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Archive for February, 2013

REVIEW – NIGHT IN THE WOODS

Night In The Woods Poster

2.5 out of 5

I have been hearing some good buzz about this movie, since it is from the makers of  “Bronson” and “Monsters”, two movies that I absolutely loved, but after watching the movie I was left with a disappointing feeling.

This movie is another found footage horror film.  This time we have a couple and the girlfriend’s cousin exploring the Dartmoor’s Wistman’s Woods.  Legend tells of a mysterious figure who steals witches and hangs them from a tree in the woods.  Brody, the boyfriend starts to get a jealous feeling seeing how his girlfriend Kerry is acting around her cousin Leo.  Once in the woods and camp is set, night befalls the group sending them, and the viewer into a night full of terror.

The beginning of the movie has a note stating this was the footage that was found from this camping trip and was edited together to tell the groups story.  What starts off as a good tale eventually turns into a boring mess with a few scares near the end.  Like most feature length found footage film, there is so much footage used that really could have been either omitted or trimmed down to save time and tighten the movie better.  I thought there were many scenes that either went no where or just dragged the movie down and didn’t let it become the movie it was trying to be.  One thing the movie has going for it is the acting.  The performances are strong pretty much through out the movie, especially with the female lead.

Directed by Richard Parry who is mainly know for documentaries brings to life these characters and shows that he knows how to shoot stunning landscapes and is able to convey a realism with what is being showed on screen.  The film gives us a sense that this could very well be actual found footage of a band of explorers who got lost in these woods and were never heard from again.  Though there is one scene that really bothered me and that was when Kerry was all by herself and looking around for Leo and Brody.  There is a camera following her and shooting footage but we never know who that was.  It wasn’t Brody or Leo because at that time they were lost in the woods.  I thought that may add a little confusion near the end of the movie.

What Richard needed to work on was the pacing.  It started out good with the pacing, keeping things moving a long nicely at a good clip but once we get into the woods I felt that the pacing slowed to a point where the viewer is left waiting and waiting for something to happen.  This worked a little bit to the movies advantage when the scares came because it allows the viewer to let their guard down and then POW something happens and freaks you out.  The problem with that is that it takes a long while before anything like that happens.

Scoot McNairy, who was in “Monsters” and the upcoming “Argo” plays Brody, the boyfriend who loves to capture everything on camera.  McNairy gives a great performance of the nice guy who becomes obsessed with capturing everything on film and later on turns to the creepy side of life.  I really liked McNairy in “Monsters” and enjoyed seeing him in this film.  There is something honest in his acting on screen and this helps gives a genuine feeling to the characters he plays.  I can’t wait to see him in “Argo” as I’m sure he will give a spot on performance in that as well.

Anna Skellern from the TV series “Outnumbered” and “The Decent 2” plays Brody’s girlfriend Kerry.  Anna gives a very emotional performance especially near the end of the movie.  Anna’s character Kerry has a secret that she has bee keeping from Brody and it has to do with Leo.  Anna also gives a very honest performance and gives Kerry the realism needed to make the character and what is going on with the character believable.  Another strong performance from a great cast.

Andrew Hawley, recently seen in “Snow White and the Huntsman” plays Leo, the catalyst to what starts to happen between Brody and Kerry.  Andrew also brings the realism needed to make this character believable on screen and gives an honest performance.  The whole cast gives us their all and it really shows on screen and is definitely the movies strongest point.

This isn’t the worst found footage movie out there but it also doesn’t rank up there with the best of them.  It’s just below middle of the road for me and that really has to do with how the last act of the movie was handled.  The beginning really sets up something big and works well, but the last part just fell apart and I think really brought down the movie.  Yes I have to admit there were a few scares during the end but the question that remains is ‘will the viewer be able to stay with the movie long enough to get there?’  I really wanted to like this movie and like it a lot but I just walked away feeling more disappointment that enjoyment.

I give this movie 2.5 stars out of 5.  The strong acting and the decent directing keeps this movie afloat but not by much.  If you have a chance to see it and found footage is your thing then give it a shot, you might like.  Till next time my friends.

