Category Archives: Horror Movies

Croc (2007) Movie Review

Croc

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Michael Madsen, Peter Tuinstra, Sherry Edwards, Elizabeth Healey, Scott Hazell
Director: Stewart Raffill
Release Date: 30 September 2007
Language: English
Length: 100 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: Online Streaming
My Rating: image_thumb79_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

When a 20-foot crocodile begins attacking and eating people in Krabi, Thailand, an unscrupulous Thai businessman sets up American Jack McQuade (Peter Tuinstra) to take the blame.  Determined to clear his name, Jack sets out to find proof and hunt down the crocodile before he kills more people.

Review:

I watch a lot of the horrible movies on the Syfy Channel because they are so entertaining!  Yes, the acting is terrible and yes, the stories are ridiculous, but there is something so addictive and enjoyable about watching them (especially late at night) that I watch far more than I should admit.  I was expecting Croc to be full of exotic Thai scenes and well-executed crocodile attacks, but I was Croc Chomping on Someonedisappointed in both regards.  The movie was filmed in Thailand so I am not sure why they did not take advantage of the gorgeous beaches and distinctive architecture that the country has to offer.  There are no tuk-tuks here (motorcycles with little benches placed on them for people to hire as taxis), no babble of voices speaking in a hodgepodge of languages, no ancient stone carvings, no turquoise water and white-sand beaches – why did they bother to film this movie in a foreign location?  The only thing they got right was the sweat!  Some of the guys would have been cute if they weren’t so grungy in the movie.  As far as the crocodile attacks were concerned, they were adequate, but clearly fake.  There is a lot of blood in the water and screaming, but little actual attack shown, which was fine by me.  What was disappointing was the fact that the 20-foot crocodile was actually a much smaller crocodile filmed in a tank of water and then blown up in size to look bigger.  This was too bad as it was pretty cool that crocodiles of this size actually exist and are not made up monsters like most of the creature feature villains are.

The acting was sub par, but relatively normal for these types of movies.  There is little emotion and line delivery was stilted, but I wasn’t really surprised.  It is unfortunate that they chose not to take advantage of more native-Thai speakers.  I missed hearing the lilt of a Thai speaker as they conversed in English.  Also, it is interesting to note that most Thais I met in Thailand who Americansspeak English speak it with an Australian accent, an accent which was sadly missing here.  There is a hint of romance between two “enemies” who have to join together to fight the monster, of course.  The most pleasant surprise in this movie for me was that there was an actual storyline aside from the crocodile attacks!  I know, I was surprised, too!  A Thai businessman and his brother are trying to force an American man, his sister and his nephew out of business so that they can purchase their land for a new development.  When the crocodile starts eating people, the businessmen set up the Americans to take the fall by breaking in and letting some of their crocodiles escape.  Okay, it is not necessarily a great story, but it is an actual plot nonetheless!  While many aspects of this plot did not ring true, the bribery, government corruption and challenges that foreigners face in other countries when trying to run their own businesses are all familiar themes that we deal with everyday.

On the whole, there is not a great deal to recommend Croc to viewers unless you enjoy watching bad movies that feature silly storylines and lots of death and destruction.  This movie is just bad enough to get a low rating, but not quite bad enough to enjoy as campy, good fun.  Worth watching once when you have nothing better to do, but definitely not a repeater!

Content:

This movie features several deaths with people being eaten by a crocodile.  Body parts, blood and screams are heavily featured, but the movie does not show anyone being torn apart.  A large set of jaws munches on people in a few scenes and the crocodile does grab a child to eat at one point.  There are scenes of drinking and heavy petting.  Recommended for ages 10 and up.

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Killer Mountain (2011) Movie Review

Killer Mountain (2011)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Aaron Douglas, Paul Campbell, Curtis Caravaggio, Torrance Coombs, Byron Lawson
Director: Sheldon Wilson
Release Date: 27 August 2011
Language: English
Length: 85 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: image_thumb81_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

Retired mountain climber Ward Donovan (Aaron Douglas) is hired to rescue a stranded group of climbers in the Forbidden Mountains.  Only the thought that his former love, Nina (Crystal Lowe), was the guide for the original group is enough to push him past his fears of losing another team member in the mountains.  Once the team gets on the mountain, however, Ward realizes that the team is there for another purpose besides exploring and conquering an unclimbed mountain peak.  Local legend claims that a kingdom of wisdom and long life named Shambala exists in the mountains, hence their name, the Forbidden Mountains, as locals are forbidden from climbing there.  Legend also claims that Shambala is guarded by the drac, a mythical monster.  When the rescue team discovers the remains of the first team, they realize that they will be lucky to make it down the mountain alive…

Review:

This was a pretty entertaining movie.  It definitely was a cut above most of the made-for-TV movies that I watch on the Syfy Channel.  The ads and the plot synopsis that the Syfy channel provided for this movie focused more on the surprise factor for the film and did not reveal enough of the plot to give viewers Killer Mountaina true idea of what they were going to see with this film.  This is unfortunate as the movie was so much better than I was expecting!  The plot really was interesting and I found myself captivated by the different story lines.  The film begins with a flashback of a team climbing the mountains that is attacked by an unseen monster.  Then it goes back to the present, where we meet the main characters.  We see the story of the rescue team, the story of the survivors of the original team, the challenges in the base camp and an undercurrent of the role of foreigners in third-world countries.  The film moved between the different storylines very well and kept me focused and intrigued as to what was going to happen.  I especially appreciated the fact that the movie was not over when the team escaped the monster on the mountain.  Instead, the movie continues and there is another tying up of loose ends on the bottom of the mountain, where we get to see the finale of the conflict between the base team and the local military, both of whom are vying for the secrets of Shambala.

