Review: Would You Rather (2013), Now Available On Demand and Amazon.com, Is Worth Your Time! (Includes Horror Boom and Dread Central’s Review)

I was lucky enough to find director David Guy Levy‘s Would You Rather  available today to watch on Amazon (and not for an insanely expensive price, either; more reasonable than the Comcast/Xfinity price). The set-up goes like this:

Desperate to help her ailing brother, a young woman, Iris (Brittany Snow), desperate to help her ailing brother, agrees to compete in a deadly game of “Would You Rather,” hosted by a sadistic aristocrat, Mr. Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs), at his luxurious mansion/estate. Iris –and the other seven ‘players’– have no idea they are in way over their heads until it’s too late to opt out. They all need the money desperately and let that cloud their judgement when agreeing to play, even after hearing the rules and being given a chance to leave. Needless to say, they begin to regret their decisions shortly after the game begins. The very apt tagline, which takes on new meaning once you’ve seen the entire film, is: Tell yourself it’s just a game.
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I’m including the Dread Central review because I agree pretty closely with theirs on more or less all their points – though I think any kind of comparisons to Saw  (or the sequels, anyway) aren’t really that accurate.  Click the big red link below to read Dread Central’s great review by The Horror Chick, then Horror Boom’s thoughts on the movie after the link.

Would You Rather (2013)  Horror Movie, DVD, & Book Reviews, News, Interviews at Dread Central.

 

OK, now our turn:

The film takes the first half hour to set up the situation, the characters, the setting, and finally the actual rules of the “Would You Rather” game. None of this is remotely boring; screenwriter Steffen Schlachtenhaufen knows exactly the right amount of time to spend to interest and hook the audience, taking a slow-burn approach (if you could call this movie a slow burn… I guess it depends on your definition of a slow burn, I’ve found it to be a subjective term for viewers). We’re in the dark more or less the same amount of the characters–we discover the rules of ‘would you rather’ and how horrible or painful the choices are going to be right along with the characters, with information being doled out to the poor “guests” at the same time it is to us.*

Towards the end of the first third of the film, things start getting tense and uncomfortable as the guests eat a gourmet dinner served to them, but nothing gets too ugly until after dinner, when the game actually starts. All eight guests get one chance to leave after the rules are explained– Comb’s character reminds them of the game they might have played as kids- but no-one acts on it then, of course. This time the host asks the questions, taking turns, and for the first round they only have 15 seconds to make the decision.  During the first round, two characters at a time have a leather strap which is hooked to a machine. When a button is pressed by the guest who has been asked would you rather, they have the choice to shock themselves or the other person depending on what button they press. While not gory, it’s fairly tense as they only have fifteen seconds to decide before being “eliminated.”  Oh, and by “eliminated”, Lambrick means “executed by gunshot”.

We get to know and care about the characters more (or which ones we start to hope will end up having to do something horrible to themselves–I spent most of the last half of the movie rooting for Sasha Grey‘s mean-spirited, how shall I describe her, See-You-And-Tea of a character to get the worst death in the movie). Speaking of the actors,  I had no problems with any of the cast, and it took me till over halfway in to recognize Ricky, better known as one of the Trailer Park Boys (well, the actor, Rob Wells, that played him, I realize Ricky is a fictional character), and I’m a fan of the Canadian comedy group. That’s how much range he has. I’ll also admit that I usually kind of sigh in a resigned way when I find out Sasha Grey is going to appear in a show or movie that I plan on seeing, but when she’s in a non-porn mainstream movie,  and not playing herself, I found I have no problem with her, at least in this movie (sorry guys, she keeps her clothes on). I didn’t even identify her as the actress playing the character until the credits rolled.** The only name in the cast I saw before watching the movie was Jeffrey Combs (and Brittany Snow, who I have a neutral enough opinion of that I didn’t think about one way or the other, or have it influence my decision to see the movie).  I didn’t even know Sasha Grey played the character until the credits ran, though I did recognize John Heard within a couple minutes after his character appeared.