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REVIEW – HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA

Hotel Transylvania Poster

2.5 out of 5

Imagine a hotel where all the great monsters of the past come to relax and get way from life and knowing that they are safe from all humans.  That is part of the backbone behind “Hotel Transylvania”, the other is Dracula building this hotel to keep his daughter safe from the outside world.  As funny as this may seem to some, this movie is anything but.

I’m not going to go on too much about this movie, because frankly, there really isn’t much to say about it.  There really isn’t many laughs to the story itself, but rather laughs at random characters occupying about a couple seconds of screen time.  Two ones to watch out for are the Scream Cheese character and The Sponge.  Those seemed to get the biggest laughs from the audience.  This being a fun family movie, the theatre again had barely any bodies in seats.  This seems to becoming a trend lately with the movies.

Adam Sandler and his regular bunch of friends kick off the cast as the trying to be funny monsters.  Sandler as Dracula was just mind numbingly annoying, especially at the first of the movie.  I just wanted to rip my ears out and yell at him to SHUT UP.  If that was how Dracula would be if you were to meet him he would be more annoying of a vampire than Edward.  The only  monster that was even remotely funny was the Wolfman played by Boardwalk’s own Steve Buscemi.  That character was probably the best realized of the bunch.  you feel a little sorry for the Wolfman becuase all he wants is just some time to relax and get some quite time in, but with a huge bunch of kids, that doesn’t work out so well for him.  We also have Kevin James as Frankenstein, David Spade as the Invisible Man, Jon Lovitz as Quazimoto, and Molly Shannon as Wolfman’s wife/  The cast is not great, but not bad all at the same time.  Selena Gomez does a decent job as Dracula’s daughter Mavis, but I found Andy Samberg as Jonathan almost as equally irritating as Sandler’s Dracula.

Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, who is best know for directing the first “Clone Wars” show as well as other favorites such as Powderpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory.  He usually is good directing, fun animated shows, but for the big screen I feel that he fell flat.  I felt that there was very little Tartakovsky in the movie and more Sandler and friends, which I think was one of the big downfalls of the picture.  Though I really liked the hand animated scenes during the credits.  I think if Tartakovsky had better comedic actors in the roles it would have been a better movie, though I don’t totally blame the actors.  A lot still falls on the writers.  A movie with too many writers usually suffers and this movie was no exception.  The movie needed to be tightened and it just barely had a running time of just over 1 hour and 30 minutes, the movie could have used some trimming to being the running time down.

The CG is solid in the movie and the 3D worked very well.  It never felt gimmicky and really helped bringing depth to a lot of the scenes.  Overall the movie looked great, it just wasn’t executed well at all.

I give this movie 2.5 stars out of 5.  I didn’t totally hate it, just didn’t enjoy it like I was expecting to.  I think it’s a fun idea having the monsters we know and love being funny, but for this to work they actually need to be funny, not trying to be funny.  Don’t waste your money in the theatres on this one.  You would be better off keeping this one to a rental or streaming service.  It’s not a movie that needs to be rushed out and seen at the theatres, especially with the 14.00 dollar per ticket price tag.  With all the good movies opening up this weekend, this is one that can be missed, but if you have children and they really want to see it, wait for a matinee and take in the regular version not the 3D.  The 3D looked nice but won’t ruin the movie if you see it without 3D.  Till next time my friends.

REVIEW – LIVID

Livid Blu-ray

4.0 Out of 5

A young nurse in training is being showed the ropes dealing with the patients she will be looking after.  The last patient is an old lady who is in a coma hoped up to a respirator.  Legend has it that somewhere in this house is a treasure but no one knows where or what this treasure is.  Later back at the local pub her boyfriend and her brother decide they will break in and take some of the treasure.  Her boyfriend is a fisherman and doesn’t want to die at sea like his father did.  He wants a better life for them and he sees this treasure as a means to an end.  Once  at the manor, they break in and start to snoop around the creepy old house.  What they find should have stayed hidden.

LIVID is a French horror film and is brought to you by the company that made the film INSIDE.  This film covers a few genres during the course of the movie, straight horror, ghost story, and also has some fantasy elements in there as well.  Everything about this movie is well crafted and put together for a very chilling and scary romp through one of the creepiest houses I have seen in a long while.  This film is very atmospheric and relies a lot on sound and creepy visuals to send chills down your spine and make your skin crawl.  The ending to the film is one I didn’t see coming and getting there is like slowly going through madness.  Definitely a movie to watch with the lights out and the sound turned up.

