How Stupid? – #04 – Haunt (2019)

Haunt opens to Harper (Katie Stevens) covering a bruise on her eye that we later find out is from her boyfriend, Sam (Samuel Hunt). She’s ignoring his messages, which are getting more violent, before Bailey (Lauryn Alisa McClain) walks in and tells her to finish him. Harper says no and they both brush off, along with student-nurse Mallory (Schuyler Helford), who points out the bruise (despite it being covered). Why is everyone so nonchalant about physical abuse in a relationship? They’re getting a #Stupid for their behaviour. Also, it’s later revealed Mallory has 46 cousins. It matters not one bit on the plot, but a weird inclusion.

Anyway, it’s Halloween and Harper is dragged to a nightclub with Bailey, Mallory and Angela (Shazi Raja) where they meet Nathan (Will Brittain), who is holding a baseball bat in a nightclub as part of his attire, and Evan (Andrew Lewis Caldwell). Evan, by the way, is dressed as the victim from The Human Centipede (his buddies failed to show for them to have the full three-person effect). For even thinking a costume from that film is appropriate: #Stupid.

They take off (Harper thinks she sees something) and drive down a dark road. A car seems to be following them, which only Harper spots, but when she points it out it disappears. They pull over and wait for it to appear, all not believing Harper (although the driver should have noticed the car’s lights . . . in the dead of night I can’t help noticing cars behind me), and a sign flashes advertising a haunted house. Now, I normally forgive characters for putting themselves in situations whereby they are at the mercy of killers, but not these six. Firstly, it’s the dead of night. Secondly, that sign only switched on when you parked up (after being followed, let’s not forget). Thirdly, it has very few reviews on the Internet when they search. Fourthly, it’s in the middle of nowhere. Fifthly, the clown on the front door acts creepy as Hell. Sixthly, they’re told to leave their phones outside. They ignore a lot of warning signs to be let into this haunted house (the clown on the front door doesn’t even speak to them to give them warnings, they just read a few things on a sheet of paper). #Stupid. This right here is where you nope the f- out of this film.

Anyway, reason aside, we’re in the haunted house, now. Spooky things pop out, scary noises ring around; it’s all paint-by-numbers. Until they stop by a glass window with a witch behind it who murders a girl. The girl screams for her life, but everyone believes (as you probably would) that it’s part of the act. (Spoiler: it’s not.)

The next junction presents two options: Safe and Not Safe. Because of Scooby Doo logic, they all split up. Harper, who is shown to be afraid of being here and who has a dark history, goes in the Not Safe room. Makes sense.

They borrow from I’m A Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here in the next few scenes (on one side each of them has to put their hand through holes to identify the body part on the other side; one of which holds grapes which Nathan eats. Why, Nathan?)

On the other side they have to go into erect coffins (Harper also doesn’t like confined spaces) for a door to open on the other side. Then a small tunnel, more worries for Harper. I’m so glad she’s clearly surviving this film.

While Bailey’s arm is inside the hole trying to recover a ring she dropped, someone slices at her.

The others carry on their journey, but Mallory disappears. Harper and Evan reunite with the others, after ignoring an emergency exit door, who are sat as far away from the door as possible, before screaming to not close it. If it’s so important they don’t close the door, maybe sit closer to it. #Stupid.

They see Mallory murdered and all start to freak out and plan various escapes. Well, the boys do; the girls are busy talking about Harper’s past. Is now the time? I get it’s sad your father beat your mother but be weary of where you are. Probably not the best story to tell. Evan suggests the blokes go searching for weapons, but ever the hero, Nathan goes alone. Why, Nathan? He puts the key between his fingers as a weapon, but one spook later and he drops it into a gutter. Why, Nathan? Anyway, he finds someone (still wearing their mask) who seems concerned that they’re hurt. He addresses himself as Mitch and uses his keys to open various doors. But, instead of going forwards, they opt to go backwards through the house. Despite offering nothing but help, they still doubt Mitch and make their feelings quite clear. Although their friend has just been murdered, so I suppose a little animosity towards the company is understandable.

In a twist everyone saw coming, Mitch betrays them. In the crawlspace, which Mitch warned only one can enter, Nathan is locked in, but falls through the trap door when Bailey enters (running away from another assailant).

Nathan wakes up (obviously Mallory landed more painfully than Nathan as she was out cold). Meanwhile, Evan, who went first before Mitch, made it outside only to find their phones missing. Mitch follows out, cut away, return to scene: Evan’s dead. Evan was a good few metres away and is a bigger lad; it would have been nice to see their fight. But, nope. Mitch uses the claw side of the hammer and rips Evan’s face off.

Their phones have been taken away in a weird scene. One of the villains tries to unlock their phone (and even answers a call), before microwaving the phones of the deceased. Not the living (we need them for later).

Harper and Angela hide, and Harper snaps the key (she took from Mitch) in the lock, preventing it from being unlocked. #Clever. It doesn’t work (there’s a second entrance), but it’s a clever thought. (A few scenes earlier, Harper unlocked that door as she heard noises, but didn’t open it; she just listened. Could have done that with the door locked.)

It was at this point where I noticed the lack of Bailey.

In the struggle, Angela dies with a rake through the head. Harper, while crawling away, slams her hands down in tar, and, in pulling them out, rips off her skin. They then lead Harper into a panic room-style room, where she has to follow clues to find the key to be set free. She also grabbed the door handle quite strongly. Isn’t the lack of skin on your hands hurting, Harper?

Incidentally, she cannot read the following sign. I know it’s backwards, but is it that difficult to read? She uses a mirror to reflect it then reads it aloud for us dumb dumbs who can’t read short words backwards. One clue tells her to rummage through dolls, and she ignores the ones on the top (of course the paper’s in the one on the top), before the final clue tells to look under the bed. Harper is claustrophobic, remember (even if the film didn’t in certain scenes), so instead of looking, seeing a house and pulling it out, she gets all the way under the bed. Why? So she can be hidden away in the same position she was when her father hit her mother all those years ago. Hidden under the bed. Had she not been under the bed, though, she could have barricaded the door more to stop the guy coming in, or prepared yourself to attack. #Stupid.

She finds the key and stabs it in the attacker’s face and unlocks the door, behind which is a shotgun on a timer (thankfully Harper has the common sense to stand to the side of a door which is unlocking). The attacker gets the better of her, but she lifts his head just in time to be shot. #Clever. She understood the timer and the music, arched his face to be in range, that’s quick thinking when you’re being strangled.

At this point I had to pause the film and check whether I’d missed Bailey’s death.

Although, even if you do understand the timer, don’t stand directly in front of the gun. #Stupid.

Someone else tries attacking her but again, she uses the shotgun’s timer in a clever fashion (this time having the chainsaw-wielding villain snap off the end, so he’d be in the firing line. #Clever. She’s using their trick against them; I like that. Still not selling the effects of the tar ripping her hand’s skin, though.

Nathan, in his journey, managed to text an SOS to Sam (as well as their address), and fight off a few other assailants. Including Mitch. Sam, who was established as an abusive partner at the beginning, who begged for an apology throughout, arrives to save the day and is immediately killed. Thanks for coming, Sam. This confused me, though.

A masked figure creeps into the room where Harper was, but Harper attacks and kills it. You’ll never guess who it was? Bailey. Turns out, she was captured (somehow) ages ago, and forced to walk this journey. No mention of her intentions (what if Harper didn’t stab her to death?)

Nathan hammers a hole through the door, The Shining-style, and they both escape after one final tussle (involving slamming a witch’s head into a trap door). Oh, Nathan gets shot but still manages to kill one of them with a baseball bat. No-selling the effect of being shot in the stomach.

