Spooktober Movie-Watch Round-Up 2021 – Week 1

2021 has been speeding by at an unprecedented rate. It seems like last week it was May and then suddenly it’s the BEST DARN SEASON OF THE YEAR, and I’m not going to let it just shimmy on by! And so, I have begun breaking out the spooky-type movies in FULL FORCE to get m’self in the mood. I mean, it’s not like there’s anyone else around here with which to get any other kind of moods going…

Anyway! Horror movies! 2021! Let’s go!

~ The Fourth Kind ~

I saw this in theatres when it was originally released in 2009, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I thought of it then. But I had the faintest inkling that I enjoyed it, so in 2021 I rented it on my Playstation 4. As it turns out, it kinds sucks!

The Fourth Kind is a film about alien abductions. You know what it has absolutely zero of? ALIENS. Also, zero basis in real-life happenings, despite the fact that the film opens with Milla Jovovich telling you that it’s based on actual events and features for-reals archival footage. It’s all bunk! Lies! A scam! All the “archival footage” is just actors, too! Not even con men from 2000 trying to convince people of aliens, but actors hired on specifically to do this movie! It’s dumb and I can’t get over it!

Some part of me gets that this film was trying to do a unique spin on the whole “found footage” thing that was so popular at the time. But the only thing it accomplished was making me feel lied to. It’s one thing to tell me that your movie was “discovered” in a spooky forest or whatever, but when you go the extra mile to tell me that the ancient-looking footage that is spliced over top of half the film is from a real-world case? I don’t know, it feels more genuinely dishonest, like it’s actually trying to pull one over on me.

So that’s enough of that. As much as I adore Elias Koteas, I simply cannot help but hate this film. It’s slow and boring and is built upon layers and layers of lies. Oh, and did I mention that there is not a single shot of an extraterrestrial or even a spacecraft? Literally zero payoff. Who does that? You have to give your audience something. We sat around and put up with your drama for 95 minutes, give us two seconds of a blurry Grey, for biscuit’s sake!

~ Dark Skies ~

Switching gears completely, we move into what I consider to be the absolute apex of alien abduction films. Mind you, I’ve never seen Close Encounters or Fire in the Sky, so I’m missing some pretty valuable data.

And yes, I have had a bit of a thing about aliens lately. Is that a problem?

Dark Skies is, thankfully, just a movie. It does not want you to think that it is based in reality; it happily accepts that it is fiction and just wants to take you on a ride. I can respect that! Also, it stars Keri Russell, who may be one of the most beautiful women to ever walk this earth. But I guess that’s besides the point. Or is it? Who knows any more?

What I really like about Dark Skies is that -and I’ve already ruined it for you, for that I’m genuinely sorry- if you don’t know what it’s about, it kinda pulls a fast one on you. In 2013, possession/haunting movies were the hottest thing going, and for its first 45 minutes or so, Dark Skies is more than content to let you think that that’s what it is. The first time I watched it (in 2014), that’s what I thought it was going to be. That’s why I watched it! But then it’s all like *SHOOP* and you’re like OH DAMN as the rug comes out from under you and it turns out this movie is about ALIENS.

And from there, it’s pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. You know, Google searches, becoming the neighbourhood pariahs, consulting with a nutjob believer (played wonderfully by J.K. Simmons). But I still really liked it! I found the characters endearing, their problems relatable, and best of all: we got to see the aliens. Not clearly, and not for more than a few frames here and there, but at least it was something! And you know, less is often more when it comes to movie monsters that are supposed to inspire fear, so I think it was actually a pretty perfect execution.

If you hadn’t come to this conclusion yet, yes, I would absolutely recommend Dark Skies. I’ve watched it twice now, and I think I probably enjoyed it even more the second time around. Kind of the complete antithesis to The Fourth Kind.

Aside: Based on the poster shown above, maybe the ALIENS! angle wasn’t exactly a secret. But in my defense, I had never seen that poster prior to today. Also it’s a movie from the producers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious, both of which are films about evil ghosts, so I feel justified.

~ Critters Attack! ~

Full disclosure: I’ve never seen any of the Critters movies. The closest I’ve ever come is that scene in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when Raph is walking out of the movie theatre after having seen the original Critters. It’s a series I’ve always wanted to watch, but never made the time for. So when I discovered a recent (2019) Netflix-exclusive sequel, I jumped on it.

You know, despite it being a Netflix-exclusive film and I should really know better than to watch those.

That said, I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say upfront that Critters Attack! is very bad. The plot made no sense and the acting was atrocious. Even though it’s going for a bad 90’s creature feature vibe, it totally missed the mark and has absolutely none of the charm that it’s trying to imitate.

Critters Attack! begins with two meteorites falling to Earth in some midwest college town. One of the meteorites bears the eponymous critters, who are fuzzy, little aliens that eat people and reproduce by shooting furballs out of their backs. Not unlike mogwais. But then we discover that the second meteorite that fell was carrying a white, female critter who is completely uninterested in eating people, but rather is bent on killing her own kind.

The movie’s heroes find the white critter while on a picnic, and start carrying her around with them while they attempt to flee the town as the violent critters start to overrun the place and murder everyone. Then… honestly, I don’t really remember how it all unfolds, but the heroes end up at the college campus facing down the entire critter horde. They manage to win, with the help of the lady critter and some random woman who I can only assume is from the previous movies. Day saved, but 80 minutes wasted.

Probably the nicest thing that I can say about this film is that it relies almost entirely on practical effects. I’m sure there are some CG effects snuck in there, but the critters themselves are all puppets, and all the gore was definitely really happening on-set. Even with that said, I still wouldn’t recommend it. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t goofy, it was basically void of anything that might lead to enjoyment. Steer clear of this one.

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