Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Suck (2009)

Rock and Horror are practically brothers. In some cases it's an acquired taste, but for those that enjoy them, it's heaven. So it's not surprise that the two have been mixed together. From "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" to "Return of the Living Dead", the two have been not so strange bedfellows. As far as recent entries go, well there's "Queen of the Damned", which defined mediocrity, the absolutely atrocious "Neowolf", and Writer/Director/Star Rob Stefaniuk's 2009 entry "Suck."

Meet The Winners. They are a rock band that wants to make it big, but well, they suck. Well, bassist Jennifer (Jessica Paré) comes eye to eye with Queeny (Dimitri Coats), and the next thing you know, she's different. And by different, I mean she's a vampire. However, as she and other band members start to turn, they start to become more popular. Problem is, they don't really like being vampires, and then there's Eddie Van Helsing (Malcolm McDowell), who wants to stop this once and for all.

If there's anything that really saves "Suck" from well...sucking, it's the acting. All the performances fit the campy tone, and never become grating or obnoxious. McDowell manages to play Eddie Van Helsing (get it?) with a sly wink instead of overacting, and everyone playing a band member manages to do a good job. Then there's the appearances from rock royalty. Alice Cooper shows up as a bartender whose clearly up to no good, while Iggy Pop plays a concerned producer and Henry Rollins as an obnoxious radio DJ named Rockin' Roger. Even Moby is fun as the front-man of a band called "Secretary of Stake", clearly having fun with his reputation as a vegan pacifist and having a ball as a douche. Plus, some of the jokes really work (I loved the obligatory dead drummer joke) and it's nice to see Dave Foley give a funny performance.

Sadly, the film still didn't win me over completely. For one thing, there are several references/tributes to classic album covers that tend to induce eye-rolling instead of the chuckles that it intends. Also, while many of the performances and cameos work, there are ones that tend to tank. In particular is Christopher Ratz as the roadie Hugo, whose French-Canadian doofus shickt is tiresome from the get go. Then there's the cameo from Alex Lifeson from Rush as a border agent, which just feels like the director thought "Hey man, we've got Alex Lifeson!" Finally, there's the conclusion, which pretty much screams "Hey guys, how about "Suck II: Suck Harder?"" No thank you.

As it stands, the best way to describe "Suck" as a whole is that it's 60% a lot of fun, and 40% of it feels like a Direct to TV movie from VH1. Decent, but not exactly essential.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, September 24, 2010

Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter (1974)

Ah, Hammer. It's interesting to see them making a comeback (with upcoming films "The Neighbor" and the "Let the Right One In" remake "Let Me In"), as the studio had closed in the end of the 70's I believe, leaving behind a great, influential body of work, as well as several films that tend to get ignored. Among the most influential and well known films from the studio are their vampire films, from the Dracula films to movies like "The Vampire Loves," "Countess Dracula" and the film that is about to be reviewed, Brian Clemens' 1974 entry "Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter."

In a small village, women are being found with their youth drained from their bodies due to a cloaked vampire. So, it's up to former Prussian Army member Captain Kronos (Horst Janson) and the Hunchbacked Dr. Marcus (John Carson) to save the day. Well, it turns out that much of this is due to the diabolical Lady Durward (Wanda Ventham), and that the old wooden stake to the heart isn't going to work this time-but a sword made from a steel crucifix should do the trick. Can Kronos save the day - and get with the beautiful Carla (former Bond Girl and genre vet Caroline Munro)?

Though not a serious complaint, one of the things that's hard to shake off is the hair Kronos has. It's a weird, pseudo John Denver hairstyle, and it becomes a bit difficult to take him seriously as a hero when he's got such a goofy look to him.

That out of the way, "Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter" isn't the best Hammer vampire film, but it is a really fun blend of horror and swashbuckling adventure, with a noticeable humor being present. One of most noteworthy issues in the movie is the way it deviates from the vampire myth a slight bit. These vampires can go about in daylight and can't be killed by wooden stakes. It's interesting to see Hammer deviate a bit. They sure as hell don't deviate from the issue of class struggle, as Lady Durward is a villainous aristocrat that has literally been praying on the lower class. Hell, the whole vampires stealing the youth from young girls plot is an obvious metaphor for the older generation feeding off the younger one.

