I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Jared McMillan // Film Critic
Beginning in 2009 with the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, Blumhouse Productions has become one of the more synonymous names in horror. Started by Jason Blum, their movies work on an independent model, using a micro budget in all of its production endeavors to attain maximum profit for the company. For instance, the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies were made on a total budget of around $28 million, but have grossed a total of $727 million.
Because of this model, Blumhouse churns out more horror movies every year since their inception. Some of them are huge hits (INSIDIOUS, SINISTER, THE PURGE), some are complete misses (THE LORDS OF SALEM, THE GREEN INFERNO), but they always turn a profit. Every now and then they’ll take on a different project (Blumhouse produced the Academy Award-winning WHIPLASH), but they stick to the horror genre for their bread-and-butter.
In 2014, Blumhouse started an offshoot of their company called BH Tilt. This side of the production looks to cast a wider net for Blumhouse, primarily for other platforms outside of the cineplexes, such as VOD or streaming services. Just last week, BH Tilt dropped three new titles onto Netflix without much fanfare. In this edition of The Queue, Fresh Fiction takes a look at which are worth your view.
Sarah (AMERICAN HORROR STORY’s Lily Rabe), the lone survivor of a cult mass suicide, agrees to return to the scene of the crime for a documentary crew, led by Maggie (Jessica Alba). They are interested to know more about what happened that day, as both women have links to that tragic day. But, as soon as they step on the premises, things start going bump in the night, getting worse with every reel of footage they watch. Soon enough, the crew members start changing, and the terror grows with every fact that comes to the surface.
Directed by Phil Joanou, what could’ve been something found footage-like is thankfully avoided, however there is an overdose of fish-eye lens that distracts from the film. Also, a lot of the plot revolves around past home footage that is unbalanced in presentation, and Sarah’s transition from victim just sort of happens. The movie is saved by its third act, as the audience realizes just who Jim Jacobs (played with scene-chewing verve by Thomas Jane) really was as leader of the cult. Jacobs is the center of the movie, so the more screen time he has, the better the movie gets, and it ends on a very good note. It’s a lot of clumsiness to get to a well-done payoff.
Mallory (Julianne Hough) is on the road, moving out to be with her fiancée. Her car breaks down in the middle of the desert, and out of nowhere, Christian (THE FLASH’s Teddy Sears) helps give her a jump. Driving him back to town, he makes it known that he’s there for evil intentions, and Mallory drives her car off a curve to stop him. However, he makes it out and she’s trapped, where Christian leaves her there as a form of long torture. Can she escape before he eventually kills her?
Honestly, it’s impossible to care. The movie is so boring, neither going to a horrific mood or a campy feel. Mallory screams with a raspy voice so often that it sounds like she’s straining to act terrified. Christian’s motives are never really explained, and he’s just not that terrifying as a villain. It’s slowly paced and there were instances where I had to fight the urge to turn it off. A complete miss and a complete mess.
The movie opens on a terrible car accident, with Evie (Isla Fisher) in the hospital. She’s confused, but certain that people died. Flash forward a year later, Evie and her husband David (Anson Mount) have purchased a house and vineyard, and are also expecting a baby. As soon as they move in, Evie starts experiencing hallucinations, while everyone else thinks she’s delusional. She gets put on medication, but stops the pills once she knows that these visions mean something… but what?
VISIONS seems to be unsure of itself as the movie goes along. The scares are a bit generic and everybody, aside from the protagonist, is light on emotion. This is all done to lull the viewer in order to achieve maximum impact with its climax. There’s definitely something special about the house, but not at all what you think. The scares are given reason, which is something that gets glossed over in most horror movies. Not great by any means, but the movie winds up to be something decent.
All three titles are available to stream on Netflix right now.