Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #21: Hidden Truth (dir by Steven R. Monroe)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by Sunday, December 4th!  Will she make it?  Considering that she only has a day left, probably not.  But keep checking the site to find out!)

 

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I recorded Hidden Truth off of the Lifetime Movie Network on September 18th.  It premiered before that on Lifetime and I even live tweeted it but I didn’t record it until it re-aired on LMN.  I’m glad that I did that because, as I rewatched Hidden Truth, I was surprised by how much I had forgotten about the film.

Hidden Truth is one of those Lifetime films that takes place in a small town where everyone knows each other.  It tells the story of a girl named Zoe (Diana Hopper) who is upset because 1) her father, Pace (Brendan McCarthy), may have killed her mother, 2) he’s now an alcoholic, and 3) she’s being raised by her loving but overprotective aunt, Jamie (Sarah Lind).  Zoe is desperate to get out of town so she starts having an affair with a local rich guy, Michael (Shawn Christian).  She wants his money.  He claims to be in love with her….

And then, one day, Zoe turns up dead and floating in the river.  The sheriff (Parker Stevenson) immediately suspects that Pace got drunk and killed his daughter.  Soon, Aunt Jamie is the only person in town who believes that her brother is innocent.  Can she clear his name?  Can she solve her niece’s murder?  Can she uncover the hidden truth…

Ironically, for the viewer, there’s nothing at all hidden about the truth in this movie.  The movie actually opens with Michael murdering Zoe and dumping her body in the river.  So, from the start, we know who the murderer is.  The film instead becomes about watching Michael try to cover his track and wondering when Jamie will finally figure out what happened.

It’s actually a different approach from what we’re used to with Lifetime but I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about it.  The problem is that Michael really isn’t that clever.  He’s a sloppy murderer and he’s sloppy when it comes to covering his tracks and there’s no moment when you think to yourself that he might get away with it.  And since Michael is a thoroughly despicable and inept character, it’s not like you find yourself conflicted as you watch him try to cover his tracks.  At no point do you think, “He’s a bad guy but I kinda hope he gets away with it.”

I guess what I’m saying is that the Hidden Truth would have worked better if the truth had remained hidden until the final five minutes of the film.  Still, you have to give the filmmakers some credit for trying to do something different.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #143: Online Abduction (dir by Steven R. Monroe)


This weekend, as I recovered from our latest Horror Month here at the Lens, I watched the latest Lifetime original film, Online Abduction.

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Why Was I Watching It?

So, as our long-time readers can probably imagine, last month was an exhausting time here at the Shattered Lens.  Though I don’t have an exact count, I believe that I personally wrote over 150 reviews for October.  When Halloween finally arrived I was on the verge of collapse.  What better way to decompress than by watching the latest film on Lifetime?

What Was It About?

Isabel (Brooke Butler) is a teenager with issues.  Her mother (Natalia Livingston) ignores her.  Her stepfather (David Chokachi) is overly critical of her.  Her 3 year-old brother gets the all the attention.  Feeling unwanted by her family, Isabel spends most of her time online or hanging out with her friends, all of whom spend most of their time online as well.

However, one day, her little brother is abducted.  With her parents blaming her and the FBI turning out to be surprisingly inefficient, Isabel takes it upon herself to find out what has happened to her little brother.  And, fortunately, she knows how to use the internet to do it…

What Worked?

Most Lifetime movies are basically about unappreciated mothers whose daughters refuse to take their advise until it’s almost too late.  The film usually ends with the daughter hugging her mom and admitting that she should have listened to her mother from the beginning.  Online Abduction, however, tweaks the formula.  This time, it’s the daughter who knows best and the mom who should have listened to her from the beginning.

As well, most Lifetime film present the internet as being an instrument of the devil.  So, it was interesting to see a Lifetime film where the internet was not only a good thing but also the key to solving all of the world’s problems.  (Online Abduction was pretty much the epitome of a “the internet can do anything!” movie.)

What Did Not Work?