Performances are strong, with Janson making for a good hero in spite of his atrocious hair (it's not an easy thing to get over), and Ventham making for a fine villain who thankfully doesn't break into camp histrionics. The direction from Clemens is also fine, and while never really scary, it's still atmospheric enough to garner plenty of interest, and dammit if you don't have fun with it. You can tell those involved were enjoying themselves, so it's hard not to get swept up in it all.

Interestingly, Hammer was hoping for this to be a new series that would propel them for years-sadly that was not to be the case. A shame, as I would have liked to see him in further adventures, or maybe even go at it with another horror icon. Come on, Captain Kronos vs. Paul Naschy would have been great!

Rating: 8/10
This was the only movie Clemens directed. He does have several writing credits, including this film, several television credits, "The Tell Tale Heart, "The Watcher in the Woods" and to a far lesser extent, "Highlander II."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Growth (2009)

Parasites. You can't live with 'em, you can't live...well, I guess you can live without 'em. Don't ya hate it when they destroy your property, or eat everything in your garden, or turn you into zombie-like killers? Okay, they last part has never happened, but it's something that's not too uncommon in horror. The mother of this sub-genre is clearly David Cronenberg's debut feature "Shivers", with more tongue-in-cheek but still great entries "Night of the Creeps" and "Slither" following in favor. Now, we can add Gabriel Cowan's 2009 film "Growth" to that list.

Taking place on an island called Cuttyhunk (*snicker*), "Growth" takes place 20 years after a horrible incident involving a scientific breakthrough gone horribly wrong. Well, Jamie Ackerman (Mircea Monroe) has returned has returned to the island, and what else, the slimy worms they were created by the scientific breakthrough return, and as it turns out, they increase their hosts strength and makes them more sexual-too bad said hosts tend to become more violent.

Though it sounds like a good horror flick, "Growth" ultimately resembles a mix between a Scy-Fy channel movie and an episode of "One Tree Hill." While the acting is hit and miss and Cowan isn't a bad director, the script is unspectacular and tends to jump around and not explain several plot points. What's with the cultists (though they are the only creepy thing about the movie-a scene in which one pursues the character of Kristen (Nora Kirkpatrick) stands out)? Why do the town's people want Jamie out? None of this is explained, and it all feels left over from another movie.

It also doesn't help that the whole plot revolving around Justin (Christopher Shand-less annoying than he was in "Hit & Run", but still not a very good actor) is too goofy for it's own good, as he becomes a host for these worms that's as scary as a wet bag. In fact, the film is far too serious, not to mention at times boring because it doesn't offer any real reason to take interest in any of these characters. They're mostly just cardboard cut-outs, and you end up wishing the worms and whatever other evil that's around would take care of them sooner.

As a whole, I can't say that "Growth" made me too angry, but that's because I couldn't really feel anything while watching it. It's essentially a big bag of whatever.

Rating: 4/10

Messiah of Evil (1973)

In spite of what some believe, "Night of the Living Dead" didn't catch the world on fire immediately. It took a while for the movie to garner any serious buzz, and this being the earlier days of horror, it was only a matter of time until people started offering their take on the concept. Some were pretty damn successful at attaining their goal ("Shivers", "Let's Scare Jessica to Death") while others were forgettable or just plain bad ("Garden of the Dead.") Fortunately, Willard Huyck's 1973 low budget wonder "Messiah of Evil" is one of the best "Post "Night", pre "Dawn"" zombie films, and deserves the recognition it's been getting as of late.

In a California town called Pointe Dune, Arletty Lang (Marianna Hill) has been looking for her reclusive artist father (Royal Dano.) She decides to shack up with some artsy hippie types, but things seem to be odd with the town. Why are there people bleeding from their eyes? Why do they seem to walk in droves as if they are a group? What are they up to? Oh, and who or what is this "Messiah of Evil" figure?

Shot for less than $100,000, "Messiah of Evil" is one of those horror movies that was talked about and celebrated among a small circle of horror fans that as of late, has been getting more recognition, most likely thanks to the informative article in Stephen Thrower's tome to forgotten horror/exploitation of the 70's and 80's "Nightmare USA", as well as the special edition DVD from Code Red. If you ask me, a more worthy film couldn't be rediscovered.