A jump scare happens, but we cut to Harper at the hospital. Everyone’s fine. The first girl we met and the guy she fancies both lived. Of course, they did. One of the clowns, though, finds out where Harper lives and goes to kill her, only to be fooled by the same tar and baseball bat death they used on both Harper (tar) and Sam (baseball bat). #Clever. She knew they’d come for her; fair play, Harper.

Oh, the reason for Sam’s whole story arc was to have his car available for them to escape in. Because the attackers broke their car. What a waste of time Sam was.

Now, let’s talk about those clowns.

Well, Clown (Justin Marxen), Ghost (Chaney Morrow), Witch (Terri Partyka), Vampire (Justin Rose), Devil (Damian (ha, nice) Maffei) and Zombie (Schuyler White), according to IMDB. They talk a lot about removing the masks of the victims (their face) and Evan even has his face ripped off. But there’s never a reason why given.

They open a haunted house to kill teenagers. That’s about as deep as their lore goes. I was expecting them to be deformed and wanting a new face or something, but nope: they evil. They just evil. Also, why would Mitch try and help them? He killed Evan as soon as they were alone, but he was alone with Nathan when they met.

They burned the haunted house down at the end, fearing the obvious police investigation, proving they’re human (why would a real ghost of witch fear the police?) They also have a random person working there (he bumps into the team and begs for mercy before being shot by one of the other workers). Why do they need help?

I get some villains are just evil; but these clowns and what-not must have a motive for doing what they’re doing that they don’t explain very well. Which was so disappointing in an otherwise entertaining film.

6/10: A Bunch of Dunces

Common Sense Award: Harper

Braindead Award: Evan (for that suit alone . . . and leading them there)

Quick Review:

Honestly, this film was quite fun. I can nit-pick at it until the cows come home, but it’s a haunted house movie killing kids; they always have holes. The acting is pretty decent, the kills look (for the most part) pretty decent. Even the characters aren’t completely stupid.

It takes a lot of disbelief suspension to get there (stopping at the exact moment a sign flashes, while they were looking for a haunted house) and the villains are so poorly written I couldn’t get behind their side at all. And while Harper’s storyline of her father’s abuse passed on to her boyfriends is fine, and flows quite nicely, Sam never gets his comeuppance by her (he just dies), her decision to get under the bed and her spewing exposition while they’re being attacked forced it to interrupt scenes with illogical decisions.

The pacing never let up (despite Harper’s history exposition), I just wish I cared more about why they were being killed or understood why they were there.

The Cast Leader: Katie Stevens

The Cast Loser: Shazi Raja

Personal: * * *     Acting: * * *     Writing: * *     Presentation: * *

Overall: * * ½

How Stupid? – #03 – Ouija (2014)

Don’t play with Ouija boards. If horror films have taught us anything, it’s don’t play with Ouija boards. Debbie (Shelley Hennig), however, decides to play with a Ouija board. Adding fuel to that fire of stupidity, she plays alone. #Stupid.

Her friend, Laine (Olivia Cooke), turns up, barely notices the steep change in Debbie’s behaviour (such as not letting her in the house or going to the basketball game), and leaves. Things go bump in the evening and Debbie turns the lights off after spooky things start happening. #Stupid. This is an early nope the f- out moment, but if spooky noises are frightening you, leave the house. Go see friends. Go anywhere (with the lights on). Anyway, she doesn’t, so she dies by seeing the spirit through the . . . hold on . . . through the planchette and hangs herself with Christmas lights.

This film came out in October.

Anyway, everyone’s sad and we meet our protagonists: Laine (Debbie’s best friend), Laine’s sister Sarah (Ana Coto), Isabelle (Bianca Santos), Trevor (Daren Kagasoff) and Pete (Douglas Smith). While rummaging through Debbie’s old room, Laine sees a Ouija board (which was hidden far away in a cupboard; if the ghost wanted it to be found it could have made the journey easier) and remarks how she didn’t know Debbie had one. Despite in their very final conversation, Debbie told her she did.

It holds no mention or impact on the film, but both Debbie and Laine have British decorations (pillows, posters, etc.) in their room. Olivia Cooke is English (and from Oldham, near Manchester; so why is there a Liverpool city sign on the wall? Football clubs aside, Liverpool and Manchester have never gotten along), but Shelley Hennig is American. Just seemed a strange inclusion (especially so prominently displayed). Even aside from the British pillows, they have posters of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet; by all means appreciate British history and culture, but why didn’t the writers/directors use it in any way?

In a random scene which is supposed to be character building, I guess, it’s explained that Sarah likes older men, which Laine and her family disagree with (Ana Coto, now 29, was 23 during filming). Coto is older than Cooke by three years. Anyway, Sarah’s older man pulls up and waits outside for her, clearly in view of Laine, who tells him to leave. #Stupid. If you’re sneaking around, knowing your sister doesn’t approve, don’t park out front.

Laine then decides that there’s a presence in the house (despite no evidence pointing to this) and decides everyone should use the Ouija board and talk to it. Kids are stupid, and people use Ouija boards in real life, so I’m not marking this as stupid (unlike Debbie, who used it alone). They hold it in Debbie’s house (oh, I should mention, both Laine’s parents and Debbie’s have randomly disappeared, because who has time for adults in this film), and a spirit makes contact. Strangely, Debbie’s ex (either Trevor or Pete . . . they both look and act similar) just happens to be there ‘because he has a key’. Okay, sure, why not.

It leads the planchette to spell out ‘Hi friend’ before stopping on ‘D’ when they ask who’s talking. Do they check what the spirit means by D? Nope. Do they clarify that it is Debbie? Nope. Do they think that it could stand for Damien, David, Douglas, Devil, Dexter, Dolores or Drake? Nope. They instantly know the spirit who spelled out eight letters to say ‘Hi friend’ couldn’t be bothered going another six to make ‘Debbie’. #Stupid.

Despite Laine saying the rules as a child and as an adult, they leave without saying goodbye to the spirits (after being spooked in a series of spooky events). #Stupid. And rude. Always say goodbye, kids.

Oh, I should also mention that Laine’s nana saw the Ouija board and warned her not to play with it. Remember that.

The next day they all see ‘Hi friend’ scribbled in random places (but don’t really address it with each other, because why would you), as jump scares pad out the run time. One of which saw Trevor/Pete riding his bike towards a tunnel, then walking it through the tunnel. Why get off the bike? It’s not dark and it’s not long. Obviously he gets off to be spooked, but it makes no sense.

After everyone is spooked, they get back together and once again use the Ouija board. ‘D’ is not Debbie (shocking, right?), instead it’s DZ. What is with this spirit being so lazy? DZ warns of Mother’s arrival, and a spooky face appears. They leave.

As if Olivia Cooke having to appear in this film wasn’t bad enough, Lin Shaye then appears, playing Paulina Zander (oh, DZ is Doris Zander, because Trevor/Pete used a search engine called ‘Search’ and found it. It’s amazing how easy it is to find things in horror movies). Paulina is Doris’ sister and we get exposition. Their mother would use the Ouija board to attract spirits and place them in the body of her ten-year-old daughter. Makes sense. But they because too loud and she sown Doris’ mouth shut. Makes sense. Then she killed Doris. All perfectly sensible decisions.

To kill Mother, they must find Doris’ body (which of course is still in Debbie’s house somewhere, thank god her mother is away) and cut open the lips, allowing Doris to kill Mother.

(Quick side-note: Laine saw a home video of Debbie finding the Ouija board, then went looking for the attic and said ‘I think this is where she found it’ in a serious tone. You shouldn’t have to ‘think’; you have proof. Yes, that’s where she found it. #Stupid. Spooky jump scares happened in the attic.)

