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Movie reviews (titles starting with S)
02-04-2017, 06:33 AM (This post was last modified: 02-04-2017 06:34 AM by goodcop2000.)
Post: #1
Movie reviews (titles starting with S)
Saw (2004)
4 deadly puzzles

I watched this movie expecting to just see a bunch of blood and gore but no real story. I was very wrong. While there is plenty of carnage, the plot is actually complex and, at times, brilliant. We are witness to the deadly games put on by the killer, Jigsaw, who tries to force his victims to make horrible choices to survive.

Scary Movie (2000)
2 unfunny gags

This first installment in the Scary Movie franchise mainly parodies Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. With a decent cast of actors, it had the potential to be funny if it stuck to mocking the horror genre (like when one of the actresses fleeing the murderer comes to a signpost and chooses the direction marked "certain death"). Unfortunately, the writers rely almost completely on crude sexual humor to carry the film and it falls flat.

Scary Movie 2 (2001)
2.5 unfunny gags

The follow-up to Scary Movie focuses on supernatural horror and borrows from movies like The Exorcist, Poltergeist, The House on Haunted Hill, The Haunting, and The Amityville Horror with a sprinkling of references from completely different movies like Charlie's Angels. Most of the cast from the first movie return in the sequel along with several additions including Chris Elliott as a creepy, deformed butler, Tim Curry as a research professor and David Cross as the professor's wheelchair-bound assistant. There are still a lot of weak sexual jokes but overall I found this movie to be funnier than the first. Chris Elliott's character particularly has some funny scenes. If you are 14 years old, you will probably enjoy Scary Movie 2 much more than I did.

Scary Movie 3 (2003)
3 stooge-like bonks on the head

Scary Movie 3 turns the franchise in a new direction with the various Wayans brothers no longer directing and starring. Only the main heroine Cindy (Anna Faris) and her buddy Brenda (Regina Hall) return and they are joined by a solid group of actors including Charlie Sheen, Simon Rex, and Leslie Nielsen plus plenty of star cameos. The films parodied in this installment include The Ring, Signs, The Others and, surprisingly, 8 Mile and The Matrix. While there is still some sexual humor in the film, Scary Movie 3 is much less vulgar than its predecessors and instead focuses on slapstick physical humor and sight gags. Now if only there was some clever, witty dialogue! The movie didn't make me laugh out loud but the juvenile humor did made me smile.

Scream (1996)
4.5 bloody axes

The first Scream came along when most of the great slasher series were deep into inferior sequels and rejuvenated the genre. I like almost everything about this movie including a terrific opening sequence that sets the tone for the rest of the film. The writing and plot twists are superb, the murder scenes are delightfully gory and the Ghostface Killer is fresh and original. The characters are interesting and with the exception of David Arquette, the acting is very good. Neve Campbell is the lead actress, playing Sidney Prescott, the heroine being stalked by the killer. However, Jamie Kennedy (playing Randy Meeks, the geeky horror movie buff) and Courtney Cox (playing Gale Weathers, the driven investigative reporter) steal the show. The "gimmick" in Scream is that the characters in the movie are familiar with horror movies and discuss what people need to do to survive them but the film is not a parody. The horror movie discussion simply injects some ironic humor into one of the best slasher movies of all time.

Scream 2 (1997)
4 bloody axes

It is almost impossible for a horror sequel to live up to a great first installment but Scream 2 gives it a good shot. Once again, the writers create masterful red herrings and plot twists that keep things interesting to the end. The deadly events of the first film have been turned into a movie called "Stab" and the Ghostface Killer has followed the original movie's survivors to a college campus to continue the carnage. The returning actors reprise their roles well, particularly Courtney Cox who in my opinion is the star of the film. Thankfully, David Arquette is less annoying in his role as small-town lawman Dewey Riley than he was in the original. For the most part the new characters mesh well, although none of them particularly stand out. The blood and humor continue to flow in abundance in Scream 2.

