FLIGHT 7500 (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Thematic Material, some Scary Images and brief Language

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Directed by: Takashi Shimizu

Written by: Craig Rosenberg

Starring: Leslie Bibb, Jamie Chung, Jerry Ferrara, Ryan Kwanten, Amy Smart, Scout Taylor-Compton, Christian Serratos, Nicky Whelan & Johnathon Schaech

Airplanes seem like an unconventional and genius setting for a horror film. It’s too bad that the recent few attempts of would-be scary movies placed within the confines of flying transportation (AIRBORNE, ALTITUDE) have been mighty lame. The same goes for most action-thrillers set inside a plane (NON-STOP, FLIGHTPLAN, TURBULENCE). The oft-postponed 7500 doesn’t do anything to buck this cinematic trend. I remember seeing a trailer for this film on the big screen in front of WOMAN IN BLACK and it has since been shelved for two full years (supposedly making its way into select theaters on October 3 and available on DVD from Thailand). There’s a reason for these release date squabbles. Putting it lightly, 7500 is a sorry excuse for a horror film that wouldn’t have made any waves in theaters and garnered quite a lot of well-deserved hatred from the general public. Also Leslie Bibb seems to have bad luck picking horror films that wind up being shelved (e.g. the masterful TRICK ‘R TREAT, the solid MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN, and this mess). I’m just saying what I’m seeing.

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Flight 7500 is traveling from Los Angeles to Tokyo. The passengers on the plane come in many shapes, sizes, and walks of life. This is going to be a bumpy ride as strange happenings are occurring high in the air. Turbulence is hit, something creepy is causing trouble and not everybody will be getting off this plane alive. The best way to really sum up what little plot there is for 7500 is to say its a made of three solid TWILIGHT ZONE episodes blended into a concoction that’s not original, entertaining, or even remotely creepy.

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7500’s production values are solid enough inside of the plane setting. The first shot outside showcases that not much of a budget was invested towards basic special effects though. The exterior CGI aircraft is worthy of a Syfy Channel film or direct-to-video cheapie to say the least. This is not acceptable for a big budget horror film that was originally granted a nationwide release (supposed to compete with the likes of THE already subpar POSSESSION and THE godawful APPARITION). Also the shoddy effects aren’t just limited to shots of the outside world, because the supernatural threat on board is never fully glimpsed. Takashi Shimizu was more than happy to lay a barrage of pale-faced spirits in his GRUDGE movies (some moments silly and others quite effective), but he keeps things off-screen for every supposedly spooky scene. These cut-away moments include but are not limited to: a character’s frightened reaction as something groans in front of them, white hands poking out of different places, lights shutting off, and the screen just awkwardly transitioning to the next moment with little rhyme or reason.

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Making things even worse is that the plot moves at a glacial pace and never fully gets moving. A handful of lame attempts at jump scares are given (most of which involve a character suddenly putting their hand on another character’s shoulder). The horrible writing really sinks this entire film. Not to mention that the big(ish) name cast members are wasted on laughably terrible characters who aren’t worth caring about in the slightest. In true TWILIGHT ZONE fashion (the movie even has the nerve to show a clip or two from a certain notable episode starring William Shatner and a man on the wing of the plane), the film ends with a twist. However, it’s an unbelievably convoluted and predictable climax. Honestly, your first guess is probably right as to how this film ends and don’t put any imagination or effort into your predictions. In recent years, this kind of ending has become almost as bad as the “it was all a dream” cop-out.

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Watching 7500, it became startlingly apparent as to why this film didn’t arrive on its intended destination of August 12, 2012. It didn’t even arrive in October 2013 and probably won’t see the light of day for a while longer (despite what IMDB states). Sometimes fantastic and original horror movies get crapped on (THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, TRICK ‘R TREAT, and I’m stoked to see Eli Roth’s THE GREEN INFERNO), but cases where the film being delayed outright sucking are also common. 7500 is one of the latter instances. It’s not a total failure as I found some scenes to be entertaining for the wrong reasons (bad acting or forced jump scares that might terrify an eight-year-old girl). If you want to see a solid horror story set in an airplane, watch the NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET segment from 1983’s TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE. It’s shorter, scarier, and far more well written than 7500 could ever hope to be.