Anyway, the gang (minus Isabelle who was possessed and killed in a bathroom – I’m so emotionally heartbroken by that wonderfully written character’s death – in a scene where the bath takes about ten seconds to run) seek out and find the body of Doris and Laine, despite Mother attacking and hurting her friends, waits around before cutting open the lips. Why wait? Your friends are in danger, you’re being haunted. Cut the lips. #Stupid.

Doris kills Mother but, oh my god, drum roll please: PLOT TWIST.

Mother was the hero of the story, Doris the villain. I don’t know why; Lin Shaye babbles some nonsense about being free. Now they visit their nana, remember the one who actually knows stuff about Ouija boards (#Clever, as late as it is), and she says they must destroy the body and the board (earlier Debbie tried burning the board, it didn’t work). Back they go to the house (Trevor/Pete dies just before they see nana, and the other one dies at the house). One of those two is Laine’s boyfriend, but she doesn’t care about them dying.

The only slight hiccup in their plan comes from Sarah being nearly murdered by Doris before Laine uses the board alone in an effort to draw Doris to play with her. She’s getting a #Clever for the plan, but it makes no sense. Any spirit could have played with her. Why couldn’t Doris kill Sarah quickly and go play?

Anyway, Doris goes to Laine and they’re fighting over the planchette. Doris nearly kills Laine, but Debbie’s spirit returns and makes the save. Where has Debbie’s spirit been this whole film? Who knows. Who cares.

They throw Doris’ body into the fire, along with the board, and live happily ever after.

Except for the final scene where Liane finds the planchette in her room, looks through it and dies. #Stupid.

Now, let’s talk about Doris.

I probably sound like a right square demanding rules to be established in a film, but it allows for a more logical storytelling experience. This film makes rules (don’t play alone, don’t play in a graveyard (which is said twice and we go nowhere near a graveyard), always say goodbye and you see the spirit through the planchette), but doesn’t follow them. Sure, Debbie played alone, but she said goodbye. She also saw the spirit through the planchette.

The gang didn’t play alone, and only when it was convenient saw Doris through the planchette. Initially it was through surfaces (mainly mirrors), which I can accept, but then they were just walking in the attic and spooking them wherever they go (including picking up Trevor/Pete and hoisting him into the water, as with Isabelle who was raised and dropped to her death). The only brief bit of explanation is from the nana who says, ‘she’s getting stronger’.

But then Laine needs the planchette to see the spirit at the end. Make up your bloody mind, Doris.

Also, Doris being the villain, rather than Mother, was done for a twist but was probably worse than leaving it as Mother. Why not have Mother a grieving widow, who wants her husband back and channels spirits into her daughter be the villain, not the poor innocent Doris whose life was ruined? Bear in mind, Doris had spirits pumped into her, and was then murdered. Why is she the villain, again? Oh yeah, evil spirit.

There’s no reason for Laine to suspect Debbie still roams the house, no logic placed in how or why the spirit attacks and next-to-no effort placed in the script. Doris won’t be joining Freddy, Jason or Michael at the Villain Awards.

8/10: They All Need A ‘Warning: I’m Stupid’ Label

Common Sense Award: Nana

Braindead Award: Debbie

Review:

Director: Stiles White

Writer: Juliet Snowden, Stiles White

Ever wondered how weird the word ‘Ouija’ is? When you pronounce it, it doesn’t begin with an ‘O’ or end with an ‘a’. Honestly, my mental deconstruction of the word ‘Ouija’ was more entertaining than this film.

Of course, I’ve seen worse; films more boring, more nonsensical, more stupid, but this barely reaches above them. I like Olivia Cooke, why she felt the need to do this is beyond me (I know the starring role in a movie is alluring, but have some self-respect). Even worse is Lin Shaye’s appearance. Why, Lin, why?

The rules it establishes are soon broken, because ‘the spirit’s getting stronger’, a lazy writer’s way of ignoring logic. And this film is littered with lazy writing. The most notable being how Doris chose to simply put ‘D’ and have everyone accept it’s Debbie. Are we, as the audience, supposed to believe it’s Debbie? It’s so lazily done that we feel absolutely nothing when the truth is revealed. Then she just says DZ and yet that’s enough to find her on the internet.

Sarah’s storyline of liking older men goes nowhere, they lazily write the parents out of the money because of business trips and a need to get away (or something), which, in the case of the former, if your daughter’s best friend has just died, why would you go on a business trip? We see no funerals, so time is never established (at the start is it the wake after the funeral at Debbie’s house or just a gathering? Where is Isabelle’s funeral?) There’s a scene with a teacher who tries to pass off mental health tips to help them out, but Laine shrugs it off and leaves. Are you that desperate to stretch this to 90minutes?

It’s lazy, it’s cliched, it’s full of awful characters who do very little logically and have very little emotion (seriously, Debbie, Isabelle and one of Trevor/Pete died and they just show no emotion). One scene switches to school, where they make plans, then we switch to night-time where they’re executing those plans. Does Doris have the day off? Add to this Isabelle saying she didn’t want to come out, but then comes out, and it showed just how lazy it is.

Jump scare after jump scare, one person targeted at a time, twists for no reason: pass. It only gets two stars for personal because I’ve seen much worse. But this is the very minimum bar to reach two stars. I was shaking my head, but never truly bored, so it gets something.

One last thought: why don’t these characters, who are pretty much aware they’re cursed, make videos telling of their ordeal? I know a suicide video may be morbid, but it’ll help give closure to people (and not have them think you’ve killed yourself). And the lips being stitched look silly.

The Cast Leader: Olivia Cooke

The Cast Loser: Daren Kagasoff/Douglas Smith (I don’t know which one was which)

Personal: * *     Acting: * *     Writing: *     Personal: * *

Overall: * ¾

The Flowers of West Drive, Psychological Horror Novel

Available on Kindle Unlimited! #KU #OneDollar #SupportIndieAuthors

Hello, everyone, I hope you’re all keeping well while the world burns!

I’ve been classified as a ‘key worker’ so, for me, it’s business as usual! However, that did not stop me releasing my psychological horror novel, The Flowers of West Drive in April.

All Lily wants is a future. A world where she can be happy.

All Lily has are nightmarish visions of a time she wants to forget.

Then The Flowers return to her life.

Then she meets Brad.

Now Lily has a chance for that future.

But first she must vanquish her demons.

The trailer for it is below:

*Available on Kindle Unlimited*

Amazon USA:
Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087BX7M1W
Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087CVGZXH

Amazon UK:
Ebook: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B087BX7M1W
Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B087CVGZXH

How Stupid? – #02 – Deadcon (2019)

Directed by Caryn Waechter and written by Scotty Landes, Deadcon is a teenage horror film focused around internet personalities attending a conference called Viewcon (like Comicon), only to stay in a haunted hotel room.

The opening scene shows John (Aaron Hendry) on a phone call with the money behind his app, LinkRabB1t – a virtual room to hang out with friends – in the 1980s. The app is being shut down, only for a mysterious Bobby to ask John for friends in the real world (in exchange for friends in the virtual world). John agrees, so begins the curse. And for so-willingly trusting a mysterious person on the internet: #Stupid.

We then cut to present day, where vlogger Ashley (Lauren Elizabeth), from her channel AKAshley, flanked with security, Larry (Richard Kohnke), and manager, Kara (Mimi Gianopulos), arrive at their hotel room to discover it’s been double booked, forcing the hotel manager to offer them room 2210A: the haunted hotel room.

It’s soon revealed that Ashley, despite her success, doesn’t want for this lifestyle anymore, and plans to take a break from being an internet personality upon Viewcon’s ending. Later that night, to make her morale that much better, her room is broken into and trashed. Larry asks all the right questions and ensures her cards have not been tampered with or copied. #Clever.

She still spends the night alone, only for it to get much worse. It’s constantly cold, the light switches are faulty (with the help she sent for refusing to come into the room, The Shining style) and strange sounds are heard. The light switches breaking (the last of these events to happen) is officially the moment where you nope the f- out of this hotel room, and bunk with Kara, Larry or Megan (Claudia Sulewski), her neighbour and friend. But, she doesn’t. #Stupid.