What really made this movie stand out over the rest of the movies I have watched on the Syfy Channel was the quality of the acting.  It is so much better than I usually see on this channel!  The lead character, Ward Donovan, is played by Aaron Douglas, who I recognize from other films.  He was believable as an Killer Mountain Leadsexpert climber who was struggling to get back on the horse after losing a beloved team member on a previous climb.  While trying to overcome his fears, he finds himself not only frantically searching for Nina, but trying to escape a mythical monster who seems to pop up all over the place!  Nina is played by Crystal Lowe and is a tough chick who was happy to see her rescuers, but managed to find ways to survive on her own.  The rest of the team is a bit difficult to keep straight and also hard to get to know as some of them die pretty quickly.  I did enjoy the relationship between the rich sponsor of the expedition and his devoted son.  Neither one of them could envision what the end of their adventure would mean, but I am sure that they would not have it any other way.  These characters were able to bring an intensity and focus to their roles rather than just running around screaming, waiting to be eaten.  I actually found myself engaged and interested in what happened to the main characters, which was a wonderful change for me.

The worst part of the film is the animation of the drac monster.  The setting is beautiful in the snowy mountains.  The CGI for the peaks and the helicopter were pretty good, but the monster just did not work for me.  When it first appears, I think that the movie creators were trying to keep it in the shadows and keep the viewers guessing as to what it looks like and what abilities the drac has.  Instead, it came off as really blurry, awful CGI work and I did not think that Killer Mountain Climberit worked.  The drac got a bit better looking by the end of the movie, but was not really a great looking creature.  It was vaguely dragon-like and had a ton of potential to be interesting and unique, but they didn’t really go with it.  The creature is black and hides in the shadows, mainly living in the caverns inside the mountain.  Once the characters get inside the caverns with the drac, they find what I assume is Shambala, but I couldn’t really see anything and what I could see looked like gray pipes.  I don’t think this is what they had in mind.  The CGI effects were the weakest part of the movie, which was a real surprise for me as usually the CGI creations on Syfy are one of the best features of their made-for-TV movies.

If you enjoy creature features, especially those shown on Syfy, this is one you will not want to miss.  It is actually a watchable, real movie.  Granted, it is not what I would call a feature film, but it is one of the best movies I have seen on Syfy in a long time!  Give this one a chance the next time you see it showing in your area.

Content:

This movie features screaming, some blood and death.  People are shot, fall off the mountain, and are eaten by the drac and its offspring.  There are not a lot of incredibly gory scenes as most of the eating takes place in the shadow and is pretty difficult to see.  Recommended for ages 10 and up.

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The Snake King/SnakeMan (2005) Movie Review

The Snake King (a.k.a. SnakeMan) (2005)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Jayne Heitmeyer, Larry Day, Gary Hudson, Ross McCall
Director: Allan A. Goldstein
Release Date: 9 April 2005
Language: English
Length: 96 minutes
Movie Rating: R
View Format: TV
My Rating: image_thumb32_thumb4_thumb

Synopsis:

After finding a 300-year old human body in the Amazon, a pharmaceutical company sends a team of scientists to discover the secret of eternal life.  The scientists quickly find themselves in over their heads as they battle the jungle, extreme weather, and a multi-headed snake that seems determined to defend its territory.  Can they uncover the secret to eternal life or will they only find death?

Review:

This movie was cheesy, low-grade horror schlock, but it was still fun to watch in parts.  I actually enjoyed the storyline, I just didn’t particularly enjoy the execution.  It had a bit of an Indiana Jones/archaeological dig vibe that drew me in to watch it in the first place.  It has a dense tropical setting and untold artifacts waiting to be discovered.  I believe that there are still people, animals and plants Snake King Posterthat have yet to be encountered in some of the dense Amazon jungles so I was hoping for a bit more accuracy in what a tribe would truly be like if they were just barely encountering some present-day human contact.  If that is the kind of movie that you are looking for, this is not the one for you.  The tribe who worships the Naga (the multi-headed snake) seems pretty advanced for a primitive tribe.  They are able to take out soldiers wielding automatic weapons with spears and arrows and do not flinch at the sight of strangers.  While they are fascinated with blond hair and some medicine that the scientists have, the tribe seemed awfully sanguine about Snake King Picstrangers in their midst.  What I found the most unbelievable was the fact that the chief of the tribe speaks English.  Now, I understand that he is over 200 years old, but did he keep someone for a while to learn the language instead of sacrificing them to the snake?  Did he leave his tribe and live somewhere else for a while?  And what does the tribe do to feed the snake when they don’t have random strangers wandering around to fill its belly?

The characters were pretty wooden in this film and they were very one-dimensional. The arguments or “discussions” where tempers got a little heated were the least believable parts of the film.  I was not personally invested in any snakeman-1-1of the characters and felt that they made a lot of stupid mistakes.  Granted, I have never been in a life-and-death situation where I am being hunted down by a giant snake, but I would hope that we would band together to stay alive rather than split up to be easily hunted down and slaughtered.  I was pretty sure that I knew how the movie was going to end about 30 minutes in as the villain revealed his true colors very early on and the heroes were pulling together emotionally.  The ending was very anticlimactic because of this and it just kind of faded away instead of having some kind of resonance or impact.  What it boils down to is the old noble savage versus corporate greed storyline.  Should the greedy corporation steal the secrets of eternal life from a small, unknown tribe in the Amazon so they can sell them to the highest bidder or does the brave scientist and her new boyfriend fight back and defend the innocent villagers?  Ironically, this movie may have been a bit more interesting if the corporation won…

The worst part of the film, unfortunately, was the special effects.  The movie begins with the snake eating people and this seems to happen every 5 – 15 minutes throughout the film.  The snake bites people in half, picks people up and has them struggling in its jaws, pulls people apart with its heads, bites, scratches and just mauls people throughout the whole film.  This is difficult to show in a realistic, believable way.   The snake slithered and had fangs, but it bit people, chewed and swallowed them.  Real snakes just swallow their food whole and I Snake King attackthink that this would have been a better option.  They could have spent their money on making the snake look good rather than trying to make people look like they were dying.  The horrific acting of the dying people did not help matters any.  There is one scene where the snake picks up two people and is waving them around in the air while it waits to crunch them down and the victims looked like they were lying on their backs on the floor while wiggling their extremities.  Even though it was futile to try to escape the snake as it was huge, multi-headed and deadly, I think that I would be struggling a bit more vigorously as I was being eaten.