The movie is subtitled but the subtitles were horrible.  They were too literally translated and there were at times the dialogue didn’t make sense, though it wasn’t hard to follow.  What did make sense helped with the understanding of the story, and also through the visuals it wasn’t hard to determine what was going on.

The movie is both written and directed by the team of Alexandre  Bustillo and Julien Maury.  They have brought to life a very beautiful looking horror film.  It is well shot and very well directed.  The pair take their time telling the story to help building the tension and the horror in the scenes that follow.  It is a wonder to behold on screen.  I wish I could say the same for their screenplay.  As much as I did love the movie, there were holes in the story, and I found that to be the weakest part of the movie.  The characters were well defined and the story well setup but part of the execution lacked a little.  I found there were some things that were brought into light but left without any explanation whatsoever.  They know how to shoot a beautiful piece of work, they just need to work on tightening up their writing.

The acting in the film by the cast was good.  It wasn’t cheesy or over the top which made me happy when watching the film because it isn’t an over the top style of movie.  Nothing stellar to point out in the acting department just that overall the acting was solid.

The effects in the movie, what little there were, were good.  They fit the scenes well and didn’t look fake. A good job should be noted to the make up department for the wonderful facial makeup work.  Very low key and very creepy.

I was generally thrilled with the movie overall.  There were plenty of genuine scares and the creepy tension building up really added to the horror of the film.  With a better written story I think this could have been a 5 star out of 5 movie.  Definitely one to get to watch around Halloween time.

I give this movie 4 stars out of 5.  This movie will chill you and I think the ending will surprise you.  If you have a chance to see this movie do it, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.  Till next time my friends.

REVIEW – RESIDENT EVIL RETRIBUTION

Resident Evil Retribution Poster

1.5 Out of 5

Another year another “Resident Evil” movie.  Not just another RE movie but another RE 3D movie.  I’m a huge fan of the game series, even though the series has been declining over the years, I always found the movies to be at the least a little fun and something that one can watch and escape while seeing the world get devoured by virus infected people.  The latest incarnation should have at least done that and not put me to sleep.

If you haven’t seen any of the previous films there is a nice little opening where the main character Alice tells you step by step what has been happening and how we ended up where we are now.  I thought that was a nice touch, and is good for the people that didn’t waste there time sitting through the last 4 movies.  Then I started to wonder, if you haven’t seen any of these movies before why start with number 5.  My wife has seen 1 of them and it was good for a laugh.

This time Alice is still trying to bring down Umbrella corporation as well as trying to find out why all the people she knew before that have died are coming back.  She soon learns what is going on and needs to enlist their help in stopping Umbrella before the world is totally dominated.  That is pretty much the short and the long of it because story wise it’s pretty much just running and shooting, and running and shooting.  Oh did I mention about the running and shooting.  The movie had a running time of 1 hour and 35 minutes and it seemed to go on forever.  It got to the point where I just didn’t care anymore and wanted to get out and get something to eat.  Story aside for a moment let’s jump to the acting.

I can usually forgive the acting a little in movies like this because it’s not supposed to be Shakespeare, but come on, at least give it some effort.  The acting in Retribution is horrendous and very laughable at best.  I do have to say though, it’s not all the actors and actresses fault, a lot of the fault lies in the script…or lack thereof.  The dialogue feels like it was written but an elementary school’s English class.  I’m sure an infinite number of monkies with a typewriter could have turned out a better screenplay than Paul W.S. Anderson did.  The whole thing was just atrocious, and this is coming from someone who at one time found the series fun and went into this one with such low expectation that I thought I was going to walk away thinking that was at least better than I was expecting.  No, definitely not this time.

This brings me to Paul W.S. Anderson.  How does this guy still work in Hollywood.  I understand that the series is a bad film series but somehow the cash cow keeps mooing and the money keeps coming in.  Seriously enough is enough.  At least my wife and I used movie passes and didn’t have to pay to see it.  Take that Mr. Anderson you didn’t get our money this time.  On a serious note, this guy tries to be all style and no substance.  He does seem to have some good ideas but just can’t properly execute them.  One word of advice Mr. Anderson, now I’m starting to sound like the Matrix, work on your story, flesh it out better.  I think that is one of the BIG problems is that the story is not fleshed out at all and everyone just runs around willy nilly and shoots at anything that moves.  Stylized violence in this movie is so over the top it becomes very boring.  Something that should have been a fun scary action movie did nothing more but bore me into an early sleep.

