this MOVIE MONDAY because, well, we watched a TON of movies this past week. I mentioned in the last post that we’ve been doing something called “horror roulette” — we just go to the horror section of Amazon Prime Instant Video (a reeeally awesome side perk of having an Amazon Prime subscription) and Nate scrolls through without us looking. When I say “stop!” he lands on a movie and presses play before we get a chance to see what it is. It prevents us from judging a movie before we’ve watched it — whether it’s by the specific genre (fantasy, satirical, documentary, etc), the director, a certain actor, the cover, the description, anything. Not all movies are winners — there’s definitely times when we get 15 or 20 minutes into a movie and hate it, and then we just pick a new one. But this week there were 11 (ELEVEN!) movies that we watched to completion… and some were pretty awesome. Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 5.27.54 PM Dread (2009) — Anything that can be described as “from the mind of Clive Barker” is going to be a pretty instant win in my book, and this was no exception. It has some pretty sadistically evil scenes in it that were decently disturbing, even for me, but it was necessary to tell the story. I also now have a huge crush on Jackson Rathbone (I had no idea who he even was until I watched this movie but apparently he’s in all of the Twilight movies… oops). Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 5.32.40 PM Black Sunday (1960) — Not to be confused with the 1977 thrilled about the Goodyear Blimp pilot, this was more in the realm of vengeful witches and their identical descendants. It was… okay. Not really my thing. It did a great job of creating an incredibly spooky atmosphere — I felt genuinely creeped out throughout most of the movie solely because of the settings and mood alone — and it’s supposedly responsible for one of horror’s first female evil villains, so that’s awesome. Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 5.37.39 PM Dark Souls (2010) — Entirely in Norwegian and subtitled in English, this movie is based almost entirely around a father’s quest for revenge after his daughter is, in a way, taken from him. It was slow at times and I kind of hated the ending, but overall it had a fairly interesting plot and the perspective of father rather than direct victim or law enforcement was neat. Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 5.42.00 PM Black Rock (2012) — Once I saw that the screenplay was written by Mark Duplass (the story was actually written by Katie Aselton, one of the actresses in the film), I knew I’d love it, and I was right. I haven’t seen Kate Bosworth in much but I do love Lake Bell, so it seemed like a solid cast. It starts out as an innocent girls’ trip to an island off the coast of Maine (woop!) but turns very dark very quickly… genuinely frightening as it deals with raw violence and revenge and some obvious mental issues either triggered or worsened by a run in the military. Awesome movie. Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 5.46.47 PM Cursed (2005) — This was… whoa, really bad. The only thing that got me through was Jesse Eisenberg because I love him and his awkwardness. But really, any movie with a combination of Christina Ricci, Joshua Jackson, and Shannon Elizabeth is bound to be a hot mess. Oof. Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 5.52.04 PM Grave Encounters (2011) — Oh HELL YES this movie. Classic handycam-style movie taking place entirely in an abandoned asylum with a group of TV ghost hunters. I swear they were making fun of Ghost Adventures (especially the main guy — he was doing his best Zak Bagans impression throughout). But think Ghost Adventures crossed with Session 9. You can almost feel the desperation of the characters as the movie progresses, and there are some TRULY scary scenes (including one where I put the blankets over my head and just screamed to get the fear out). Highly recommended! Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 5.57.50 PM Resolution (2012) — This was unexpectedly great. It’s a slow-paced movie for sure… it doesn’t drag along but it’s gradual and there’s not really any crazy, heart-thumping scenes. But the connection between the two main characters — a meth-addicted man squatting on an Indian reservation and his concerned friend determined to get him clean — is palpable, and it’s really worth the ride to just see them interact (which is, at times, hilarious). There’s more of an undertone of fear and horror to this — it doesn’t start to get in your face until the end and then boom, it’s over. Great film. Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 6.01.46 PM Student Bodies (1981) — Maybe painfully obvious parodies are just not my thing but this movie didn’t do much for me. It definitely hit all of the stereotypes of horror movies… but it hit them a little too hard. There were few enough genuinely funny moments that I could count them on one hand… and I just rolled my eyes for the rest. Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 6.04.18 PM Homecoming (2009) — This was also surprisingly good. I’m not a huge fan of Mischa Barton but she did a great job at playing the scorned lover, still living out her high school years in the midst of a town doing the same. It had some of the same disturbing elements as Stephen King’s Misery — the psychopath trying to convince the victim that this is all for their benefit, that they’re really there to help them, getting angry when they aren’t showing enough gratitude… when really it’s just a twisted game. Pretty awesome. Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 6.07.23 PM Trollhunter (2010) — One of my favorites of the week. Entirely in Norwegian and subtitled in English, it follows a crew of college student filmmakers hoping to interview someone they think is a bear poacher, but things turn out to be MUCH more interesting. I don’t even want to go in more detail than that… you should just see this movie. NOW. Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 6.10.37 PM The Final (2010) — This was… not my favorite. Your basic plot, highly stereotyped — a group of high school outcasts decides to exact revenge on their tormentors. It was, in some ways, more suspenseful than gory… but truly disturbing in many of the scenes, reminiscent of many of the torture films that are out there. I think they tried too hard. Everything was poured on SO thick… their home lives, the actual bullying in earlier parts of the movie, and their attempts at eliciting fear and remorse. We laughed several times at lines that were clearly intended to be a punch to the gut. I won’t even start in on my beliefs of how damaging a movie like this can be. Blech.