This is such a bad movie that it is fun to watch.  It is the perfect film for gathering a bunch of friends together so that you can make fun of the bad acting, the poor-quality of the special effects and point out the inconsistencies in the tribal culture.  Is it worth watching?  Probably not.  Did I have fun anyway.  You betcha!

Content:

This movie contains fighting (verbal and physical), lots of blood, death & dying.  People are eaten by snakes, shot, stabbed with spears, and hung from trees.  Not everyone dies quickly and/or painlessly so there is screaming, struggling and blood gushers.  Recommended for ages 16 and up.

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Black Death (2010) Movie Review

Black Death (2010)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Carice van Houten, David Warner, John Lynch
Director: Christopher Smith
Release Date: 11 June 2010
Language: English
Length: 97 minutes
Movie Rating: R
View Format: DVD
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis:

Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) is a novice at the monastery who is torn between his dedication to God or his love for Averill (Kimberley Nixon).  He believes he has received an answer to his prayers when the bishop’s envoy, Ulrich (Sean Bean) arrives at the monastery looking for a guide to the marshes near Osmund’s home village.  Osmund volunteers to lead them, but finds himself questing the wisdom of his decision when he discovers the truth about the envoy’s mission.  There is a village in the middle of the swamp who has not suffered from the plague that has swept across England, killing people in every town, village and hamlet.  Rumors have reached the bishop’s ears that there is a powerful necromancer who lives in the village.  Ulrich’s charge is to capture the necromancer and bring him or her back to the bishop to be tried and executed.

Review:

This is a dark, gore-filled movie about the power of faith or belief.  The setting is medieval England when the plague or black death was sweeping across the land.  The victims are so large in number that there are not enough people left to bury them or to keep the streets free of their bodies.  You can almost smell the stench in the air as the camera pans through the muddy, filthy streets of the small village where Oswald’s monastery is located.  The buildings are squatty, poorly constructed and seem to be scant protection from the weather.  Cloth quality is poor and comes in muted earth-tones.  Everyone is dirty, stinky, hungry and terrified.  Rats roam the streets, buildings and bodies at will, unknowingly spreading the disease to more victims.  Everyone believes that this sickness is a punishment from God, but how do they atone for this great sin?  How could God allow them to suffer so?  It is easy to see how any illness could wipe out 1,000s of people when you watch a movie like this one.  They made no effort to pretty-up the time period or to feed into the dreams and imaginations of those who believe it would have been wonderful to live back in the past during this time of gallant knights, beautiful princesses and chivalry.  This is life from an average citizen’s point of view.  Ulrich (Sean Bean), as the bishop’s envoy wears clothing that features better quality cloth, a Ulrich and His Menbit of color and finely made weapons.  The rest of his party are dressed in a motley assortment of clothing, much mended, and are armed with whatever weapons they can afford.  Only Ulrich possesses horses, one to ride and one to carry his weapons and supplies.  These people live so far below the poverty line that you should note how fortunate we are to live in the day and age that we do.  I loved the time and effort spent on the setting, even though there is a great deal that is not historically accurate.  It made a wonderful, gothic kind of horror film and, even though there are no monsters or surprises in this movie, the natural setting of the Middle Ages makes this a scary movie no matter who is watching!

This is not my normal type of movie as I do not typically enjoy watching horror movies with a lot of torture or with religious overtones, but I love Sean Bean and could not resist watching Sean Bean in Black Deaththis one when I had the opportunity.  Sean Bean is a fine actor and he makes the most of his fairly limited character.  He is strangely washed out in this film and his skin almost has a greyish tone to it.  Yet the light of fervent belief burns in his eyes and he is very impassioned in his speeches.  It would have been easy for Sean Bean to play Ulrich as a devoted religious fanatic who sees nothing else, but he pushes the character a bit.  Ulrich does not shirk from his responsibilities to kill witches, force unbelievers back to the church and to keep the church in power, but he is not a cruel man.  Ulrich does not inflict pain for pain’s sake and does not enjoy torturing people.  He kills quickly and cleanly and then moves on.  He does not have a sense of mercy, but he is not a torturer who delights in the screams of his victims.  This makes Ulrich a much more likeable, approachable character, but he is not someone you would feel comfortable being around!  It was delightful to see Eddie Redmayne again in the role of Osmund.  Hopefully he will not get type casted as a medieval actor, but he does excel in these roles. Eddie Redmayne & Sean Bean on Horseback He has a look and a feel for the era that is very organic and completely believable.  He isn’t too hard on the eyes, either!  I just saw him in The Pillars of the Earth and was happy to see that he is in other films, too.  Eddie Redmayne was the heart and soul of this film as the monk, Osmund.  He is a real, flesh-and-blood character as he still loves a woman, even though he is training to be a monk.  Osmund has a soft heart, hates to see people suffering, and is struggling to commit completely to the church or to the woman he loves.  This struggle makes his character a bit more complex, and naive, then the rest of the men he accompanies.  Everyone seems to like him and to try and help him make the right decisions, but, in the end, Osmund must decide for himself.  Unfortunately, the director tacked on a segment at the end that destroyed the character and feel of the film, which revolves around Osmund’s character.  I think that the director should have cut off the last 5 minutes or so and ended when Osmund returned to the monastery, but that is just my opinion.  The rest of the characters are more peripheral, but Langivathere are a few stand outs that I would like to mention.  Langiva (Carice van Houten) is the necromancer in the village in the swamp.  She is a beautiful, witchy sort of woman who effortlessly holds her people in thrall.  You do not really discover who – and what – Langiva is until the end of the movie, but it is fun to discover the truth behind her character while you watch.  My favorite character, however, was Wolfstan (John Lynch).  He is a balance between good and evil, practicality and impulse.  He befriends Osmund, helps his fellow guards who are suffering, and is the heart of Ulrich’s team.