I also applaud the film-makers for not turning the movie into torture-porn, which they could have very easily slipped into. I do think any kind of comparisons to Saw  (or the sequels, anyway) aren’t really that accurate. Certain moments did make me wince, but for the few really nasty challenges (especially two towards the end) the camera turns away during the actual (fairly quick) gruesome act; the most we see is some aftermath. I wouldn’t call the movie tame, but the poster being used below really doesn’t accurately represent the tone or subject matter of this horror movie:

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During the violent moments of Would You Rather,  I mainly winced in sympathy for the poor characters, especially the ones who had some compassion for their fellow contestants and opted to injure themself—or volunteer themselves if another participant was torn between who to inflict pain on. I’ve seen things much more gory (especially just for pure shock value) in any of the Saw movies. I’m not one of those horror fans who slams them as trash, in fact I own one of them. I’m not saying they don’t  linger on torture (which I feel started with Saw 3 and progressed, as the franchise went on, to more and more emphasis on the gore and topping themselves on how gruesome and shocking the traps/“kills” were), but I’m not above them, and I didn’t watch them for the believability, but for the Grand Guignol aspect. I’m not super-proud of it, but I’m also no hypocrite.  My point, however, is that Would You Rather  isn’t this kind of movie. I was rather surprised—but not at all dissapointed— that the level of gore in the movie was as low as it was for what sounds like a torture-porn set-up, but I’d say on a scale of one to ten, it was a six. I appreciated the way that, in the two gruesome moments I mentioned before—the camera flinched away at the same time a certain horrified character in the room did.  They didn’t want to look, we didn’t want to look.

I had a couple minor complaints, but they were minor enough that I had to re-watch the movie to remind myself what they actually were. There was a snotty young male character that not only didn’t really get what he deserved at all, but didn’t really seem that necessary to the plot, but don’t let that stop you. Even after I read the glowing review on DreadCentral.com, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the movie.

If you can appreciate a good indie horror movie with great production values (IFC Midnight picked this one up; if you have trouble tracking it down on demand, that’s the category I found it under), you can’t go wrong. You really can’t go wrong if you’re a fan of  Jeffrey Combs–his character “runs the show” in the story, but his acting is what makes the movie work– great as the other acting is, his was the role that, if cast wrong, could have actually ruined the movie or made it tedious instead of riveting. I can think of several genre actors, who I’ll be polite and not name, that could have sunk the movie instead of elevate it. Since he’s the one who organizes and relishes the ‘game’ (though he has security/enforcers on staff to do the dirty work, he just watches), we’re probably supposed to at least dislike him, but he was too entertaining.

Also, for what it’s worth, the poster art below is not only superior but much more fitting to represent Would You Rather:

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Hopefully this one will get used instead of the torture-porn-y eyeball image. Enjoy the movie! Check out the first Dread Central piece under the “Related Articles” at the bottom- it’s a wonderful interview about how the movie got made, the casting process (in the piece, Levy says the second he saw Jeffrey Comb’s reel, he knew he was the perfect actor for the lead; when he sent Combs the script, he returned it a day later, along with not just an acceptance note, but a thank you note;  a class act all the way).

Would You Rather?

 (Photo credit: Dave77459)

*OK, obviously they haven’t seen the trailer and read the synopsis or seen press kits, but you get the idea, and after the game officially begins, all bets are off.

**I actually thought there was a good chance it was the actress who played Dawn, Tig’s white-trash daughter on “Sons of Anarchy”.

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More “Stoker” Coolness! We LOVE Horror Marketing Going Above & Beyond With Awesome, Creative Promos – Must See!