"Messiah" works mostly because director Hyuck understands how to make a movie work in spite of budgetary limitations. This is an atmospheric little movie, with a pervading sense of unease and dread dripping from nearly every frame, and when something bad does happen, it leaves an impact, all without having to rely on buckets of gore. The two that stand out the most are scenes involving a supermarket and a movie theater. The supermarket scene predates Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" by five years, with the image of pale, soulless bodies munching on raw meat being one that's not easy to shake off. Then there's the movie theater scene, in which one girl sits in the theater, while unbeknown-st to her, the dead begin to slowly populate it. It's a real nail biter, which pays off in blood chilling fashion.

Also worthy of mention is the way Hyuck incorporates other influences. While "Night of the Living Dead" is an obvious one, the movie also owes heavily to the dread and otherworldly terrors written by H.P. Lovecraft (the fact that the Messiah of Evil rises from the sea speaks a lot), as well as European cinema in the way it uses paintings and color schemes to create a look that at times wouldn't be out of place in a Dario Argento film.

I highly recommend "Messiah of Evil", as it's one of the best little known horror films of the 70's that deserves to be seen, especially for those wanting a unique take on the living dead.

Rating: 9/10
Willard Hyuck would go on write screenplays for "American Graffiti" and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." Then came "Howard the Duck", and...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Underworld (2003)

Before the world was wrapped up in the "Twilight" phenomenon, there was "Underworld", a film that has led to a franchise. Actually, it's not really comparable to "Twilight"-sure, it has forbidden passion, vampires and werewolves, but that's were the comparison ends. Really, this is many post "Matrix" action cliches mixed with Anne Rice like overtones and whatnot. So needless to say, I'm not a fan, but I'll take it over that other vampires and werewolves franchise.

"Underworld" deals with an ages long blood war between "Death Dealers" (vampires) and "Lycans" (werewolves.) Meet Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a Death Dealer who wants revenge because she believes the Lycans killed her family. Anyways, she notices that Lycans and Death Dealers have taken interest in a dude named Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), and the next thing you know, sparks fly, secrets are revealed and action ensues.

To be fair, there are things worth praising in "Underworld." The acting is strong (save for Speedman, whose pretty bland), with Beckinsale doing good as an Icy, English action heroine while looking incredibly hot in ridiculously tight leather. Meanwhile, Michael Sheen does a fine job as the Lycan-oh to hell with it, let's just call them werewolves and vampires-Lucian, as does Shane Brolly as the villainous vampire Kraven and Bill Nighy as the elder vampire Viktor. They all have a distinct Englishness and class to their roles, making you kinda give a damn at times. It also helps that the movie has a distinctively Gothic look, with great attention given to the backdrop. Finally, it really helps that as goofy as the back-story and mythology can be, at least it actually gives a damn. Unlike "Twilight", there's a lot of respect and attention given to the universe created here, and for that, it deserves kudos.

That out of the way, it's still not a particularly good movie. Sure, the acting is good, but many of the characters here look goofy as hell. Lucian and Kraven look like an unhealthy melding of Anne Rice Gothic-Romantic characters and "Matrix" style villains, while Kraven is about as imposing as a middle aged Goth. Then there's the action scenes-bloody sure, but still filled with the same kind of over done slow motion, briefly paused and stylish to the point of hollowness crap that plagues so many modern action flicks. The biggest problem though, is that it takes itself so very, very seriously. Not once is there any humor, personality or wit added to any of the proceedings, which makes it very difficult to get into. You can throw in all the bloodshed, complicated back-story and hyperactive visuals you want. If you can't give me anything to feel or take interest in, then I just can't see a reason to enjoy it.

I can certainly understand the appeal of this franchise, but it's just not my cup of tea. If it's your kind of thing, then dig in. Me? I'd rather stick with an interesting vampire or werewolf movie. Still, at least it's still miles ahead of "Twilight."

Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wyvern (2009)

Oh Sy-Fy Channel. You were once known for being called "The Sci-Fi Channel", and then you changed your name because well, misspelling words is the cool thing to do or something. Well, you've also been doing original movies, or at least in some cases, presenting certain movies as original movies when they actually aren't, that 99% of the time define schlock involving goofy CGI monster(s) flicks. So, while not a minor miracle, Steven R. Monroe's 2009 flick "Wyvern" is a shockingly watchable movie.

