Archive for category Reviews

Alien 0? Tweenlight 4-1 and K.Smith’s attempt at Horror.

Since its been few months since either of us have had the time or drive to type anything short of an Amazon search query, I thought I’d take a look back at what we’ve missed.

Prometheus…After a bunch of comic-booky garbage, popularly known as the AVP films, Alien’s orginal director Ridley Scott returns to the franchise with a new vision that ambiguously holds the title of prequel, in the sense of an origin story, to the once beloved Sigourney Weaver space opera. Scott, and others involved with the project, have provided conflicting reports as to how much Prometheus will actually tie into the  franchise, but the  inspiration seemed to be to tell the story of the “Space Jockey” and his  derelict space vessel where the alien was initially encountered in the first film.

However, recent interviews with Scott provided further  confusion as he played down any connection with the Alien franchise saying that, “the keen fan will recognize strands of Alien‘s DNA,” but basically seems to suggest that it will have little to do with his signature acid blooded beasts. Despite all that noise, the marketing department seemed to not hesitate to use the classic slow forming ALIEN-style font in the trailer. Also, anyone who has 70 seconds to spare to watch the teaser might notice a few other familiar sights: people in Cryo-chambers, Giger style architecture, diseased crew members, and even the Space Jockey’s ship itself.  I wonder if we’ll all  be surprised if someone is secretly an android.

Even if it has as little to do with the sci-fi giant as Ridley seems to want everyone to believe, how can you go wrong with the guy that directed Alien, Blade Runner, and that oh so Witty 1984 Apple Macintosh Computer Superbowl ad.

Check out the trailer for yourself Here

Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1… Yeah, I saw it. And as to be expected they dragged out a lot of the film’s teeny romantic aspects, especially the wedding and honeymoon, which droned on for a grueling while, but I must say that many aspects were done with a great deal more skill and grace than I would have expected. A perfectly controlled hyperbolic bloodbath dream sequence paved the way  for a darker film waiting to emerge, and as the tone soured the illustration of Bella Swan’s “sickness” was executed with a convincing transformation to an emaciated body  usually reserved for Holocaust victims. Unfortunately, one of the most painful exceptions to the rule was the presentation of the wolf-telepathy between Jacob and his pack which looked like a drunken argument between angry muppets after a long night of Kermit’s Green Jager shots.

Objectively, I would say the film was well done and probably a welcome entry for its fan base, albeit as hokey as usual.

Red StateI heard Jay and Silent Bob Fight God Nuts was the original title, but didn’t have quite the same ring. After seeing Smith’s fad-style of direction go out of favor and his originality wavier with it, I had been skeptical of Kevin’s Smith ability to direct anything well anymore let alone horror.  However, Red State had some merit to it . The plot follows three exaggerations of  high school boys that decide they  should all go do the same chick that they met on the internet at once. (Cause we all knew lots of straight Teen boys that would be cool with a Pseudo-homosexual experience for no good reason in the confines of the most judgmental  age bracket.)  Regardless , and unfortunately for them, the whole setup happens to be a ploy by an extremist church to kidnap the three of them and execute them in their church for being sexually unwholesome, I guess.

Enter-Abin Cooper…an interesting mix of bible-literalist, radical extremist, and cliche all wrapped into one. While Smith does a good job of creating tension with one of the boys  locked in cage, watching as Abin and his congregation mock and murder a homosexual man they’ve captured, every character in the room is pretty cookie cutter bible nut.  In all fairness, though, the piece is hardly intended as a character study.

Shortly after things are looking bleak for the ill-fated teens, the film shifts POV to John Goodman’s character, Joseph Keenan, an ATF agent that’s prepped for the audience as a red blooded typical American from the second he rolls out of bed and onto the screen. His cigarette smoking and coffee drinking self receives a call from his high ranking government superior while his wife cooks him a hardy breakfast of eggs and processed ham.  We soon learn that ATF has had their ever-watching eye on Abin’s cult for some time, and they want Goodman to perform a raid on their church. Despite Goodman’s warnings and concerns that ATF’s track record is a little tainted in such operations his superiors force him to mobilize a team to surround the church.

The rest of the movie carries out as you would expect: all hell breaks loose in a manner that heavy handedly criticizes events like the Waco assault. As the ATF starts killing Abin’s followers more brutally than this film attempts subtlety, the remaining hostages dwindle away and the movie works its way to a  deus ex machina ending that’s sort of clever but sort of just pulled out of someone’s ass also. I guess Smith never heard of Chekhov’s gun or maybe it was just out of bullets.

Most offensive is the outro, where Goodman has to debrief with two high ranking government officials that make over the top “hot button issues” jokes about terrorism and how they can subvert due process because they’re the government. (PATRIOT ACT Blah Blah TERRIORISM Blah blah ENTER YOUR FAVORITE ANTI-USA BUZZWORD HERE.)  Smith myswell have given them black handle bar mustaches to twirl while they bellow out deep laughs. However, Goodman shuts them up by rambling off childlike dog metaphors in a manner eerily similar to the one-speech-a-movie Silent Bob used to give.  Curious.

