Film Rave:V/H/S, Bounty Hunters, Headhunters, American Bully


Plot: A group of friends are hired by a mysterious man to infiltrate a house and retrieve a special VHS tape. What they discover is a mountain of tapes with a few of them seemingly too frighteningly real to be true.

Review: “V/H/S” is the “Creepshow” of the found footage subgenre. It’s a novel concept, but one that doesn’t play out well. That probably makes the “Creepshow” reference a bad one, as that anthology horror film was good. This anthology is the opposite of that. It’s tedious and low on thrills. I will give it credit, though. For an hour and fifty minute film, the pacing is stellar and the movie moves relatively fast.

The short films are as follows. “Amatuer Night”, directed by David Bruckner, is about a group of guys going to the club and picking up a woman whose bite is ferocious; “Second Honeymoon”, directed by Ti West, is about a couple on vacation who are seemingly stalked by a young girl; “Tuesday the 17th”, directed by Glenn McQuaid, is a slasher of sorts about a group of friends being mowed down by a killer in the woods; “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger”, directed by Joe Swanberg, is a haunted apartment tale shown through webcam chats between Emily and her boyfriend; “10/31/98”, directed by Radio Silence (consisting of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez and Chad Villella), is a Halloween party at a haunted house that goes dangerously awry. The wraparound, entitled “Tape 56” and directed by Adam Wingard, is the group of friends retrieving the VHS tape and stumbling onto all of these (as well as a few other spooky events).

Only two of these five (six if you count “Tape 56”) tales elicit any chills and they’re only briefly. These would be the two ghost haunting stories. Don’t get your hopes up, though. They’re only scary in the buildup (which doesn’t last long, considering their length). Once the action picks up in both stories, all of the tension dissipates. The “Emily” one because the twist is dumb; the “10/31/98” one because the twist, while clever, doesn’t succeed in inflicting fright.

The rest of the stories are full of either obnoxious douche bags or people who are just plain dull. The crop of directors are a talented bunch, but their qualities aren’t on display here. Especially Ti West, who strikes out with his “Second Honeymoon” story. For someone who’s excellent at building tension, he fails to do so here. The wraparound segments work to get us to each story, but it too isn’t anything special.

The idea behind “V/H/S” is ingenious, but the film as a whole never clicked. This is shocking given the talent involved. Going in I was expecting a solid thriller that could become a Halloween staple. Coming out, I was left cold and disappointed. The only people I can imagine liking this outcome are the makers of “Trick R Treat”. Their crown of top current anthology horror film is safe… for now.

Final Rating: C

Bounty Hunters

Plot: Jules (Trish Stratus), Ridley (Frank J. Zupancic) and Chase (Boomer Phillips) are bail enforcement officers barely scraping by. When one of their targets offers them a one hundred grand deal to let him go and arrest Mario Antonio (Enrico DiFede), they take him up on the offer. They soon discover they’ve bitten off more they can chew, as they’re now involved with the local mob.

Review: Patrick McBrearty was clearly inspired by Andy Sidaris. He’s cast the gorgeous and athletic Trish Stratus in the lead, puts her in skimpy outfits (including a seductive schoolgirl outfit), has her work part time as a stripper (we don’t see her skin, but do many others) and gives her a gun and targets to shoot at. She mostly uses her fists and feet, as well as various wrestling holds (such as arm drags, submissions and hurricanranas). She even polishes off a foe with a finishing maneuver!

The only thing missing to make this a Sidaris joint (outside of explosions) is campy fun. “Bounty Hunters” has it’s moments, but they’re nothing altogether special. The fight scenes are decently choreographed and Stratus holds her own well on screen. It’s just that they’re rather forgettable. They may be serviceable and quench the audiences’ thirst briefly, but the taste dissipates quickly. This happens often in the B-grade action genre and “Bounty Hunters” is no exception.

