THE STUMPTOWN HORROR RATING SYSTEM

Welcome to StumptownHorror.com: A dedicated source of quality horror movie reviews, trailers, "best of" lists, and ratings.

For your convenience, this is the official STH rating system:

(10) Obligated to share with others.
(09) Must buy for personal collection.
(08) Could not walk away from.
(07) Could happily see multiple times.
(06) Would watch once more.
(05) Meh.
(04) Happy I only have to see it once.
(03) Could have walked away from at any point.
(02) Personally hate.
(01) Obligated to warn others not to watch.

THE BEST HORROR MOVIES OF 2014


Under the Skin
(4 April - limited)


Oculus
(11 April)


Godzilla
(16 May)


Honeymoon
(12 September - internet)


The Guest
(17 September - limited)


Housebound
(17 October - limited)


The ABC's of Death 2
(21 October - limited)


Starry Eyes
(14 November)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
(21 November - limited)


The Babadook
(28 November - limited)

HONEYMOON (2014)

d. Leigh  Janiak
Honeymoon is an exaggeration of what happens psychologically to a just-married individual as he transitions from the anticipation of a life together to the realization of spending the rest of his life with the other. Tropes abound to keep the viewer guessing as to where this movie is actually headed, but at its core is doubt run amok.

The wedding was a budget affair, yet one full of attention to significance. The ceremony, experienced by the viewer via testimonials from the bride Bea (Rose Leslie) and her new hubby Paul (Harry Treadwell) to their videographer. The celebration was planned in such a manner to play homage to the most memorable moments of the couple's relationship that has led them to their union. Now on honeymoon, the budgetary constraints continue as the couple finds themselves arriving at a cabin owned by Bea's family in a lakeside, summer community prior to the actual summer season; a place where Bea has many formative memories whilst Paul has no idea what he's getting into. As Paul's comfort with his surroundings slowly increase, Bea seems to be moving in the opposite direction as a result of a seeminly somnambulistic venture into the forest one night while Paul is distracted. Paranoia begins to imbue Paul's reading of every interaction with his wife and the only other people currently staying at the lake -- the couple running the diner, Will (Ben Huber) and Annie (Hanna Brown).

The scenes depicted throughout Honeymoon are specifically anchored to Paul's first-person struggles with an increasing paranoid perception of Bea. The question of whether his fears are founded or not is shared with the viewer, with the exception of an extra-diegetic awareness of the tropes being utilized by the filmmakers that Paul is incapable. Some viewers might argue that Honeymoon treads to closely to the plot points of other movies due to the recognizable scenarios, but the act of recognition alone provides the red herring Honeymoon needs to keep the viewer actively engaged. Logical conclusions I had based on my own filmic knowledge were never reached time and again until the final frame, making my own invested confusion transcend even that of Paul.

Rating: (8/10)

w. Phil Graziadei & Leigh Janiak

GODZILLA (2014)

d. Gareth Edwards
Godzilla is at first glance a tale about larger-than-life monsters engaged in combat that transcends the era we humans have occupied this world. Whereas older entries in the series looked to use the titular creature as a metaphor for social and political issues, this time around the monsters are hidden within a singular broken family and an only child's attempt to come to terms with those forces.

Miners in the Philippines penetrated an underground chamber formed by the remains of a deceased godzilla and in doing so awoke the male-half of two MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) eggs that had been laid in the carcass to parasitically feed off of its residual radiation. The hatched MUTO burrows into a Japanese nuclear power plant where it is mistaken for an earthquake that causes the plant to meltdown and the death of Sandra Brody (Juliette Binoche). Her husband, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), and only child, Ford (CJ Adams and Aaron Taylor-Johnson), survive and fifteen years later return to the government quarantined site of the accident only to find no evidence of the nuclear fallout that is expected. Having consumed all available radiation, the MUTO emerges from the former power plant site, where Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) has been monitoring it this whole time, and proceeds toward the other MUTO egg which the Americans had stored at the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada. The activity of the MUTOs attracts another godzilla from the ocean depths who must either defeat its ancestral foes or become the host for yet another generation of MUTO eggs.

As with other films that utilize an unexpected jump into the future, so too can something significant be read into the movie Godzilla is before the jump, and what it becomes after. For child-Ford, the future is but a coping projection played out via the trope of the living toy box. The future adult-Ford is rendered as a nondescript yet romanticized "army man/hero" cliche/toy as envisioned by a child declaring what he'd like to be when he grows up. The child-Ford (with a preexisting knowledge of the Godzilla Cinematic Universe as demonstrated by his pet being named after the daikaiju Mothra) mashes his toys against each other out of both frustration and an attempt to rationalize where his mother has gone and the resulting mental degradation of his father. Did she really die in such a dramatic manner depicted, or much more likely, is she no longer a part of the family? The simpler answer as usual seems to answer more questions than the complex. Joe even tells Ford at one point that his "mom's out there," and by there he's referring to the old family home they are not allowed to visit. The child-Ford imbues his toys with familial characteristics and the toy box theory justifies why the hero, adult-Ford is ever present at every turn in the future/play narrative. Ultimately, the Godzilla that the viewer witnesses is the rendering of a child's copping and attempt at reconciliation using the only tools at his disposal: toys and storytelling. By bringing the toy box and the child's imagination to life (and to the screen), the filmmakers lens a spectacle played out on such a massive, yet personal scale, I can't help but want to return to it time and again.

Rating: (8/10)


w. Max Borenstein

PROXY (2014)

d. Zack Parker
Proxy begins with a moment of senseless, horrific violence, so extreme in nature, that viewers cannot be blamed if they chose to simply walk out and not venture any further down the rabbit hole these filmmakers have crafted. For those that forge on, the unbearable horrors subside and reveal, by way of their artifice, to simply be the complex tapestry and misdirection of a very engaging piece of contemporary film noir.

Esther Woodhouse (Alexia Rasmussen) is pregnant, and like "most mothers" nearing full term, she is looking forward to the experience reaching its conclusion. This happens even sooner than expected when she is beaten and robbed on her way to the bus-stop after leaving the hospital post-ultrasound. Upon awaking back in the hospital, no longer pregnant, Esther receives a pamphlet about a support group for mourning mothers. It is at this support group that Esther meets Melanie Michaels (Alexa Havins) who suffers from Münchausen syndrome by proxy.

Proxy proceeds to redefine the viewer's perception of the events that have happened thus far, to the extent of lessening the horror experienced. A femme fatale emerges and warps the story around her to a degree that the secondary, significant-others Patrick Michaels (Joe Swanberg) and Anika Barön (Kristina Klebe) become key players in the web as they are forced into compromised positions. By the movie's end credits, all sense of horror has been replaced by the wonder inherent in detective yarns. This hurts Proxy's final rating a bit as a result of the quality horror that was created in the early acts, of which effectively sutured me into the picture, was aborted for alternative plotting.



w. Kevin Donner & Zack Parker