Even though I sound like I hated it, Smith does pull off suspense, drama, and discomfort at a level that I enjoyed, but subtlety is not his forte. While the film’s commentary is a bit BIT too TOO much, I agree with most of what he trying to say. The theme that any extreme leads to evil is a timeless and good subject, especially when these acts are perpetrated by those in power, its just when you approach it with the skillful tact and subtlety of Donkey Kong tossing a barrel the message loses a smidgen of power, But I guess in a movie where you’re expected to believe that anyone could shoot at John Goodman from an elevated position less than 100 yards away and miss, you need to suspend disbelief a little.

Final thoughts…honestly that’s really all I’ve had time to watch on the horror front these days…If you feel like you were cheated a Paranormal Activity 3 review then it probably would have went like this.

Matt: “It’s the best thing ever”

Chris: “It’s the worst movie ever “

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The GodMonster of Indian Flats

Once in a brief while a movie comes along that is so ungodly terrible that it’s wonderful. How I could have missed such a classic my entire life is beyond me, but somehow The Godmonster of Indian Flats has slipped under the radar since its release in 1973. Operating on level of hokiness and lack of logic that Mystery Science Theater (shocking they never covered it) would have a wet dream about, the movie is supposed to follow the story of a mutated sheep that runs amuck in a midwest town that prides itself on its traditional appearance and tourist-trap mock old west setting.  Not the case, the overgrown sheep monster has less than 10% of the actual narrative . So what fills up the rest? Nothing, but the most random bunch of events anyone has ever squeezed into a film.

The bulk of the narrative concerns itself with an African American named Barnstable that has been sent as an emissary from a billionaire employee to buy the town. While the mayor refuses Barnstable’s offers he still insists that he enjoy their hospitality, which involves taverns, a whore house, and an old-west parade complete with shooting range. However, the whole event turns out to be a giant charade to convince Barnstable that one of his stray bullets has killed the Sheriff’s German Shepard.

In order to further discredit Barnstable, the sheriff holds a black-tie church funeral for the dog, and the entire town turns out. While this is going on we have the “main plot” of a drifter named Eddie coming into town and falling in love with the local professor assistant, Mariposa, while her employer experiments with his imprisoned mutated lamb. Eddie and Mariposa perform typical youthful hi-jinx as the professor plays with bad sound effects, Tesla coils, and what ever equipment could be rented from the last Frankenstein set.

Meanwhile, Barnstable, has taken to trying to go to door to door to buy out the land  leases from the locals, but is falling on hard times due to his unpopularity from the fallout of the fake slain dog, that we learn has just played dead and is doing fine in Carolina, where the sheriff shipped him off to. Since Barnstable refuses to leave and starts spending his time consorting with the whore’s house’s local madame, Alta, the mayor sends his evil henceman, Philip Mal Dove, that lures Barnstable back to his apartment with the promise of friendly drinks. When the two men settle in with cocktails, Maldove laments about his ignorance to big-city life, experimental bi-sexuality, and all other manner of things that Barnstable must have seen in his time in the big apple. Then Maldove assaults him, shoots himself with his own gun, and frames Barnstable for the crime. I guess most people like to break the ice with Bi-sexuality discussions before they try to frame you for attempted murder.

Back at the ranch, we have more crappy sound effects, more Telsa coils, and more footage of the gimpy, hunchbacked, mutant lamb. Barnstable’s, unfortunately, isn’t having any fun with science, as his false imprisonment is just another clever rouge to eliminate him The Sheriff sits idle with mouth fulls of steak and peas as the film cranks up the racial tension dial by marching a lynch mob into the jail to put Barnstable in the noose.

With some help from Alta, Barnstable is spared from execution, and the friendly neighborhood madame takes him to the nutty Professor for asylum. While Prof. Clemens initially offers his aid he folds like a house of cards the moment the tear gas brigade rolls in to claim their prisoner. Unfortunately, the commotion upsets the monster sheep who escapes containment.

Mariposa tries to lure the sheep back by doing a bizarre pixie dance across the screen for no good reason while Eddie chases after her screaming her name about a dozen times. However nothing works and the RAMPAGE of the GODMONSTER begins, which consists of him blowing up one gas stations where no one gets injured and scaring some school children away from their picnic. Then it goes down to lasso squad of drunken cowboys.

If you’re not confused yet, congratulations, but the ending should put you over the top. We cut back to the mayor who is riding in a limousine with Barnstable, who he has released, and informed that he has sold the land to his employer on his own terms. In short, I was going to do what you wanted but first we had to lynch you, beat you several times, throw you into a jail cell, and make you think you killed a dog.  With that awkward conversation out of the way, we cut to gathering in the town square where the mayor has screwed over the Professor and has stolen the giant sheep to boost his tourism and then rants about how the railroad tracks will now be paved with gold and unveils the creature in a cage. What follows is beyond describe.

To put it simply, the crowd, without precedent, starts a riot–as signified by the same recycled shot of people running down a hill–and: random gunslingers show up and kill Philip Maldove, stuff blows up, the monster is disintegrated, and the mayor keeps screaming and laughing like a madman, “I beat you, Barnstable!” The end of a classic, for sure.

