Sunday, June 24, 2018

Redbox Reject: THE TERRIBLE TWO (2018)

I was recently talking with a friend about the wild world of Redbox horror movies. Occasionally I will check out their listings online and you will always find at least 4 or 5 cheapo horror flicks you’ve never heard of showing up on there. The latest crop I saw included films with titles like MANDY THE HAUNTED DOLL, THE LOST TREE, BAD APPLES, and THE TERRIBLE TWO. All uniformly featuring Photoshopped art (see pic on left), they arrive by the dozens every year to only disappear from sight soon after. So I started to wonder - are these any good? Is anyone out there chronicling them all? Is there a hidden gem out there somewhere? I had previously reviewed one with THE ELF (2017) back in the holidays and it was terrible, but maybe six months of Redbox sobriety would give me something better this time. With a bit of naive enthusiasm and $1.75, I decided to find out by renting THE TERRIBLE TWO by writer-director Billy Lewis. Wilson, you’re an idiot.

The film opens with an ominous narration a la John Larroquette on THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974). The narrator tells of an insane story that happened in January 2016 to the Poe family at 106 Chelsea in Greenfield, North Carolina. It was something so horrific that it attracted media attention worldwide. Jeez, must have missed a mortgage payment. We then cut to seven years earlier with Albert Poe (Reid Doyle) and his pregnant wife Rose (Cari Moskow) looking at the said abode with realtor Fred (Donny Boaz). We also get the first sign of lackluster direction when Rose sees a room perfect for their child and says it is going to make her cry. Fred then whispers under his breath, “One day it will.” Really, Lewis, really? You’re gonna red flag the bad guy this early on? Yikes. Anyway, the duo love the place, but think it is too good to be true. When asked about the previous owners, Fred just says, “I think the house became too much for them to handle.” Man, five minutes in and we’ve already got more red flags than China.

Cut to the present where Albert and Rose are living in a parents’ nightmare. You see, they are now coming up on the one year anniversary of the deaths of their two twin daughters, Addie and Jade. Albert is handling it better than Rose, who spends all day in bed and avoids working. Of course, the strange goings on aren’t helping her mental state. What is happening? Well, a toy cart rolls towards her, a picture falls off the wall and someone writes “why” in a fogged up mirror. That last bit leads to THE TERRIBLE TWO’s biggest feature - looooong scenes where Albert and Rose discuss things with bad dialogue. For your reading pleasure, I present the riveting “why would you write why” dramatic moment:

Albert (pointing to “why” in the mirror): This, Rose.
Rose: What?
Albert: This. Why would you write the word “why” in the mirror while I’m in the shower? Especially on this day.
Rose: I didn’t do that, Albert.
Albert: Well, if you didn’t do it then who else did?
Rose: I don’t know. I’ve been asleep in the bed the whole time you were in the shower.
Albert: Well, what the heck, Rose?
Rose: I don’t know what to tell you.
Albert: I don’t have time for this. I’ve got to get ready for work.
Rose: Alright.

This bit also showcases the penchant of writer-director Lewis to always have the lead  characters mentioning the other character’s name. Seriously, if you did a drinking game where you took a shot every time you heard Albert or Rose, you’d be in the hospital with alcohol poisoning by the thirty minute mark.

Alone in the house and hearing the voices of her dead children, Rose is obviously cracking up. When she heads into the attic to find birthday party decorations for her ghost kids, she sees an old typewriter (“I don’t remember having this.”) and finds a typed manuscript by a guy named Jack Wilson. More lazy direction here as she just spots it halfway under a drain pan. Really, Lewis, really? You couldn’t be bothered to have a tiny scene where she finds it hidden in a better place? Yikes. Anyway, things trudge along as Dr. Connor (Devin McGee) shows up to talk to Rose about her problems. Yay, more talking! He mentions he is also an ordained minister and the house is spooking him out. This actually leads to a small bit that had me howling as the doc asks Rose to explain what strange things have been happening.

Rose: Pictures have been falling off the wall. My little girls’ toy cart keeps moving around. And yesterday in the attic I found this manuscript about demons. It’s called Chasing Legion. I’ve never seen it before, so it must have belonged to the previous owner.
Dr. Connor (literally pulling up his sleeve and looking at his watch): You know, I just remembered I have another appointment I have to get to.

