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The Best Recent Horror Movie Prequels

Speaking in general terms, prequels get a bad rap and that seems to go double for horror prequels. This weekend sees the release of Annabelle: Creation, the prequel to Annabelle, which itself is a prequel to The Conjuring. If social media is any indication, it seems many have prematurely dismissed the forthcoming origin despite its official release still two days out.

It’s tough, though, to blame potential moviegoers for a lack of enthusiasm on their part regarding a second Annabelle movie. Sure the original scared up huge box office success, but the film was critically panned and nobody since has been clamoring for another go-around with the world’s creepiest doll.

Thankfully, recent history is on our side. No longer does a horror movie prequel automatically mean a horrible film. In fact, some have gone on to be better films than the original. Here are five recent examples of great prequels to horror films.

5. Insidious: Chapter 3

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Horror Master James Wan is a household name. After establishing two mega-popular tent poles (Saw and The Conjuring) and refueling another (Furious 7), he should be. But not every swing is a hit, even for great filmmakers. Insidious: Chapter 2 is a critical stain on Wan’s otherwise beloved resume. It left such a sour taste in audiences’ mouths that the third chapter shares so few ties with the first two installments, with of course the exception of Lin Shaye, who is an absolute delight as the series’ psychic. By stepping away from recognizable names and faces of Insidious and focusing on a new family while keeping a tight leash on tension, this prequel has breathed new life into these movies. Bring on Chapter Four!

4. Final Destination 5

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Where is a franchise to go following a fourth film called The Final Destination? Back to the beginning, of course! As it turns out, not such a bad call for the Final Destination franchise. While Final Destination 5 doesn’t do anything to win over new audiences, hardcore horror heads will no doubt revel in the prequel’s tongue-in-cheek sense of mischief and its effectively silly application of 3D technology. What’s more, ‘FD5′ features some of the series’ most ludicrous and memorable deaths (see: acupuncture Buddha and gymnastics splat-tastics).

3. Prometheus

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Prometheus is undoubtedly one of the most polarizing films to come out of the last decade. Many moviegoers praised Director Ridley Scott for imaginatively exploring new possibilities within the Alien universe and an equal number of people criticize the filmmaker for unnecessarily squatting over his cherished property (hence Ridley “Squat”). By its inclusion on this list, I’m sure you’ve already surmised that I tend to hang my hat on the former. That wasn’t always the case, though. Prior to Alien: Covenant, I thought Prometheus was a pretentious cash grab that promised answers but ultimately left me with more questions. After seeing where Ridley Scott plans to take the series, I’ve since changed my tune and see this film as the first act of a larger story featuring Michael Fassbender’s David, who is slowly becoming one of modern cinema’s greatest villains.

2. Paranormal Activity 3

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The original Paranormal Activity reinvigorated the found footage horror fad that lasted the better part of a decade. Paranormal Activity 2 was just more of the same. Instead of giving the same ol’ situation one more try, the third installment straight up jumps back to the eighties to explore the haunting of its lead heroines as young material girls living in a material world. The lack of contemporary tech forced Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost to roll with it and craft once in a lifetime scares. The result was a truly terrifying thriller.

1. Ouija: Origin of Evil

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Prequels are the life support systems of the horror genre. They’re a studio’s attempt to keep a lucrative franchise alive. Typically, that involves upping the ante on whatever the gruesome gimmick of that particular series is at the expense of coherent, compelling storytelling. Director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) managed to achieve both with his prequel to the dumpster fire that is Ouija. Through the course of a deliberately paced slow burn, Flanagan simultaneously builds his characters and his scares. Consequently, ‘Origin of Evil’ is as tender as it is frightening and a decided improvement over the first film.

There you have it. Good horror movie prequels do exist and we’ve been fortunate to get as many as we’ve had the past few years. Speaking for Annabell: Creation, David F. Sandberg showed us he knows original horror when he put out last year’s Lights Out. Plus he recently landed the Shazam! gig, so James Wan isn’t the only visionary who thinks Sandberg’s capable of creatively spinning existing material.

Let us know what you all thought about our list in the comments section below and be sure to include your list of best horror movie prequels.

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Ranking ‘Alien: Covenant’ among the rest of the ‘Alien-Predator’ films

There is a lot of history to sink your teeth into between the Alien and Predator franchises. Both have experienced their high’s as well as their low’s. Despite the ceaseless debates about what exactly qualifies as what, it seems diehard fans are perpetually bursting at the chest for another chance to live inside this quasi-shared universe (whether it be the movies, comics, video games, whatever). If you’re among them (or just a casual fan of gory sci-fi action), then you’re in luck! Friday marks the release of the latest entry (directed by Ridley Scott, too!) in the series: Alien: Covenant.