While I apologize for the lack of a spoiler alert, the real joy of this film is experiencing it and realizing that someone spent over 130,000 (of 1970s money) to make this abomination. And its not just that the acting is awful or the creature looks like a mix between Quasimodo and Sherry Lewis’s worst nightmare it’s the fact that there is absolutely no logic to the progression of images that litter the screen. At least if the movie had a little more to do with the monster than I could understand the title and maybe appreciate it as a hokey old creature feature, but it doesn’t.

The driving force of the narrative is the underlining racism and militantly conservative nature of those in power. While the aftermath of the riot results in a dead monster sheep the audience is shown smoking rising from his burning body that drifts on the wind to a flock of sheep who inhale it. Playing sinister music, and implications of more monsters means nothing. The monster had no effect on the events that destroyed the town,…perhaps it came to show us that we were the real monsters? Or it’s probably just crap.

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Dead Time Stories Vol.1

Well, Romero’s latest project, Dead Time Stories Vol. 1 has recently hit the VOD market, and it doesn’t exactly have me dying for Vol.2. For the most part, Romero has has left the direction up to Savini, et al, but his MO kind wafts from each vignette, and perhaps its just the segmented short films format that reminds me of Creepshow, however parallels to Romeros other fiction keep surfacing like old zombie hands.

The initial “Really?”-moment that has the piece off and running like a three legged horse is Romero establishing himself as the Crypt Keeper-esque narrator, which ends up turning out like someone’s pedophile Uncle Chester trying to act like a friendly harmless adult. While most fans that know Romero will realize that George is just being George and isn’t really trying to act it’s still too hokey to watch. The segments themselves have an interesting off-beat style, but most of the stories and characters are pretty forgettable. While I don’t think I’ll ever forget Steven King’s portrayal of  the newly “fertile” hick named Jordy Verill, the cockroach plagued Entomophobic Upson Pratt, or Adrian Barbeau’s Shrewish “Billy” I couldn’t name a single character in any of the “Deadtime” stories I just watched yesterday.

With that said, the three segments do all have some redeeming quality. The opener is about a determined woman trying to discover the fate of her husband in a jungle with hostile natives, which has an interesting twist on the fate of the narrator, but is peppered with too much cartoonish gore. Its follow-up has the creepiest portrayal of a mermaid since Daryl Hanna got cosmetic surgery, however the tone is a little too reminiscent of  Creepshow’s “Something to Tide You Over” vignette. Then again, how many ways can vengeance from the sea be pulled off? The final piece is a vampire tale directed by Savini that reminded me of Romero’s old vampire tale Martin, but maintained its own unique dark direction and utilized it setting, a turn of the century peasantry naivety, to execute its narrative seamlessly.

Perhaps I’m doing Deadtime Stories Volume 1 an injustice by comparing it to Creepshow, which paired King and Romero both in the prime of their careers, but on its own merit it does have seem to be missing something. Still, the tales are enjoyable for what they are if you’re in the mood for this format. Or if you need a good laugh a you can just watch the transition segments when Romero does his best work as the over the top narrator. Either way, it’s not a terrible watch. Let’s call it a B- and hope for Vol 2 to wow us.

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Insidious Review

Horror is a genre that I love passionately and despise fervently on a daily basis. What I hate the most about this industry, at least this week, is when another plastic and unimaginative horror film comes out and they load the TV spots up with all these comparative statements to brilliant, 70’s era, genre-creating titles. “Scariest Film since the Exorcist. Most Terrifying since Poltergeist”. These quotes, of course, refer to Insidious, which just reared its ugly head onto the home market last Tuesday.

Why do I hate it, you may ask? One, it isn’t even as scary as the sum of all of Exorcist and Poltergeist’s bad sequels let alone the originals. While the films has some creepy images and a few good jump moments, the sad fact remains that the trailer showcased every single one of them. The rest of the film is tonally awkward, badly paced, and outright goofy in a way that borders on SyFy original quality.

Insidious’s attempt at originality functions on a two act play style. Act one follows the Lamberts, Josh and Rene, a thirty-something couple that have just moved their family into a new home, and all is well until their oldest son, Dalton, falls into an unexplainable comma. With doctors baffled, Dalton returns home to visiting nurse care, and the family finds itself in a typical format of a haunted house flick: stuff moves around, bloody hand prints appear, and a ghostly figure that looks like some loser that used to be a roadie for King Diamond materializes to cause havoc.

Rene convinces Josh to move, and guess what, the same stuff starts happening in the new house. So, they decide to call in some help to figure out why and help comes in the form of two stereotypically humorous ghost hunters who use modified children’s View Masters to stumble upon one of the film’s only creepy scenes, two undead girls that appear in Overlook Hotel fashion, but with unnerving Cheshire Cat smiles. Don’t worry if you blinked and missed it, because director James Wan will try to pull this stunt about a dozen more times before the movie is out, until it so redundantly unscary that I wanted to cry.

Reload Elise! Top Left! Watch out for that Scary Eyeball. Wait Wrong Image

Anyway, after that bit, the ghost hunters call in their boss, Elise, who is some kind of psychic and decides to have a séance while wearing a gas mask. While, apparently, this is based in fact for people with ESP to heighten their skills through sensory deprivation, the real reason, which Wan told Fangoria, was just because he wanted to have a different feel to the overused séance scene. Well, different he got. I can’t dispute that, but it also looks goofier than ID-Software’s Rise of the Triad video game in 94’ when they did Gas Mask View. Everyone that’s put off by this scene better crawl into their own gasmasks because its only going to stink worse from here as Insidious takes a turn for the Looney Toons style.