His wife Mila Jovovich is back as Alice.  She is great in action scenes in this and makes the fights frantic and believable but the dialogue she has to say, as sparse as it is has to be some of the worst I have heard in a long while.  I really like Mila and I thought one of her best roles was as Joan of Arc and I wish she would go back to doing movies like those that show off her acting talents.  I was hoping that this would have been the last one for her but the way it ends I’m pretty sure it’s not.

All of the other actors and actresses did either mediocre to lousy jobs as their respected characters.  I won’t bother going into detail, they were just that bad.

The effects were decent and fit well into the movie.  Nothing seemed too green screened or digital until the very end of the picture.  I do have to say the final shot in the movie is epic and if the last movie is made properly could become epic in content.  Though if Paul W.S.Anderson has his way it probably won’t.

The music is another thing that bothered me about the movie.  I felt it was always in your ear, booming through the speakers.  Come on guys, know how to level a soundtrack.  Seriously it was always there and became very distracting in scenes.

Overall I give this movie a 1.5 out of 5 because one early action sequence really caught my eye and the effects weren’t half bad in this.  Other than that stay away from this one until it comes to one of the streaming services out there or Redbox.  This won’t be worth the price of admission.  If you have free movie passes like we did, I urge you to save them….seriously.  Till next time my friends.

REVIEW – EXIT HUMANITY

Exit Humanity

4.5 Out of 5

I’ve always been a fan of the zombie movies, especially since I first saw the original B&W “Night of the Living Dead” when I was a youngster.  There was something frighteningly interesting about the walking dead even if they were starting to wage war on mankind.  Zombies have come a long way since those days and today we normally get stories about a virus that infected the human race that makes the fast running zombies.  To me zombies will always be the slow, lumbering in the darkness beings out for one thing, human flesh.

“Exit Humanity” takes a different approach to the zombie horror film and gives us a story about how zombies walking during The Civil War.  We follow the journal of Civil War vet Edward Young, and his telling of how the rise of the zombie almost became the downfall of humanity.  One thing that really struck me about this film is the pacing and how powerful of a story it actually is.  This isn’t your full of action high intense zombie gore fest, this is more of a character study of a man and how far he goes until he feels like he has reached the end of his rope.  A story of a man will to risk it all in the face of this horror to try and make some sense as to what is actually happening.

The pacing of this film is unlike other type of zombie movies.  It is set up in chapters, each chapter representing a portion of Edward Young’s journal.  For the first part of the movie there is little to no dialogue, except for the wonderful narration of the diary by the great Brian Cox.  Cox is a favorite of mine and his voice is masterful to listen to as he tells the tale that Edward Young committed to paper.  With the direction taken for this film, you really feel the pain this character has gone through.  He has returned from a hunting trip after the war only to find his son gone and he wife has been turned into a walking corpse which he has to put down.  He takes his horse and goes out looking for his son, only to come across more of these walking dead creatures.  He spends a lot of  the time writing in his journal and studying these creatures trying to make sense of them.

Edward eventually comes across his son, but his worst fear has come true,  He too is an undead and must be brought down.  He burns the body and is going to spread his sons ashes at a waterfall he always promised he would take his son to someday.  During this time his horse gets bitten and soon has to be put down, not so much because of the fear of the horse turning into a zombie, but more of the fact that the injury is too severe for the horse to travel on.  The ending scene with the horse is powerfully acted and directed and makes it a very emotional scene, something you really don’t get with zombie movies.

Edward, on the verge of suicide, ends up becoming friends with a man called Issac and agrees to help him look for his sister who has been taken by General Williams and his band of rebels.  These guys fought along side Issac and Edward in the war but have their own agenda on how to deal with these zombies.  Williams has the notion that there is someone out there that is immune to the infection caused by a zombie bite and is looking to make a cure.