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We first decided our dream job (on up there in the top five) would be getting to work for/with Dread Central and getting things like THIS in the mail back in 2011 when DC posted a series on the “American Horror Story Artifacts” they were receiving in the mail (for S1). These artifacts, which Dread Central carefully documented with a series of still photos, descriptions, and the story behind these packages sent to them with no return address info other than “The Murder House”. One was an ice-skate, splattered with dried blood and a clump of red matter on the blade of the skate…  matted with hair. Another was a stuffed rabbit. Nothing cuddly, though, something that looked like it came from a deranged taxidermist (or a doctor from the 1920s with a ‘Frankenstein complex‘ who had been driven mad by his addiction to ether).  This was s stuffed, mounted monstrosity with tanned/cured blood-red hide, no hair, buck teeth that looked more like those of a small shark’s,  and disturbingly over-sized, bloodshot eyeballs. This writer–who is working on a piece* about that showstopper of an advertising campaign– would not display it in any room she planned on sleeping in.

We also have yet to see a shitty movie (ParaNorman and District 9 are a couple of excellent examples on going above and beyond to promote something they created)* that took such care and cleverness and craftsmanship sending out really cool boxes (usually mysterious at first) containing items, art, and ‘artifacts’.

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So, what does our above  jibba-jabba have to do with this? Turns out Stoker  (unleashed released on March 1, 2013) has also been doing creative promotion! Here’s an (updated) article from Dread Central about exactly what showed up in their mail to promote their movie. Click on the big red link below to read all about it–and even try to figure out why and how the PR/marketing team for Stoker  picked this specific item!

UPDATED: What’s in the Box?!? Mystery and Intrigue Arrive at Dread Central! | Horror Movie, DVD, & Book Reviews, News, Interviews at Dread Central.

 

Your guess is sure as hell as good as ours! Man, what we wouldn’t give to work in an office that receives and gets to open packages like this. Hell, we’d fucking volunteer  to work our butts off there for free if they were located anywhere near us…

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*which, now that we think of it,  are also separate pieces we’ll do a short series on …or a longer series if we find there’s even more genre movies, TV shows and events that use such imaginative marketing than we thought out there (cross your fingers).

American Horror Story Asylum Episode “I Am Ann Frank, Part 2” Earns A Spot On EW.com’s Ten Best Single Episodes Of TV in 2012

It’s hard to choose the best episode, but picking “I Am Ann Frank Part Two” as one of their top ten, when there was a LOT of great shows with great episodes this –I mean, last– year. I don’t agree with about half their picks (“New Girl” isn’t, how do I put this, my cup of tea), but the other half was dead on. I forgot about that pitiful squirrel speech. “The Origins of Monstrosity” was pretty goddamned great, too. Yay, EW.com!

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Spooky-Ass Second Theatrical Trailer For “Mama” (2013) With Extra Creepy New Footage Is Here – Scariest Trailer of The Month!

So you thought the first spooky-ass trailer for Mama (based on the actively frightening short film that you can watch here, but that I literally cannot watch after dark unless I have alcohol in my bloodstream, and even then I hesitate) was creepy? Well, in the second theatrical trailer , we get to see a little more of the… not sure exactly what to call it yet; creature? entity? monster? of the title. Well, one thing is for sure, the mysterious “Mama” that follows the two little feral girls to their new adoptive home is the stuff nightmares of made of. Watch the new trailer below. If you’ve seen the debut trailer more than once, you’ll know that new footage when you see it…

I’m still looking for a 30-second spot that they ran in front of some clip or trailer I was watching online, because I could swear there were one or two flashes in that one (including one of the creepy feral girls lashing out when a stranger discovers them in the woods, and another brief new flash of “Mama” that also freaked me out) that aren’t in this second theatrical trailer (nor the first one I posted and wrote about).  Here’s the official site, by the way, though so far, it only has the trailer.  Once I saw Javier Botet’s name on the IMDB cast list –he played the attic monster/Medieros Girl from [REC]–I knew we’d be in more some serious scares.

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Here’s that official description again: Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years…. but how alone were they?  EEK.

Something you do NOT want to find under your bed (or anywhere in the house)...