After chaos at the séance ensues, and I’m surprised Taz doesn’t spin out of the table, the group finally comes up with a plan. In short, there’s a bunch of half-assed repressed backstory about Josh’s past, but all you need to know is that he could Astral-project his soul as a child and now his kid Dalton took up the hobby and got stuck in a place called “The Further.” While Elsie’s explanation is too lengthy to even paraphrase here, just think of that episode of the Twilight Zone where that little girl falls through a dimensional hole in the wall and the dog has to get her, except add a house, and a bunch of those Cheshire Cat smiling ghost and poof you’re there.

The reason for all of this is that Dalton’s travels have left his living body as an empty vessel, prime real estate for every ghost, dead King Diamond roadie, and demon that looks like an anorexic Raiders fan in a five dimension radius. So, Josh has to astral-project once again to find his son in that creepy of all worlds, “The Further.”

So he wades through a bunch of fog machine puffs, retro 50’s families doing that creepy Cheshire Cat smile, yet again, and has to fight the King Diamond roadie who he takes out with Lord Raiden’s across-the-screen, face-first dive move. (Yes, it looks that bad). Finally, he finds his son chained up in the demon’s liar. What is the demon doing you may ask? Why he’s sharping his claws while listening to Tiny Tim’s “Tip-Toe Through the Tulips.” Immediately after, the demon presses his sharpened-claw-silhouette against the stain glass window that separates them and there’s a sound spike. Really, this scene is supposed to be tense. I’m sorry but there’s no more being afraid of this guy. (Finally, I understand Why Paranormal Activity didn’t show their demons, because demons do goofy unscary stuff like listen to Tiny Tim with their down time).

With all the tension being flushed down the toilet, the father and son try to escape “The Further,” and Wan tries revive tension with some sort Night of the Living Dead all-ghosts-storm-“realworld”-house-scene, which makes no bloody sense because up until now the ghost could pass through walls but now barricading doors seems to work. The demon chases the kid with a bunch of bad clichés: hand from under the bed and a fast wall crawl, but we don’t care cause he’s about as scary as one of the monsters on Sesame Street by this point, and at last the climax comes to end.

Insidious, of course, has to use the formulaic last scare, the good guys didn’t really win, ending that is so obviously coming that Steve Wonder could see it. Then it’s over. Watch out Linda Blair and Craig T. Nelson because your classics are going to be forgotten and buried, pushing up “Tuilips” even.

Is Insidious as bad as I’m making it? Probably not, no, but don’t buy into the hype that it can even touch The Exorcist in terms of fright. Instead, it’s purposely absurd and relies too heavily on homage with slight twists, and it’s worth repeating that every scene that’s eerie is over done until they’re not, and others are just done poorly like the aforementioned Raiden move.

Insidious could be a lot fun, if you like your horror to be just off-keel enough to be creepy, and as long as you don’t go in expecting it to come near its TV spot’s claims. It’s going to take something very special to rival Regan’s spinning head, and Insidious just ain’t it.

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Handful of Bones: Mid-Summer Edition Part 2

Here we go again, Let’s see what Horror and Horribles I’ve consumed this week.

Rule of Three: is Eric Shapiros sad attempt at putting together a film Noir. Most of the action takes place in a hotel room and the scenes shift in time between the before, after, and during that results in the disappearance of a man’s daughter. In the “After” the father is combing the hotel room for some clue and receives a note that someone is going to meet him at three at the hotel to give him closure about his lost little girl. While in the “during,” his idiotic daughter has decided that she wants to have a three-some with his boyfriend and another girl, but wants the girl to be an intellectual equal, because you want the girl you’re having a ranchy ménage à trois in a seedy hotel to be able to quote Chaucer in correct middle English, I guess. Then we have the “before” where the previous renters of the room, a lowlife and a dealer, are arguing over the cost of Ruffies so the lowlife can rape one of his married female friends. If these vignettes melded together with the ease of a Four Rooms or Pulp Fiction I would look past the usual short comings of a low-budget project but the believability is lacking at every turn.

Yes, the acting sub-par, but that’s not biggest problem. Yes, the logical progression of events barely connect or make sense, but THAT’s not the biggest problem. What really sinks this film is that Eric Shapiro apparently never heard of Chekhov’s gun, the idea that if you’re going to have a gun fire in the last act it has to been seen on the mantle in the first act. In short, pulling a twist out of your ass at the last second doesn’t work in well written drama, which is how Shapiro tries to end this train wreck. The audience is walloped in the final scene with this “da-Da-DA” moment, that is unveiled without any precedence. Hopefully, the next Shapiro wants to take a stab at Film Noir he’ll take Chekhov’s gun off the mantle…and then shoot himself with it.

Blood Creek: is a bizarre mix of Zombie Nazi horror and Demon Knight. An estranged brother that has been missing for two years pops back up with a Jesus beard and the scourging at the pillar wounds on his back to match. He convinces his brother to go and shotgun down the family of four that have held him hostage for the past two years. So, they tie up the women and mortally wound the men,but then “the real” villain is unveiled; A super-zombie Nazi that can make other dead tissue into a super zombies, but the only thing he can’t do is walk past red triangles that the families have painted on the house. Sooo, the captors turned hostages have to team up with the hostages turned captors to hole up in the house and find a way to defeat the creature.