The mystery was a bit pedestrian.  I kept waiting for some big twist and it never came.  Online Abduction lacked the type of over-the-top, batshit crazy melodrama that a lot of us look forward to when it comes to Lifetime movies.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I related to Isabel.  It’s not easy being a teenager.

Lessons Learned

The kids are alright and the Internet can solve anything.

2013 In Review: The Best of SyFy


It’s been quite a year for the SyFy network, even if the network’s most widely-seen original film, Sharknado, was actually one of their weaker offerings.  As a proud member of the Snarkalecs and a Snarkies voter, I’ve certainly enjoyed watching, reviewing, and live tweeting all of the films that SyFy and the Asylum have had to offer us this year.

Below, you’ll find my personal nominees for the best SyFy films and performances of 2013.  (Winners are listed in bold.)

End of the World

Best Film

Battledogs

Blast Vegas

*End of the World

Flying Monkeys

Ghost Shark

Zombie Night

Best Actor

Neil Grayston in End of the World

*Greg Grunberg in End of the World

Anthony Michael Hall in Zombie Night

Frankie Muniz in Blast Vegas

Corin Nemec in Robocroc

Tom Everett Scott in Independence Daysaster

Best Actress

Maggie Castle in Blast Vegas

Lacey Chabert in Scarecrow

Kaitlyn Leeb in Grave Halloween

*Maika Monroe in Flying Monkeys

Ariana Richards in Battledogs

Mackenzie Rosman in Ghost Shark

Best Supporting Actor

Barry Bostwick in Blast Vegas

William B. Davis in Stonados

Brad Dourif in End of the World

Dennis Haysbert in Battledogs

John Heard in Sharknado

*Richard Moll in Ghost Shark

Best Supporting Actress

*Shirley Jones in Zombie Night

Nicole Munoz in Scarecrow

Jill Teed in Independence Daysaster

Jackie Tuttle in Flying Monkeys

Dee Wallace in Robocroc

Kate Vernon in Battledogs

Best Director

Griff Furst for Ghost Shark

Robert Grasmere for Flying Monkeys

John Gulager for Zombie Night

W.D. Hogan for Independence Daysaster

*Steven R. Monroe for End of the World

Jack Perez for Blast Vegas

Best Screenplay

Shane Van Dyke for Battledogs

Joe D’Ambrosia for Blast Vegas

*Jason C. Bourque and David Ray for End of The World

Silvero Gouris for Flying Monkeys

Paul A. Birkett for Ghost Shark

Rick Suvalle for Scarecrow

Flying Monkeys

Best Monster

*Skippy from Flying Monkeys

The Shark from Ghost Shark

Robocroc from Robocroc

The Scarecrow from Scarecrow

The Tasmanian Devils from Tasmanian Devils

The Zombies from Zombie Night

Battledogs

Tomorrow, I will continue my look back at 2013 with my picks for the 16 worst films of 2013!

What Horror Lisa and The Snarkalecs Watched Last Night #94: Grave Halloween (dir by Stephen R. Monroe)


Last night, the Snarkalecs and I turned over to SyFy and watched an original horror film entitled Grave Halloween.

Why Were We Watching It?

It was Saturday night and that meant that it was time for another Snarkalec live tweet!  We were all pretty excited about watching and live tweeting Grave Halloween, largely because it was directed by the same guy who directed the greatest film to ever premiere on SyFy, End Of The World.

What Was It About?

A group of American exchange students in Japan go into a place known as Suicide Forest to make a movie.  Years ago, Maiko’s (Kaitlyn Leeb) mother committed suicide in the forest.  Naturally, as soon as Maiko and her friends enter the forest, they end up getting lost, having visions of the dead, and dying in various grotesque ways.  It doesn’t help that one of Maiko’s friends finds a discarded watch in the forest and decides to stick it in his pocket.  Seriously, ghosts are apparently really attached to their watches.

What Worked?