After being infected, controlled, possessed or whatever by Bobby, the ghost-child, Ashley doesn’t turn up for her meet-and-greet. Kara, though, ever the worthwhile manager, just waits around for her, instead of checking her room or hunting for Ashley. #Stupid.

Ashley’s now-possessed body tries her best to kidnap children and give Bobby some more friends to play with. But, enough about Ashley, because her neighbour, Megan, has her own separate journey.

It’s revealed early on that Megan is having an affair with Dave (Keith Machekanyanga), who she has more in common with than her Miami-based partner, Ricky (Lukas Gage). Dave wants to film them having sex, as they won’t see each other for a month, and despite Megan’s refusal, Dave secretly films it, anyway.

Ricky surprises Megan the next day, flying in to party with her, leaving poor Dave to sit alone and watch the video. When a big afterparty kicks off, though, Ricky decides he wants to arrive ridiculously late and showers while Megan is already drinking and partying. In his shower, he live-streams himself for his audience to watch. Aside from that being a terrible inconvenience to his showering, it’s also #Stupid.

After some spooks, Ricky dies.

While watching the recording, Dave spots a child walking into the room. Finding a picture of Bobby (both Megan and Ashley were left a picture of Bobby in their room, he concludes it’s the same person (after some internet searching, always an exciting scene, where he finds out about John’s death and the mysterious circumstances which surrounded it). He texts Megan and calls the front desk, but after being ignored, just waits around and watches the recording some more. He doesn’t leave to find Megan, or take screenshots, or upload sections of it to his channel (he’s a gamer). #Stupid.

Warren (Carl Gilliard), a former cleaner who encountered the bloody murders in the 1980s and still works at the hotel, fears for the internet stars’ lives and inspects the rooms. Alone. #Stupid.

Warren dies.

Dave, now determined that an ‘8-bit ghost’ is out to get them – yes, an actual writer used the phrase 8-bit ghost – goes to Megan’s room (Megan, who is still non-the-wiser to Ricky’s disappearance) and waits there to ensure her safety. But, it’s not just A Nightmare on Elm Street where crappy males fall asleep, as Dave does, too. #Stupid.

Megan gets captured and Dave tries to find her by trying to open doors. He even hears her screaming behind a door, but it’s locked. So, he tries to fetch help. Dave, mate, kick the door down. #Stupid.

Then we cut to a horrendous POV angle of Dave’s camera as he walks around the room before he dies offscreen. If you’re suspecting a ghost and have an internet following, you live-stream it for the world to see and for the truth to be revealed. Dave doesn’t, Dave dies. #Stupid.

Another internet personality is ‘bumped up’ to 2210A as they’ve ‘become available’ – no mention as to why or how, but who cares? – and fade to black.

Now, let’s talk about Bobby.

Who was he? I don’t know. Why was he killing people? I don’t know. What happens after he kills them? I don’t know. Why did he only seemingly kill in the 1980s and present day? I don’t know. Why was the room usually kept empty by a manager who didn’t believe in its ghosts? I don’t know. Why is Bobby a little boy? I don’t know. What is the significance of LinkRabB1t if none of the protagonists had it downloaded? I don’t know.

Basically, this film tells you nothing. And clocking in at 74-minutes, would you expect anything less?

And another example of how stupid the writers were, they couldn’t even be consistent with Ashley’s channel name. It’s AKAshley, however they address her as AKA-Ashley and AK-Ashley in a confusing mess. Also, where did Larry go? Some bodyguard he turned out to be (which says a lot about the film when he gets the Common Sense Award). And why, after partying all night and being hungover to the point of throwing up, did Megan decide to get a shower? If I’m hungover, I’m either eating or sleeping, not live-streaming or showering.

9/10: Climbed Mount Stupid.

Common Sense Award: Larry.

Braindead Award: Dave.

Review:

Did they run out of budget before filming the final twenty minutes?

This is a genuine question, because very little is revealed about Bobby, the ghostly child antagonist, or why LinkRabB1t is important. The past scenes don’t mesh with the present, the lack of subsequent deaths in the room don’t add up with everyone, the manager aside, fearing the room (at least in 1408 and The Shining they had more than one piece of evidence, or a quite recent incident). Warren saw a child kill a bunch of people there in the 1980s (I think), yet he still works there. A cleaner willingly enters the room but a bellboy doesn’t. Its all a confusing mess.

Co-leads Lauren Elizabeth and Claudia Sulewski were fine, as was the majority of the cast; nothing special, just fine. However, Keith Machekanyanga has to take the Cast Loser award for his acting in the final act (trust me, it’s terrible). The visuals, likewise, aren’t terrible but aren’t anything special; some decent camera movements are wasted by the ending’s POV scene. Some decent jump scares are wasted by some terrible ones.

I know this is aimed at teenagers, and me, a near-30-year-old man is not the target audience, but teenagers should be allowed decent storytelling, too, right? The antagonist can have leave people with questions, but I understand nothing about Bobby, why he wants friends, whether he’s alive or dead or how he shoved a phone into Ashley’s neck (in what was a pretty decent, if afterwards confusing, scene). Does the hotel not care that its cleaner, Warren and 2210A’s guests have all vanished by the end? Simply placing more guests into it (and LaLaWhateverHerNameIs doesn’t even have to go in there, unlike Ashley who was double booked – again, something which isn’t explained).

Megan’s affair barely has any effect on the plot (Ricky turns up and dies), and their casual attitude towards affairs isn’t the best message to send to a younger audience (basically, cheating is better if you’re cheating with a more appropriate partner).

There are moments of promise, and a competent screenwriter could have guided this film to a better score than Scotty (not Scott) Landes does, but instead, we’re left with an incomplete story.

The Cast Leader: Lauren Elizabeth.

The Cast Loser: Keith Machekanyanga.

Personal: * Acting: * * Writing: * Presentation: * *

Overall: * ½

How Stupid? – #01 – Dark Light (2019)

Dark Light opens with Annie (Jessica Madsen) parading around the house with a shotgun, before accidentally shooting her ex-boyfriend, Paul (Ed Brody). The scene ends with her aiming it towards her daughter, Emily (Opal Littleton), and firing.

Then, because non-linear storytelling is a thing, we cut back to the beginning, showing Annie and Emily moving into Annie’s old childhood home. A quick scene informs us that Annie and Paul, Emily’s father, have recently split under acrimonious circumstances, and this house is Annie’s last resort.

That night Annie is awoken to sounds, and, after inspecting, glances a monstrous figure briefly. That’s not enough to frighten Annie, though, who simply returns to bed. The next day Paul arrives unannounced, much to Annie’s chagrin, and lays the foundation of Annie’s past: her mother committed suicide and he suspects her of being insane. She also calls the local sheriff, Dickerson (Kristina Clifford), who doesn’t inspect the house all-too-much, and informs her of the strange incident in the night.

Insane she may not be; stupid, however, she is: the next night, despite seeing a quick glance of a creature and suspecting kids, she takes Emily out into the corn fields when it’s pitch-black to play flashlight tag. #Stupid.

Obviously, she loses track of Emily and sees more lights and figures in the field. However, her stupidity is not done: upon looking back at the house, she spots Emily back in her room, but sees a shadowy figure, three windows away, walking towards her. But Annie doesn’t move. She waits. She watches as the figure moves across two more windows, getting much closer to Emily, before deciding to move. #Stupid.

And Annie goes for the triple header of stupidity as after all this, she decides against phoning the sheriff until the next morning, despite humanoid figures lurking around her house. (Did she just fall back asleep after that as if nothing happened?) This, despite threatening to call her. Don’t threaten: call. #Stupid.