From here, we have a standoff reminiscent of the aforementioned Billy Zane classic, but lacking the personality of Zane’s demon cowboy. Instead, we get a self righteous Nazi that tries to make political statements to the one brother because he was a Gulf War Vet and somehow that has something to do with the plot? I don’t know. On the brighter side, Zombie horses are in the mix. Awesome, but that’s about as good as its gets. The rest of the movie falls into the typical monster movie format: playing chess with the creature, discovering its strengths and weakness, establishing dumb-ass complex rules, and finding a way to use the rules and weakness to execute some overly elaborate plan to trick the creature into a scenario that will exact its oblivion, which they do.

It’s not a terrible movie, but just not a very good one either. Enjoying Emma Booth’s odd other-worldly beauty is probably the biggest highlight of Blood Creek. Then again, maybe you like Zombie Horses a whole lot more than me.

Undead or Alive: is a Zombie/Western/Comedy/Romance/Horror movie featuring Chris Kattan as an idiotic love sick cowboy that teams up with a deserter, and an Indian Princess to fight a growing horde of Undead that is sweeping across the west. This premise  pretty much says it all, and the movie is exactly what you’d expect. While Chris Kattan is as unfunny as he was on SNL, the movie does have handfuls of dark humor hiding behind every cactus, including Kattan’s partner using his beloved dead horse’s leg as a powder tamp to load a cannon while trying to explain to him that “Frisky” would have wanted to help. Not to mention, an ending that has black humor at its best.

Really, though, this movie is not for Zombie fans as much as its for Kattan fans (I’m sure there’s a few of you sickos out there) as, with the exception of a few scenes, the zombies act more like rotting people than shambling corpses, but otherwise I think the key is not hating Chris Kattan if you want to like this one.  

Isolation: is maybe one of the most bizarre and original horror films I’ve caught in some time. A bit slow at first, Isolation lingers awhile over the matter of a pregnant cow and introducing the four main characters: A farmer named Dan, a vet named Orla, and a couple of young squatters: Mary and Jamie.  After a lot of bickering between the four, the baby cow is finally ready to be born in a scene that illustrates more about cattle birth than I’d ever want to see, but after THAT the film takes a turn down Creepy Street.

Dan, while examining the new calf, is bite by it, losing a chunk of  his finger. When Orla returns to examine the calf she discovers its dental arcade is jagged and that the cow is deformed, which leads to a grotesquely awful botched euthanization scene that  will have animal lovers calling the ASPCA. Once that bit of unpleasantness is out of the way, we cut to the autopsy scene where Orla makes a strange discovery that the calf was already pregnant at birth,and  its embryos contain creatures with exoskeletons. When Dan demands to know what’s going on Orla explains that her employer was experimenting with the cattle to create more fertile offspring and another argument ensues, but as they move off-screen the audience remains with the embryos and one starts to twitch.

From here on, the film carries an uncomfortable creepiness and tension that keeps it from descending into the realm of the typical SyFy Monster Movie, hence: no hokey footage of the beast, no over the top formula of how to vanquish it; and, somehow, Isolation succeeds as being a fresh new horror film. Worth a watch, by far.

Fragile: “Ally Mcbeal”, all 80 pounds of her, takes a job as a night nurse in an old hospital and a very cliched ghost story ensues. Not much more to say here. The ghost is seldom creepy. The twist is fairly simple. The quality has made-for-TV written all over it, and the acting is what you expect for a movie whose lead is Calista Flockhart. Nothing special, but at least watchable, which is more than I can say for some of the high budget horror that hits the silver screen these days.                      

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Handful Of Bones: Mid-Summer Edition

Whenever I get behind on my writing I like to do this segment just to pretend I haen’t been just being lazy so here we go…

Zombie Farm (2009): is probably one of the most awkwardly paced zombie films (and I use the words loosely), so don’t hit play on your Netflix page if you’re looking for the usually nuts and bolts, chewing the fat zombie apocalypse. This flick is a long drawn out voodoo-type-zombie mystery that doesn’t bow to the usual intestine sucking conventions until the last five-ten. Everything before that follows the misadventures of a border-lands Mexican spiritual leader whose involvement with an abused wife leads him into the den of a slave zombie making witch. While some likable characters make this potential yawner watchable, its pacing and quality are TV movie style and its cover and title clearly try to cash in on a genre it barely belongs in.

Brain Dead (2007): is your typical zombie gore fest with heads popping like pimples and buckets of blood. The narrative in between is the basic Night of the Creeps style alien slug that crawls into people’s bodies to make them undead. While the first half of the movie wastes its time on T&A and introducing the stereotypical characters of a hick town: the perverted minster, the small time ex-con, the chick sheriff, the fish out of water lesbian; the second half settles into a typical Evil Dead style-holed up in the cabin show down. Amusing gore aside, this film really wastes a lot of time on sex jokes and pointless character building for a movie just looking to be funny, show some skin, and pour some blood. While I hate complaining like a first year film student, Brain Dead uses very sophomoric cutting to continuity practices about a dozen times to the point where its distracting and annoying: a biting zombie shifts to someone eating a sandwich, a map turns into the real landscape, a girl diving in a lake cuts to a tire going through a puddle. All micromanaging aside, its a pretty average film with only a handful of funny moments.