The plot of "Wyvern" is standard Sy-Fy Channel silliness: a small town (this time in Alaska) is under attack thanks to a large monster-this time a dragon from Norse mythology called a Wyvern. That's all you need to know as far as story goes.

A part of the dreadful "Maneater" series that tends to feature in need of work actors starring in terrible creature and nature-run-amok-movies, "Wyvern" is actually a shockingly competent movie thanks to some decent direction, a few nasty moments and some better than average humor. The humor takes a decidedly Alaskan slant (obviously), and does a fine job of doing so without overstaying it's welcome. I particularly like how Monroe uses the Alaskan landscape to his advantage, making it feel almost homegrown even though it isn't. Also worthy of note is "Northern Exposure's" own Barry Corbin, who does a fine job as the Wilford Brimley like hunter.

Sadly, like many genre movies of this type, the film falters in the last third, in which our intrepid heroes must try to defeat the beast. It just doesn't feel as urgent as it should, and doesn't feel as fun as it should. Which leads the biggest liability-Nick Chinlund and Erin Karpluk as our leads. They are just too bland and uninteresting, and their performances feel uninvolved and unmotivated. Finally, the movie reveals the beast far too soon, taking away much of the impact and interest that it should have.

As it stands, you probably won't remember "Wyvern" too much a few days after watching it. Still, it's not as dull as other Sy-Fy Channel movies (and stands head and shoulders over the other "Maneater" films- though that's not saying much) and makes for okay viewing if nothing else is on.

Rating: 6/10

Monroe has done other direct to DVD and TV creature flicks, including "Ogre", Left in Darkness" and "Mongolian Death Worm." He seems to finally be catching a break though, with his remake of the infamous exploitation classic "I Spit On Your Grave" getting good word of mouth and even a limited theatrical release. I guess if you pay your dues, something good might come along.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Classic VHS Box Art: Future Kill (1985)

Too bad the movie itself is completely unwatchable.

Dead Meat (2004)

I remember the days in which the zombie boom of the last decade actually wasn't that bad. In fact. I welcomed it. Sure, everyone welcomed "Shaun of the Dead" and "28 Days Later", and I still believe that "Land of the Dead", while not the best "Dead" movie Romero did, is still an underrated movie (the less said about the abortion that was "Survival of the Dead" the better.) Then there were those movies that were coming to DVD in droves-films like "Hide and Creep", "Junk" and others that, while not exactly the most original films, offered fans of the living dead some light but enjoyable entertainment. Well, you can add Conor McMahon's 2004 Irish zombie quickie "Dead Meat" to that list.

An outbreak carried by slaughtered animals (particularly cows) has caused the dead to rise and eat the living. Well, tourists Helena (Marián Araújo) and her asshole boyfriend Martin (David Ryan) hit one of these walking cadavers while driving, and then all hell breaks loose for her. Thankfully, she runs into several survivors-including shovel wielding gravedigger named Desmond (David Muyllaert) and a whiley old coot named Cathal Cheunt (Eoin Whelan.)

Tongue and cheek and to the point, "Dead Meat" doesn't have an original bone in it's body (McMahon's influences-Rami, Romero, Jackson and Fulci-are very apparent), but it makes for some nice light entertainment. One of the things that helps the movie is the fact that the acting is better than usual, with Araújo making for a plucky heroine and Muyllaert doing his best as the bad ass gravedigger, though it's Whelan that steals the show. Nearly every scene he has is a riot, and he brings some serious energy and enthusiasm to his role. The gore is also plentiful, with some choice gore gags (the highlight involving a zombie having it's eyeball and brains sucked out with a vacuum hose) to amuse gore fans. Oh, and while not that original, it does offer one thing you've never seen before-man eating cows. Seriously, I'm not making that up. I cracked up hard at that moment.

If the movie does run into problems, it's the short run time and the lack of originality. The film is 78 minutes long, and wouldn't hurt if it were at least five or six minutes longer. Also, while McMahon's influences are obvious, he tends to let them show too much, even lifting from them. I'm sorry, but "Evil Dead" inspired camera work and decapitations, Lucio Fulci style eyeball trauma and a conclusion that riffs Romero's "The Crazies" in the same movie is a bit eye rolling for me. If anything, it could use less stealing techniques and scenes from other movies.

