By Vernor Rodgers
Find out where it's playing
In "Peppermint" we have Jennifer Garner
stepping into the Paul Kersey role of the "Death Wish" movies, only
she ratchets up the vengeance.
Garner plays Riley North, a wife and mom
whose very normal if stressful life is shattered one night by
senseless violence. Dealing with a snobby neighbor who undermines
her daughter Carly's (Cailey Fleming) birthday party, having to work
late that night, and not aware her husband Chris (Jeff Hephner) --
trying to ease up some of their financial troubles-- first agrees
then pulls out of a scheme offered by a co-worker, Riley soon finds
her life shattered when a drive-by shooting murders her family.
Riley then relies on the justice system only
to find it corrupt and it is she, not the killers, who gets hauled
off. But she manages to escape, steal money from the bank where she
worked and literally goes off the grid for five years. In that
half-decade she managers to evolve from a suburban wife and mom to a
calculating killing machine.
Once she gains her revenge on the men who
murdered her family, she set her sights on higher targets including
a corrupt judge and a drug kingpin who handles the purse strings.
She has managed to find a safe habitat among the homeless on the
streets, and her Guardian Angel rep there ensures anonymity.
Meanwhile, the law enforcement in the form
of police detectives Stan Carmichael (John Gallagher Jr. from "10
Cloverfield Lane") and Moises Beltran (John Ortiz) as well as FBI
Agent Lisa Inman (Annie Ilonzeh) is in pursuit. There obviously is
some crookedness going on there too but anyone who follows
plot-twist formulas can pretty much figure out who is the baddie.
Like all action thrillers. "Peppermint" is
essentially magnificently absurd fiction. So much gunfire, a lot of
brutal one-on-one violence yet Riley emerges pretty banged but
functioning when in reality she'd be in a coma and near death.
But set that aside and enjoy Garner showing
she can handle action roles as well as Charlize Theron, Scarlett
Johanssen, and in her heyday, Sigourney Weaver.
With director Pierre Morel at the helm, he
who directed the first, and best, of the "Taken" series, viewers can
be assured of a great bit of exciting good-versus-evil mayhem.
"The Nun" has been a very polarizing movie
among horror fans, especially those who are fans of "The Conjuring"
and "Annabelle" movies. Some find it excellent while others reported
they walked out of the movie. A prequel to these spooky films, "The
Nun" sets out to explain the chilling visions of a ghostly,
decidedly evil nun that pops up in visions in the "Conjuring"
My problem is that I get details of "The
Conjuring" mixed up with those of the "Insidious" films. Going into
"The Nun" while fuzzy on the happenings in the earlier "Conjuring"
movies, I was briefly confused by the casting of Taissa Farmiga as
Sister Irene. Being the younger sister of Vera Farmiga, and bearing
a strong resemblance to her older sibling, I at first thought Taissa
was playing the younger version of Vera's "Conjuring" character
Lorraine Warren -- until it hit me that Vera was Lorraine, not
That cleared up, I found "The Nun," while a
bit slow, to at least adequately presenting an explanation for the
visions of the sinister nun.
It's a story that has been told before. It
centers around an abbey in Romania that had been built for truly
evil purposes, so for some reason, the church decides to convert it
into a convent in hopes of turning it from nasty to sacred. But when
a nun commits suicide by hanging, the church dispatches Father Burke
(Demian Bichir), accompanied by Sister Irene, who by the way is not
a full-fledged nun yet, as she needs to take her vows, to the abbey
to investigate. They are guided there by Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet),
as his name suggests, a transplanted French native.
Father Burke and Sister Irene do uncover the
sinister secrets of the abbey, and supposedly subdue the evil entity
involved, but since this precedes "The Conjuring" stories, we know
that is not the case.
For those really involved in the "Conjuring"
and "Annabelle" films, "The Nun" proves useful in setting up the
story. Otherwise, those not familiar with these movies will find a
standard and not particularly compelling evil spirits story.
A surprisingly competent if standard
slasher, "Hell Fest" is one of might be a growing sub-genre of
crazed killer movies that build upon the premise of Halloween-themed
attractions being exploited by psychopaths to commit real horror.
This has been explored in the "Houses That October Built" POV movies
about a documentary film team checking out Halloween theme parks
throughout the country only to stumble into ones where honest
-to-goodness nasty people are mingling with the actors, leading to
real blood being spilled.
In "Hell Fest," Amy Forsyth ("Rise" TV
series) is Natalie, a young woman stressed out by college and work,
who goes to visit her best friend Brooke (Reign Edwards), from whom
she has been drifting away, to rekindle their bond. Of course, when
Natalie gets to Brooke's she is not too pleased to see that also
there is Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus). Taylor is the kind of person we
all have to tolerate. She happens to be a friend of your best
friend, and your relationship with this person is always strained.
But whatever the history between Natalie and Taylor, this Taylor is
a hoot who knows how to have a good time.
So, Brooke informs Natalie that a group that
includes Brooke's boyfriend Quinn (Christian James) and Taylor's
love, Asher (Matt Mercurio) have been presented with VIP passes to
Hell Fest, a Halloween amusement park. The passes were secured by
Gavin (Roby Attal), a guy that has been set up as a date for
Now, before we proceed, it must be noted
there was a prelude to this in which at a previous Halloween
amusement set-up, a young woman was killed by a hooded, masked man,
her body then hung up and mistaken for a prop until it started
getting gamy. Thus we know our happy half-dozen may be in for more
than they bargained for.
They meet up with Gavin at Hell Fest, and
after some awkward moments, Natalie and Gavin hit it off. Unknown to
them is that a man, hooded and masked like the killer of earlier,
has also entered Hell Fest, looking for a few victims.
Part of the fun of "Hell Fest" is that the
viewers get to experience some of the mazes and the jump scares
therein. Having toured the mazes offered at Knott's Scary Farm in
recent years, I was enjoying some flashbacks.
The killer claims his first victim, the
brutal killing witnessed by Natalie, who initially thinks it's fake.
But when she realizes it isn't, and the killer realizes she knows
this, she and her friends are next on the slasher's list.
Compounding the problem is that it takes a while for Natalie to
convince her friends a real killer is on the loose, and then has to
do the same with the park's security personnel.
There are some problems with believing the
killer knows his way around the back stages of the attractions and
can freely move around without encountering any park employees; plus
there is a scene in which Natalie is being terrorized in a restroom
in which nobody else enters. Come on.
But "Hell Fest" succeeds in creating
tension, keeping us guessing which threats are real and which turn
out to be false. Before long the cast has been trimmed down to just
a pair of Final Girls trying to outrun and outsmart the killer.
And this is capped by a truly unnerving
"Hell Fest" is a nice warm-up for not only
Halloween but for the much anticipated release of the "Halloween"
movie in which Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role as the iconic
Scream Queen and Final Girl, Laurie Strode.