‘The Last Witch Hunter’ Review

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Director: Breck Eisner

Writer: Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless

Cast: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Julie Engelbrecht, Joseph Gilgun, and Michael Caine

Synopsis: The last witch hunter is all that stand between humanity and the combined forces of the most horrifying witches in history.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

What better way to celebrate the approaching Halloween than with a film with witches. Vin Diesel stars and produces this film which I’m sure to him feels like one of his D&D games gone full scale – because Diesel has admitted he’s a nerd for that kind of stuff. While The Last Witch Hunter is filled with mythology and magic, there are time when the film loses some of its charm as it trudges through.

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The film starts off in the middle ages after the plague breaks out, which just so happened to be the work of the Witch Queen (Engelbrecht), which leads a group known as The Axe and Cross, which includes Kaulder (Diesel) to hunt her down into the snowy mountains to a her lair. There they encounter the Witch Queen and her underlings, which leads to a battle and Kaulder coming face-to-face with the Witch Queen where he kills her, but not before she curses him with immortality. We then cut to the present day where witches and humans now live in a truce, but there are still witches out there that want to go back to the olden days. The truce is kept in order by Kaulder, who still works for the Axe and Cross and takes his orders from the group and a head figure known as The Dolan, which at the start of the movie is played by Michael Caine, and is the thirty-sixth.

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However, when Dolan the 36th is attacked this leads Kaulder and the new appointed Dolan (Wood) to investigate and find out that someone wants release the Witch Queen. Realizing that he can’t do this alone and trying to decipher a message left for him to remember his past, Kaulder seeks Chloe (Leslie) to help him. They farther they go however, the more dangerous the mission becomes.

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The Last Witch Hunter is a huge mix bag of a movie. There are some things that are serviceable and that work, but then again, there are things that lack to grab you. Some of the world-building aspects are fun to see play out and establish itself, and granted, the film is about witchcraft so that’s fun to see. But, when it goes away, which it does at one point, it slows the movie down a bit. It also doesn’t help that some of the dialogue is a bit heavy handed at times, and a bit sluggish.

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The visuals are also hit-and-miss. Some of them really work within the scene like the transition to the “dream-world” or the landscape shot of the Witch Queen’s lair at the beginning and again later on. The bad CG is pretty bad and does take away from the movie when you compare it to the rest of the movie’s visuals. Of course, one of the highlight visuals is the heavily promoted flaming sword, which looks pretty cool when Diesel’s Kaulder is using it.

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Speaking of Diesel, he’s serviceable as the immortal witch hunter. Diesel brings his natural charisma to the role and thankfully brings some levity to the role as opposed to be just the tough guy that can’t die. He does have his moments of intensity in the film, but it’s what you’d expect in a Vin Diesel movie. Rose Leslie’s witch character, Chloe, does the best she can in the role she’s given. She thankfully has something to do rather than just be Kaulder’s love interest – which is a tad forced, but whatever – and has her own desires. Elijah Wood as the new Dolan is rather refreshing as a character and also brings some levity, more so at the beginning, and has his moments to shine, but it otherwise a supporting character and disappears in the middle of the movie.

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Olafur Darri Olafsson as Belial, a warlock that antagonizes Kaulder throughout the movie, is pretty intimidating as a villain, so it’s kind of a shame that he doesn’t have more scenes and is used as a secondary villain. Julie Engelbrecht, a Canadian actress in her first American film, plays the heavy makeup Witch Queen. The design of the Witch Queen is okay, but she’s surrounded by CGI that it takes away from her character a bit, and she only has only limited screen time. Finally, Michael Caine has only a very small role in the film as Kaulder’s friend and mentor.

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All in all, The Last Witch Hunter does have its fun moments, but some glaring misstep of structure and CGI keep the movie for being far more than it should be and from what people would probably want.

The Last Witch Hunter

3.5 out of 5

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‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’ Review

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Dir:  Christopher Landon

Cast: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Gabrielle Walsh, Carlos Pratts and Renee Victor

Synopsis: Jessie begins experiencing a number of disturbing and unexplainable things after the death of his neighbor. As he investigates, it isn’t long before Jessie finds he’s been marked for possession by a malevolent demonic entity, and it’s only a matter of time before he is completely under its control.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler as always.*

 

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is being described as a “spinoff” of Paranormal Activity series. This is somewhat true, in that this is the first film to not center around Kristi or Katie’s family (Paranormal Activity 4 ultimately did tie in at the end).  However, I’ll get to it later but needless to say the movie opens up a whole new can of worms.

The Marked Ones centers on high school graduate Jesse (Jacobs) and his friends Hector (Diaz) and Marisol (Walsh).  Jesse, like every main character of the series, gets a new camera that he and Hector use any time they can get.  However, when a woman that everyone calls a witch and lives under Jesse dies, Jesse and Hector decide to do of course the horror movie cliché and go check out the dead woman’s apartment.  When there they discover that she was indeed up to some very strange things and even find a picture of Jesse in front of a alter.  After finding that Jesse finds himself changing and displaying what appears to be superhuman abilities.  Soon he starts to become unwelcoming and violent.

Director Christopher B. Landon, who has written all of the Paranormal sequels, does a strong job of establishing this new group of characters and Jacobs and Diaz are a likable duo, establishing a strong friendship between the two (Walsh is good, but her character doesn’t really do much).  Landon brings in more of a sense of humor than other films in this series, thanks to the early scenes of Jesse and Hector running around, having a good time.  There’s also some moments that echo Chronicle, as Jesse experiments with his “powers,” and it’s a fun mixture to have those sort of scenes intersect with the Paranormal Activity universe – and to even set up a funny bit about YouTube comments.

The series has perfected the art of the sudden, shocking thing happening during a seemingly quiet moment, which continues here.  As Jesse’s journey continues, we get some suitably creepy things going on.  The special effects are also featured a little more here than the other series but with the low budget the effects add to the jumps.

The movie does have its weak moments of course.  The movie suffers from what almost all found footage movies do, the dialogue.  In this movie it’s mostly the last half of the movie when Hector starts to notice Jesse acting differently. His pleas for Jesse to open up and tell him what’s wrong seems a bit forced but considering everybody’s problem with found footage movies is WHY THE HELL ARE THEY STILL RECORDING? I think the dialogue is the last thing on people’s mind.  But with that said, the movie adds in that sense of realism between the main characters so when that kind of stuff happens, you can almost forgive it.

Now, what did I mean when I said Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is being described as a “spinoff” of Paranormal Activity series and is somewhat true?  Well, when Jesse and his friends go into the dead woman’s apartment they discover VHS tapes marked “Katie and Kristi, 1988.” Also, there is a brief appearance from Paranormal Activity 2’s Ali (Molly Ephraim, also not a spoiler since she’s in the marketing), and there’s something else that everyone is talking about (hint: it’s the last act, which also really isn’t a spoiler since that’s starting to become part of the marketing too). But the biggest connection to the original series is the witch aspect.

The witch aspect is also bought out more here and extends the mythology and lore of the series that could be a good or bad thing.  Depending on how they take the idea it should be interesting to see how fans of the series interpret the ending.

All in all, fans or non fans of the Paranormal Activity series should have a lot of fun with The Marked Ones.  There is a lot of jump scares that the series in known and famous for and it creepy when it needs to be.  The series also gets a bit of a shot-in-the-arm, so let’s hope that Paranormal Activity 5 can continue the momentum.

 

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

3.5 out of 5

 

P.S:  For those wondering if it’s better than Paranormal Activity 4, the answer is yes.