Movie Monday! #1

Nate and I watch lots of movies. We tend to go through cycles of watching more TV (primarily focusing on one series) and then we switch to a movie cycle for a while. We had been going through Mad Men again (we had watched maybe the first season or two when it first aired and then we switched to something else) — we’re still in season 5 but lately we’ve been doing something called “horror roulette”. You can do it with any genre, really, but we’ve been stuck on horror for a while (it’s without question MY favorite genre). Basically we just dial up Amazon Prime on the TV, go to the horror section, and we keep eye contact while Nate scrolls through the 200+ films. When I say “stop” he hits play on whatever movie we landed on. Occasionally it’s one we’ve already seen, or it’s a sequel to a movie we haven’t seen yet, so we pick a new one… but ultimately it’s a great way to find movies we never would have given a chance otherwise. So every Monday I’m going to list the movies we watched throughout the week with a small commentary on them — here’s the first!

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Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) — We’ve seen Friday the 13th (duh), but somehow I’ve never gotten into any of the sequels. I won’t spoil anything for you, but it’s more or less your typical “camp counselors having a good time until oh no something terrible happens” movie, and it’s pretty great. Friday the 13th isn’t my favorite horror franchise but it’s a classic.

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Rubber (2010) — We had started this movie a while back but both managed to fall asleep (no reflection on the movie itself, we were just exhausted) so we were happy to revisit it. It’s about a homicidal car tire and it’s a little bizarre (I mean, how could it not be?), which I like. It’s beautifully shot, quirky, obviously a bit dark, and funny in many different moments. Highly recommended.

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The ABCs of Death (2012) — This is a 26-chapter anthology, each letter done by a different director, all showcasing death in one way or another. We thought they were all well done — like any anthology, you like some better than others. A few were outstanding while another few were pretty horrible, but overall it was perfect for my super short attention span since each short film was only a few minutes long (probably the max length was around 10 minutes, while some were much shorter).

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Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) — Obviously not a movie we watched in 3D, and obviously a sequel of sorts to the original 1974 film. It takes place decades after the house was burned down, and follows a girl who is the granddaughter of one of the family members. There’s lots of holes in the timeline (she should be much older by that point but is instead barely in her 20’s, some references to the original film that aren’t quite accurate) and overall the movie is very much a fill-in-the-blank gory movie — small, idyllic town, group of hot 20-somethings with two consistently scantily clad women, a completely unnecessary love (or really, lust) affair, horribly unoriginal dialogue. But we see Leatherface tearin’ shit up again which is always kind of cool, and there were some genuinely scary, heart-pounding moments, as well as some pretty intense gore. The ending, which I won’t ruin for you, had me going “Seriously? I mean… really?” but… wasn’t entirely a waste of 92 minutes if you can just think of it as its own standalone movie.

The Ring (2002)

This was a re-watch for me, of course, since I initially saw this movie around the time it came out (and probably once or twice since then). My husband remembered it being pretty scary, so we included it in our Halloween Horror Month. I totally forgot how great this movie is. It doesn’t rely on blood and gore to scare you, and instead has a pretty fascinating plot line. You’re tricked at first into thinking it will be a typical teenage slasher movie, but it really opens up as it goes on and becomes pretty interesting.

Let’s sum it up first. Basically, a journalist (Naomi Watts) is deeply investigation a videotape that supposedly causes the death of anyone who watches it within a week. She’s particularly attracted to the story because of a personal connection — her niece (also her son’s best friend) is one of several teenage deaths that occur.

The cursed video alone is a disturbing watch, and the whole thing definitely brings up feelings from my own childhood when you would hear a creepy urban legend and believe (despite your desire to ignore it) that it was completely real (and coming for you next). There’s several instances in the movie when you jump from your seat out of shock. The mood portrayed during the course of the movie is consistently cold and gloomy, occasionally paired with the stark contrast of warmer, autumn colors — very bizarre, intentionally I’m sure. And overall, the movie has a great pace — keeping you interested and never impatiently wondering when the thing will finally conclude. The acting isn’t mind-blowing, but it’s well done.

Definitely a good horror movie to watch and re-watch. Luckily it had been a long while since I first saw it, so I was slowly remembering bits and pieces as we went along, which made it almost like a new discovery. Awesome! I’d give it 7.8 stars.

