Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Ten New Indie Titles

Sorry about the lateness of this weeks cinematic skinny dissections, but I wanted to fit in all the glorious flicks I possibly could for maximum movie watching wattage.  So below are a whopping ten film reviews from good to bad to keep you up to movie date.  Tough guys on a manly mission of mayhem, sci-fi stories, docs on dancers and haunted houses, strange estranged siblings, Christmas carnage, scientists gone psycho, surfing sabbaticals, wayward girls kidnapped for profit and malevolent lighthouses all make up the subjects of the films in this weeks Encapsulated Movie Reviews. Check out the reviews of the films Brawl In Cell Block 99, The Osiris Child: Science Fiction Volume One, Bobbi Jene, Haunters: The Art of the Scare, Barracuda, Better Watch Out, They Remain, Rip Tide, Trafficked and The Forlorned below!

(RLJ Entertainment)

A flick steeped in heavy rich storytelling tone, S. Craig Zahler’s follow-up to the equally bold Bone Tomahawk is a real exercise in the mastery memorable mood makes.  Giving the best performance of his career, lead man Vince Vaughn defies the odds by losing his comedic twitches to play a man with a deep dark center and it’s effective as hell.  (Reminds one of the odds against Disney kid Kurt Russell taking on the role of Snake Plissken – another gamble that paid off!)  Frankly the only reason this stark standout doesn’t get a full five-stars is an obtuse title (getting to Cell Block 99 doesn’t happen till almost the end of the film!) and some seriously familiar story points (anti-hero with moral code, fighting to save the wife, ect.), but what does work in this daring brawl kicks serious somber cinematic ass.

(RLJ Entertainment)

Surprisingly decent sci-fi outing that starts out in stereotypical fashion (proud pop races to dying planet to save his daughter!) but then surprisingly proceeds to present fascinating characters and a layered storytelling style.  Kellan Lutz and Daniel MacPherson make a perfect ying and yang odd couple as charismatic criminal and focused father, plus loved creepy couple Isabel Lucas and Luke Ford as well.  (Think a younger version of Lance Henricksen and Ellen Barkin’s sadistic sweethearts in Johnny Handsome!)  Add to that some decent space visuals and you got a flick where a volume two seems like a solid sci-fi idea.

(Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Bobbi Jene is a documentary that is essentially two parts – one about a girl yearning to go back to America after a decade in Israel and the other about reaching new heights of creativity with dance and body movement.  Both are captivating here, with subject Bobbi Jene Smith getting real and raw in all areas and offering a glimpse into her turbulent world.  Best of the bunch though is the bold completely sans clothing dance and movement event Bobbi Jene creates and performs to a stunned crowd – the power of passionate performance here leaves marks.

(The Brain Factory)

Candid look at both standard haunted houses as well as their emerging ‘extreme’ horror experiences competitors from all angles. Interesting to hear from fans (they love getting to the end…only to go again!) and non-fans (one gal is fully traumatized by her haunted house sporting neighbors!), but the real chiller is the interviews with the folks who run the various buildings of death.  From basic builders to mayhem master craftsmen, all seem a tad on the sadistic side and their fascination and joy in the terror of others is scarier than any ghoul, goblin or ghost – reality chills.

(Orion Pictures and Samuel Goldwyn Films)

A more somber Single White Female, Barracuda is a slow-burn thriller constantly waiting to pounce.  Meaning the arrival of estranged twisted half-sister Sophie Reid into the life of everyday gal Allison Tolman has some inspired insane moments, but never really pays off the long lingering menace it seems to promise.  And while Reid is certainly unsettling as the seething inside Sinaloa, her work does get bogged down with a conclusion unbefitting of her carefully constructed character.  Wall to wall with subtle movie menace, Barracuda proves there can be too much of a good thing.

(Well Go USA)

A home invasion at Christmas tale given a sadistic new twist, Better Watch Out sadly never outshines its clever moment of change.  Meaning the new spin on the babysitter under attack theme is cool and creative, but without a sinful story to continue the askew fun the floundering film seems to go nowhere.  Plus rife with performances that are either cardboard cutouts or highly unbelievable and with a gaggle of uninspired kills, Better Watch Out feels a Santa delivered a one-trick pony.


Compelling cinematic premise of a couple of scientists sent to a remote encampment of a cult – who all perished under mysterious circumstances – to collect evidence and report their findings.  It’s a creepy campfire tale that could have been a wonderful horror of the mind story (not to mention could have had the best elements of Repulsion inside a couple of half-egg shaped bio-domes!), but that as per most recent horror fare it gets way to bogged down with quick scares to go for more meaningful mayhem.  Plus the whole constant dream within a dream device grows tired, the two leads have little chemistry together and the artifact of unknown origin is lame to look at – even a killer ending can’t help this one remain riveting.

(Marvista Entertainment)

Stepping out from more even slightly social commentary based work like Radio Rebel (a surprisingly decent though fluffier take on Pump Up The Volume!), actress Debby Ryan goes for a more standard afterschool special outing this time around and the result is the cookie cutter Rip Tide.  With Ryan playing a top model who heads to her aunt in Australia to find herself, the film is feel good 101 complete with quirky characters (Naomi Sequeira’s Chicka is out of 80’s oddballs!), back baggage resolved (all you need is family!) and passion in life found. A kind of Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitters Dead for the surf and sun crowd, the super safe Rip Tide is a flick that never makes waves.

(Epic Pictures)

I get why such high profile actors like Ashley Judd, Anne Archer, Sean Patrick Flanery, Jason London, Patrick Duffy and even Efren “Pedro” Ramirez would lend their celebrity to a film dealing with the harrowing area of human trafficking, but as a movie this one is sadly all over the place.  Highly exploitative while also trying to be a tale of soulful survival, Trafficked is a tough movie row to hoe and leaves the viewer with a desire to have a cleansing shower afterward.  A classic case of an important subject told the wrong way – a documentary would have been more fitting.

(Midnight Releasing)

While I admire the no-budget scare ideas within The Forlorned, sadly none actually elicit fear.  Meaning the use of shadow-on-the-wall hogs from hell, creature POV’s, jump scares, snapping mouse traps, bloody water wells, maggot-filled devil’s food cake and a bug-eyed lead all don’t lend themselves to frightening heights.  A poor man’s The Fog, The Forlorned should be left the same way as its haunted lighthouse – abandoned.



I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

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