This movie contains a lot of information about religion, but I would not say that it is for or against religion.  There is no doubt that the church wielded a great deal of power during the Middle Ages.  They also controlled a great deal of wealth and instructed people as to what they should believe.  Considering that this time frame is also called the Dark Ages, it is really Monksno surprise that the church kept power for so long as they were the only ones who had access to information and learning.  All of the characters in this movie believe that they hold the truth.  Each character has a force of faith or belief inside them in this film.  Some have such a strong hold that they will do anything rather than recant.  Others are willing to side with whichever group appears stronger to ensure their survival.  This movie will have you questioning how strongly would you hold onto your beliefs in the face of torture, certain death or mindless suffering.  Some characters will surprise you with the depth of their beliefs, others will disappoint you with their superficiality, but it is always interesting to see what is going to happen.

This is more of a historical drama than a horror film.  There are scenes of torture and death that are gruesome and vivid, but no real paranormal elements.  Many women are believed to be witches, possessors of power over life and death.  Women who healed with herbs instead of prayer, whose animals lived when others’ died, who were more beautiful than the norm, Witch Stakes to Burnwere always suspected of being witches.  If I lived back in this time, I would pray to be average looking, average in intelligence and obedient to be able to survive.  It was a terrible time to be a woman, especially one who was strong-willed or talented.  The thoughts and ideals portrayed in the movie were almost more disturbing than the few, brief scenes of torture shown.  I say almost, but not quite, as I had to turn away a few times.  Still, this movie was not at all what I was expecting from a horror film standpoint.  The most terrifying aspect of the film is the fear of the plague itself.  People check on anyone who coughs, vomits, or has nodes on the skin.  Everyone knows the signs and try hard to hide any symptoms to stay alive a few more days.  It is a terrible, painful way to die and there was nothing anyone could do to help you if you contracted the deadly disease.

In this end, this movie was more interesting than I anticipated and much better made than most horror films.  This is a good movie to watch around Halloween or on a dark, scary night when you are looking for a B-grade horror movie to watch late at night with some friends.  It isn’t really a good movie, but it isn’t really a bad movie and I did love the two main characters here so I am going to say that it was a solid film.  Give it a chance, you might like it!

Content:

This movie contains some graphic scenes of torture including being pulled apart by horses, being crucified and disemboweled, having toes cut off, hot brands applied to your skin and many shots of what the equipment looked like.  There are scenes of death including men stabbed with swords or daggers, chopped with axes, shot with arrows and more.  There are scenes of drinking, verbal taunting, and mild language.  Recommended for ages 18 and up.

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Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (2011) Movie Review

Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (2011)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Deborah Gibson, Tiffany, A Martinez, Kathryn Joosten, Kevin M. Horton
Director: Mary Lambert
Release Date: 29 January 2011
Language: English
Length: 90 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: 1/5 stars

Synopsis:

Welcome to the Everglades, a wild and fragile ecosystem known for its alligators and exotic foliage.  Introduce a new animal into this environment and everything changes.  Dr. Nikki Riley (Deborah Gibson) liberated several pythons from a nearby laboratory and released them into the wild.  She believes that snakes are the top predators in any environment they live in and loves snakes more than anything.  Believing that nature will equalize itself, Nikki doesn’t understand why Ranger Terry O’Hara (Tiffany) is so upset about the decreasing gator population and the two butt heads almost immediately.  When Terry loses her fiancé, Justin (Carey Van Dyke), to a vicious attack by giant snakes, Terry takes matters into her own hands and pumps some gators full of illegal steroids and other substances so they can hold their own against the mega pythons.  Months later, these reptiles start invading Miami and it is up to Nikki, Terry and Dr. Diego Ortiz (A Martinez) to get rid of them before they destroy all of mankind!

Review:

I was excited to see this movie, but I was very disappointed.  I think it is one of the worst Syfy movies that I have seen to date!  I thought that the special effects in this creature feature would be a no brainer, as you just blowing up regular animals to large sizes, but they did a very poor job here.  I did not find the animals believable at all!  And the plot was so tissue thin that it could not hold up to anything!  The paragraph written above includes everything that happens in the plot in just a few sentences.  This was tremendously disappointing as there are so many other slants that they could have chosen to bring something more substantial to the plot.  Protecting the Everglades, the impact of introducing foreign animals or plants to nonnative environments, radical testing on animals in private labs, the clash between hunters and environmentalists, any of these themes plus several more could have elevated this movie into something a touch better than this dismal effort.

I initially tuned into this movie to see the clash between Deborah Gibson & Tiffany and I was not disappointed in the epic battle between these two at a fundraiser.  They are rolling around on tables, throwing food at each other, and even take their fight into the nearby water!  Of course, it was obvious that the whole thing was staged as both women were wearing gowns that would not have held up to such strenuous activity, but it looked like a lot of fun to watch and participate in.  Other than that, I found both “actresses” to be sadly lacking in their roles.  Overly strident and completely unbelievable in their roles, I did not enjoy either one of them.  They could not deliver their lines in a convincing manner and did not do anything to contribute to the film.  Also, I think that Deborah Gibson did something to offend the wardrobe people as she looked terrible here!  It is true that she is still relatively thin and looks pretty good for her age, but the outfits they put her in – including the ghastly white cocktail frock she wore for about half of the movie – were extremely unflattering.  With a very small bust, no waist to speak of and that rather desperate air that women of a certain age get, I felt like she was trying too hard.  I would have been too embarrassed to wear clothing like this unless my character called for it and Deborah Gibson’s character did not call for it.  In comparison, the voluptuous and busty Tiffany was shown off very well in a v-necked, lace-edge gown that made her look sexy without exposing too much.

A Martinez plays Dr. Diego Ortiz, a Native American ornithologist who is the voice of gloom and doom in the movie.  Naturally, no one listens to him and he has to find a way to save the day almost single-handedly at the end.  Kathryn Joosten as Angie was my favorite in the movie.  She is a crusty old ranger who gives off the vibe of having seen and done it all.  Angie tries to hold back Terry, but does a very poor job of it and doesn’t realize the seriousness of the situation until far too late.  RJ Cupelli (Kevin M. Horton) is Terry’s other ranger and he is a very young, perpetually happy young man who has no idea what is going on around him.  The hunters in the movie are a hoot.  They are a bunch of good old boy rednecks who provide a lot of cannon fodder for the movie.  You never really get names for them, but they are out hunting the snakes, never realizing that they are being hunted in return.  No one is what you would call a believable actor in this film, but with a budget this low, I am not surprised.