A lot of people on twitter complained that Grave Halloween moved too slowly.  I, however, didn’t find the film to be that slow.  It was definitely deliberately paced (especially when compared to some of the other films that have appeared on SyFy) but I thought that was to the film’s advantage.  The film took its time to set up its scares and shocks and the end result was a genuinely creepy horror film that rewarded the audience’s patience.

The film was set in Japan but, like most SyFy films, it was actually filmed in Vancouver.  Now, I’ve never been to Japan or Vancouver so I can’t really say whether Canada could pass for Japan.  But what I do know is that director Stephen R. Monroe got every single bit of atmosphere that he could out of the forests of British Columbia.  As filmed by Monroe and cinematographer Michael C. Blundell, the scenery is both beautiful and menacing.  By the end of the film, the forest itself feels like an individual character.

Of the cast of victims, my favorite was Brody (played by Jesse Wheeler), mostly because he looked like he could be Greg Grunberg’s younger brother.

What Did Not Work?

As I watched Grave Halloween, it quickly became apparent that the entire situation was pretty much all Maiko’s fault.  She’s the one who led her friends into Suicide Forest.  She’s the one who, even after everyone started to vanish, refused to leave.  Ultimately, she was the one who was responsible for putting her friends in a position where they could all be killed.

And yet, no one in the film seemed to be willing to acknowledge that they would have all been better off if they had never met Maiko.  Seriously, I was so waiting for someone to say, “Okay, Maiko — you go do your thing and the rest of us are going to get the fuck outta here before we end up getting ripped into little pieces, ‘kay?”

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

So, naturally, one of the girls ended up tripping while she was running through the forest.  Despite the fact that it didn’t look like that bad of a fall, she ended up with a broken bone literally poking out of her leg.

Since I’m currently recovering from a sprained ankle, you can probably imagine that this was not my favorite scene in the movie.  Instead, it made me go, “Agck!” and then hide my face in a pillow because I could relate way too much.

(That said, I’m still amazed at how fragile her bones apparently were…)

Lessons Learned

Never steal a dead man’s watch.

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What Lisa Marie and the Snarkalecs Watched Last Night #71: End of the World (dir by Steven R. Monroe)


Last night, the Snarkalecs and I watched the SyFy original movie, End of the World.  For the next two hours, we literally dominated twitter as we shared our mutual, nearly obsessive love for this film.  Soon, #EndOfTheWorld was a trending topic and, I’m happy to say, that ended up freaking out a lot of paranoid people who weren’t watching SyFy.

All in all, it was a pretty good night.

End of the WorldWhy Were We Watching It?

Because that’s what the Snarkalecs do.  We watch movies on SyFy and we usually get all snarky about them.  However, it was difficult to be snarky about End of the World because the people who made End of The World were obviously very snarky themselves.

What Was It About?

The world’s being bombarded by chunks of electromagnetic space debris.  Or something like that.  Really, the important thing to know is that the world’s about to end and it’s up to two video store clerks (played by two titans of nerdy adorability, Greg Grunberg and Neil Grayston) to save it.  Their solution involves breaking a sci-fi writer named Doc Brown (Brad Dourif) out of a mental asylum and Greg Grunberg working on a nuclear missile with a power drill.

However, to be honest, the plot is just a distraction.  The storyline is mostly used as an excuse to make clever references to nearly ever science fiction movie ever made.  Some of the references are obvious and some of them are a bit more subtle but, ultimately, they are what this movie is truly about.

What Worked?

It all worked.

Seriously, End of the World is the best film that I’ve ever seen on SyFy.  It was a film that was obviously made by genre fans for genre fans and, as a result, it felt like a belated Valentine’s Day present from the SyFy network to its viewers.

As I previously mentioned, the entire film is basically a collection of references and homages to other science fiction films.  While this is a technique that I’ve found cloying when used by other films, End of the World struck exactly the right tone.  The references were appreciative without over going overboard and, even more importantly, they were cleverly deployed throughout the film.   They moved the film forward and seemed to grow organically out of the action onscreen.  As a result, even with all the references, the film itself never felt heavy-handed.