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The Ring (2002) | Directed by Gore Verbinski | Written by Ehren Kruger (screenplay) & Koji Suzuki (novel “The Ring”) | Music by Hans Zimmer | Starring Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Brian Cox, Daveigh Chase | 7.8 Stars

Visiting Hours (1982)

To sum this movie up: Strong-willed television journalist is attacked in her home by a creepy, misogynist dude who then becomes determined to finish the job by stalking her (and anyone else who gets in his way) at the hospital.

My first thought after watching it? Boring. There’s some good bits, for sure. William Shatner makes a few smaller appearances as Deborah Ballin’s boss/boyfriend. He doesn’t add much to the movie overall, but come on — it’s Captain Kirk! Lee Grant’s role is played out very well, and I can certainly relate to her strong-willed, feminist character. And above all, Michael Ironside is nothing if not convincingly slimy and creepy. His role is played with very little dialogue and he does it pretty damn well. I felt disturbed and uncomfortable watching him, especially when he got a camera in his hands (ugh).

Other than those bits… I don’t know. It was just TOO slow-paced for me. The characters, for the most part, had the stereotypical absence of logic… most of the time the hospital seemed to switch from well-staffed and buzzing to completely deserted (naturally once someone was being actively chased)… some weak dialogue and confusing (and sometimes seemingly pointless) camera cuts.

It’s not a great sign when I find myself getting restless an hour into a movie. I’d give it 5 stars.

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Visiting Hours (1982) | Directed by Jean-Claude Lord | Written by Brian Taggert (screenplay) | Music by Jonathan Goldsmith | Starring Michael Ironside, Lee Grant, Linda Purl, William Shatner, Lenore Zann | 5 stars

World War Z (2013)

I’ll start this review by saying that I haven’t read the book (it’s based on a novel by Max Brooks – World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War), so this movie completely stands alone in my mind. It starts out with a very brief peek into the main character’s life, which I loved. It was just enough for you to figure out what you needed to know, and then it launched into this wild ride of fast-paced craziness. I always love me a good pandemic movie, so this was right up my alley, especially considering how freaking FAST it spreads and takes hold in this movie. For me, that was the scariest part — that one minute you’re hearing bits and pieces from the CDC and the next minute the whole world is in a state of absolute chaos.

The zombies in this movie are also very unique, particularly in the sense that they are fucking FAST. Most zombie movies don’t phase me much — the zombies are just lurching around, fairly dumb, just mindlessly crawling towards their victims and easily thwarted. These zombies are crazy fast, and seem to pick up on things pretty quickly (though they do, as always, have some weaknesses that can be taken advantage of).

Honestly, the whole “having a family waiting back home” bit was distracting. It just didn’t invoke much emotion in me. Maybe I’m heartless and just after some zombie killin’, or maybe it was just badly done. Who knows.

Either way, I felt like this movie didn’t rely too much on gore. There was some destroying of zombies, of course, and done in a multitude of ways, but it didn’t focus too heavily on that aspect and rather shifted gears a bit to Brad Pitt looking for a “cure”. I personally felt that it seemed to end rather abruptly, but I can’t put my finger on exactly why.

Overall, I did enjoy it, more than I expected to. I’m almost always a fan of Brad Pitt! I’d give it 7 stars.

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World War Z (2013) | Directed by Marc Forster | Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, & Damon Lindelof (screenplay) | Based on a novel by Max Brooks | Music by Marco Beltrami | Starring Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Fana Mokoena | 7 stars

Devil (2010)

I definitely went into this movie with mediocre expectations. Part of the draw was supposed to be “from the producer of Signs!” (meh) and as the opening credits rolled, I saw that it was written by M. Night Shyamalan. I expected an okay movie with some kind of twist ending (I was half right). I was also surprised with the fact that it starred Chris Messina (who I know best from The Mindy Project but also The Giant Mechanical Man), and I am KIND OF in love with him. Just a bit (but mostly as Danny Castellano).

The movie was pretty great. It kept you on the edge of your seat, had some entertaining dialogue, and it definitely did have a couple of twist endings (one was somewhat predictable, in my opinion, but the other was pretty great). There was also quite a few religious references — I suppose you can’t have a movie about the devil without them — which I didn’t mind, but I can see how it would turn some people off. I didn’t think they were distracting at all, and they added to the story. I much preferred it being the devil and not just some random spirit or entity. It also touched on morality and repentance… again, hard not to.

Overall, I enjoyed it. Fit right in with our Halloween-themed movie month. 🙂 I’d give it 7.4 stars!

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Devil (2010) | Directed by John Erick Dowdle | Written by Brian Nelson (screenplay) & M. Night Shymalan (story) | Music by Fernando Velazquez | Starring Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O’Hara, Bojana Novakovic, Bokeem Woodbine, Geoffrey Arend, Jacob Vargas, Matt Craven | 7.4 stars