To commemorate this surely divisive event, we here at Movie Minutes have ranked the eleven films (including ‘Covenant’) of the Alien and Predator (kind of) shared cinematic universe in an order we consider “worst” to “best.” Enjoy!

11.) Alien 3

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This film is so bad that its director, David Fincher (The Social Network, Gone Girl, Fight Club, if you can believe that), did not even want to be given credit on the project. It’s so bad that the Fox Studios, at one time, had officially announced plans to retcon the film with a Neill Blomkamp installment that was going to take place chronologically after James Cameron’s Aliens. And then there are the fans, who felt sleighed by (among other things) the unceremonious, unnecessary killings-off of two beloved characters in the first scene. Nobody wants this movie.

10.) Predator 2

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This film finds itself as low on our list as it is simply because of how forgettable it is. It’s your prototypical “copy-paste” sequel that plucks the titular extraterrestrial from the actual jungles of Central America and plops it into the concrete jungle of New York City. It’s an interesting idea on paper, but the film offers few new ideas or at least anything that sticks. Plus, Danny Glover just does not have the campy charisma of Arnold Schwarzenegger that helped make the iconic first film so much fun.

9.) Alien: Resurrection

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Unlike the last film on our list, Alien: Resurrection is anything but forgettable. It’s a weird, mixed bag of interesting ideas, poor visual effects, and fun performances. It focuses on the hybrid experimentation between the humans and the iconic xenormorphs, which not only revived Ripley but, in turn, granted her superhuman strength. It’s a completely ludicrous concept that actually lends itself to some fun action and some strange sci-fi sequences that almost play out like a send-up of the series itself. Plus it never hurts to put Sigourney Weaver, Ron Pearlman, Winona Ryder, and Brad Dourif in the same movie together.

8.) Alien vs. Predator

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I know already that this is where I’ll be taking the most gruff. You see, I enjoy the Alien-Predator throwdown flicks more than most. I love the idea that the Predators hunt the xenomorphs as a sort of right of passage/sport, though the more specific explanations necessary to bridge the two mythologies are a bit muddled. Regardless, there is a certain novelty is watching these two titans of sci-fi go head to head as they perfectly compliment each other’s weaknesses: the xenomorph with its brute strength and killer instinct and the Predator with its superior intellect and advanced technology. However, I don’t quite understand the math that says two brutally R-rated franchises come together to make a PG-13 film.

7.) Predators

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Slapping an “S” at the end of “Predator” was exciting. They did it to Alien and we got a whole bunch of aliens! What would Predators be like? Well, as it turns out, exactly like the first ‘Predator’ movie only with less believable characters. It’s not all bad though. The film does introduce some unique ideas such as the Predators dedicating entire planets to  the hunt and setting the film on one of those planets is an intriguing idea gushing with possibilities. Unfortunately, the filmmakers weren’t quite able to capitalize on it. Predators does, however, boast some exhilarating action sequences. Those combined with some fresh ideas and some pretty hammy performances (particularly from one Adrien Brody), is enough to warrant at least a once through.

6.) Alien vs. Predator: Requiem

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Here we are again. This is the movie I wanted the first film in this short-lived series to be: xenomorphs, Predators out in the open, duking it out in gory, R-rated fashion. ‘Requiem’ benefits from a simpler plot involving a rogue Predator visiting Earth to extinguish the abominable hybrid of their two species (the “Predalien”). It puts a sci-fi twist on the classic revenge Western. Unfortunately, the humans prove once again to be the weak link here. The dialogue is often cartoonishly unspeakable and the characters speaking it laughably lite on development.

5.) Prometheus

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There’s genuinely a lot to admire about Prometheus. It’s a technical splendor. The cinematography is gorgeous and the visual effects are out of this world (get it?). Scott’s premise of going back and exploring the origins of life within the beloved Alien universe is utterly fascinating. And, of course, there’s the stellar cast: Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, and Idris Elba, just to name a few. It’d be higher on my list if it had answered more questions than it asked. Prometheus was marketed as an Alien prequel but failed to deliver that connection.

4.) Alien: Covenant

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The latest in the long-running franchise is every bit the technical splendor that it’s predecessor, Prometheus, is. Unlike Prometheus, however, Alien: Covenant delivers the extraterrestrial goods. It more closely bridges the gap between Prometheus and Alien seamlessly, answering a lot of big questions while also leaving some big ones for Scott’s next couple installments to tackle. If those next films are anything like this tense, slow burning slasher, then I say keep ’em coming!