I was really disappointed with this movie and kept waiting for something to happen that would make it better.  Alas, such was not the case and I was doomed to be disappointed for the entire hour and a half that I wasted watching this schlock.  Still, there is a lot to laugh at and you can get a group of people together late at night to giggle over the absolutely terrible movie that this turned out to be.

Content:

This movie contains giant snakes and giant alligators battling each other and eating each other.  They also eat people and there are body parts, including heads, that are found scattered throughout the swamps.  People are eaten alive and struggle in animals’ mouths.  There is a lot of blood, screaming and violence.  There are some fights between people, gunfire, drinking and mild language.  Recommended for ages 10 and up.

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Triassic Attack (2010) Movie Review

Triassic Attack (2010)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Steven Brand, Kirsty Mitchell, Gabriel Womack, Emilia Clarke, Jazz Lintott
Director: Colin Ferguson
Release Date: 27 November 2010
Language: English
Length: 90 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: 2/5 stars

Synopsis:

Wealthy Keller (Christopher Villiers) recently purchased some land near the university to expand and exploit the area as much as he can.  Realizing too late what they agreed to, the people who used to own the land try to protest, but there is nothing that they can do.  Dakota (Raoul Trujillo), whose Native American souvenir shop/museum lies directly in the path of progress, uses a Native American chant to bring to life an avenger, only to unwittingly reanimate the dinosaur skeletons in the museum.  Now, there are dinosaurs running around eating people and it is up to the sheriff (Steven Brand), his wife (Kirsty Mitchell) and their daughter (Emilia Clarke) to save the day!

Review:

I simply adore dinosaur movies so I was quite excited to see Triassic Attack.  Granted, I knew that it was a Syfy movie so my expectations were not very high, so I wasn’t disappointed.  The best part of the movie by far was the special effects.  Watching the dinosaur skeletons run and fly around was amazing!   I also loved it when the dinosaurs “died” and then all of the bones came back together to reform the animal – very cool.  I am not convinced that the skeletons would have gone on quite a rampage, but who knows how hungry you would be after 1000s of years of fasting?  I feel that they did an excellent job putting these creatures together and they were very believable in their movements and their sounds.  Of course, the question remains as to what the dinosaurs did with the people that they ate.  With no internal organs, they could not swallow, digest or get rid of waste.  One would think that, if a dinosaur scooped you up whole and you didn’t get bitten in half, you would come out whole once you passed through the jaws.  Something to think about anyway!

I wasn’t expecting great acting and I didn’t get great acting.  Steven Brand played the sheriff, Jake, and I found him to be wooden, stiff and pretty unbelievable.  He was handsome in a rough-hewn type of way, but I couldn’t even believe that he was an American, let alone a small-town sheriff (his native Scottish accent comes out sometimes).  Jake is separated from his wife, Emma (Kirsty Mitchell), is extremely protective of his daughter, Savannah (Emilia Clarke), doesn’t hold much stock in his Native American heritage and so doesn’t get along with his brother, Dakota (Raoul Trujillo) and was just taking up space.  He never seemed to get alarmed when the dinosaurs were attacking and kept trying the same things over and over again to get rid of them.  For those of you who are Eureka fans or Lake Placid fans, you will totally recognize his sheriff uniform.  In fact, for a moment, I actually thought that he was Colin Ferguson from Eureka!  This is probably due to the face that he directed it, but I will say that Colin looks much better in the uniform than Steven!  Kirsty Mitchell was beautiful, which I am sure played into her being cast, but she loved to overdo it.  I guess that is better than underdoing it, but I am not sure how much better.  As a beautiful archaeologist, she is accustomed to men falling all over her and doesn’t want to be smothered by someone like her current husband.  Emilia Clarke plays Savannah, Jake & Emma’s teenage daughter, and she is your typical spoiled brat.  Savannah wants to be trusted, but then sneaks out to frat parties and drinks beer.  Um, hello?  I don’t call that smothering or being overprotective, I call that good parenting.  Emma tries to be cool and let her daughter do what she wants, claiming that she “trusts” her, but I wouldn’t trust a 16-going-on-17-year-old girl around a bunch of college frat boys no matter what!  Naturally, the parents have to learn to trust Savannah and rely on her to save the day, which goes to show that children can do more than parents think they can, yada, yada, yada.

Of the supporting characters, Wyatt (Gabriel Womack) was by far my favorite!  He is just hilarious in this movie and brings a much needed, light-hearted touch to the film.  Wyatt is one of the first people attacked by the dinosaur skeletons and spends a great deal of the movie on the run, but he learns that the skeletons don’t like the smell of cow poop so he rolls around in it.  He has a lot of funny lines and is one of the more believable characters as far as his reactions to the situation are concerned.  Christopher Villiers was ably cast in his role of Keller.  He plays a snooty rich British guy who doesn’t care about the people in the small town and is just out to accumulate more wealth.  Naturally, he is dating Emma now that she is separated and there is really nothing to recommend his character, but Keller felt like a “real” person to me.  I found Dakota’s (Raoul Trujillo) character quite offensive.  The Native American rituals that they performed felt very hokey and unbelievable to me.  I am not sure why they pulled this aspect in at all as I felt like it was unnecessary and they could have come up with some other way of bringing the dinosaur bones to life.  Instead, they have several unbelievable, generic chants that Dakota and Savannah perform to animate the dinosaurs and then cause a rainstorm to kill them.  There are also a bunch of other secondary characters including frat boy pledges, drunk college kids, wealthy college supporters and regular townspeople.

Some of the dialogue in this movie is cringe-worthy and not everything make sense (surprise, surprise!), but this was still a fun movie to watch on late-night TV.  It is a fairly typical Syfy movie so, if you enjoy the genre, you will probably enjoy this one.  The special effects are the best part and if you like dinosaurs, like I do, you will find something to enjoy here.  Nothing is too scary and there is plenty of humor – some intentional and some not – that will keep the feel lighthearted and fun.  I am sure that it will be on TV again so keep an eye out for it as I think it is one of the better Syfy movies they have put out recently.