Doghouse: Pure fun in the vein of Shaun of the Dead meets Dead Alive. Six thirty-somethings pop on down the road from London, in an attempt to escape from their women, to an out-of-the-way village only to find the town abandoned. Of course, the usual trappings:bloody hand prints, signs of struggles, and abandoned military vehicles lead up to the typical “first-zombie” moment, but the film’s Ace Card is that only the town’s females have turned into the walking dead with each one maintaining an amusing but deadly form of their previous selves. The Wicca shop owner wields her sword. The stylist brandishes one of her shears in each hand. The housewife has her pots, pans, and electric knife. While it may not sound extraordinary, each character and their humor is done to a T and their group dynamics should ring true to any guy who ever had a close knit group of buddies. Doghouse is the perfect blueprint for how to make a brainless zombie flick and make it excellent. The best zombie film I’ve scene since Zombieland.

Bloody Reunion: A group of students reunite with an old teacher that has fallen ill and is confined to a wheel chair. People start dying by a masked figure and a lot of mystery ensues. While the plot thickens and the list of suspects dwindle, a few horrible deaths ensue: A girl stapled to death through the eyes, a boy feed razor blades etc. Some of the twists are interesting, but follows a very formulaic plot. Take it or leave it.

Seventh Moon: Eduardo Sánchez, writer director of Blair Witch, brings forth this tale about a couple honeymooning in China only to end up stuck in a village’s sacrificial ritual and hunted by strange creatures. People online have been panning this film as if it was the worst thing since The Garbage-Pail Kids Movie, but it has a great deal of merit. Instead of the “implied” threat of Blair Witch, Seventh Moon relies on a horde of white ghouls whose direction are executed with perfect creepiness throughout the film. While some film’s creatures lose creepiness the more they are on screen, Seventh Moon seems to find a way to preserve their horrifying quality. Ignore bad reviews from haters, this one is worth a watch, much more so than Blair Witch.

DIEner: oh boy, this one is not an instant classic to say the least, and I wish I could come up with something redeeming to say but it’s really that bad. The plot was just annoying and dragging. Some serial killer is holding a couple hostage at a Diner, where for no good reason all of his victim are returning as zombies to pay him his come-upins. Unfortunately, it’s not even funny bad. Just plain bad. You want horror at a diner? Find a greasey one and order a rare burger.

The Dead Hate the Living: A film crew making a zombie movie come upon a real corpse and decide to use it in their film with some crazy machinery they’ve find in the basement of the site. Of course, the body and strange machine have a demonic back story and open some trans-dimensional portal and all zombie-stomp hell breaks loose. The film plays with some beloved conventions  for the sake of homage and humor, but it ends up looking pretty hokey. Not to mention, the “head zombie” looks like Rob Zombie’s retarded cousin. Ok, not bad for a rainy day horror flick but not much else.

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Cold Prey – Reasons Not To Torment Those With Deformities

So, what do you get when you have five Norwegian teens trapped in an abandoned ski lodge, a masked killer with a pick axe and bad English dubbing?  Well, you have Cold Prey, a 2006 slasher from Norway that I’ve read some positive things about recently and just so happens to be the film choice for the Final Girl Film Club, which I haven’t participated in for months.  Perhaps this morning was a good time for me to check it out since I was already in the slasher mood having watched Sleepaway Camp last night for probably the 12th time.  Let me take a brief moment to profess my everlasting love for that film, it’s homosexual not-so-undertones, and the cop’s terrifically awful fake mustache in the closing scenes.  But that’s a different kind of slasher flick – one that makes no attempt to take itself seriously, has paper-thin characters, and isn’t close to being scary (save for that final shot of course).  Cold Prey aims to be a slasher with some substance and it both succeeds and fails along the way.

I watched Cold Prey on Netflix where it was offered with English dubbing rather than subtitles which is unfortunate because a good portion of the voice acting is laughable and it probably took away from the overall experience.  That note aside, Cold Prey opens with a montage of news clips telling the back story of how a facially disfigured boy was lost in the mountains and never seen again despite extensive searching.  It’s made clear that the boy came to a tragic end, as we see him being chased in the snow by an unknown pursuer.  Years later, people start to go missing on the mountain.

Yet, for some reason, people still love this mountain and we meet five friends heading up for a weekend snowboarding trip – Eirik and his girlfriend Jannicke, Mikal and his girlfriend Ingunn, and Tobias, the goofball of the group.  The quintet climb a huge mountain to access a slope and everything is going great until Morten falls and shatters his leg bone to the point that it is sticking out of his skin.  I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen this in recent horror and it’s losing its gross-out impact for me.  I’m pretty much expecting it now.  So what are they to do?  They’re all the way up in the mountains with no cell phone service (of course) and nowhere to go.  Oh, wait a minute!  What’s that just over the ridge there?  It’s The Overlook Hotel an abandoned ski lodge!  Just our luck!