Scream 3 (2000)
3 bloody axes

While Scream 3 isn't awful, it is a drop in quality from the earlier films in the series. The story involves yet another mysterious killer donning the Ghostface mask and trying to kill Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) who has gone into seclusion following the earlier deadly events. "Stab 2" is being filmed during the movie which does create some amusing interaction between the Scream characters and their corresponding Stab versions. The plot line feels a bit forced as does a cameo by Jamie Kennedy as Randy Meeks weighing in on the merits and attributes of the 3rd movie in trilogies. I would say you can skip this one but it's probably necessary viewing for Scream fans who wish to move on to Scream 4 which I have heard is very good.

Screamtime (1986)
4 scary puppets

Screamtime is actually a collection of three short British horror films. They are linked together by an unimportant, brief story of two American men stealing horror films to watch but the meat of the movie is the British shorts. I found two of the stories to be very entertaining. The first is about a puppeteer whose family is cruel to him until one of his puppets exacts revenge (kind of a Puppetmaster light). The second story follows a young couple that moves into a new home where the wife is tortured by horrible visions. With no special effects to speak of, both of those stories still manage to be scary and they both have decent twists at the end. The third story about a young man trying to steal money from his elderly employers is a little more predictable but not terrible.

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
3.5 torture chambers

I found The Serpent and the Rainbow interesting because it is the only modern movie I've seen that is about old-school Haitian zombies. The plot features Bill Pullman as Dr. Dennis Alan, an anthropologist who travels to politically unstable Haiti to uncover the truth about voodoo legends involving the creation of zombies. As Dr. Alan searches for the truth, he gains some helpful allies and some very dangerous enemies. The characters are interesting and director Wes Craven shows his talent for creating striking imagery, particularly during dream sequences and drug-induced hazes. One scene features freakishly elongated arms and distorted geometry that reminded me of Craven's Nightmare on Elm Street films. There is also a horrifying and unforgettable (but mercifully brief) torture scene that has stayed with me since I saw the movie in a theater back in high school. The movie is a little slow-moving at times but overall a fun watch.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)
5 tasty brains

The best combination of zombie horror and comedy out there, Shaun of the Dead is extremely entertaining. Since it has a strong smattering of romance, that would make this the only zom-rom-com I've watched. The movie is about an ordinary fellow, Shaun (played by Simon Pegg), who is already having a bad day when the zombie apocalypse hits. As it turns out, the zombie apocalpyse is just what Shaun needs to help him blossom into the man he wants to be. The plot is funny and clever, with numerous subtle jokes scattered throughout. The roles are perfectly cast and the actors all do a fine job. Along with the humor, there are plenty of tense moments full of zombie carnage to satisfy the serious zombie fan.

The Shining (1980)
4 hedge mazes

The Shining is the first Stephen King book I ever read and it was a great one. While there are a lot of changes from the novel, I think this movie is very good on its own merits. The plot follows writer Jack Torrance, who takes a job as an off-season caretaker for an old hotel high in the mountains of Colorado. Jack, played by Jack Nicholson, brings his wife Wendy and their son Danny along with him to the remote location where they will be isolated for several months. Strange events start to occur at the hotel or are they all a product of Jack's imagination? Director Stanley Kubrick delivers a number of striking images in the film. Nicholson is outstanding and Shelley Duvall is not bad as Wendy. The creep factor in The Shining is pretty high, which is a good thing. Although Stephen King reportedly does not like this version, I recommend that fans of atmospheric horror give it a try.

The Shining (1997)
3 hedge animals

The great thing about this TV mini-series (three 90-minute episodes) is that the long running time allows the full story from Stephen King's novel to be told...and what a story it is! The Shining has a special place in my heart because it was the first horror novel I ever read and it was terrifying. Although Steven Weber has a few decent moments as the doomed hotel caretaker, the acting performances are not very good overall. In addition, most of the special effects are weak. This version is a decent watch for fans who want to experience King's story visually. Just keep your expectations low!