3.) Predator

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You know how everyone always says the original is the best? Well, in this case that’s true (at least so far). Like its featured band of beef cakes, Predator‘s savageness is rivaled only by its simplicity. One hyper-intelligent alien warrior vs. a squad of super-macho commandos (think of it as a beefier, sweatier, bloodier Ten Little Indians). Thankfully the film plays up the camp of its own premise and Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the outfit’s commander with just the right amount of tongue planted in his cheek. Plus, the guy knows how to sell an action scene and this film’s full of ’em!

2.) Alien

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This is by far the best true-to-form horror film on this list. Technically, yes, it is just Jaws in space, but who doesn’t want to see that? Director Ridley Scott masters the art of tone with this film. Every prop, set piece, and lighting configuration in every shot is meticulously designed to make you feel uneasy or on edge. That way when things do eventually go horribly wrong (and they do!), it feels that much worse. Alien also features the trippiest-looking shark ever in a space movie. H.R. Giger’s designs are so singular and so powerful that just gazing upon the xenomorph is enough to let you know that, whatever you’re looking at, it can’t be good for your health. Then there’s the fact that every movie about an alien aboard a spaceship ever has tried to be this film and that’s got to count for something, right?

1.) Aliens

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It’s pretty much a tossup between Ridley Scott’s original slow burn and James Cameron’s action-packed follow-up. It more or less depends on the day; however, on this particular day we’re giving the edge to Aliens. It never tries to be Alien. Instead, it takes the core concept of the original film and expands it into the mythology we know and love today by approaching the story through the lens of a different genre and introducing elements that have since become franchise fixtures, such as the xenomorph queen. Cameron also surrounded Signourney Weaver with a strong cast and introduced us to some beloved characters such as Hicks and Newt. Aliens is not only one of the greatest sequels of all time, it’s one of the greatest films of all time.

What do you think of our list? Hit up our comments section below and let us know and don’t forget to share how you’d rearrange this list!

Alien: Covenant (2017)– Video Review

It’s been a long time coming, but is Alien: Covenant the Alien movie we all thought Prometheus was going to be? Check out our video review of the new pre-sequel and find out!

Have you seen the film? What did you think? Hit up the comments section below and let us know!

Life (2017)- Review

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Olga Dihovichnaya, & Ariyon Bakare

Synopsis: A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth (Source: IMDb).

Rating: R

In space, nobody can hear you yawn. In the theater, however, everyone can and during my particular screening, there was plenty of it. To be fair, it was late at night and we were all comfortably reclined in premium leather Lazy Boys. Still, with as creative a spin on the genre as the film presents and the amount of talent involved, it should have been much easier to stay awake for Life.

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You can tell Director Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) and writing duo Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (Zombieland, Deadpool) had high aspirations for their sci-fi horror flick, going so far to as emulate Ridley Scott’s Alien to the point of tedium. And though Scott is still exploring the origins of the xenomorph with his ongoing anthology, Life offers a much simpler and more relevant revelation.

Instead of hatching from gooey eggs on some distant moon a hundred years from now, their monster (later dubbed Calvin by Earthly school children) is unearthed from a Martian core sample by present-day astronauts living aboard the International Space Station (or ISS). And instead of an intricately inspired extraterrestrial (thank you, H.R. Giger), Calvin is more of a microbial jelly. On paper this somewhat more grounded explanation sounds scarier. On screen, however, narrative tension becomes the first victim.

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As probable as everything up to this point sounds, Calvin is rather improbable. Shortly after breaking free from its enclosure, it becomes apparent that this squid-thing is nearly indestructible. Despite their best efforts, our crew never stands a chance. Calvin is always the smartest, strongest, most observant thing in the room.

Of course it doesn’t help that our scientists keep making bad decisions. Because of these things, Life never lives up to its promised cat and mouse premise. Instead, it’s a game of waiting to see who’s gonna bite it (rather, get bit) next. And it’s a game that, despite the familiarity of such films, could have been much more fun to play had the characters been a bit more fleshed out. You can almost tell who’s getting offed next based on who has the least amount of backstory.

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However, the most frustrating things about Life is its persistent hand-holding. It overcompensates for its narrative shortcomings with an overly dramatic, in-your-face score designed to not let you forget how you’re supposed to be feeling at any given moment and expulsions of blatant exposition (at one point one character says “Calvin’s in the air vents!” when we just saw Calvin go into the air vents) in case you dozed off.

Life‘s not all bad, though. For instance, Espinosa does a nice job with the environment. I never doubted for a second that the crew was floating about in space aboard the International Space Station. Of course, some of that credit goes to the stunning work from the visual effects team. And though the characters themselves don’t have a whole lot going on, the performances help make them just tolerable enough to the point where I cared to stick around through the ending. That’s gotta mean something, right?

Grade: C+

Life lands in theaters Friday, March 24th.

Have you seen Life? What did you think? Was it a total Alien ripoff or did you find something about it to cling to? Let us know in the comments section!