Content:

This movie contains scenes of violence, fighting, being eaten by dinosaurs, dead bodies, bloody, body parts and chase sequences.  There is also gunfire, explosions, beer drinking, and sexual innuendo.  Recommended for ages 10 and up.

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Haunting Hour: Don’t Think About It (2007) Movie Review

Haunting Hour: Don’t Think About It (2007)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Emily Osment, Brittany Curran, Cody Linley, Alex Winzenread, Michelle Duffy
Director: Alex Zamm
Series: an R. L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour DVD
Release Date: 4 September 2007
Language: English
Length: 87 minutes
Movie Rating: PG
View Format: TV
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis:

“Based on the writings of popular children’s author R. L. Stine, this spooky, family-friendly tale follows a teenage girl named Cassie (Emily Osment) who struggles to fit in at her new school and lashes out by playing outrageous pranks on the cool kids. When Cassie accidentally comes across a mysterious book called The Evil Thing on the day before Halloween, she makes a decision that changes her life forever.” — Netflix.com

Review:

This is a fun, slightly-too-scary-for-little-kids made-for-TV movie.  The story revolves around the Keller kids, who have just moved into a new neighborhood and transferred to new schools.  Cassie (Emily Osment) is the oldest and she is determined to march to the beat of her own drum.  She typically dresses in all black, loves reading horror fiction, knows all about the history of Halloween and doesn’t fit in at her new school.  In fact, she makes mortal enemies of Priscilla (Brittany Curran) on her first day of school and an intense rivalry of pranks begin.  But Priscilla isn’t Cassie’s worst problem – that is her little brother Max (Alex Winzenread).  Max seems to be scared of everything and Cassie doesn’t make it any easier on him as she takes every opportunity to scare him and trick him.  Max is your typical little boy who loves his action figures, thinks that monsters really do live in his closet, and wants his big sister to spend time with him.  Priscilla is a real villainess with virtually no redeeming features and she really isn’t that pretty so I am not sure why everyone acted like she was!  Anyway, she takes an instant dislike to Cassie because she is different and Cassie made the mistake of flirting with Sean (Cody Linley), the boy that Priscilla believes belongs to her.  Sean is a total airhead, but he is pretty nice and totally oblivious to what is going on around him with the girls. So, uh, that’s pretty much it.  Cassie & Max are the monster hunters and Priscilla and Max are the monster victims.

Cassie makes the mistake of reading The Evil Thing, a creepy book she bought in a little Halloween shop, to Max to try and frighten him.  What she doesn’t know is that, by breaking the one rule – don’t read the book aloud – she has summoned an horrific two-headed monster that captures humans in cocoons to feed live to their babies!  This part of the story reminded me a bit of Gremlins when the lead in that movie disobeys the two rules he is given and horrible things follow afterward.  Still, it is a classic way of summoning monsters and then, naturally, the two heroes receive a mysterious riddle as their only clue to kill the monster and rescue the trapped people.  I was a bit surprised by how scary the monster was and how creepy some of this movie was!  I totally underestimated the scare factor in this movie as it was on Nickelodeon, but there were a few moments that creeped me out (not a big fan of viscous fluids, slime, blood, etc.) and gave me a little fright (keep in mind that I scare easily).  The monster was pretty frightening and they used whip-like tails, two heads, big teeth, suckers and scales to great effect to create a monster that was believable and scary. There are several scenes where you know that the monster is going to pounce and are just waiting for it to happen so that the movie can continue!  Luckily, the frightening parts of the movie are offset with the humor, pranks and outlandish storyline to keep the feeling light and fun.

If you are looking for a good, family-oriented, scary movie that viewers of all ages will enjoy, this one might be good for you.  It starts off a little bit slow and focuses almost exclusively on Cassie and her difficulties at school, but once the monster is summoned, things really take off and it became a more interesting creature feature.  The action takes place on Halloween night and they have some great decorations, costumes, pranks and even trick or treating!  Bear with the movie – or skip through the first hour or so – to get to the good stuff as the high school section is clearly geared towards younger teens.  While the story is completely unbelievable, I thought the special effects were decent and I enjoyed the snarky attitude of Cassie.  She has a huge chip on her shoulder and doesn’t really get along with anyone very well, but she learns as the movie goes along.  I thought that Cassie, as played by Emily Osment, was pretty decent in her role and I enjoyed watching her in this film.  Max, as played by Emily Osment, didn’t have much of a stretch to play a bratty, scared little kid, but he was fine.  I wasn’t crazy about the actors who played Priscilla or Sean (Brittany Curran and Cody Linley) as both of them are supposed to be super gorgeous and what everyone wants.  I didn’t buy it and thought that their acting was too much towards spoiled princess and airhead respectively.  By far my favorite part of the movie was the rock-inspired soundtrack, which I really enjoyed.  Some of the songs were pretty good and I liked the harder edge to the music and thought it really fit the mood and feel of the movie.  I think this movie is worth catching on TV if you enjoy family films such as those they show on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon series.

Content:

This movie contains some intense monster sequences, including tales of people being eaten alive and people being captured by the monster and trapped live in cocoons.  The monster is big, creepy and will probably be scary for young children.  Cassie teases Max by pretending to be a monster in his closet and reading him scary stories.  There is lots of slime and blood in this film (none of it human).  There are also some scenes of teenagers playing pranks, insects, humiliating cafeteria incidents and old-fashioned slang.  Recommended for ages 10 and up.