The next morning, she does finally call the sheriff, who again inspects the house and finds nothing. Paul arrives again and instead of choosing to stay to see for himself whether his ex is crazy or if her house is being stalked (both options present danger for his daughter), he leaves. #Stupid.

That night she puts Emily to bed again, but she can’t sleep and comes into Annie’s bed (why didn’t you do that at the start?). Annie’s awoken in the middle of the night and needs to splash her face but turns to see a figure walking into her room. But Annie’s in no rush. She waits. Again. And by the time she moves, it’s too late.

This time she does phone the sheriff, as her daughter has now vanished, and the sheriff finds Emily in the fields with a bloodied nose, not wanting to go home. More evidence on their part pointing towards Annie being a risk to her daughter.

This is the moment where you nope the f- out of this house and leave. If your daughter is disappearing, being hunted by creatures and appearing with random nosebleeds: it’s not safe.

But we don’t need to focus on that, as that leads into the opening scene before cutting to Annie in jail because her daughter’s gone missing and the sheriff suspects Annie of killing and burying her.

When she’s being transferred to a nearby facility, though, a rogue cow in the middle of the road causes the police van to skid violently off a cliff, leaving everyone, bar Annie, dead. Well that’s lucky.

Annie returns home – a home not guarded or being investigated, despite being the scene of a potential double homicide – and takes a bath. #Stupid. I don’t care how smelly you are, deal with it. Your daughter’s missing, you’re wanted by the police, your house is infected with aliens: you don’t need a bath.

A rare moment of hope for her sanity, though, follows as she reveals she hid two guns under the floorboards (another shotgun and a .38). #Clever.

She tracks down a local conspiracy man, Walter (Gerald Tyler), who believes her story of the aliens and reveals all he knows about them. But while Annie wants to kill them, Walter wants to study them, and traps Annie in a room before racing to her house to confront these aliens. Walter’s trapping of Annie, while stupid, isn’t the action of a protagonist, so it’s not included in the results. The creatures catch Walter and eventually cause him to die. It’s lucky for this film that Walter’s stupidity isn’t counted, as he got into his car without even noticing a six-foot creature in the back seat.

The sheriff finds Walter’s body and return to his house, freeing Annie from her imprisonment – but not noticing her hiding away – and Annie sneaks away. Despite having evidence confirming Annie survived the police van’s crash, they still don’t have police protection around Annie’s house, so she’s able to return home, grab her guns and hunt the creatures.

During this hunt scene, she is seen loading up the shotgun with bullets. Remember that.

She is soon caught by the sheriff, who used common sense to return to the house, and is forced to drop her shotgun on the ground. A creature appears and kills the sheriff.

Annie runs into the kitchen, away from the creature, but doesn’t choose to pick up the shotgun. #Stupid. She’s attacked but fends off the creature, before finally retrieving the shotgun and loading it up with bullets. I know it’s a mistake on the part of the filmmakers, but in this world, she’s loaded up a gun, taken the bullets out to load it up again.

Paul returns, completely no-selling the fact he was shot by a shotgun at close range a mere few days ago, and he’s dragged away. Annie finds their method of entering the house (the very same place she first saw them – underneath the dumbwaiter) and follows down into their tunnels made of stone. Remember that. She finds Paul and wakes him up, and despite carrying a shotgun, a .38 and a taser, refuses to give up any weapons. They find Emily, having her life drained from her, and decide to have a conversation. #Stupid. Her daughter is dying, any petti squabbles they’ve had (he cheated on her when her mother was dying because, in his words, she was having a nervous breakdown: top bloke) should be of no concern. Instead he chooses to distract the creatures but again, Annie refuses to give up any of her weapons, essentially affording him no opportunity to make it out alive. #Stupid.

She wakes up Emily and races out of the underground cave, shoots a few creatures, tasers some others, and burns down the house. #Clever. Her decision to burn down the house prevents any means of them sneaking around again. However, the flames are shown igniting violently underground. Where there’s less oxygen. In tunnels made of stone. My knowledge on fire isn’t great, but a stone room with less oxygen doesn’t seem like the most flammable of places.

The house burns down, we see glimpses of surviving creatures – laughably alluding to a sequel – before the credits roll.

Now, let’s talk about the creatures: it’s told by Walter they suck the life out of children as it’s purer in them than adults. But they still suck Walter and the sheriff’s lives. But not Paul; they bite him to death. Is there a reason they bite him? Other than the screenplay wanting him to die and biting is quicker than being drained? Is there a reason why the sheriff died within seconds, Walter a little longer and Emily, the child, even longer than him? Nope. Of course not.

They’re also alluded to being creatures older than humans (or something) but they’re very much creatures. Physical creatures. Yet they can open and close doors by magic, disappear and reappear without a trace and survive without food for a very long time (nobody has lived in that home for a while, despite the corn looking well kept, and Annie never experienced their presence when she lived there as a child). The mysterious power to open and close doors is particularly stupid, though, as it leads to an interpretation of them being ghosts. Their design is okay, I guess, but they’ve been given no thought into how they kill, why they kill or their powers.

8/10: They All Need A ‘Warning: I’m Stupid’ Label.

Common Sense Award: Sheriff Dickerson

Braindead Award: Annie

Review:

Dark Light probably had intentions of being terrifying and captivating, but everything fell flat. The Invisible Man showed how to effectively portray a lead heroine’s apparent descent into madness, with Dark Light amateurish by comparison. She’s told to have had a history of nervous breakdowns, yet that plays no part in the overall story, aside from gifting other characters a reason not to like her.

Walter’s antagonistic betrayal was as stupid as Sartain’s was in Halloween; he could have used her as bait or betrayed her after encountering the creatures, but instead chose to go alone. And that’s a big problem with Dark Light: its characters.

Ignoring the fact that most of the actors are extremely poor (especially Opal Littleton, who said ‘Mommy’ at the end of every sentence, and Kristina Clifford), the writing of them is abysmal. Nearly everything they do is questionable at best. The creatures are also poorly written, with no rhyme or reason for half of the powers they have or lore they’re given.

Writer-director Padraig Reynolds doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary, with jump scares and things that go bump in the night littered throughout. Most of this film is just Annie walking with a shotgun in hand while doors open and close for no reason. He also has scenes end abruptly, as he seemingly can’t conclude them properly. After Annie sees Emily on the roof, it cuts to the next morning. After the sheriff returns Emily, whose nose is bleeding, home, the scene ends. After Annie spots the creature underneath the dumbwaiter, the scene ends. Add to that the past-and-present non-linear storytelling and this film is just a jumbled mess from start to finish.

There’s no fear, no anxiety, no logic and no direction. A poor script directed into a poor movie.

The visuals aren’t terrible, though. (Except the CGI fire; that’s bad.)

The Cast Leader: Jessica Madsen

The Cast Loser: Opal Littleton

Personal: * Acting: * * Writing: * Presentation: * *

Overall: * ½

Sabina’s Pursuit of the Holy Grail, by Martin Lundqvist

Recently I was fortunate enough to be contacted by Martin Lundqvist, a Swedish writer currently living in Australia, to proofread his novel, Sabina’s Pursuit of the Holy Grail (available on Amazons USA and UK).

Lundqvist's Book‘Sabina is a gifted 18-year-old girl living in Sydney in the year 2037. She carries a unique secret that she used to be the Chosen One, who failed to stop the apocalypse from occurring in the year 2887. As she died, she asked The True Maker to let her be reborn in 2019 and to keep her powers.’

