Fear Itself: "In Sickness and in Health" (2008) directed by John Landis
Jesus, as soon as I saw the writing and directing credits... Really? Both Victor Salva and John Landis working on the same project? And the very first shot is of two children playing? Really?
Ignoring all that, I have to admit the episode started out promising. At her wedding, a bride is given an anonymous note that reads: "the person you're marrying is a serial killer." That sort of ruins her big day and she begins to freak out about her fiancé. At this point, none of the characters' actions make any kind of sense. When the newly-wedded husband confronts his wife about her strange behavior, he inexplicably decides to scare her and chase her around the church. He then calms down, admits that he had dinner with another woman during their engagement and asks for forgiveness. We then discover that the note had been delivered to the wrong person and the wife is actually a serial killer. Which makes absolutely no sense. If she's a serial killer, why would she have been so bothered to think she was marrying one? If she's a cold-blooded killer, why was she so afraid of her husband? And what was the point of the twin uncles at the wedding? What a complete mess of a story.
Fear Itself: "Family Man" (2008) directed by Ronny Yu
A remake of Ernest Goes to Jail. Really, sort of, except without the electricity powers. An upstanding citizen and a serial killer's souls get swapped into the wrong bodies. Hijinx ensue and there's a twist ending. The idea that a serial killer is in your house, with your family, pretending to be you is quite terrifying. But, not really in this episode. Once he becomes a family man, the killer kinda just becomes an asshole dad, like the kind of guy that gets angry at Little League games. Yeah, he ends up killing them at the end, but it seems like it's more for the twist ending than anything.
The Graves (2009) directed by Brian Pulido
It's pretty clear Brian Pulido's a fellow horror geek. He got Texas Chainsaw 2's Bill Moseley, Candyman's Tony Todd and even Elm Street's Amanda Wyss to star. He made himself a sort of vaguely lovecraftian slasher hybrid that feels like an old-school horror movie. So, as a horror brother, it pains me to say that this is a turd of film.
I suppose this is telegraphed right at the start when two improbably pretty comic shop patrons pick out their favorite issues (which happen to be written by the director for Avatar) as the director makes sure we get a good look at the website address of the store which happens to be written on a giant banner at the top of the frame. Ostensibly, this is character development for the two girls, but, come on, man. Plugging your stuff is okay, but let's try to be a bit more subtle, eh?
The story is pretty standard: girls go to an out-of-the-way tourist trap where the main business happens to be tourist murder. Instead of a cannibal family or mutants or a masked killer, the tourist trap houses an invisible savior that a cult provides human sacrifices to. There's a lot of running around the tourist trap with the crazed cultists wielding knives and the girls screaming. There's an obligatory scene where the girls escape and flag down a car, only to discover the driver is a part of the cult. In fact, this happens again later in the movie when the ask a waitress at a restaurant for help. When the stronger of the girls is hurt, the weaker one finds the strength inside to overcome their adversity. Standard stuff.
Maybe this unoriginality might not have been so bad if the film had been shot with some style. Alas, it's pretty clear this is the director's first film. It's not just the choice of shots or lighting or bad CGI blood, but it's the little things, too. Often, the dialog is difficult to hear, likely because they both didn't mic it correctly and didn't bother to ADR over the inaudible parts. In one scene, it seems like they forgot to shoot a reverse angle for a conversation. What's we're left with in the movie are two people on screen talking to someone else just a little off screen, while never seeing the off screen person's face when it's their turn to talk. When there is a different angle to cut to, it rarely matches the first angle. Lots of heads and arms suddenly changing position and the like.
The only nice thing I have to say about this film: it's short. Cutting the (overlong but slick) credits, there's probably only about 75 minutes of movie here. Still, I haven't had to check the clock this much during a movie in quite a while. (4/10)