Reese Eveneshen doesn’t take any risks with the script. Not that he needed to, as this film only requires a streamlined plot. He delivers on that front and does a fine job, I guess. The mafia stuff is cookie cutter and is nothing but a string to hold the action sequences up. I’ll give him credit for giving the three bail enforcement officers back stories, but he doesn’t entirely follow through on them. While Chase’s constant rejection from the police force plays a heavy factor, Ridley’s slain fiancé and Stratus’ child (if I’m remembering correctly) are brought up, but seemingly forgotten about. If they weren’t that important, why bring them up?

You don’t go into a film like “Bounty Hunters” with high hopes. You just hope for an entertaining action yarn to pass the time. While McBrearty’s film isn’t a bad watch, it’s nothing more than serviceable. There are dozens of films just like this on the market. The only real reason to check this one out is for Trish Stratus. If you don’t know who that is, you may be best skipping this one.

Final Rating: C+


Plot: Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is an accomplished headhunter whose latest mission, to obtain a valuable painting owned by a former mercenary, goes incredibly awry.

Review: Morten Tyldum paces his thriller extremely well! He starts off slow, introducing us to the characters in the first thirty minutes. We meet Roger Brown, a rich businessman with a beautiful wife, Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund) and a seemingly perfect life. He has a trusting partner in Ove Kjikerud (Eivind Sander), who assists him on his headhunting duties (when not fooling around with prostitutes). When they look into stealing from Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), things spiral out of control.

From here on out, “Headhunters” is a fast paced thriller that’s high on tension. Roger loses everything, including his hair, and struggles to save his life. He also begins to question those around him, including his beloved wife. Tyldum keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat and slickly hurls twists at almost every turn. I had a fear that they would start to become ludicrous, but that was thankfully vanquished. Even the finale, which had me questioning it’s methods, turned out to be a smartly infused twist!

A brief sampling of the events that Roger goes through. He gets involved in numerous solo shootouts, is involved in a fatal car crash, hides from Clas in fecal matter (which made me almost hurl) and has his head severely lacerated. He started the film out looking like a suave Steve Buscemi (if he were a male model) and began to resemble The Miz, if he were bald, after a brutal wrestling match. I became so invested in the character that I started to feel his pain.

“Headhunters” starts out well and only gets better as time moves on. The first half seems a bit familiar, but the second half is it’s own film. Lars Gudmestad and Ulf Ryberg’s script (working off of the Jo Nesbø novel) may be simplistic on a technical level, but a lot of the great stories are. “Headhunters” is another great story!

Final Rating: A-

American Bully

Plot: Brandon O’Leary (Matt O’Leary) and his friends are ignorant teenagers who believe anybody of a different race is America’s enemy. Erich Singh (Jonathan Halyalkar), who unintentionally got Brandon suspended, is a target of the boys’ hate. After they attack him one night, things begin to spiral out of control and he becomes their hostage.

Review: Dave Rodriguez isn’t afraid to show the dark side of America. As much as we’d like to believe that ignorance and racism isn’t an issue, it is. There are still people in this country who hate those that threaten their way of living or remind them of terrorists. Brandon O’Leary is a caricature of the self-absorbed “redneck” who lets his fists do most of his talking.

To be fair, the character is a bit deeper than that. His brother has been serving in Iraq for over a year and it’s clear he’s afraid he won’t come back. 9/11 has twisted his views of the world, as well as teenagers growing up now (which is Rodriguez’s message). His friends seemingly feel the same way, but change their tone when things get serious. While Brandon relishes in Eric’s fear and anguish, they begin to feel remorse. Mike Grossman (Marshall Allman) especially, who has a bright future ahead of him.

The film centers around a day in their lives. One that starts with Brandon’s suspension and ends with a life changing altercation. In between we see them interact with two girls, one of which starts off as a racist, but radically changes into a heartfelt pacifist (another statement on the teenage mind?). A news report pointlessly wraps around the film, seemingly to nail the message into the audiences’ skull.

It’s a shame Rodriguez feels these are to be necessary, as the film’s centerpiece is strong enough to convey his message. While the four male teenage actors can be a bit shaky, they do their best in portraying hate and confusion. Their actions speak louder than their words, which was enough for the film to get it’s message across and make the audience tackle with their pride. “American Bully” is still a solid film, but it could have been a bit more impactful.

Final Rating: B