Shivers (1975)
3 slimy worms

Considering that Shivers was David Cronenberg's first full-length feature, I think he did a fine job. The movie is basically about an outbreak of violent sex-crazed zombies taking place in a luxurious high-rise apartment building. Cronenberg keeps the movie from descending into camp but instead maintains an eerie atmosphere that reminds me of one of his later films, Scanners. Some of the scenes are pretty shocking, even by today's standards.

Shock (1946)
3 blunt objects

Shock is a thriller starring a very young Vincent Price as Dr. Richard Cross. Dr. Cross is brought in to help a serviceman's young wife (played by Anabel Shaw) who has experienced a traumatic event and fallen into a severe state of shock. But does Dr. Cross truly have the patient's best interests at heart? The acting is a bit melodramatic but there are some entertaining, tense moments.

Shriek if You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th (2000)
1.5 bad jokes

I know that you love to watch slasher movies so a parody of a slasher movie would be great, right? Uhhh...unless you just HAVE to see every spoof movie that comes out, skip this one. Most of the jokes are very obvious and unfunny.

Shutter (2008)
2.5 ruined photos

The last part of the movie was slightly interesting but the first 80% was boring and none of it was scary.

Shutter Island (2010)
3.5 straitjackets

Shutter Island is an interesting and entertaining psychological thriller/horror set at a maximum security psychiatric hospital on an island. The story line stayed faithful to the book, which was excellent, and the cast was solid across the board.

Silence of the Lambs (1991)
5 fava beans

Even the Academy Awards could not ignore the greatness of this film. Silence of the Lambs is the only horror film to ever win Best Picture. The story follows FBI Special Agent trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) as she takes on a special project to procure information from jailed serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) that could help solve a current string of murders. Hopkins steals the show with one of the greatest performances of all time in a horror film. The Hannibal Lecter character is fascinating, charming, and terrifying at the same time. There are numerous unforgettable scenes and the dialogue is brilliant. Every horror fan needs to see this film.

Silent Hill (2006)
2.5 faceless terrors

Years ago I played the original Silent Hill video game. It was so dark and disturbing that I actually quit playing the game to save my nerves. This movie never manages to capture that same level of terror-inducing tension. The story is about Rose and Christopher Da Silva, who have an adopted daughter with serious psychological issues. Rose (Radha Mitchell) decides to bring her daughter back to the girl's hometown to seek answers even though the whole town has been shut down by a catastrophic fire. Things go bad quickly on the visit and Rose finds herself facing unimaginable horrors in order to protect her daughter. Should I feel bad that after watching Rose make a whole string of horrible decisions, I was almost rooting for her to die? Most of the effects are decent and there is one awesomely grotesque and unforgettable death scene. The acting performances are mediocre to bad.

Silent Night Bloody Night (1974)
3 bloody axes

This is a difficult film to rate. At times the picture and sound quality are poor, the editing is very choppy, and the acting isn't stellar. Despite those shortcomings, there are some great scenes in the movie, interesting camera angles and some nice plot twists. The plot revolves around a man trying to sell a house which he inherited years earlier after his grandfather suffered a mysterious death there. The house has been vacant since the tragedy but news of the impending sale sets events in motion that lead to some spilled blood. Watch this if you are a fan of atmospheric horror or if you want to explore the roots of the slasher film genre.

Sinister (2012)
4 home movie projectors

Being somewhat desensitized to horror movies, there are not many that actually scare me nowadays. However, Sinister scared the bejeezus out of me and left me exhausted from tension at the end! At least I made it through the whole film. My wife found it to be so disturbing that she bailed out after the first half hour. The movie tells the story of a writer, played competently by Ethan Hawke, who specializes in true crime non-fiction. He moves his family to a new town so that he can investigate a multiple murder that occurred there. Before he can really get started, he discovers a stash of murderous home movies that changes the direction of his investigation. The story is interesting and the actors for the most part do a very nice job, but it is the extremely creepy atmosphere that makes the movie. The nerve-jangling musical score and extended periods of heavy suspense kept me on edge for the whole film. Watch this one at night, in a dark room, and anticipate some nightmares!