And its sequel: Sabina’s Quest to Open The Portal in the Sun Pyramid

Sabina’s Quest to Open The Portal in the Sun Pyramid takes place straight after the ending of Sabina’s Pursuit of the Holy Grail. Mentally and physically scarred from her ordeal in Israel, Sabina finds solace in the handsome and empathetic Alexander O’Neill, and she experiences romantic love for the first time. With the Zeto Crystal de-energised Sabina focuses on her relationship with Alex and raising funds for charity. life is good for Sabina until one day when a new enemy emerges, which forces her to go to Mexico on the brink of civil war and face the difficult choice between love and duty.’

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Lundqvist manages to squeeze a lot of information into his works, which is an impressive ability, especially considering things do feel explored. And the scope of the adventure, spanning multiple countries and cultures, really help the feel of the story. Certainly worth checking out.

 

* * * * – ‘It’s good. Worth a read. Get it and be entertained’ (Amazon reviewer)

 

Pick up a copy and join Sabina in her quests.

Further works by Martin Lundqvist available on MartinLundqvist.com

 

(It’s even got an audio-book version!)

Game Review: Yoku’s Island Express (2018)

‘It’s unique gameplay, beautiful visuals and fun worlds all roll into a great game’

 

Yoku’s Island Express, 2018

Developer: Villa Gorilla

Publisher: Team17

Platform: Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

At Christmas I really wanted either Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! but my mother, instead, got me a random game called Yoku’s Island Express (I got the latter two games the next day). In Yoku’s Island Express you’re a dung beetle, who becomes the postmaster for the island of Mokumana, but soon you have to save the island from a looming calamity. The gameplay combines side-scrolling adventure with pinball, with many areas turning into a game of pinball for you to complete certain missions (even some boss battles take place in this pinball style). This, to me at least, was a unique and fun combination.

As with most adventure games, there are collectables aplenty; with fruit being the main item you collect, which allows for extra bumpers to be bought. Of course there are wallet upgrades (to carry more fruit), ball colours (which allow you into extra places on the map), chests and, most importantly, Wickerlings. There are 80 Wickerlings in the game and collecting them all (however tedious towards the latter numbers) allows for a bonus ending. Yes, some of these collectables weren’t the most fun to collect, but most came with their own challenge, some utilising the pinball mechanics, others requiring good old-fashioned thinking, making them somewhat enjoyable to collect (this was the first game I’ve completed 100% in a long, long time).

But, its biggest draw is the pinball-adventure combination. I loved this. Going from side-scrolling, open-world adventure to a game of pinball was so much fun.

At the start.

Yoku's Island Express, 2

Unfortunately, by the end it just became quite repetitive and tedious. The games required such precision that trial-and-error is no doubt going to be utilised and it loses its appeal. The fact you can’t die also let it down for enjoyment, as it never felt like there was anything major on the line. You can lose fruit by failing in the pinball trials, but that only sets you back a little bit as fruit is so readily available. When you come up against big bosses and they just wait while you get your angles right, it just doesn’t have that must-save-the-world feel I wanted, especially considering I was, in fact, saving the world.

Another negative was the size of the world and the lack of adequate warping mechanisms. There are some that propel you around the map, adding more Wickerlings and bonuses if you’re willing to explore, but if you’re on the ground on one side of the map and need to visit the sky in another, it’s a long, long, long journey. I spent so much time just travelling and getting lost that it made a relatively decent-length game last twice as long as it should have.

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Overall, though, I really enjoyed playing Yoku’s Island Express, so much so that I made the effort to 100% complete it. It’s unique gameplay, beautiful visuals and fun worlds all roll into a great game. Its score is just unfortunately hampered by the huge world, lack of stakes and borderline repetitive mechanics.

Overall Rating: * * *

Review: WWE Summerslam (2019)

(Written before the show). This Summerslam isn’t one that has me tremendously excited, and that’s probably due to watching Adam Cole v Johnny Gargano and knowing that nothing on this card will top that. Add to that the lacklustre card (with Brock Lesnar v Seth Rollins again and Becky Lynch and Bayley facing off against competitors who haven’t been built up in Natalya and Ember Moon, respectively). There are some matches to whet your appetite, such as AJ Styles v Ricochet, the debut of the fiend side of Bray Wyatt’s new character and seeing what exactly will happen between Goldberg and Dolph Ziggler. But, with it being one of WWE’s marquee PPVs, I’m hoping for something to blow me away.

Pre-show results:

Cruiserweight Championship: Drew Gulak © def. Oney Lorcan

Single: Buddy Murphy def. Apollo Crews

Women’s Tag Team Championship: Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross def. The Iiconics

Raw Women’s Championship, Submission Match: Becky Lynch © v Natalya

Becky v Natalya

This match started hot with both Becky and Natalya slapping each other, but unfortunately the match itself didn’t ever kick into second gear. The stipulation hampered the match more than aided; with a normal match pin falls are a couple seconds, with submissions, especially ones you know aren’t going to end the match, can drag on. They also hammered home that Natalya is Canadian, but Graves rightfully pointed out that you cannot claim home-field advantage throughout a whole country, with Ember Moon, whose also challenging for a women’s championship, hailing from Texas, which is actually closer to Toronto than Natalya’s home town of Calgari. The crowd were also in favour of Becky Lynch, with multiple ‘Let’s go, Becky’ chants, with the crowd only popping for moves Natalya does, rather than her. Becky’s title reign has been largely disappointing due to her lacklustre feuds, and this is another notch on that bedpost.

Pre-match prediction: Becky Lynch

Winner: Becky Lynch, by submission

Rating: * *

Single: Goldberg v Dolph Ziggler

Goldberg v Dolph

I feel like the notes I made do this match justice: Dolph with a super kick straight away, kick out at one. Same again. Spear by Goldberg. Jackhammer. 1-2-3. Dolph mocks Goldberg and gets another spear. Dolph mocks him again and Goldberg comes back and spears him again. This lasted longer than it needed to, but I suppose it was quite fun. It’s not graded due to how short it was.

Pre-match prediction: Goldberg, by pin fall

Winner: Goldberg

Rating: NA

United States Championship: AJ Styles © v Ricochet

AJ v Ricochet

The latest match between two of WWE’s finest in-ring competitors is the latest to fail to deliver. The match starts off exciting enough, with Ricochet nicely using both members of The OC as steps to land a move on AJ, but now that AJ is a heel, his matches automatically have to be slower and more methodical. Plus, he hurts Ricochet’s leg early on (in preparation for his submission), which hampers Ricochet’s speed. So, the match feels like it never gets out of first gear. The OC obviously interfere, and this causes AJ to beautifully counter a move from Ricochet from the top rope into a Styles Clash for the win. Decent, but could have been better.

Pre-match prediction: AJ Styles

Winner: AJ Styles, by pin fall

Rating: * * ½

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Bayley © v Ember Moon

Bayley v Ember

You build up two superstars, they face off against each other and the crowd is invested. You build up one star, have her face off against someone and the crowd isn’t as invested. This is very much the latter. Ember Moon has the ability to reach the top of the card, but she’s not been used enough for us to care, so the fans were so quiet for this match. Some even booed Bayley during her entrance. If they’re booing Bayley, this match had no hope. Bayley hit a top-rope Bayley-to-Belly for the win. Uninspiring.

Pre-match prediction: Bayley

Winner: Bayley, by pin fall

Rating: * *

Single (if Kevin Owens loses, he has to quit WWE): Kevin Owens v Shane McMahon

Kevin v Shane

Just before the match starts Shane announces a special guest ring enforcer: Elias. Twice Owens and Elias get into a war of words nearly causing Owens to be counted out (which didn’t make Owens look too bright). Obviously, Elias gets involved: Owens hits a Pop-up Power Bomb but Elias doesn’t let the ref count. There’s eventually a ref bump which allows Owens to brutalise Elias with a steel chair, and as the ref returns to consciousness he catches Owens with the chair, takes it away and is distracted while Owens hits a low blow. A great spot. A hilarious spot. A clever spot. A spot used by Adam Cole just 24-hours earlier. Owens eventually hits the Stunner for the win and keeps his job; it was a decisive enough victory so hopefully this gets rid of Shane for a while. It didn’t have the same craziness we’ve come to expect from Shane McMahon matches and Elias’ involvement just hampered it.

