Warnings (2019)

Real estate is always a solid investment—unless you’re in a state where realtors needn’t disclose past tragic events, such as occupation by a sinister cult and lots of subsequent disappearances.

Like I said, a crap shoot.

Such is the case with Marcus (Antoine Harris) and Grace (Shannon Foster), who think they’ve found a perfect parcel of land near Ojai, California to set up a commercial cannabis operation.

To celebrate their new future as ganja growers, the couple invite friends Phillip (Peter Sabri), Dominic (Weston Meredith), and Patricia (Erlinda Navarro), down for a weekend of drinking games and exploring the property.

At first, guest and host alike have trouble sleeping. Patricia in particular is gripped by nightmares of bloodletting and dismemberment.

Meanwhile Phil and Dominic get into a lover’s quarrel, and Dominic storms off to find a signal for his phone. Never to be seen again.

Thanks to a gabby security officer, the group finds out that at least one ex-cult member (with cannibal tendencies) is still running around terrorizing the community.

Unfortunately, this is the kind of red flag that will cause most investors to bail out.

The maniac is a brawny dude, marginally scary, but nothing really paranormal happens until his victims rise from the grave seeking revenge.

Filmed on a micro budget by director Demetrius Navarro, Warnings isn’t a good movie, but it’s good enough if gruesome events taking place in a scenic location float your boat.

Let’s give it a C+.


Underwater (2020)

Kristen Stewart tries to escape from the bottom of the ocean (seven miles down!) in Underwater, a movie that looks and sounds a bit like Alien, but isn’t nearly as good.

Kudos to director William Eubank for getting things off to a hot start with an earthquake that cripples a deepwater drilling operation in the Mariannes Trench.

This handy disaster introduces us to Norah Price (K-Stew), a plucky technician with a strong survival instinct. Norah and a handful of crew members (including Vincent Cassell as the captain), begin a long, arduous quest to reach another part of the failing facility in their pressure suits.

To complicate matters, there are also chittering, tentacled sea creatures, led by a Cthulhu-esque Big Daddy, making passage exceedingly difficult for the stranded aquanauts.

Despite achieving some tight claustrophobic moments, and devoting a generous block of screen-time to Norah strolling about the wreckage in her knickers, Underwater never really rises to the occasion, settling for stock characters in danger from an unknown species and unstable tectonics.

While there is some attempt to add “heart” to the narrative by having Norah dutifully collect mementos from her fallen comrades in order to have something for their families, it reads trite and maudlin.

Without giving away all the particulars of the ending, watching Norah fight so valiantly on behalf of her corporate overlords in an environment they shouldn’t have violated in the first place, leaves a bad aftertaste.

As for the unknown species, Norah wisely obliterates it.

“What a bunch of colonialist, slash and burn bullshit,” my wife complained during the credits. “Yes, by all means, let’s nuke the ocean.”

Leave this one in Davy Jones Locker next to DeepStar Six.

See For Me (2021)

Blind girl in a house versus a gang of hoodlums.

No, it’s not Wait Until Dark, with Audrey Hepburn, who had to make due without a cell phone.

The protagonist in See For Me, is Sophie Scott (Skyler Davenport), an Olympic level skier who lost her sight—and seemingly her moral compass.

In order to get out from under a suffocating mother (Natalie Brown), Sophie develops a side hustle as a pet sitter for rich people, only too happy to help out an Olympic prospect down on her luck.

And so what if Sophie steals an item or two that surely won’t be missed, and splits the profits with her fence? As she herself points out, “Who would suspect the little blind girl?”

Her latest client is Debra (Laura Vandervoort), a recent divorcee with custody of a remote and massive mansion in the hills that features floor-to-ceiling glass, a solarium, a wine cellar, and $7 million in cash sitting in a safe behind a painting.

Though somewhat reluctant to hand over the keys of an ultra-modern, gazillion-dollar palace to Helen Keller, Debra debriefs Sophie on the alarm system and heads out the door.

Sadly for Sophie, she isn’t the only one with the bright idea of ripping off this piggy bank. Three hardened criminals working for a remote boss gain access to the house while she sleeps.

Fortunately, there’s an app for that.

The resourceful Sophie uses a service called See For Me, that connects visually impaired folks in distress with sighted volunteers. So she skulks about the house holding her phone in front of her so that Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy), an Iraqi war veteran, can guide her away from danger.

That’s the plan, anyway, but director Randall Okita keeps Sophie consistently in harm’s way (and our pulses racing) with one increasingly far-fetched development after another, none greater than the plucky blind girl herself.

Instead of a puddle of shrieking victimhood, Sophie not only picks herself up after enduring a highly unlikely barrage of obstacles, she seizes opportunity when it presents itself, and finds a way to come out ahead, as revealed in a satisfyingly unexpected conclusion.

Come for the breathless thrills, stay for the crafty anti-heroine.

Editor’s note: See For Me is based on a real application called Be My Eyes, and my wife is a volunteer. She actually got a call from a man who needed someone to read the buttons on his dishwasher during the movie!

I’m just glad it wasn’t an emergency.