Slash (2002)
3 bloody axes

I thought it was great that the makers of this movie decided to keep it simple and call it Slash. No pretenses there! The story involves a rock band getting stranded on a farm and trying to avoid being sliced and diced by a psychotic killer. Because I kept my expectations low, I actually enjoyed the film. It's a basic, low-budget slasher. There are no really scary moments and not much gore for this genre but the ending is actually pretty good.

Sleep Tight (2011)
4 potato pies

This Spanish-language film from Jaume Balaguerò, the director of [REC], is a gem. It features an apartment maintenance man named Cèsar, who appears to be harmless. Underneath his pleasant veneer, Cèsar secretly has sinister plans for the apartment residents including a cheerful young woman named Clara (Marta Etura). The acting is very good across the board and Luis Tosar gives a brilliant performance as Cèsar. Early in the film there are traces of black humor, but as Cèsar's plans progress the intensity increases. Balaguerò provides some delicious moments of suspense with a story that is clever to the end.

Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
3.5 rings

Although it is a little slow-moving at times, I really enjoyed this movie. Barbara Stanwyck plays an invalid whose uses her telephone as a lifeline to the rest of the world. During the movie, she makes and receives a series of calls that each bring her closer to understanding why her husband is missing and what exactly is going on. The tension grows as the movie moves to a conclusion and the ending is terrific. If you like old-fashioned thrillers like Rear Window, check this movie out.

Southern Comfort (1981)
3.5 muddy swamps

The tension is maintained very well in this thriller, helped along by the rather eerie soundtrack reminiscent of movies in the 70's. The ending is particularly well done and very tense right up to the last moment. The story is about a squad of weekend warriors (Army National Guardsmen) on a training exercise in the Louisiana bayou. They accidentally cross some of the Cajun locals and start a mini-war. Unfortunately for the soldiers they are equipped with blank rounds in their rifles and the bayou residents prefer to use live ammunition. While the cast doesn't have any big stars, Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, and Peter Coyote head a solid group of actors.

Spawn (1997)
3 demented clowns

I never read any of the Spawn comics but I enjoyed this introduction to the Spawn characters and plot. The special effects were hit and miss with Spawn's costume and cape doing some impressive things. The acting was middle of the road except for Martin Sheen who was awful. I don't know if he was trying to be cartoonish to fit a story out of the comics but it's the worst performance I've ever seen from him. Overall I would guess that Spawn comic fans were disappointed but the movie was good enough to make me want to check out the comics.

Spirit Trap (2005)
3 restless spirits

There is nothing new in this movie (several strangers brought together in a haunted house, a mysterious padlocked door, the discovery of an ancient weatherbeaten journal, etc.) but the formula was executed well resulting in a pretty enjoyable movie. I thought the acting was quite good and there was a lot more atmospheric tension and suspense than gore.

Spoiler (2011)
4 tasty brains

Spoiler is a short film (18 minutes long) set in a futuristic world where society has overcome a zombie apocalypse and the government maintains constant vigilance to avoid future outbreaks. The production is quite slick and has the feel of a major film. The actors all do a nice job and allow the viewer to become invested in them even in the short running time. I loved the story and hope that we will get a chance to see more of this post-apocalyptic world in a full-length movie in the future.

Stake Land (2010)
4 dripping fangs

Stake Land is very different from other vampire movies that I have seen. The setting and atmosphere have a lot in common with the multitude of zombie apocalypse movies out there, but the threat in this world is primal, animalistic vampires. The plot is very simple. Due to unexplained reasons, vampires have spread throughout the United States to such an extent that society has broken down. Humans have banded together in small, fortified towns for survival. Teenager Martin (Connor Paolo) links up with a tough stranger who calls himself Mister (Nick Damici) and they travel north to try to find refuge in Canada. Along the way, they befriend other survivors including a nun (Kelly McGillis) and a young pregnant girl (Danielle Harris). For a small budget film, the sets are really impressive and contribute to the bleak atmosphere of the post-apocalyptic world. The acting performances are not bad. Even Danielle Harris, who was terrible in Hatchet II, does a decent job. The special effects are fine, but the focus of the film is not the vampires. It is about the interactions between people in a world where society has crumbled. As usual, the greatest dangers are not the monsters, but other humans.