Greg Grunberg is one of those great actors who can perfectly sell both comedy and drama.  His talents were on perfect display last night.  Perhaps the best Grunberg line of the night was, “It’s a monologue!  MONO!”

Brad Dourif didn’t have a lot of screentime but seriously, he  was just adorable.

Really, the whole film was just adorable.

What Did Not Work?

It all worked.

“Oh my God!  Just Like me!” Moments

Much like the character of Selena (Caroline Cave), I think Greg Grunberg’s pretty awesome.

Lessons Learned

The geeks shall inherit the Earth (but only after the Redheads are finished with it).

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #58: The 12 Disasters of Christmas (dir by Steven R. Monroe)


Last night, I got into the holiday spirit by watching a SyFy original movie called The 12 Disasters of Christmas.

Why Was I Watching It?

Because it was on SyFy, it was called 12 Disasters of Christmas, and it looked like it would be a fun film to live tweet on twitter.

What Was It About?

The Mayans were right!  That’s right, it’s December 21st and the world is about to end.  Coincidentally, it’s also the birthday of this girl named Jacey.  She lives in the Canadian town of Calvary.  Her father is named Joseph, her mother is named Mary, and her younger brother is named Peter.  According to her crazy neighbor, Grant (who I’m sure we all remember from the Gospel of St. Grant), Jacey is also the chosen one.

What does being the chosen one mean?  It means that whenever you’re near one of the five rings that can save the world, you start to have the worst cramps ever!  Seriously, being the chosen one sucks.

Anyway, Grant explains that the 12 Days of Christmas is actually an adaptation of a Mayan song that tells about the 12 world-ending disasters that’ll occur on Jacey’s birthday.  So, it’s up to Jacey and Joseph to find those five rings before the 12th disaster.  Unfortunately, there’s a villainous businessman named Kane who is convinced that if he sacrifices Jacey, the world will be saved.

So, once again, the fate of the world is in the hands of a bunch of Canadians.

What Worked?

First off, 12 Disasters of Christmas has got to be one of the best titles in the history of cinema.  SyFy films generate a lot of tweets but I think that 12 Disasters of Christmas set a record.  Everyone wanted to see what this movie was about.

This was a fun movie to live tweet.  The plot was ludicrous, there was rarely a dull moment, and the actors played their roles with just the right blend of melodrama and humor.  This is one of those films that was made to be watched as part of a communal experience.

On twitter, we had a lot of fun picking up all the references to Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, previous SyFy films, and the Bible.  Especially the Bible.  For once, I was able to put all of those old catechism class lessons to good use.

What Did Not Work?

On Twitter, we were all a bit confused as to what this movie defined as being a “disaster” and what was just something sucky that happened.  For instance, was it one of the disasters when the Christmas tree lights went crazy and caused one of the characters to explode?  Or was it just something sucky that happened?  While the film certainly had every right to remain ambiguous on this point, it still didn’t change the fact that we all tuned in to see 12 (and exactly 12) disasters of Christmas.  By my count, the film only featured 10 disasters of Christmas but again, it all depends on how you define disaster.

While I appreciated all of the biblical names, I think the filmmakers missed a big opportunity by not featuring any characters named Gabriel, Pilate, Salome, Martha,  Luke, Barnabas, Timothy, or James.

While this certainly cannot be blamed on the film or the filmmakers, there was a lot of hashtag confusion on Twitter with as many as three different hashtags being used during the viewing of the film.  Some people used the #12DisastersofChristmas hashtag.  Some went with the simpler #12Disasters.  Others used #SyFyMovies.  And some people — like me — used all three!

Eventually, #12DisastersofChristmas became a trending topic and was hijacked by people looking for an excuse to discuss terrible things that had happened them on Christmas.  That got kinda old kinda fast.

“OMG!  JUST LIKE ME!” Moments

Whenever Jacey was about to have to do something unpleasant, she got the most dramatic cramps imaginable and got out of doing it.  I used to do the same thing to get out of gym class.

Lessons Learned

The Mayans had a twisted sense of humor.  Seriously, way to ruin 2012 for everyone!