Something you do NOT want to find under your bed (or anywhere in the house)…

If you’ve seen the aforementioned short horror film (from the same director/writer), a couple images look similar – mainly the “stinger” at the end of the teaser. If you’re not brave enough to watch them both in a row right this moment, like if you’re feeling a little jumpy or were already having bad dreams, here’s the comparison (stills from the short are on the left, stills from the movie are on the right). Since it’s after dark as I compose this, I think I’ll hit the “mute” buttons to get those screen caps…

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Mama  opens on January 18, 2013!  Bring your screaming voice…

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Scariest Short Horror Film of the Week – “Grace” (2006), Directed By Paul Solet, Is The Short Horror Film The Movie (2009) Was Based On

“Her name is Grace.” -Madeline

Yes, Grace  (2006) is indeed the short film written and directed by Paul Solet  that the 2009 feature film of the same name is based on.  If you’ve seen the 90-minute version, I’m sure you know the plot. Here’s how I would describe it (since the official synopsis is too spoiler-ish): A young woman, Madeline, who is in her third trimester of pregnancy, and her husband have a very bad car wreck, mainly caused by him driving like an asshole. He is killed and she is able to crawl from the wreck, but sadly the baby does not survive. Madeline makes the difficult decision to carry the deceased baby to term. That’s enough horror for at least two feature-length movies already …but, believe it or not, things are about to go downhill and become far more frightening and disturbing from there.

Cover of "Grace"

Cover of  DVD release of Grace (The 2009 feature film, based on the short film Grace, 2006)

The best working link for the six-minute short horror film I could find was on Fearnet.com (see below).  BUT!  Do NOT read the description, don’t look, just start watching, since the description spoils every plot element from start to finish. Repeat (because I hate spoilers and when people just relate the plot from start to finish in a description before you even watch something), unless you’ve seen Grace  already (the short film OR the 2009 feature), just hit the play button and go full screen. Oh, and do not watch while eating …or if you’re breast-feeding. Even if you’re not, trust me my fellow horror fan chicks, you’ll be crossing your arms across your chest like I was!

I highly recommend you do NOT watch this film if you’re pregnant unless you never get scared or upset by anything you watch in a movie, ever (though the French horror film  À l’intérieur  (AKA Inside,  2007) makes Grace  look like The Brady Bunch, and I’d never suggest Inside  to someone with even a pregnant relative, let alone even begin to explain the plot points to anyone who is pregnant).  Grace  also doesn’t take an especially low-key approach when it comes to gore, either, so back out now if you’re easily upset, or offended. I’m pretty jaded, but even ol’ Mrs. Horror Boom here winced several times.  Intense, brutal, and frightening, Grace  could very well sign you up for a nightmare… don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Click here to watch our scariest short horror film of the week,  Grace, on Fearnet.com.

Grace  stars Liza Weil, Brian Austin Green, and Susan Foley (the feature-length film starred Cabin Fever ‘s leading lady Jordan Ladd as Madeline).  Oh, and the end titles just credit baby Grace as played by “herself”. Though it’d be way creepier if they listed a name, now that I think of it.

If you want to go behind the scenes, the below version has a really cool commentary. There’s also a short about the make-up effects used; drop me a line or a comment below if you’d like me to add it to this post.

I don’t know if enjoy!  is the right phrase to sign off on Grace  with, so I’ll go with George Romero‘s traditional sign-off: stay scared!

Do you know how beautiful you are?   -Madeline, to her daughter 

Red Band Trailer of the Week – STITCHES! (2012) Everybody Happy? (We Are!)

“Sleaziest clown working the circuit”… “that Big Top in the Sky”… “black magic clown cult”?  Hey, I can’t see that calender too good.  Does that say Christmas morning over there?