Pre-match prediction: Kevin Owens

Winner: Kevin Owens, by pin fall

Rating: * *

Single: Trish Stratus v Charlotte Flair

Trish v Charlotte

Stratus obviously received a massive ovation, actually coming from Toronto (unlike Natalya), and Charlotte used repetitive tactics to rile the crowd as much as possible. It got a bit boring, coming from the UK and knowing Charlotte’s behaviour is altered to rile the crowd, but it was fine. Stratus proved she could still go, but also that the quality of the women’s division has improved dramatically. Annoyingly, I missed the finish due to the Network playing up, just the latest in a long line of mess-ups during the show, but Stratus tapped out to the Figure-Eight and received her retirement applauds.

Pre-match prediction: Charlotte Flair

Winner: Charlotte Flair, by submission

Rating: * * ½

WWE Championship: Kofi Kingston © v Randy Orton

Kofi v Randy

Imagine watching a fine film, not an especially great film, just a fine film, all the while expecting a satisfactory ending, but then the ending sucks. Yup, Kingston v Orton. Orton’s methodical (slow) style plays out with Kingston trying to speed up proceedings, but then comes the finish. A double count-out. The crowd chanted ‘Bullsh*t’ and I completely agree. Kingston needs a big win, with Samoe Joe, Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler not exactly the best of competitors during his reign, but WWE didn’t give him it here. He ended strong, hitting Orton with a kendo stick repeatedly and then a Trouble in Paradise kick, but that ending just took away from a fine match with a great story. Also, they praised Orton for utilising the full four seconds of a referee’s five-count as a ‘Veteran manoeuvre’, on a night when nearly everyone has done the same thing.

Pre-match prediction: Kofi Kingston

Winner: NA – Double count-out

Rating: * *

Single: Finn Balor v ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt

Finn v Bray

The debut of Bray Wyatt’s new ‘Fiend’ character delivered. A new revamped entrance, some new moves, but still recognisable as the old Bray Wyatt, which I really appreciated. It’s not a completely new character, it’s a further development of an existing one. This match, for the most part, was a glorified squash match, with Balor only getting in a bit of offence before passing out to the Mandible Claw and being pinned. He tried the Sister Abigail but it was countered, so I wonder if they’re trying to delete it from his arsenal slowly. I hope not, I really like that move. The in-ring work probably doesn’t merit such a high score, but this is ‘sports entertainment’, and the whole package had me very much sports entertained.

Pre-match prediction: Bray Wyatt

Winner: Bray Wyatt, by pin fall

Rating: * * * ½

Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar © v Seth Rollins

Seth v Brock

Rollins early on counters a few German suplexes into super-kicks, with Lesnar kicking out of a Curb Stomp, but Lesnar soon regains control. There’s a terrific spot where Lesnar grabs hold of the tape around Rollins’ rubs and just spins him round and round. It takes the crowd a while to get fully invested, outside of chanting ‘Suplex City’ and the other usual Brock Lesnar chants, but it gets a ‘Holy shi*t’ chant after Rollins hits a frog splash from the top rope to the announce table (which makes me get a little bit annoyed at how good he is compared to how poorly he’s being written). A very good near fall follows after a Curb Stomp. Rollins soon counters an F-5, hits a Cub Stomp and slays The Beast, again. Much better than I was expecting.

Pre-match prediction: Seth Rollins

Winner: Seth Rollins, by pin fall

Rating: * * *

This was a very average show. None of the matches really stood out as amazing, with Bray Wyatt’s new character debut the most noteworthy moment. Neither Natalya nor Ember Moon have been built up properly enough and the crowd reacted accordingly (even if Natalya is from Canada so has home field advantage throughout the massive country that Canada is). Kingston-Orton ended miserably, and nearly three hours into a PPV, it’s not something you want to see. AJ Styles-Ricochet once again failed to live up to the preconceptions of what those two could deliver and even Shane McMahon failed to jump off something high. It never really felt like a major PPV. But, the action and booking were amazing when you compare them to the Network. Nearly every match buffered, rewound or fast-forwarded. I missed the finale of one match due to this and lots more smaller moments were lost. Also, having an advert in-between each match (ironically, the advert for the Network suffered from buffering), really damaged the show. I know they sprinkle adverts here and there in PPVs (even if they shouldn’t because you pay for the show so they don’t need to advertise), but after every match it was too much. I’ve probably been a bit harsh on my grades, with half of the graded matches coming in at two-stars, but, to me, it wasn’t a very well written show. At least it ended without Brock Lesnar as Universal Champion.

Match ratings, in descending order:

Single: Finn Balor v ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt: * * * ½

Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar © v Seth Rollins: * * *

United States Championship: AJ Styles © v Ricochet: * * ½

Single: Trish Stratus v Charlotte Flair: * * ½

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Bayley © v Ember Moon: * *

Raw Women’s Championship, Submission Match: Becky Lynch © v Natalya: * *

Single (if Kevin Owens loses, he has to quit WWE): Kevin Owens v Shane McMahon: * *

WWE Championship: Kofi Kingston © v Randy Orton: * *

Single: Goldberg v Dolph Ziggler: NA

Review: NXT TakeOver: Toronto (2019)

NXT Tag Team Championships: Street Profits © v Undisputed Era

Profits v Era

I predicted the Undisputed Era beforehand due to the Street Profits’ appearances on the main roster, but I was more than happy to be wrong, with their charisma endearing them so much to me. I noted in my preview how tag team wrestling is something I don’t love, but NXT always show me exactly how good they can be when utilised properly. The crowd were torn between the two teams, which does show how well the two teams have been booked (this was a regular theme throughout the night). We were even teased a Rock Bottom but it never came to be, which even made me boo out loud, so it worked. If the main event didn’t exist, this would be the best match on the card, and for someone who doesn’t like tag team wrestling to say that, it proves just how good this match is.

Pre-match prediction: Undisputed Era

Winner: Street Profits, by pin fall

Rating: * * * *

Single: Io Shirai v Candice LeRae

LeRae v Io

I was expecting a far more comfortable victory for Io Shirai, with her destroying Candice LeRae to establish how good she is, but we were given a more 50-50 contest and I think it worked.

I remember hearing a lot of praise for Io Shirai before she joined, but her team with Kairi Sane and her match against Shayna Baszler never really made me fall in love with her, and that was due to her lacklustre character. Now, as a heel, I love Io Shirai. Her cocky demeanour, her brass character, combined with her in-ring skill, just makes her so much more investible. She celebrated everything, she taunted at every opportunity, and despite Candice channelling her husband’s bravery, she managed a solid victory, which should hopefully lead her back into the NXT Women’s Championship picture.

Pre-match prediction: Io Shirai

Winner: Io Shirai, by submitting Candice LeRae

Rating: * * * ½

NXT North American Championship, Triple Threat: Velveteen Dream © v Pete Dunne v Roderick Strong

Dream v Dunne v Strong

The Velveteen Dream came out to the mounties music. That’s one way to endear yourself to the Canadian fans.

This match was what I wanted, but nothing too amazing, which was a little disappointing. Pete Dunne was vicious, and I hope he’s on the main NXT roster to stay, because he already feels too big for NXT UK. His dislocating of fingers looks brutal and makes me shudder, so it’s doing something right. I did enjoy the storytelling and felt the commentators did a solid job of reminding the audience (it is something I forgot) that Strong joined the Undisputed Era by betraying Pete Dunne. It didn’t play too much of a factor, but it did enough to add that extra layer to this match.