Directed by John Geddes who’s last film was the movie “Scarce” has done a masterful job with “Exit Humanity”.  His slow approach to film style and pacing really has made a powerful movie in a genre that is usually set aside for gore fest action.  There are scenes of zombie killing and some gore but the real story here is that of Edward Young.  I loved how Geddes incorporated animated sequences into the movie that showed passage scenes where Edward was traveling fro one place to another.  They were well thought out and placed perfectly into the movie.  Geddes definitely has a great eye when setting up scenes and executing them.  His slow style of directing in this film really pulls out the emotion in scenes and draws you, the audience into the picture deeper.  Your eyes will be glued to the screen wondering where this story is taking this Edward Young character.

Geddes also wrote the screenplay for the film as well.  He has a knack for writing journal dialogue that actually sounds like writing from a journal.  The writing is solid throughout the movie and never really stumbles.  It makes for a well rounder production and I love how Geddes ties in the birth of the zombie, of how this epidemic started.

The cast across the board was strong.  From Mark Gibson who played Edward to Dee Wallace who played Eve, the lady in the woods.  Bill Moseley plays General Williams, and anyone who is familiar with Bill Moseley’s work will be glad to be seeing Bill doing classic Bill. Brian Cox is wonderful as the narrator of the journal.  All actors did great in their parts and made up a very strong cast.

The make up effects for the zombies were very well done.  Even though this movie had a budget of only 300,000 dollars the effects looked great.  Nothing cheesy looking, just horrific monsters slowly coming out of the woods seeking out their next victim.

If you are a zombie lover this movie is for you, even if you are not a lover of zombie pictures check it out anyway.  It is a really well made movie, a really well done character drama about a mans struggle not only with himself but with how the world is spiraling downhill.  If there is only one fault I would say it would have to be near the end with the confrontation between Young and Williams.  I thought that was a little poorly done and could have been executed better.

I give this movie 4.5 stars our of 5.  One of the best zombie movies I have seen and is definitely going to be on my re-watch list.  The style and substance of the movie come together perfectly to give us a take on zombies that I don’t think we have seen before.  A definitely watch for all horror fans and movie fans in general.  It’s not so much scary as it is emotional.  In essence is it one man’s emotional journey down a dark path searching for the light at the end of the tunnel.  Till next time my friends.

REVIEW – EXCISION

Excision Blu-ray

2.0 Out of 5

I really wanted to see this film, and from the way it sounded it was going to be one heck of a ride through dementia, but what I ultimately found out, the shock value of the dream images wore thin because of the boredom that took over while watching the movie.  The story is a simple one.  A young teenage girl seeks the approval of her over bearing mother while having delusions that she, one day will become this amazing surgeon.  The young girl Pauline not only has to deal with her dysfunctional family, but also a younger sister who is suffering from cystic fibrosis.  Pauline wants nothing but the best for her sister and will do anything to keep her safe.

Slow burn movies work to a degree, but this one moved at a snails pace.  At times the movie hits those psychotic episodes where you wonder just what are you watching, but like I was saying earlier that portion of the movie over stays it`s welcome and when the shocking images arrive their become none effective of shocking the audience.  The directing in the movie as well falls short and becomes stale about half way through the movie.  The only really solid ground in the movie is the acting and it does have a few people in here that I was not expecting.

Richard Bates Jr. directs this movie and before this made a short film of this subject with the same name that won numerous awards.  He does have talent, don`t get me wrong, but he needs to have a tighter pace for a movie like this. At the beginning of the movie I felt I was watching really short scenes string together and that gave the movie an out of place feeling.  You wonder where it`s actually going and when it finds that out would it eventually get there.  Bates does make a good character study film and does a good job getting the audience connected to the characters.  You really feel hatred for the mother, sadness for the father.  You feel the strength of the young sister and the failure that Pauline thinks she is.  Bates knows what he`s doing behind the lens, he just needs to tighten a bit to make a more coherent story.

The acting is strong.  With performances from Marlee Matlin,  Malcolm McDowell, John Waters, and porn star Traci Lords.  Traci gives a strong performance as the mother.  She really knows how to make the audience hate a character and it really works in this film.  It`s good to see an adult industry actress give a good performance outside of the world of porn.

The star of the show though is AnnaLynne McCord.  She plays Pauline, the troubled teenager.  Pauline wants to do two things in life, lose her virginity and become a successful surgeon.  She has these demented visions of cutting up bodies and at one point turns to necrophilia.  She seems to be a lost soul that just doesn`t know how to allow someone to help them.  Throughout the movie she prays to Jesus about what she wants out of life and how she is going to do good in the world and turn her life around.  McCord is brilliant in the role of Pauline and is almost mesmerizing to watch on screen.