Holy shit, this looks awesome! I was already psyched up about it when I re-blogged a great piece on this, and it sounded pretty fun even with no trailer. It just got better!  OK, let’s get to the impressive, gory UK Red Band trailer for horror/comedy out of Ireland, Stitches,  starring Ross Noble, below:

If I wasn’t sold before (oh, I was  sold, but figured I could wait patiently for it until Scarecrow Video got a PAL copy in to rent) I am now. As soon as I publish this I’m rifling frantically through the internet to try to find a US release date. I would in fact go out of my way to see it– I’d wait in line in the rain to buy tickets for a midnight showing at a film festival within driving distance. I’d maybe even lose sleep to see it, and since I hit thirty-five, I have to be REALLY committed to drag myself out of bed if I haven’t gotten at least six hours of sleep.*

Love that shot (above) of what appears to be Stitches rising from the dead in a graveyard in a flurry of playing cards.  The entertainingly-written basics about the movie, again (they had me at “the sleaziest clown working the children’s party circuit in Ireland”):

Jaded Richard Grindle (Ross Noble) is the sleaziest clown working the children’s party circuit in Ireland. Arriving late to one birthday, his timing is off, the bratty kids a nightmare and a prank goes horribly wrong – he falls on a kitchen knife and goes to that Big Top in the sky.
Years later the same nasty kids attend another more grown up bash. Little do they know, thanks to a black magic clown cult, Stitches will be the uninvited guest of honour seeking revenge on those responsible for his untimely death. Laughs and gore combine in this twisted tale of one very bad clown.

DEAL! “Sleaziest clown”… “that Big Top in the Sky”… “black magic clown cult”?  Hey, I can’t see that calendar too well from here! Does it say it’s Christmas morning there?  I also found a couple other features (with more HD footage, most of it hilarious) for you to watch.  First up, a sort of behind-the-scenes teaser with Ross Noble (whose work I’m not familiar with, nor have I heard of, but has a built-in cult following in the UK) who apparently worked as a street performer before he got into comedy) happily talking about the role of Stitches and how fun it was to play:

I started giggling during the footage of him barreling along riding that tricycle. Also, here’s one where he talks about the movie, starting off with his favorite kill involving a grisly version of creating balloon animals (setting it up but not spoiling the whole thing – and I’d see the movie just for the scene as described):

All the You Tube comments say Ross Noble seems pretty hammered during the interview, but I wouldn’t know, since I’m unfamiliar with his work and what he sounds like normally. Who am I to judge? He deserves it, as does the director of Stitches,  Conor McMahon, who also co-wrote the film with David O’Brien.

The movie debuted in May of this year at the Cannes Film Festival in France, then made a UK debut at Frightfest in August.  Stitches  opens in the UK and Ireland at the end of October. I haven’t been able to track down a US release date yet, but I’ll update you as soon as I know. According to the official Facebook page for Stitches,  tickets are now on sale for the US premiere on Halloween at Lincoln Center in NYC, but that doesn’t help out those of us not able to travel to NYC. The Facebook page also has lots of exclusive content worth checking out.  Oh, one more You Tube item: I found a link here to a UK interview with Mr. Noble that features a brief but hilarious NSFW clip of ole “Stitches” Grindle in the film’s prologue arriving at the kid’s birthday party before he meets his untimely end. (Below)

Kid’s mum: “You’re late.” Stitches: “And you’re fookin’ ugly. Cash up front.”

Lastly,  Mr. Noble also mentioned another kill in the movie involving an umbrella. I’m pretty sure that’s what the below frame from the trailer depicts…

*Oh yeah, I have what seems now to be my third Annual Jury Duty Summons on Monday. Since both times before were in the winter, it was easier (as every year it takes me a couple weeks longer to adjust to the longer nights and shorter days) to just stay up and write, then get ready to go down there rather than fall asleep between 4-5AM as usual then have to get up two hours later. Let’s hope I don’t get chosen, because it’s going to mess up my sleep cycle even if I get lucky and don’t get my name called Monday. I’ll still do my best not to miss a post, though.

**Speaking of Facebook, Horror Boom also now has an official Facebook page. If you have time to ‘like’ Horror Boom on Facebook (assuming you do  like Horror Boom in the first place, though you probably would have stopped reading long before now if you hated it). I’d appreciate it, since I need thirty ‘likes’ to really get creative and network more. I added a “Facebook Like Box” to our sidebar so you don’t have to bother with even going on Facebook, just click from here (also, only having only two likes showing now when they’re both from family members  just looks really sad, which is why I waited till I reached a thousand hits before I even added one)!