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The Ruins (2008) Movie Review

The Ruins (2008)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey, Shawn Ashmore, Joe Anderson
Director: Carter Smith
Release Date: 4 April 2008
Language: English
Length: 90 minutes
Movie Rating: R
View Format: TV
My Rating: 2/5 stars

Synopsis:

“An idyllic Mexican vacation in Cancun takes a dangerous turn for four young Americans when a mysterious tourist persuades them to join an archaeological dig, and they subsequently find themselves lost within the cursed ruins of a forgotten city. Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey and Shawn Ashmore head the cast in director Carter Smith‘s bone-chilling thriller, adapted by Scott Smith from his novel.” — Netflix.com

Review:

For a low-budget horror film, I didn’t think this movie was half bad.  I typically have very low expectations for the movies that the Syfy Channel shows late at night and didn’t think that this one would be any good, but it had a few original ideas and a couple of good scenes.  It started off typically enough, with four American college students (or getting ready to go to college students), who were enjoying a summer holiday in Mexico.  They bypassed the historical and archaeological sites to laze about by the pool and get drunk on the beach.  When a fellow tourist invites them to go to a brand new archaeological dig, for some reason they decide to go for it.  Six of them set out to see the newly discovered temple and only one of them will come out alive…

Yeah, so the first twenty minutes or so where they are “introducing” us to the characters was a real drag, but once that was out of the way, the movie started to get interesting.  I will say that the most fascinating part of this movie was the way that we, the viewers, were almost like the four Americans trapped on top of the temple.  They don’t understand what is going on and we don’t either.  There are a lot of questions that are asked, but there are no questions answered.  Why do the villagers trap them on the temple and wait for them to die?  How sentient are the vines that hold them captive on the top of the temple?  They can mimic the sound of a cell phone ringing, but they cannot simply overpower the humans while they sleep?  Why didn’t the students use fire or the generator to try and burn out the vines and kill them?  If the villagers were so scared of the vines that they would shoot a young boy who got hit with a bunch of the vines, why didn’t the Americans pitch a bunch of the vines at the villagers and make a break for it?  Why did they give up their single cell phone with worldwide coverage so easily at the beginning?  Anyway, just so you know, you don’t get any closure in this movie – just an endless loop of the end of the terror at the beginning of the movie, the full experience in the middle, and the beginning of the terror again at the end of the film.

The acting is not horrible, but it was not great either.  I was most disappointed in Jena Malone, who was quite enchanting in Pride & Prejudice.  Here, she plays Amy and is just a whiny, uncertain, spoiled girl who is willing to let everyone else make sacrifices to ensure her survival.  Jonathan Tucker plays Jeff and was supposed to be Amy’s loving, understanding boyfriend, but I felt like he was willing to overlook too much and be idealistically optimistic in choosing to wait rather than take action.  Unfortunately, everyone with him chose to follow his plan and eventually paid the price for it.  Stacy (Laura Ramsey), Amy’s best friend, was a very unstable, shallow character.  She started off as someone strong and capable and rapidly declined into something unrecognizable.  I did not understand her character arc at all and ending up disliking her character quite a bit.  Shawn Ashmore played Eric, Stacy’s energetic, take-charge boyfriend, and he floundered in this situation as there was nothing he could do.  Rather than listen to his instincts and try to force a way out, he listened to his friend, Jeff, and ended up dying in a truly bizarre, rushed scene.  Mathias (Joe Anderson) was an interesting character when he was first introduced, but he was injured quickly after they reached the top of the pyramid and did not get a lot of screen time after that. He was more the poor victim than anything else and his friend, Dmitri (Dimitri Baveas), was the first to die and was only in a few scenes. That was pretty much it as far as the cast was concerned.  I wouldn’t say that any of the main 4 were poor actors, as they are actually pretty good, but I just didn’t really care for any of their characters.  They were suffering and dying and I was not emotionally engaged at all.  Most of the other people in this movie didn’t have names and were in very few scenes or were just background scenery.

I was intrigued by the setting and thought that the movie had an interesting premise, but I felt that the movie makers didn’t fully explore the potential of either.  Instead, they chose to go with the cheap, easy route and have a bunch of attractive, scantily clad youths running about screaming and dying.  This was too bad as I feel that they could have made something much more creepy and memorable than what was eventually put together.  They spent too much time setting up the movie and then just abruptly ended it.  I feel like this movie could have been – and should have been – much better than it really was.

Content:

This movie contains scenes of death and characters are shot with bows and arrows, shot with guns, eaten alive by plants and stabbed.  There are some scenes that include amateur surgeries such as leg amputations and plant extraction.  These scenes involved quite a bit of blood and screaming as there was no anesthesia.  There are scenes of drinking, drunkenness, strong language, sexual innuendos, nudity and sensuality.  Recommended for ages 18 and up on DVD or 15 and up if you catch this movie on TV.

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Berserk! (1967) Movie Review

Berserk! (1967)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Joan Crawford, Ty Hardin, Diana Dors, Michael Gough, Judy Geeson, Robert Hardy
Director: Jim O’Connolly
Release Date: 11 January 1968
Language: English
Length: 96 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis:

Monica Rivers (Joan Crawford), owner and ringmaster of a small traveling circus, will stop at nothing to create publicity and fill the seats.  When her star high-wire performer dies gruesomely during his act, Rivers gets the publicity she has been craving and profits soar.  She hires Frank Hawkins (Ty Hardin), an up-and-coming high-wire acrobat, and quickly falls into a torrid affair with the younger, handsome man.  Her previous lover and partner, Durando (Michael Gough), is found murdered shortly thereafter.  Many circus performers suspect that Monica had something to with both deaths, but nothing is proven.  When Monica’s most outspoken accuser, Matilda (Diana Dors), a magician’s assistant, dies after being sawed in half, everyone becomes afraid of the terror stalking the circus.  While audiences continue to pack in to see the horrors live, Scotland Yard sends an investigator (Robert Hardy) to look into the suspicious deaths.  The investigator struggles to break in to the insular world of the circus performers and the bodies continue to pile up as everyone in the circus becomes a suspect…

Review:

This was an interesting movie.  I would not necessarily say that it was good, but I didn’t think it was terrible either.  It is definitely a low-budget horror movie, but there were some moments of charm.  My favorite part of the film was probably the live circus performances that were shown throughout the movie.  I have only been to see the circus once before so I still enjoy seeing old-fashioned circus performances on TV in movies and other shows.  There is something so fascinating of seeing the sawdust and the glitter involved with these circus performances.  You see some amazing feats performed by freaky, weird people.  I think that there is something oddly fascinating and repulsive about circuses and their performers.  Though this movie does not focus on the more freakish performers in the circus, it does highlight the fact that outward appearances don’t really reflect on inner turmoil and darkness.  Another one of my favorite parts were the deliciously snarky lines stabbed at characters by Joan Crawford.  She has some terrific one-liners that were so mean and so cutting that it was just delightful to hear someone say what they really think and not be afraid of repercussions.  While her character will never be considered loveable, she is a still a very strong, powerful woman who is not afraid to go after what she wants.