Stalled (2013)
2.5 tasty brains

I give a lot of credit to writer Dan Palmer for coming up with a novel take on the modern zombie comedy. Palmer's tale follows a quirky janitor (played by Palmer himself) who ends up trapped in the women's bathroom when a zombie infection rapidly spreads through the company Christmas party. Keeping the main character in a toilet stall for an entire film is a bold move and there are a few fun scenes. Unfortunately, Stalled lags between those few scenes. The film makers attempt to emulate the humorous style of Shaun of the Dead. With no change in scenery, though, the main character needs to be hilarious to carry the film and Dan Palmer is no Simon Pegg.

State of Emergency (2011)
2 tasty brains

State of Emergency is about several people who band together after most of the local population turns into flesh-eating monsters. There are a couple decent moments of suspense but there is very little action in the film. The small cast does a decent job with the exception of Scott Lilly who plays "Scott". In addition to being somewhat boring, the movie has some readily apparent continuity problems that the film makers did not bother to fix.

Stir of Echoes (1999)
3 straitjackets

This was a decent supernatural thriller. Some of the plot was predictable but Kevin Bacon does a nice job playing a man teetering on the edge of sanity.

Subspecies (1991)
3.5 pint-sized demons

In this film two young American researchers go to Romania to join their college friend on a research project about the local culture and myths. The timing is unfortunate for the girls as the vampire Radu has just arrived back in town seeking to steal a family heirloom from his father. The movie was actually filmed in Romania and the sets are really impressive. Radu's appearance is properly horrifying, with his disfigured face and elongated fingers hearkening back to the vampire in the classic film Nosferatu. Due to a small budget the special effects are very basic but the only place I really noticed it was with the use of stop-motion photography of puppets to portray small demons. All in all I found Subspecies to be entertaining and I look forward to watching the bigger-budget sequels.

Survival of the Dead (2009)
1.5 tasty brains

I carefully examined the scrolling end credits to verify that this film was indeed written and directed by George A. Romero because I couldn't believe it was true. To call this film "made for TV quality" is an insult to good TV shows. Not a sequel to the first 4 films in Romero's Dead series, Survival of the Dead is a companion piece to Diary of the Dead, which was called a "reimagining" of the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. Most of the film takes place on small Plum Island, off the coast of Delaware. For some reason, all of the residents of the island are Irish and they are divided into two feuding clans: the O'Flynns and the Muldoons. A disagreement about whether zombies should be killed or kept around starts an open war between the two families. For the record, that is an easy 2-second decision for any decent zombie apocalypse survivalist. A renegade group of soldiers led by Sgt. Nicotine Crockett (played by Alan Van Sprang) travels to Plum Island looking for refuge and complicates the situation. The plot is uninteresting and has holes you could pilot a ferry through. Van Sprang and most of the other actors are terrible (the exception being Athena Karkanis who plays one of Crockett's soldiers) but in their defense, they have horrible dialogue to deliver. I did not find myself caring whether the characters lived or died. Even the special effects are awful, which is not excusable for a Romero zombie film. I feel robbed of 90 minutes of my life.

Suspiria (1977)
3.5 flying broomsticks

I've wanted to check out some of director Dario Argento's horror flicks for a while now and Suspiria is the first one I've seen. I picked it because it is well known among horror aficionados and often listed by publications as being among the greatest horror films of all time. The plot is very simple and bare bones but not a bad story overall. The acting was generally alright with some of the over-the-top performances you would expect in a 70's horror film. What makes this movie stand out for me are the vivid imagery (bold colors / use of shadows / exotic camera angles) and the intense, eerie score performed by Italian rock band Goblin. I enjoyed the unique visuals but at times the score was so loud and discordant that it surpassed "tension-inducing" and became downright irritating. Another minor complaint is that instead of using sub-titles, the movie was dubbed rather badly into English. Suspiria is definitely worth watching if you enjoy classic horror and I plan to watch some more Argento movies to see how they stack up in comparison.
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