Filled with more questions than answers (much like the viewer), Rose decides to Google “Jack Wilson and Greenfield NC” to find out more about this manuscript. Much to her horror she finds an article in the Greenfield Times dated January 22, 1990 that says “well known author” Jack Wilson lived in the very house she is sitting in and was under suspicion for the disappearance of two Girl Scouts (remember that name and date for later; also note they did a "if you're still reading this..." gag in that framegrab). Naturally, Rose is freaked out and tells Albert in another classic dialogue scene. Ladies and gents, I now present the equally riveting “don’t believe what you read on the internet” dramatic moment:

Rose: There’s something I need to tell you, Albert.
Albert: Anything.
Rose: I found an old manuscript in the attic yesterday that I’ve been reading.
Albert: And?
Rose: And it’s not finished so I’ve been doing some research and I’m not liking what I am finding.
Albert: What are you talking about, Rose?
Rose: A man who has a connection to this house was apparently tormented by a group of demons named Legion. It is the same group of demons in the New Testament that Jesus drove out the man [sic] that lived in the cave for all those years.
Albert: I didn’t read the Bible, but go on.
Rose: I know. The only way that he could rid himself of these demons was to kill someone.
Albert: Where are you getting your information?
Rose: From the internet. I was doing some research. And from the book as well. Like I said.
Albert: There you go. Baby, please don’t believe everything you read on the internet.
Rose: That is your response to what I just told you?
Albert: Yes, Rose. Look, this sounds like some religious taboo crap that some demonic cult made up just to justify their agenda.
Rose: Read the manuscript then.
Albert: I’m not reading anything.
Rose: Will you at least pray with me tonight then? It will mean a lot to me.
Albert: Sure. If it will make you happy.

They get their prayer on that night, but within seconds they hear a loud thump and find a creepy old lady in their foyer. Cue another great line as Albert says, “Excuse me, how did you get in our house?” The old lady issues some generic warnings and then pulls a knife of them before splitting. A bit later we find out she is in cahoots with the realtor, which is not a shock since he was portrayed as the bad guy in the movie’s first scene. He says something to the lady about staying out of it and to let the natural course of events take place.

Concerned for the couple, Dr. Connor returns to talk with Albert. He says he did some research on what Rose told him and found that Jack Wilson was the pseudonym for an author named Donovan Peebles. It turns out that when their girls died, it was the 25th anniversary of when Peebles killed two Girl Scouts on the porch of this very home in a ritual he thought would expel his demons. To prove this, he shows Albert a newspaper clipping from the Greenfield Times on January 20, 1990 showing Peebles was on the run after killing the two girls. Wait, wait, WAAAAAAIT! Just a few minutes earlier Rose found a Greenfield Times clipping dated January 22, 1990  that said Wilson/Peebles was under suspicion for the disappearances. But two days previous it was reported he was already on the run for the killings? Man, the Greenfield Times needs a new editor...and I need a life. Jesus, this is some sloppy stuff and I think I’ve put more effort into checking this plot line than the filmmakers. Anyway, let’s speed this up. During this conversation we find out that Albert actually killed his girls a year ago while possessed and then Rose flies into some demon voice possession in the girls’ bedroom while wielding a knife. Naturally after that happens they - what else? - sit at a table to talk about it. Things finally start coming together as the terrible two emerge at the 70 minute mark to stalk their parents in scary masks. I will say that this section does offer what will probably be one of the best lines I hear all year as Albert says, “I just found a death threat note in my sock drawer from the girls.” It all thuds to a typical conclusion where someone dies and Fred is soon offering the house to a new family. Moral of the story? Always do your due diligence when buying a house.

Before I go off on the filmmakers, I should state that I admire that they made the film in my neighboring state of North Carolina on a budget of  apparently $35,000. Making a movie is hard work and getting something on to the shelf, er, kiosk is something that should be applauded. The actors are actually decent as well and Lewis moves his camera, both of which are huge wins for an indie horror production. Pretty much everything else in THE TERRIBLE TWO should be condemned. It is, well, terrible. As outlined in the review, writer-director Billy Lewis spends waaaay too much time having characters discuss things over and over.  Now having a slow burn horror film drawing out the tension is fine, but there is nothing going on here. When we finally get into the Wilson/Peebles mystery, Lewis muddles it beyond comprehension. Of course, I shouldn’t expect much since Lewis shows his cards with the realtor being the villain within the very first scene. C’mon, man. So looks like I’m 0 for 2 when it comes to Redbox horrors. Moral of the story? Always do your due diligence when renting from Redbox. I am in agreement with most Redbox users who gave this one star (see pic below). I do have to admire that 5 star giver “Philliebutt” felt that a film about satanic rituals and dead children was family friendly though.

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