Velveteen Dream managed to win by breaking up Strong’s pin fall and stealing it for himself, which was a clever way to end the match. Good, but could have been better.

Pre-match prediction: Pete Dunne

Winner: Velveteen Dream, by pinning Pete Dunne

Rating: * * * ½

NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler © v Mia Yim

Baszler v Yim

The crowd were very quiet for this match, in what was easily the lowest quality match on the card. This match did nothing to endear me to Mia Yim, and I feel the crowd felt the same. Ranallo called Baszler ‘One of the most sadistic competitors’ and while that is a rhetoric thrown at many superstars, with Baszler I feel it’s adequate. The lack of interference hindered Yim, I believe, as she has no excuse to fall back on (if she lost due to interference from the Horsewomen then it could have billed to a more impressive showing after Yim eradicates Baszler’s friends). Much like what has happened with Shirai, Yim, I believe, needs a more solid character and a few rivalries to really showcase what she can do, because she has the ability to one day be the NXT Women’s Champion, but today wasn’t that day. She eventually tapped out to a triangle chokehold, as her hands were in pain.

Pre-match prediction: Shayna Baszler

Winner: Shayna Baszler, by submitting Mia Yim

Rating: * * ½

NXT Championship, Two-out-of-Three Falls: Adam Cole © v Johnny Gargano

Cole v Gargano

Wow. Just, wow. I didn’t want to establish a five-star match early on in my wrestling reviews until I watched enough to work out what truly makes a five-star match. And as the first fall ended (with Johnny Gargano choosing to get himself disqualified by attacking Adam Cole with a steel chair in the first fall, a standard match), I was adamant this was not going to be a five-star match. But, my word, the storytelling, the wrestling, the chaos, the drama, the length (this match went about an hour in total), everything just came together to make a fantastic match that absolutely deserved the rating.

The first fall was a standard match, as Cole wanted to out-wrestle Gargano, and their in-ring chemistry was evident for all to see. The regularity in which they’ve wrestled was shown with their counters to most moves. Cole brought in a steel chair and while the referee was distracted hit a low blow on Gargano, but it was still not enough for a three-count. As mentioned, Gargano eventually used the chair to get himself disqualified, leading into the second fall (Gargano had previously chosen a street fight stipulation) where Gargano just assaulted Cole throughout the arena (even briefly taking a selfie with a fan). This eventually came back to the ring and Gargano locked on the Gargano Escape and Cole tapped out.

During this time there was a great call by the male announcers where Ranallo got a move prediction wrong, with Cole choosing to make a different move despite setting up something else, but the commentators cleverly realised that if they were predicting the wrong move, then so would Gargano.

The third fall was previously announced by William Regal to be a steel cage match, but a cage with barbed wire wrapped around the top (so escape was impossible) and weapons scattered everywhere. Kendo sticks, barbed wire, tables, ladders, sledgehammers, steel chairs and a fire extinguisher were among a variety of weapons used throughout. This match was as brutal as that sounds, with chants of ‘ECW’ very much needed. The finish ended when Cole and Gargano fell off the top of the cage (where a board was planted to allow them to stand) and landed onto two tables (a rough looking spot) with Cole managing to gain a pin fall by rolling over onto Gargano. What a match. And I loved how the Undisputed Era didn’t play a role at all, ending their rivalry in conclusive finish (even if the pin fall was somewhat lucky).

Pre-match prediction: Adam Cole

Winner: Adam Cole (Cole won first fall by disqualification, Gargano won second fall by submission, Cole won third fall by pin fall).

Rating: * * * * *

Overall, a very good TakeOver show (as they often are), with only one sour match being there but that’s more than compensated for with that main event. I was worried about another Cole v Gargano match but my word was it something to behold. The tag team match at the start was very entertaining, as was Shirai’s new character and the triple threat (on the main roster, they’re match-of-the-night candidates, which tells you all you need to know about their quality), despite them falling short on the night. The brawl between Matt Riddle and Killian Dain (where a ‘security guard’ took a table spot) was an extra something and the commentary throughout was great. From Ranallo and McGuinness. Beth Phoenix was atrocious throughout. They correctly told us how the crowd felt (unlike the main roster who try to hide away from any positive reaction for a heel) and perfectly added in excitement and storytelling. Everything commentators should do (just not Phoenix, who just shouted ‘wow’ throughout).

Match ratings, in descending order:

Adam Cole v Johnny Gargano: * * * * *

Street Profits v Undisputed Era: * * * *

Io Shirai v Candice LeRae: * * * ½

Velveteen Dream v Pete Dunne v Roderick Strong: * * * ½

Shayna Baszler v Mia Yim: * * ½

Film Review: Secret Obsession (2019)

‘If [Secret Obsession] is any indication of [Peter Sullivan’s] career, then it’s a career I do not wish to keep an eye on’

Secret Obsession, 2019

Directed by: Peter Sullivan

Written by: Kraig Wenman, Peter Sullivan

Starring: Brenda Song, Mike Vogel, Dennis Haysbert

After a woman, Jennifer (Brenda Song), is struck by a car whilst trying to escape an attacker, she awakens in the hospital with no memory of anything or anyone. Her husband turns up and aids her recovery but soon the lack of memory starts making Jennifer suspicious.

I watched this with a couple of friends and we all came to the same conclusion early on: woman with no memory being introduced to her ‘husband’ means something’s wrong. Especially with a title of Secret Obsession. And even more so after seeing Jennifer running from an unknown attacker. Why didn’t Jennifer just accidentally get hit on her way home from work? By adding the thriller side of it, we can see the twist coming ages before it does, and then we’re just left bored until it finally happens. Unfortunately, that is the fault of Peter Sullivan, who takes writing and directing credits, as he poorly tells this story.

Secret Obsession, 2

It’s revealed later on that people have been murdered, too, to further the plot of the film, but why haven’t those murders been reported? There’s a detective, Frank (Dennis Haysbert), who’s suspicious of Russell (Mike Vogel, Cloverfield), Jennifer’s husband, and he could very easily put the pieces together if just a single person in the entire world informed him that people have gone missing. Presumably the murdered victims had no friends of note, because of how long they’ve been killed when we see them, or jobs or hobbies or anything that requires meeting anybody else, because their bodies are left to rot at home. Seeing as Jennifer was being chased, why then does it take him so long to do any actual investigation? He uncovers the truth later on by interviewing someone, but it’s not a clever discovery. It’s something he should have done months ago (I presume the timespan lasts months due to the state of the bodies and her recovery).

My rating is probably the highest this film should get by anyone (Rotten Tomatoes currently holds it at 27% and IMDB at a 4.2 rating), because it’s just so run-of-the-mill and boring. Peter Sullivan has co-wrote a bunch of made-for-TV movies with a theme: The Wrong Cheerleader, The Wrong Tutor, The Wrong Mommy, The Wrong Boy Next Door, The Wrong Stepmother and The Wrong Teacher. Sandwiched in the middle of their releases (all this year) is Secret Obsession. I counted at least fifteen made-for-TV films under the The Wrong titles, and Secret Obsession fits right in with all of those (perhaps The Wrong Husband would give the game up from the second minute, rather than us figuring it out by the third). IMDB lists him as having 88 credits as a writer, 32 credits as a director and 116 as a producer: if this, one of his later films, is any indication of his career, then it’s a career I do not wish to keep an eye on.

I’ve certainly seen worse over the years, worse plots, worse acting, worse visual effects, so its grade is perhaps a little higher than it merits, but it’s just so bland. There is an idea here, but go full-on with the romance, delete the assault at the beginning and make the twist somewhat surprising and impactful. If you want to watch a Netflix original, then, in the words of Peter Sullivan, this is The Wrong Film.

Personal: * *     Acting: * *     Writing: *     Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * *