Screen Squinty’s “The Boy” Review.

Film: The Boy.
Directed by: William Brent Bell.
Released: 2016.
Running Time: 97 min.

This is an American Chinese horror/psychological film directed by William Brent Bell and written by Stacey Delay and staring Lauren Cohan as Greta, a young pretty something who takes a job as a nanny to a creepy doll named Brahms in a creepy house, and gets sucked into the mystery of it all while being haunted by said doll.

The technical aspect of the film was perhaps the strongest part of it, utilizing some clever little transitions between shots here and there such as the transition from the close up of the photo of the little boy then morphing in transition to the doll in the next shot. The utilizing light and shadow was also smartly used in closeups of the doll’s face from time to time, providing this sort of eerie almost organic other-worldliness to the doll.

The film had some decent acting from the lead of Lauren Cohan as Greta, who did a good job in developing something of a believable dynamic with the Brahms doll (at least with what she had to work with) and a decent effort with the leads depiction all together.

Unfortunately though, whatever good qualities can be found in the film it is still hampered by the most important aspect for the film, the story.

Needless to say, there is nothing original about the rather old cliche of a doll as the focal point creep factor, but that in itself isn’t necessarily whats wrong with the film. Any movie can use cliches and still be a good movie as long as how you use them is original as possible, interesting, and clever.

You can tell that this film thought it was doing so, or at least trying to think it was, but it fell through in so many ways.

Certainly the premise can seem a little ridiculous at first glance (which rather appropriately matches peoples reaction to Brahms in the movie) but if the story is given enough time to be properly nurtured, to develop progressively overtime, whittling down Greta’s sense of what is real and what isn’t, then it could have worked. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t take the time to do so.

There is nothing overly internal that is properly developed in the character from the beginning to set her up, and the later revelation of her losing her baby was sort of rushed and just blurted out in a bit of exposition. The character rather readily accepts that Brahms is no ordinary doll, and doesn’t really try to investigate Brahms overmuch other then asking a few questions and looking at some pictures.There is no properly developed mystery, no hook that could keep spectators invested.

Because the story wasn’t properly developed by the time the twist ending happens, there really isn’t anything to support the believably of said twist. It just exists for the sake of it. Had the Greta questioned her own faculties a bit more, or the story took greater advantage of the psychological effects of her own isolation, and given her just a bit more believable skepticism, the twist wouldn’t have been so…there.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad film visually, with some decent cinematography and the doll was reasonably creepy within the cannon of the story and the acting was good (with what they had to work with). But the story is riddled with underdevelopment and rush jobs here and there which made the conclusion weak and dissatisfying and overall…meh.

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The Seven Days of Christmas: A Christmas Horror Story.

note“On the last day of Christmas (yes I know it’s the 29th),
Your Screen Squinty gave to thee…”note

A Christmas Horror Story.

Well, for those of you who haven’t heard of it before, A Christmas Horror Story; is a Canadian 2015 horror film directed by Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, and Brett Sullivan that is a loosely connected set of stories of various residents of the town of Baily Downs and there horror stories during the holidays: Santa is beset by zombie elves, a family invokes the wrath of Krampus, a group of teenagers get locked in the basement, and scene of a previous murder, beneath there school, and a troubled couple and their son should have paid attention to the no trespassing sign and gotten a plastic tree instead. All the while William Shatner is manning the radio station with Christmas carols and egg nog to spare.

This Frankenstein amalgam is a beast of the bits of good, the “meh,” and the bad sandwiched between a great opening and ending. To deconstruct this holiday horror hoagie, I will break down the various fillings and see if this film is worth taking a bite into.

First off, the good.

The opening of the film was actually really intriguing. It opened with this great little mildly creepy opening score that was surprisingly well composed and moderately epical. The opening scene of a Santa (George Buza) in the reindeer stable turning around and facing the stable doors, covered in wounds, before it flashes onto 12 hours before hand, was actually a very attention grabbing scene. It makes you want to find out what the hell happened to Santa, and what lay beyond that door, and when the ending came, it tied it neatly into into the opening in a way that saved a really cheesy middle ground of the Santa’s arc, and made one go “Well…that part was actually good after all.”

The cinematography was also pretty good, and the mise-en-scene of each scene was well presented for each scene, with a particular nod to Santa’s North Pole, and its creepy nativity scene props in the school arc, and of course, the appropriate amount of elf gore.

The best of the arcs perhaps would have to be the Santa arc. Granted it had its faults, but it was fun in the sheer fact of seeing Santa Buza brutally smashing up undead elf skulls, and the great little twist in the closer as I said really saved it.

The “meh” parts are rather profuse throughout the film: Krampus was okay, but nothing to write home about, and rather underwhelming overall for that story arc, though the fate of teenager was not too bad.

In the basement arc meanwhile, there was some decent build of tension in one scene, and the great use of those nativity props out of focus and in shadow really heightened the tension, though the rest of the story was a bit half-assed, and you’re not surprised or overly interested at all by what is happening to them either.

Now for the bad.

This film, while maintaining separate story arcs only vaguely connected by the setting and some relationships between characters which was more plot convenience, could have benefited by an overarching element that would have really tied them all together, which this film actually did have on hand in the reveal of Buza’s character. All these separate arcs with some different endings using Santa as the over-arching element, and this would have been a really good film, but nope, they went with going for to many different fillings, spilling all over the place.

The characters were also not overly fleshed out enough, and plot elements were introduced suddenly and without proper believably, and an element like the Krampus, in two of the arcs makes no sense unless Santa was in both of them.

The most useless of the arcs was the Christmas tree one. underwhelming, and felt put in there to fill up time better utilized elsewhere. it was beyond half-assed, and more negative zero-assed that was uncomfortable, characters out of nowhere, and not necessary. even the acting was somewhat awkward.

Overall, this is not a necessarily bad film, just a mildly entertaining film with zombie elves, that had a great beginning, a great ending, but the filler in between leaves you mildly confused, bored and frustrated, particularly as there was potential here to have brought this into the, perhaps not fantastic, but at least good film category, which sadly this falls short of, Santa Buza or no Santa Buza.

Film Trailer at


Finders Keepers: A Review.

HFD Productions, “Finders Keepers,” 2014, google images.

Film: Finders Keepers.
Directed by: Alexander Yellan.
Released: 2014.
Running Time: 84 min.

This is an American horror film about a divorced/separated mother who moves into a house with a history with doll that her daughter finds that twists the little girl to its own ends.

Well…if there was ever a really bad movie, and I mean so bad that you question the sanity of the person who made this, and not in a good way, then you would half way have a film more decent then this!

This is a paint by numbers factory groaner that is good only if one wishes to play a drinking game of spot that cliché looking for an easy liver rot. While clichés can at times be sprinkled here and there in film, in some cases its almost unavoidable, there are so many in this one, some so outdated that any amateur filmmaker out of public school would not use them, that the entire piece is an almost fascinating artifact to educate children on what not to do in making a film.

I won’t delve too much into the special effects. It’s clear this is a B-movie or a made for TV movie, so there is some leeway, but still, I’ve seen better effects on an episode of Teletubbies, there wasn’t anything much else in the cinematography that makes it stand out.

Then there’s characters…whoo boy.

You can tell that most of the lead actors, particularly the mother, knew they had a stinker and decided to not even bother with much effort, just another paycheck piece for the bills. There is no identity or development for these people, they are so stiff and detached that the extras and side characters (a.k.a your red shirts for the next 80 minutes), were the only ones even mildly trying (geez Marina Sirtis, what did they offer you? A car made out of gold?).

The only glimmer of good about this film was the actress who played the little girl, who, while a typical archetype for this type of story, you can tell the was putting her all into it, with some genuinely good expressions and the only one of the main characters expressing any sort of attached realistic emotion to the plot.

Overall, an unmemorable story, lack luster performances, with the exception of the lead child actress, and an all-around bingo game of cliché inequity.


It’s worth noting that this movie is so bad that IMDb lists the starring role as the garbage man (in it for like 2 minutes without a speaking role). This is why I haven’t utilized actors names, since it’s difficult to hammer down who was who, let alone remember the names of these characters directly after watching this uninspired clap trap.

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Goodnight Mommy: A (short) Review.

Film: Goodnight Mommy.
Written and Directed by: Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala.
Released: 2014 (eng sub 2015).
Running time: 93 min.

This is a Austrian Horror film about two brothers who have a contentious relationship with a woman that they doubt to be their mother whom returns to them after plastic surgery.

This is a movie about ambiance. Everything from the amazing
cinematography, the rife symbolic imagery, to the character portrayals is
about the experience of hallucinating. Even though you
know early on the secret surrounding the two boys, its not about
revelation of the secret surrounding them, so much as watching the fallout of that realization, and some of the extremes it can go to.

The child actors were natural with just a hint of something off, without being to much one thing or the other, the mother was a bit…off as a mother figure, but that could be considered as the key part of the plot, or in general a portrayed faulty person being interpreted through a skewed lens.

A great deal of obvious film making talent went into this Austrian
masterpiece, a bit laid back here and there, not an overly jump scare kind of film, which is perfect for the story being portrayed, adding yet another layer to the definition of Horror.

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Screen Squinty’s “Uninhabited” Review.

Film: Uninhabited.
Directed by: Bill Bennett.
Running Time: 93 min.

Uninhabited is a an Australian Horror Film about a young couple, Beth and Harry, who decide to have a vacation on an isolated island on the Great Barrier Reef and while there, are haunted by a vengeful force.

There is a frustrating trend in cinema now a days where you get some beautifully wrought films where you can tell that a great deal of care and attention is going into them, but only in one aspect of the film, leaving other aspects, necessary ones, like a flat tire that could have made for an otherwise smooth ride, and this movie is a prime example.

The focus, and thus the strength in this movie are the visuals. There is this almost too beautiful super-realism to it, a sense of texture that a spectator can almost feel with their eyeballs; the sheen, heave, and ripples of water, the grit of sand on the bodies of the two protagonists as they embrace on the beach, the deadly rough edges of a stone fish, the drips of water as one of the protagonists take an early morning dip in the cooling shallows. It adds a layer of visual experience to the movie that makes spectators almost feel the sand down their shorts.

The film also deserves credit for knowing how to use angle, close ups, and perspective shots in this film. There is also this trend in films from time to time where the creators get a little to enamored of a particular type of shot and often it is used in a way that does not work well with the plot (for example a pointless pan across in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, used where nothing of any great tension or obvious oddity is happening, which is one of the reason’s filmmakers normally use the method, to heighten these moments), this is something that the movie fortunately doesn’t do. The low angle first person shot of Harry as he looks up at the attacker who struck him with the gun, the use of in and out of focus, and the occasional over exposure give a sense of the surreal state of in and out of consciousness that Harry is experiencing.

It’s not just camera though, the soundtrack highlights the sense of location while at the same time, winding the tension in the spectators more successfully than the narrative itself is in presenting the supernatural malevolence that haunts the island. It provides an auditory flavor that is beautiful and eerie at the same time without being intrusive. Sound in this film is properly used as a narrative aide, and not just there despite the narrative.

Despite these positive qualities, the weakness in this film lies in the narrative.

The transitions between these beautiful visuals to the actual plot happening (when it eventually does) gives a sense as if someone were filming an IMAX beach documentary and some semblance of a story wanders drunkenly onto set from time to time, reminding the viewer “oh yeah, I am watching a movie.” The transitions between these moments are jarring and weaken the experience of the film.

Said drunken narrative itself is a lazily put together ghost story with the revelation of the reality of the ghost to the characters shoe horned in with an exceedingly weak-ass plot device. The two leads played by Geraldine Hakewell and Henry James, are portrayed well enough, particularly Hakewell as Beth, but all you really know about them is that they are in wuv and on vacation, with shallow dialogue that reveals practically nothing about themselves, except that one of them is a marine biologist, and that’s it. There is nothing character-wise to hold on to in this film and it makes it hard for spectators to empathize with them as they have no internal conflict.

The ghost itself has an overused motivation of blind vengeance, and is just as two dimensional as the protagonists. There is no relationship between the ghost and her victims, other than the fact that one of them has a generalized trait, that there is a man on the island, which incites her actions. Her back story is too rushed and clichéd, and other then a brief moment where Beth feels a sympathy for the woman and how she died, there is nothing between the two women that fleshes out the ghost from the perspective of the victims, or vice versa. This is echoed in the conclusion of the narrative, as Beth’s fate leaves a groan and eye roll at how freakin’ unimaginative and nonsensical (in a bad, lazy way) it is within the established narrative – what there is of it.

This movie was frustrating to watch because of all this amazing visual detail and excellent use of sound, but the narrative in contrast was so bad, that it leaves one feeling unfulfilled against the promise that the technical side of things makes, but doesn’t match with story-wise. It’s a shame because if the narrative had even been half way better than it is, this would have been one of the better contemporary horror movies out there.

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