The friends make it to the lodge just in time for sundown and decide to stay for the night before seeking help the next day.  Jannicke splints Morten’s leg and then superglues the wound shut.  While Jannicke is playing surgeon, the other three set off to explore the seemingly long-abandoned lodge and they find a generator in the basement, which Mikal gets running – quite the talented group.  With the lights on, they’re free to check out the rest of the place and they find themselves where else but Room 237.  At least director Roar Uthaug paid appropriate homage to The Shining, as some of the setting similarities are inescapable.  In their examination of the room, they find evidence of a fire and some blood in the bathroom but they dismiss it.

While the rest of the group go to sleep, Mikal and Ingunn find a guest room where they can be alone.  Despite Mikal’s attempts, Ingunn won’t have sex with him and he leaves her alone.  In no time, a man clad in a heavy snow parka surprises her and drives a pick axe through her back.  She manages to escape temporarily, but parka man catches up with her in the basement and finishes the job.  After speaking with Jannicke, Mikal learns that Ingunn is a virgin and he feels like an asshole for getting so upset with her.  When he goes to apologize, she doesn’t answer the door (probably because she’s dead).  Meanwhile, Eirik leaves to get help but doesn’t make it far before he gets knocked out by the killer.  The rest of the film plays out pretty much how you’d expect it to – a cat and mouse chase through the lodge with a steadily rising body count.  The ending and final reveal is somewhat underwhelming though I can’t say I saw it coming.

Unlike Sleepaway Camp, Cold Prey attempts to establish characters with real personalities and strong relationships with each other – Eirik and Jannicke are in love but she’s afraid to commit and move in with him, Mikal and Ingunn have issues with sex, and Tobias is depressed and secretly in love with Jannicke behind his jovial outward appearance.  It’s a nice thing to have characters that you care about in a horror film, but I still didn’t see these ones as anything more than meat for the killer.

I didn’t love Cold Prey by any means, but it wasn’t bad.  What an endorsement that is, huh?  The violence and gore were minimal and well executed, some scenes grew suspenseful but in the end, I was left feeling very indifferent.  Apparently I’m in the minority as Cold Prey 2 came out in 2008, was well received, and a prequel is in the works now.  Maybe I just really don’t like bad English dubbing…

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La Horde- Why French People who Like Video Games Shouldn’t Make Horror Movies

If you like zombies at break neck speeds, lots of gore, a kick ass Vietnam soldier and  gangstas then….you probably watch 28 Days Later, Forest Gump, and Season 1 of the Sopranos. Your time would be better spent then if you watched La Horde. I understand that movies like La Horde cater to a niche audience that doesn’t like to think while the TV is on and could do without the heavy handed Romerian Socio-Philosophical commentary, but when you a produce a zombie action flick just for the sake of it, at least do Something that makes you stick out from the other 90 films that are out to do the same thing.

Rant aside, the plot that exists merely to rush you from one action scene to the next is as follows. A cop named Ouessem’s brother has been slain by two Nigerian crime lord brothers, so he and his posse saddle up and head over to the brothers’ hideout to bust some heads. Long story-short. They bust one head, and then lie down like bitches, letting the gangstas get the drop on them. Fortunately for “O’s” boys (and one girl) the zombie Apocalypse occurs, without apologizes or explanation (beyond a bad CGI skyline showing the surrounding city has become a warzone) and the cops and robbers decide to team up. Enemies working together against a common enemy? Brilliant! Why hasn’t anyone done this before?

As the movie tries to invert substance between its actions sequences, with sad attempts such as “the girl is pregnant with one of the team member’s baby” and “the Nigerians have some sibling rivalry”, the members of the squad dwindle away into zombie chow. When they run low on cast members, they introduce the token crazy old war vet, but at least he’s amusing.

After some betrayals, more failed substance attempts, the group is down to four: a bald black guy, a black haired girl, a Vietnam Vet, and an interchangeable bad-ass. Wait, that team sounds familiar – haven’t I seen that before? I feel like I experienced this first hand somehow?

Nah… I must be imagining things… Where was I? Oh yeah, the one brother betrayed the other brother, took all his weapons, and LEFT him 4 DEAD, leaving them to hunt for a new weapon cache, which, of course, they find a ridiculous large one and use it to “fight the horde,”  But I digress.

Anyhow, team members start sacrificing themselves, including “O” who mounts a vehicle in a parking garage (pictured above) to fight off an entire horde by himself, which is supposed to a big epic moment. Well, its definitely fun, but epic I don’t know. Hey, a guy on a vehicle in a parking garage facing down a whole horde of zombies that feels familar too. Haven’t I scene that too….?

NAH… I guess not. Where was I? Oh yeah, the DEAD were RISING up onto the vehicle to take down Ouessem, and he was trying to epicly fight them off. Cool. I guess.

There’s little more I can say about this film. If you like brainless fun, gore, zombies, and action sequences then this could be the greatest film ever made. I, on the other hand, like my horror films to have something original that sets them apart, but hey that’s just me.

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Black Death, Should You Avoid It Like The Plague?

What new Devilry is this? Well, it appears to be Sean Bean in another movie where he wears a suit of plate mail and wields a sword. That’s odd.