Grade: D

THE GRUDGE (2004)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Mature Thematic Material, Disturbing Images/Terror/Violence, and some Sensuality

Grudge poster

Directed by: Takashi Shimizu

Written by: Stephen Susco

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, William Mapother, Clea DuVall, KaDee Strickland, Grace Zabriskie, Bill Pullman, Rosa Blasi, Ted Raimi

In the overcrowded sea of American remakes based on Asian horror films, THE GRUDGE is actually one of the better efforts. Though not without some obvious faults, the film is an intriguing ghost story that isn’t too graphic for a teenage audience and not too watered down for those craving a solid scare. Directed by Takashi Shimizu (who helmed the original film titled JU-ON), this film was a box office sensation in Halloween season 2004. I remember not being able to walk down the hall of my Junior High without hearing some group of teenage girls blabbing away about how terrifying it was. When I eventually got around to watching it at that young age of 14, I was drastically let down. Now that the hype and my skepticism have long since gone away, I really dig what THE GRUDGE dishes out, even if it’s just a decent movie overall.

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Much like other films in the original Japanese JU-ON series, THE GRUDGE doesn’t follow a linear plot. It actually has multiple storylines that aren’t told in chronological order and this only adds to the mystery of what the hell is going on and how certain characters are linked to each other. Every storyline revolves around a cursed house in Tokyo. In the walls of this seemingly ordinary home, a tragedy occurred that left two rage-filled ghosts within. One is a contorting, croaking woman named Kayako and the other his her pale son, Toshio, who emits the cries of a cat. As far as the living characters surrounding this ever-broadening mystery go, There’s a home caregiver, Karen, who has been assigned to take care of Emma, an old woman suffering from dementia. We also follow Emma’s family members as they are stalked by the evil spirits. This movie’s formula is that if you step inside the cursed house, then you’re most likely going to die a horrible death at the hands of these spirits.

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One thing that needs to be understood about THE GRUDGE is that it does rely heavily on Japanese folklore. Some of these ideas might come off as unintentionally cheesy to American audiences, though the box office receipt from this film would beg to differ. The main one is of Kayako’s ghost as an “onryo” (a long-haired, white-faced spirit that can inflict damage on the world of the living). The croaking death rattle she makes will be terrifying to some and downright silly to others. I didn’t find her full-blown horrifying, but there were definite quiet moments that creeped me out. It is usually in brief glimpses and moving shadows where the film excels, rather than some of the other-the-top effects employed during titular points (an all CGI ghost form still stupid upon close examination). The haunting musical score ups the suspense and if there’s one thing that THE GRUDGE gets very right, it’s a gloomy atmosphere.

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Shimizu isn’t afraid to show some violence, but this is a story that mostly relies on spooky tension and lots of jump scares (none of which affected me, but then again, I’m jaded when it comes to horror films). I can imagine that this movie would cause quite a stir if a group of pre-teens (who hadn’t ever been allowed to watch an R-rated movie) were to view it. It’s an eerie film and I applaud it for that, but there are still some problems that stick out and ultimately detracted from my overall enjoyment.

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My qualms with the movie begin in the storylines themselves. While there are admittedly some really good ones at play, others are far less interesting to watch. The plot is at the same time complex and simple. The complex comes in the unconventional jumping-around in time between characters and the simple comes in that the viewer knows very well how this is all probably going to end. There are some gaping plot holes and underdeveloped characters, but the script employs the use of nightmare logic and is done artistically enough that I cut some slack on these two problems for the whole unnerving experience. The movie does especially go into some far-fetched areas in the final 10 minutes and characters make dumb decisions (as they mostly do in horror films). The final shot is worth it and sends things off on an appropriately chilling note.

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THE GRUDGE has plot holes and some underdeveloped characters. It also has some images that can be regarded as borderline campy. However, it employs enough of a beautiful style and some truly disturbing moments that it warrants a recommendation. It’s not a great film and is undermined by a somewhat messy script that manages to skirt the line between clever and predictable, but it is a decent film to throw on for a spooky mood. This is actually a horror film I’d recommend for parents to watch with their preteen children around Halloween, knowing of course that it will likely scare the bejesus out of their kids. Gorehounds and those looking for a balls-to-the-wall scarefest might not necessarily advocate this film, but I’d say you’re safe giving it a shot. A creative mess that sports some really scary imagery!

Grade: C+

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