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The Substitute is a cool little sc-fi/horror film part of the "Ghosthouse Underground" productions, which released a string of horror films, many which are being released to DVD just in time for the Halloween season. Among the Ghosthouse Underground production films is the atrociously bad "Dance of the Dead". Being that Dance of the Dead was so horrible I was extremely skeptical about The Substitute being an even remotely satisfying film. Because I'm a very open minded person I give every horror film a chance, and even though Dance of the Dead sucked, I'm not going to exclude all Ghosthouse Underground films from my viewing pleasures. Yes, I was indeed worried about The Substitute being total crap, but let me tell you...I'm sure glad I watched it!
A good way to describe The Substitute would be saying it's like "The Faculty" meets "The Goonies". Yes, it's rated R, but don't expect and any gore or any hard violence. There's not even any blood, no nudity, or anything extreme at all. It earned it's R rating simply for just a few "F" words. The Substitute plays more like a kid film. As a matter of fact, without the few scenes of profanity, The Substitute would feel more like a soft PG-13 horror film.
"6th Grade gets a new substitute teacher. She wants to train the class for an international competition in Paris. But something isn't right. How is she able read kids' minds? Why is she so mean? And how does she manage to convince everyone's parents she is so great when the whole class knows she is really an alien?"
The performances here are all solid, even from the kids. Each kid is very likeable and fun. The whole damn movie is fun! An interesting and unique story to go with it as well. The humor isn't laugh out loud funny, but let me tell you, it's very sharp and it's smart. The dialogue is intelligently playful and cool. The movie is faced paced and witty. The Substitute is like the films you watched as a kid that hold a special place in your heart. It's actually more like a kid film that's for adults.
There is nothing scary about The Substitute, that isn't the point of the film. It's simply just a fun and enjoyable horror movie! Nothing more.
And just for a heads up...you should watch this movies in subtitles. Being that the language is in Danish, the movie is dubbed in English. Watching this one dubbed makes everything seem way too cheesy, which in fact this is not a cheesy movie. If you watch The Substitute with subtitles you'll enjoy it more. It won't come off that corny.
Such a simple and typical "ghost story" premise - but this movie is downright creepy.
I'm not the biggest fan of James Wan - but that's not to say he doesn't make the list of my top new favorite horror directors. He in fact does...he's just way at the bottom for now. I dreaded the "Saw" film; absolutely hated it. And "Death Sentence" (not a horror film) was mediocre at best; nothing special. His only film (up until now) which I highly enjoyed was "Dead Silence". If I didn't know beforehand that Wan was attached to that film I would have probably guessed it was the works of someone like Hooper or Rami (or anyone else for that matter...just NOT James Wan!) What made Dead Silence so different, complete OPPOSITE to Saw, was the shadowy use of lighting and heavy atmosphere (the way I like it) - and it pushed forth a spooky and playful story as well. I sensed James Wan had much more in store. I just wasn't sure when his time would come to shine any further - or how many f*ck ups before I would totally loath his work no matter what came afterwards (kind of how I feel about Rob Zombie right now...in the "fu*king up" sense.) But what put James Wan on the bottom of my list, is his new film Insidious. Where he continues his dark atmospheric formula, EVEN more so here! You get lost in the film's darkness; surrounded by nothing but fear (literally at one point). I feel James Wan is on a good track.
I'm a sucker for many, many haunted house stories. They creep me out...to a certain degree. It's the kind of fear that usually lasts only a drive home from the movie theater late at night. But once in bed I'm over it. And I shut the lights; never nervous to open one eye to see what could be lurking in my corner. I have my limits; my own line - where fear from horror films usually takes its own root on a safer side. Only certain films like "The Amityville Horror" (1979), and "The Haunted" (1991) crossed that line, and pulled me into a darker side of uncomfortable weariness, and superstitious depression. That tremulous fear came back to me on Friday night after watching Insidious, and that line was crossed once again. DON'T let the PG-13 rating fool you. Insidious pulls something off even most R rated horror films can't pull off these days...It scares the shit out of you!
Such believable performances (even in the midst of the entire hokey-pokey "Poltergeist" escapade), with the darkest of tones throughout to set an unsettling mood of tension that never loses its grip. It's like a haunted house Disney-ride...
- But only faster and with real ghosts.