Friday, February 28, 2020

Worth Mentioning - Banging on the Head Drum

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Sharks, aliens, ghosts, and a creepy clown.


Director Johannes Roberts' shark thriller 47 Meters Down had a pretty cool success story. Nearly sent direct-to-video by Dimension Films in 2016, the film was saved from that fate by Entertainment Studios, given a theatrical release in 2017, and it ended up doing quite well at the box office. I was able to congratulate Roberts on the success of his film in person when I visited the set of The Strangers: Prey at Night at the end of June that year. 47 Meters Down did so well that a sequel was given the greenlight. So then Roberts and his co-writer Ernest Riera had to figure out how to make a sequel to a movie that was about a freak accident; in that film, a cage diving excursion went terribly wrong and dropped two sisters into shark-infested waters.

What Roberts and Riera decided to do was tell a completely unrelated story that just happens to share some elements with the first film. Instead of cage diving, this sequel is about cave diving (thus the subtitle Uncaged), but it still puts some unlucky divers with gear just like the SCUBA gear worn by the sisters in the previous movie in contact with some ravenously hungry sharks.

Here Sophie Nélisse and Corinne Foxx star as Mia and Sasha, stepsisters who are living in Mexico with Mia's dad Grant (John Corbett) and Sasha's mom Jennifer (Nia Long) while Grant maps out a flooded Mayan city. This underwater city and its many passageways are where the majority of the film takes place, as Mia and Sasha make the very poor decision to go swimming into them with Sasha's friends Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sistine Stallone).

Things go terribly wrong in those tunnels, of course, and the girls find themselves trapped. And they're not alone. Grant and his two assistants are down there, but so are blind Great White sharks that have been living and breeding in these underground passageways for a very long time. Tunnels collapse, escape attempts fail, characters make bad choices and let panic get the better of them, air levels run dangerously low. And everyone in the tunnels with the sharks gets bitten at least once. Some of them don't make it. And just like he did in The Strangers: Prey at Night, Roberts made some nice use of '80s songs; in this case songs by Aztec Camera and Roxette.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged is more outlandish than its predecessor, but it provides a good amount of shark thrills and I was entertained for its 90 minutes.

100 FEET (2008)

Writer/director Eric Red's film 100 Feet has a genius idea at its core. The story centers on a woman named Marnie, played by Famke Janssen, who has to serve a one year house arrest sentence in the same home where she killed her abusive police officer husband Mike (Michael Pare) in self-defense... and Mike's vengeful spirit is still lurking in the house.

Marnie is forced to wear an electronic ankle bracelet that only allows her to move within a one hundred foot radius of the base unit that has placed in the center of the house. If she goes beyond one hundred feet, an alarm will sound. If it goes off for more than three minutes, the police will stop by. And if she's found to be violating the terms of her house arrest when they show up, she'll be going to prison for ten years. She has to be extra careful about this because the cop who'll be closely monitoring her activities is Shanks (Bobby Cannavele) - Mike's partner, who is very bitter that Marnie killed his buddy and doesn't believe that Mike was abusive. So this is a haunted house story where the main character has to remain inside the house or go to prison.

Shanks and grocery delivery boy Joey (Ed Westwick) have a good amount of screen time, but Janssen carries the majority of the film on her shoulders and does a great job. It's interesting to see how Marnie tries to dispel Mike from the house without going one hundred feet away from that base unit. Red keeps the film moving along at a good pace, and the ghost attack sequences can even be appreciated by someone like me, who isn't a big fan of ghost stories because the usual ghost tactics like slowly opening creaky doors don't do anything for me. Ghost-Mike takes his time letting Marnie get creeped out and do research on ghosts between his appearances, but when he does show up he is a violent, evil force. Just as you'd expect the spirit of an abusive husband to be. He is still beating and terrorizing Marnie from beyond the grave.

100 Feet is a really good horror movie that doesn't seem to get as much attention as it deserves.

John Fallon, founder of, the website I work as a news editor for, makes an appearance in the film as the guy who puts the ankle bracelet on Marnie, and former managing editor Eric Walkuski makes an uncredited appearance as a "shocked guy" in the background of a shot... but I've been a fan of 100 Feet and owned a copy of the DVD for years before I started working at ArrowintheHead, so that's not why I'm saying good things about it.


In 2015, a video was uploaded to a YouTube account called HvUSeenWrinkles that showed security cam footage of a creepy clown wearing a strange, wrinkled mask crawling out of a drawer beneath a little girl's bed. You can understand how a video like that would get attention and freak people out. Wrinkles the Clown quickly became a viral sensation, and while further videos of Wrinkles sightings were more innocuous, showing the clown standing on a roadside or hanging out in a parking lot, the character still got enough attention that he was even mentioned by the likes of Jimmy Fallon and James Corden on their talk shows.

The legend of Wrinkles grew thanks to stickers that were placed around the Naples, Florida area with Wrinkles' phone number on them - people now had the chance to call Wrinkles and possibly talk to the clown himself, or at least leave him a voicemail. The story spread that Wrinkles was actually a clown-for-hire, but he didn't offer the usual lighthearted entertainment services. Wrinkles worked for parents who wanted to scare their children into improving their behavior.