Overall this movie is either going to be a big hit, or a big miss.  A lot of people are praising this movie and in some ways I see a bit of genius film making in this movie, but not enough that I can fully recommend this movie.

I give this movie 2 stars out of 5.  The performances are strong but that`s about it.  The story and film at times seemed a little pretentious because of the way it was playing out.  It`s a drawn out movie that needed to be a little shorter and tighter in the playback.   It`s not your typical style movie, which can be a good thing, but for me it was a bad thing and really didn`t play out well.  Though if you you decide to watch it stay till the end.  It does have quite the ending.  Till next time my friends.

REVIEW – GRAVE ENCOUNTERS 2

Grave Encounters 2 Poster

2.5 Out of 5

The first “Grave Encounters” movie was okay.  It wasn’t great but was a decent watch.  We now have a sequel to the original expertly entitled “Grave Encounters 2”.  The story behind this movie is that a budding film student becomes engrossed with the first movie that he thinks everything was real and starts to make a documentary about  how the makers of “Grave Encounters” are covering up what really happened to the actors and the people associated with the first movie.

It is a unique way to approach the sequel to the movie and in some ways works to it’s advantage.  The acting for the main character Alex Wright(Richard Harmon) is strong and works well as we see this fun loving college film student start to spiral down a dark path while making this documentary.  He has become totally obsessed with the first movie and nothing will stop him to get the story of what he thinks really happened out there.

The movie starts out with video clips of fans of the movie telling the audience what they thought of the first one, of course they are staged quips from these people and was a little strange to open the movie with but it kind of sets the tone of the movie.  We are then bombarded with quick cuts and short clips of the film students partying it up and their off and on again working on a student horror film.  This worked to a point until it became a little tiring waiting for to back to the asylum.  During this time Alex gets messages from a strange message board poster to meet them at the asylum in Canada and the reality of the situation will be given to the film student and he will have the proof he needs to give to the public the real story of what happened that fateful night.

This is where I think the movie kind of works and fails at the same time.  It was cool and fun for the first bit to see this footage but also I felt it dragged the movie down in pacing.  They could have cut out a lot of the partying scenes and get a quicker to the meat of the story, the haunted asylum, that’s why the audience is watching, to see scary things happen.  They do happen, just not quick enough for the style of movie..found footage.  I think this is the failing point of most found footage movie is the pacing and all the fluff footage that gets thrown in.  If the writers and directors could keep the movie quick, concise and to the point it would make for a better experience.

The acting overall is a mixed bag.  Richard Harmon was the strongest of the group while Dylan Playfair was the weakest, mostly because of his over acting.  I found Dylan’s character Trevor, best friend to Alex, was a tad on the annoying side and brought the movie down a bit as well. Stephanie Bennett did a good job as Tess, Alex’s girlfriend and star of Alex’s movie.  The rest of the cast overall were okay, just nothing too memorable.  This time around acting was not the stronger suit.

The Vicious Brothers were back again as writers and did a decent job with the script though the dialogue at times was corny.  What they need to work on is pacing of the story.  It was a unique try on the found footage genre with the sequel that worked in some places and flopped in others.  They added in some nice scares through out the asylum scenes but like the first one there was too much fluff between waiting.

The ending worked to a degree though the acting at times with the ending character who shows up was laughable at times, and for the frame of mind of this character you shouldn’t be laughing at things they were saying.  I won’t go into details of who this character is but fans of the first movie should be able to recognize them.

Overall it wasn’t bad movie but I felt it didn’t live up to the first one.  A unique take on the genre with subpar story telling and a mixed bag of acting thrown together with a few good scares will only work I think for people who have seen and liked the first movie.  If this was the only scary movie you had the choice to watch come this Halloween then your night won’t be totally wasted.

I give this movie 2.5 stars out of 5.  It’s not great but what keeps it a float are the couple good scares and the good performance from Richard Harmon keep this from totally bombing.  I recommend this one only if there isn’t anything scary out there you haven’t seen or if you want to see where they go with this sequel.  Till next time my friends.