One of my least favorite aspects of this movie was the villain.  I will not tell you who did it, but I will tell you to not waste your time trying to figure out who the killer is as they are a character that is only featured in the last few minutes of the movie.  I always feel like this is a cop-out as I would much rather have a villain or a killer that is hiding in plain sight so that I can try and figure out whodunit than to be surprised at the end.  Well, I must say that some people might have been surprised, but I thought the killer was pretty obvious.  I don’t know why I felt like I knew who it was, I just had an aha moment when the killer showed up on the screen.  Most people will feel like it is Frank Hawkins (Ty Hardin), as he is a charming, young man determined to make a way for himself.  He manages to finagle his way into Monica Rivers’ (Joan Crawford) heart and talks her into signing over part of the circus ownership to him so that they become partners.  I was a bit taken aback at their relationship as Joan Crawford is pretty old in this movie (and looks it) while Ty Hardin is a handsome, blond stud, but it suited the crazy, over-the-top world of the circus.  Anyway, sorry to disappoint that suspect for you, but he didn’t do it so look elsewhere!

I thought the acting was a bit hammy in this movie, but it didn’t really bother me.  I know a lot of people didn’t like Joan Crawford in this movie, and she is not really one of my favorite actresses from this time period, but I felt like she did the most with this character that she could.  I think that she had a lot of fun playing her part and knowing that she would be under constant suspicion by viewing audiences had to be a little thrill.  This is not one of her better movies, but women of a certain age don’t get too many acting offers.  I was really amused to see that many viewers thought the costumes were trashy, too revealing, and didn’t suit Joan Crawford’s character as she was wearing her own clothes.  This was a movie with a very low budget and she brought her own wardrobe to try and save them money so don’t blame the stylists!  The other actors in the movie were decent in their roles, though nothing spectacular.  None of them were really able to stand up to Joan Crawford when she was sharing the screen with them.  She just overpowered them all or they were too in awe of her to stand up to her and really put themselves out there.  I felt like the men especially seemed to kind of shrink back from her as if she was very intimidating and a real force to be reckoned with.

I didn’t think this was a great movie, but there are some moments to enjoy.  As a rule, I don’t typically enjoy horror movies as I get scared too easily, but I could handle this one!  The murders were kind of funny, as well as gruesome, and the circus atmosphere was oddly fascinating.  The acting wasn’t the best, but I didn’t really expect much of a low-budget horror movie so I wasn’t disappointed.  If you like circus movies with a dark side, this is a fun one to catch and watch late night on TV (it is not available on DVD at this time).

Content:

There are several murders in this film.  People die from falling off a high wire, being stabbed, sawed in half, being electrocuted and other, fairly gruesome, painful methods of dying.  The bodies are briefly shown and there is some blood, but they leave most of it up to the power of suggestion and show people screaming so you know something horrible happened.  There is a love affair between the ringmaster and several of the men in the circus.  There are several scenes of flirtation and sensuality.   There are scenes of smoking and drinking alcohol.  Recommended for ages 12 and up.

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Never Cry Werewolf (2008) Movie Review

Never Cry Werewolf (2008)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

 

Starring: Nina Dobrev, Kevin Sorbo, Peter Stebbings, Spencer Van Wyck, Melanie Leishman
Director: Brenton Spencer
Release Date: 11 May 2008
Language: English
Length: 87 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis:

“When handsome Jared Martin (Peter Stebbings) moves into the neighborhood, teenager Loren Hansett (Nina Dobrev) suspects he’s not what he seems – especially once other residents begin disappearing. She soon begins to notice Jared’s supernaturally wolfish qualities. This contemporary twist on the werewolf tale also stars Kevin Sorbo as local television hunting show host Redd Tucker, who helps Loren stalk the unnatural and vicious creature.” — Netflix.com

Review:

It was werewolf weekend on the Syfy Channel so I recorded a bunch of movies, some good, mostly bad, but a few decent ones.  This is one of the decent ones and I actually enjoyed myself with this one.  It is a twist on the werewolf romance story where the girl (Nina Dobrev) does not want to be the mate of the alpha werewolf (Peter Stebbings).  Instead, she is absolutely terrified of the werewolf next door and is trying to do anything in her power to keep her family away from him.  She tries to get help, but the only assistance she can get is a geeky classmate (Spencer Van Wyck) and a Hollywood actor (Kevin Sorbo) who plays a big-game hunter on TV.  So she really has to rely on herself and it was fun to see a 16-year-old girl out there kicking some butt and taking names.  Sure, she is not always successful, but she makes an effort and doesn’t just wait around for someone else to save her.

The acting is quite good in this movie, especially for a science fiction/horror movie.  I was especially impressed with the lead actress, Nina Dobrev, as she was quite believable in her role without acting over the top.  Peter Stebbings was a sexy hunk, yet completely creepy at the same time, as the werewolf next door who believed Loren (Nina Dobrev) was his reincarnated mate.  Kevin Sorbo was hysterical as the cowardly big-game hunter and, even though he was only in small pieces of the film, he made the most of his role.  By having some decent lead actors in the main roles, this movie was elevated from something tolerable into something worth watching!

If you get a chance to catch this movie on TV, like I did, I think you would enjoy it if you like teen werewolf/vampire romances.  There is a twist on the more traditional (and popular) stories out there right now so it is not quite what I expected, but I say that in a good way.  This movie contains a murder mystery, a sexy werewolf, a budding werewolf slayer, a teen romance, some good laughs and plenty of paranormal adventures so there is a little bit of everything in it for different viewers.  Good times.

Content:

This movie features a 30ish (in human years, who knows how many in werewolf years) man lusting after a 16-year-old girl, which is a little creepy.  There are some mildly sensual scenes, violent scenes, a demon dog who attacks people, a man who transforms into a werewolf and kills people (no actual deaths are shown, just a lot of blood), violence and fighting.  Recommended for ages 14 and up.

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