Director Michael Beach Nichols' documentary Wrinkles the Clown explores the viral sensation of Wrinkles, which preceded the rash of creepy clown sightings that struck the United States and Canada in 2016. Disappointingly, much of this "documentary" is actually "mockumentary" that does nothing but perpetuate the Wrinkles myth. We're introduced to the man behind the mask, a 65-year-old retiree who refuses to show his face and speaks only in the Wrinkles character voice, and his situation and behavior are exactly what you would expect from a man who has decided to make a career out of scaring small children. He lives in a van and doesn't mind parking it on private property. He survives on microwave dinners and Natty Ice, hangs out in the strip club when he can afford it, and tells us he decided to become Wrinkles because he couldn't make it as a regular clown.

But all isn't as it seems. 50 minutes in, the documentary shifts gears and decides to be more straightforward with its audience, and when this "twist" came along I was left feeling that most of those first 50 minutes had been a waste of my time.

There are some things to be interested in within those first 50 minutes, though. Nichols doesn't just focus on the life of that broken-down retiree, there are several other inteview subjects along the way. We're introduced to a father who uses calls to the Wrinkles number as a way to discipline his young daughter. The documentary addresses the question of whether or not using such "psychological warfare" to make a kid behave should be considered child abuse. There's a segment that explores how urban legends continue to be perpetuated in the digital age. And we see the impact watching the Wrinkles videos and calling his number has had on a few children.

The documentary drops in on a young creepy clown enthusiast who likes to draw pictures of Wrinkles threatening people's lives, a child YouTuber who became convinced Wrinkles was going to come get him after he called his number, and a little girl who considers herself a comedian and made a taunting call to Wrinkles even though she fully believes he murders little kids.

Since the documentary isn't always being honest about the truth behind the Wrinkles videos, it turns out to be most fascinating when we're shown how people have reacted to those videos. Kids have turned Wrinkles into both a hero and a boogeyman. People have become obsessed with him. Adults have fallen for the idea that Wrinkles is out there stalking and threatening children, and many of the over 1 million voicemails the Wrinkles number has received have been death threats. It is amazing what people will wholeheartedly buy into. And when clips of voicemails are played, it's also amazing to hear how many parents call their kids things like "motherf*ckers" right in front of them.

Other interview subjects include the author of the book Bad Clowns, which digs into the creepy clown phenomenon, and Funky the Clown, a guy trying to make a living as a fun-loving clown... a tough thing to do when so many people are now convinced that clowns are scary rather than silly. I felt kind of bad for Funky.

If you want to get a real peek behind the scenes of those Wrinkles videos, though, you'll have to wait until the last 28 minutes of this thankfully short (78 minutes) documentary. That's where all the real information is hidden - and even then, there are elements of the Wrinkles story that are left a mystery.

If you saw those early Wrinkles videos years ago and they have lingered in your mind ever since, Wrinkles the Clown is just for you. I remember hearing about Wrinkles and the other clown sightings back in the day, but they haven't been on my mind - it took this documentary to remind me they had happened at all. So I haven't been anxious to learn more about Wrinkles, and I don't feel like this documentary told me much that I really needed to know. It won't stick with me, just like those Wrinkles videos and clown sighting reports didn't stick with me.

Wrinkles the Clown is a decent way to spend 78 minutes, but feels like it's about three years too late.

The Wrinkles the Clown review originally appeared on


Tired of waiting for someone else to give him funding to make a feature film and allow him to have final cut on it, writer/director Joe Begos decided to max out some credits to pay for his feature debut himself. Almost Human was made on a budget of $50,000 - $20,000 of that on Begos's credit cards, $10,000 chipped in by producer/editor/star Josh Ethier, and the other $20,000 coming from friends and family. It worked out, and Begos has been making features steadily ever since.

Begos's first movie combines the alien abduction and slasher genres to tell a very simple story that's basically like Invasion of the Body Snatchers crossed with The Terminator. It begins with Seth (Graham Skipper) rushing to the home of his friend Mark (Ethier) and Mark's fiancee Jen (Vanessa Leigh) in a panic, having just witnessed another friend of theirs get abducted by aliens. The guy just disappeared in a beam of light. Then the things that took their friend arrive at Mark's place and abduct him in a beam of light as well.

That happened in Patten, Maine (which is in the vicinity of the Stephen King location Derry) on October 13th, 1987. Two years later, the aliens bring Mark back to Earth. Naked and covered in slime, he wakes up in a forest 100 miles away from Patten. But he's not the man he was before. The aliens have turned him into some kind of monstrous creature that proceeds to kill everyone he crosses paths with as he makes his way back to Patten with the intention of turning Jen into a pod person and breeding with her.

And that's all there is to it, Mark killing people and making pod people while heading toward a reunion with Jen, while Seth worries about aliens and then sets out to have a climactic confrontation with Mark. Seth is the "Ahab" of this story; he saw the news about the lights, he has had nightmarish premonitions, he knows Mark has returned and that it isn't a good thing.

Almost Human provides 79 minutes of thrills, bloodshed, and gross-outs, and then lets you go on your way. It makes sense that Begos was able to break through with this, as it's quick and easy, has some crowd-pleasing moments of mayhem, and has the retro setting that is very popular these days. This isn't a movie I'll be wanting to watch a lot, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.

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