The 7 Deadliest Movie Monsters from Outer Space!

Did you know that scientists know more about our moon than they do about our oceans? It’s a fascinating fact and one that goes to show that outer space may not be the final frontier after all. It is, however, the most expansive frontier. There is more room for possibility out in the vastness of the cosmos than under our seas.

For almost as long as there have been films, curious filmmakers have pondered such possibilities. Chief among them: new worlds and new forms of life. Earth can’t be the only planet capable of sustaining intelligent life, can it?

Judging by the films we’ve gotten over the years, these artists have come to a general conclusion. Not only are we not alone in the universe, but we’re sorely outmatched. In some terrifying instances, by deadly superior life forms looking to dominate our planet.

Here are the seven deadliest movie monsters from outer space that fit that description.

7. Audrey II- Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

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Sure, it starts with a drop of blood here or there. Then, before you know it, you’re chopping your boss into little pieces and feeding him to smooth talking shrubs. You’re too dazzled by their promise of fortune and fame (as well as their lovely baritone pipes) to see the threat growing just under your nose. Eventually, they’re too big to fail and more of them are sprouting up next door, down the street, everywhere (at least if you saw the original ending)! There’s no denying how deadly this charming, cunning chunk of cabbage is. Thankfully, you can minimize the risk of fatality if you just read the signs: “Whatever they offer you, don’t feed the plants!”

6. King Ghidorah- Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)

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Unlike Audrey II, there’s nothing small or cute (or aurally alluring) about King Ghidorah. He doesn’t have to earn your trust to end your life. There is a multitude of means by which this three-headed monstrosity can help you meet your maker: eat you, squish you, whip you (with either tail), or shoot freakin’ lightning at you from any or all of his mouths! To make matters worse, he can fly! This means running away is a near impossibility. Your best chance is praying to God. Godzilla, that is.

5. The Blob- The Blob (1988)

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King Ghidorah is big enough, though, that you could likely get away early if you spotted him on the horizon. The scariest stuff is what you don’t see coming and that’s precisely the blob’s M.O. It’s just colorful enough to find appealing but unappealing enough to not be seen as a threat (you’d think it was garbage before you’d think it was the life-sucking scum of the universe). And once you’re close enough, it pounces and the last thing you know on this god-forsaken rock is the cold touch of its tight, gelatinous grasp. As if that wasn’t awful enough, it grows larger with each meal and that can only mean a bigger appetite.

4. The Xenomorph- Alien (1979)

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You may not see the blob coming, but eventually (perhaps once it’s big enough) somebody will get wise and torch it, which seems to work in those movies. On the other hand, the only effect fire seems to have on a xenomorph is pissing it off and you don’t want to agitate this beast. Not only is it fire-proof, but it’s also scary stealthy. Like the blob, you won’t be alerted to its presence until its too late. By then, its retractable mandible is feasting on your mushy membrane. The xenomorph has been referred to as “the perfect organism.” Its purpose is to thrive and it thrives by eating. It eats by hunting and it’s the perfect hunter.

3. The Thing- The Thing (1982)

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Alright, before you hand me a verbal lashing, hear me out. I know fire is pretty effective against this intergalactic impersonator; however, what makes the Thing scarier than the xeno is this: you can never be 100% sure that you’ve killed it. If you miraculously manage to dispatch a xenomorph, that’s it. It’s gone. But the Thing is a trickster that can take many forms. Even if you torched one of its hosts, it could still be the friend at your side who’s watching along as the carcass blazes out. Or the dog that ran away once the crap started hitting the fan. And once you think it’s over and you’ve finally let your guard down… That’s when the Thing will do its thing.

2. Slither Slugs- Slither (2006)

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This one is pretty simple. Take my rationale behind why the Thing is terrifying and multiply that by hundreds! That’s how frightening the Slither Slugs are! These slimy parasites infect a human host, command their consciousness and then mutate their body beyond repulsion until they reproduce countless more offspring. It’s a never-ending life cycle that will forefit your life.

1. The Predator- Predator (1987)

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Alas! We finally arrive at the most dangerous game! And I mean that because the Predator is a creature who kills for sport. That’s right. It doesn’t need to rip your spine out of your back with your skull still attached and it definitely doesn’t need to display it in a trophy case or around its waist. It wants to! That alone is more chilling than getting in the way of something that’s simply looking to survive. Add to that the species’ hyper-advanced, technological prowess. They’ve proven they’re smarter than a lot of living things in the universe. So no matter where you run or where you hide, the Predator will track you down, end you, and revel in the glory of the kill.

Well there you have it! Our list of the top seven deadliest movie monsters from space! Let us know in the comments below what you think of our list and give us your own list! And feel free to share this post with your sci-fi or horror nerd friends!