Even though Black Death looks like the B-version of that witch hunting movie with Nicholas Cage that no one saw, the movie does have its own merit beyond dusting off Bean’s LOTRs gear and breaking them in for Game of Thrones. Black Death, Set in 1348 England when the plague was gearing up for its most horrific days, begins with a driving conflict hinged on the decisions of a young friar, Osmund, who has betrayed the cloth for a secret affair of the flesh with a lover named Averill.

Plague begins to ravage their village and Osmund forces Averill to flee, but when he won’t go with her Averill laments “Why you have to go and make things so complicated.” (But after you get past that topically outdated 2002 humor). The second half of the plot rolls in as Averill tells Osmund that she’ll wait one week for him. Osmund prays for a sign from God and moments later Sean Bean gallops in with a Dwarf and an Elf, errr I mean, a band of misfits mercenaries.

Long story short, Sean Bean is Ulrich, a personal thug of some bishop that wants him to investigate a village because they are plague- free, and he requires a guide. Of course, Osmund steps forward and says “I will take the ring,” I mean “guide you to the village,” and we’re off into the a-typical quest format.

Screw you all, I was awesome in Golden Eye

From here the movie hits a low point of introducing stock medieval bad-asses while attempting to develop their characters for no good reason since they’re all interchangeable. During the character development quest, Osmund intervenes in a lynching of a woman who has been bound to be burned by an angry mob in the usual-”She turned me into a newt fashion”, but Ulrich frees her, and proceeds to stab her in the heart while telling Osmond not to leave the group again. His justification: the mob would not have re-captured her and would have burnt her eventually, regardless.  “I spared her suffering.” ya-da ya-da…but Black Death thrives on this ambiguity of good and evil throughout promoting the fact that these are horrid times and everyone sucks.

When Osmund finally reaches the place where he was supposed to meet Averill, but finds only her bloody cloak. More bad news, his departure from the group prompts an ambush by thieves. Good news for the audience, the pace of the movie picks up and we are treated to one of the most brutal blood bath battles ever.

After the limbs finish flying, Osmund leads Ulrich’s people into the village and they discover a village full of the typical pagan trappings: Steel eyed-beautiful matriarch mixing herbs, abandoned church, loose women, superior healing abilities etc… After the village’s muscle, some bald douchebag, promises the men hospitality, the long flowing blond haired matriarch, Langvia, appears and separates Osmund from the others and heals his wounds while talking about his grief about his lost love. She relates that her husband was slain by men of God like them.

As the plot thickens like Oprah at a buffet, Ulrich finds a a necklace on a girl in the town that matches his own and tells Osmund that only an emissary of the bishop can wear one, and that such a group was sent to investigate the village earlier in the month, and have never returned. More cheery news, Langvia shows Osmund Averill’s body and claimed she found it in the swamp. After he whines for awhile, Langvia takes him to a secret place in the woods where she rants about being “Not dark, but beautiful and terrible like the dawn,” or maybe not, but she shows him a ceremony where she seemingly resurrects Averill from the earth, and he freaks out and flees into a clearing where he finds the crucified bodies of the previous emissaries hanging.

The rest of the narrative plays out with a few interesting twists and turns, but is more admirable for its dark and grainy cinematography and subtle execution of themes and motifs. While it’s not recommended on days that you need a feel-good flick, the film does offer an thoughtful examination on where the path of blind devotion, whether it be to divinity or flesh, can lead. And Black Death handles the images of violence and brutality with just the right balance to transcend the cartoonish style of films like 300 or Sleepy Hallow.

If don’t mind a downer, this one is worth a watch.

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Frontiers

Any film that can produce uncomfortable brutality in a genre saturated by the cartoonish garbage that hacks like Eli Roth, and the misguide blokes responsible for a dozen Saw movies create, needs to receive an honorable mention. While I know I call out After Dark Films often and always for padding their festivals with crap, cliched tripe, and low budget dribble, one film they got right is a French film that never saw the light of day in any of the 8 Films to Die For outings, but this film, Frontiers (2007), should be caught on its VOD tour.

Frontiers rolls out the usual: thieves are on the run, the group finds an out of the way place, creepy big guys hang around while loose women make themselves available, and we even have an awkward dinner scene ala Texas Chainsaw. Seems like a typical build up into the usual environment of the cliched torture porn, but instead the film twists down a winding road introducing layers of creepy mystery and a back story the viewer will actually want to know the details of. Reminiscent of Martyrs, details shouldn’t be revealed as much as experienced.

The plot points themselves are not mind-blowingly original, operating mostly within the standard formula of any Texas Chainsaw clone, the messed-up family of killers dynamic, but Frontiers transcends its own trappings. Maybe, it’s the well controlled gore that never has a humorous edge to it. Perhaps, it’s the characters that are believable despite their over-the-top circumstances. Somehow, the film just portrays its brutality in a manner that’s painful, to put it simply.

Even as the film winds down into the typical “final girl” chase sequence, and the heroine moves like Laurie Strode while looking like Carrie White, the unfolding event never feels contrived or tired. The gritty, dismal beauty of this film never fades no matter how familiar the situations feel, and while people toss around the term “Je ne sais quoi,” a bit too often this film definitely has it.

Or you can just wait for Hostel III like the rest the clowns that could care less.

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