Hostel III (2011)

There were some great ideas in Hostel III. If only they were executed more professionally. And if only this whole thing wasn’t so dopey. It was foretold on the dvd cover. People are going to be tortured by wannabe doctors in Las Vegas. Hey it’s not all bad. There are some twists and a few actually work. Perhaps the biggest twist is actually the most obvious, and its seed is planted the minute the main characters establish their relationships in the most boring way possible. Even though the victims are impossibly clueless and the artistic gore doesn’t match anywhere near its predecessors, Hostel III is still a fun time. [rating: $5] –Kenyon

sounds better dubbed in German

The Innkeepers (2011)

It’s especially dumbfounding that director Ti West allows such pronounced homage to retro horror, yet ultimately drops the ball on two would-be modern horror classics that hover just below the mainstream. Like Wests’ the House of the Devil (2008), suspense goes hand in hand with an overdose of false scares. This includes when the two lead characters–who are attempting to prove the hotel they work at is haunted–watch a trick ghost video on the interweb. Preposterous! Not to mention the video was predictable.

There isn’t much story here, and it’s not even worth trying to understand any of the characters’ nonsensical behavior. Not to mention the entire film could be cut down to 25 minutes. There is a ten minute scene with Lena Dunham, of all people, that is absolutely unneccesary. Following that, the female lead–who of course has asthma–spends much of the time wandering around the hotel looking for spiritual contact. The slow pace is balanced by, well, pretty much the unrelenting suspense that never rewards (the piano is heard playing by itself, oooooo! it’s the ghost!). At least the Innkeepers (as well as House) has the balls to end a horror film with doom and gloom. The potential and growth for West is evident. Part of the problem is that too many critics are solely content with exaggerated atmosphere and cheap scares. [rating: $3] –Kenyon

The Tunnel (2011, Australia)

There’s found footage. And then there’s found footage brought to attention by the people in it who then use half the movie to comment about the footage. This flopped in the Fourth Kind and Lake Mungo. Unfortuntely, the Tunnel suffers from the same common mishap: melodramatic commentary up the ying-yang. Let the footage speak for itself. We don’t need an actor to explain everything, ad naseum So many fails with the Tunnel.

If the people in the “found footage” are commenting after it was recorded, then there’s no suspense because we already know they are alive and well. Which is strange, considering that a mysterious humanoid underground dweller easily spilled the blood of their companions. Speaking of that, the “reporter,” who so urgently needed to investigate the underground tunnels of Australia, should be held responsible for those deaths. Not that it’s even believable that they died. The Tunnel lacks authenticity, something most evident when the doomed crew’s camera lens has cracks yet the cracks do not move in unison with the camera movement. [rating: $0]

Grave Encounters (2011)

Grave Encounters (2011) The very promising trailer for Grave Encounters has a scene where a girl’s face instantly turns demonic. That alone is enough to reel someone in, hoping to see the next level in “these are the tapes we found” cinema. The premise of a ghost-hunting TV crew filming their experience in an old haunted asylum was off to an okay start, even though it blatantly rips off Paranormal State. The crew’s director is thinking money over ethics, so whatever trouble he gets into he deserves. They set up cameras–which later we see are too conveniently placed–in the asylum. They walk around, blah blah….obviously they are going to be attacked by evil spirits. About halfway in, the movie loses its direction. Along with the terrified characters.

The crew becomes trapped inside the mental hospital (because of a bizarre twist) and all the film cares about at this point is to have things jump out and scare you like it’s a Resident Evil video game. Worse is that with no explanation, it turns out that they are now in some sort of purgatory with the spirits/ghosts/whatever. There are also mad doctors there to operate on you, as they originally did to the patients when the asylum was open. One of the crew disappears and assumingly gets an “operation” off screen and then re-appears wearing a hospital gown and speaking incoherently. I mean COME ON. Where’d the gown come from? That’s when Grave Encounters jumps off a cliff. The surprise scares are jumpy, but without substance and reasoning, the believability goes out the window. The bogus rat near the end which is eaten for shock value couldn’t make the save. [rating: $2] -Kenyon