Flaws aside, "Dead Meat" is an amiable time waster that demands little from the viewer. As a piece of horror junk food, it's not bad at all, and goes down easy.

Rating: 6.5/10

Big Money Rustlas (2010)

You know what, I'm not even going to bother watching this. I've already seen "Death Racers", and that was it for me. No more of Bald White Trash Douche-Bag 3000, Fatty Ding-Dongs or his grotesque glandular problems for me. You put up with it.

It is worth noting though, that this movie is being released by Vivendi. This is low even for them.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Four Dragons (2008)

Another day, another bad action movie released by Lionsgate. Instead of going on and on, I'll just get on with the premise.

Four guys-Tiger (Michael Chin), Blaze (David Bao), Dragon (Robin Ho) and Ace (Jun-Fei Kuan) are working in a mining operation. When they decide to go to their boss to talk about the shitty working conditions, the boss decides it would be better to off them because aparently paying slave wages isn't as bad as minor criticisms or whatever. Of course, our heroes survive and plan revenge, and some other stuff happens that I didn't really care about.

Touted as Malaysia's first Martial Arts flick, "Four Dragons" is essentially the bottom wrung of the ladder. While I know logic and plot are secondary in the world of Martial Arts movies, the plot and characterization is atrocious. The story is nothing more than a really bad patchwork of half formed ideas, and the characterization as mentioned, is nil. We're introduced to these guys in an opening narration, but they have no personality whatsoever. At least the dialogue is so bad ("Tin Sok? Tin Sok! You mean my friend Tin Sok?") that it inspires fits of laughter. Also, the soundtrack is worth mentioning because of the terrible Rap-Metal song called "You Gotta Fight" and a moment in the score that I swear to God sounds like an instrumental cover of "More Than Words."

The worst aspect of the movie however, is the editing and action scenes. The four leads are actually multiple championship winning fighters, yet you wouldn't know that from how poorly edited the action scenes are. Director C.L. Hor also decides to use really fake looking CGI blood-and I mean it looks like a cartoon bad-whenever someone it hit in the face, making it resemble a martial arts movie directed by "House of the Dead" era Uwe Boll. The movie even uses a flashback scene which is just a scene we saw earlier in the movie, and it's used image for image. Why would anyone in the right mind do this?

There's no reason to watch this, unless you want 91 minutes to feel like five hours. Seriously, avoid this one. Also, "YOU GOTTA FIGHT!"

Oh, and finally, I am taking a hiatus from reviewing bad direct to DVD movies from Lionsgate. If I keep doing this on a regular basis, I will become a very bitter and unhappy man.

Rating: 0.5/10

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hit And Run (2009)

One of the biggest fears people have is the idea of hitting something or somebody whilst driving. So, it's not really a surprise that several horror movies have focused on this idea. Among those most notable for this are Stuart Gordon's "Stuck" and "The Hitchhiker" segment from "Creepshow 2." So, leave it to the direct to DVD market to take on this fear with Enda McCallion's 2009 flick "Hit and Run."

Mary Murdock (Laura Breckenridge) has a few too many to drink one night, and hits a bump in the road. Waking up, she finds out that said bump was actually a stranger named Timothy Emser (Kevin Corrigan.) So, what's a girl to do! Bury him in the woods of course! But he has a family, and the events are beginning to take a toll on her psyche. To make things worse, Tim might not be dead after all...

Playing like a mix of "Stuck" and "The Hitchhiker"segment, , "Hit and Run" works best when it remembers to do the following: 1.) Keep it simple, 2.) don't overstay your welcome and 3.) Give the audience a strong lead. Breckenridge gives a pretty good performance that best shines when she seems to be loosing her marbles and is afraid of being caught, though Corrigan makes for a fine victim turned fatale. It's also relatively short (84 minutes) but not too short, and manages to pull off some fine surprises along the way without deviating too much from the formula.

The movie does suffer from two notable flaws though. One is the occasionally flashy direction, which hinders the picture somewhat. It's much better when it's being directed in a straightforward manner and not relying on quick cuts and slow-motion techniques. Then there's Christopher Shand as Mary's boyfriend Rick. His character is very annoying, and Shand plays him too over the top, making him a character you want to see die in a movie that doesn't need that.

While it didn't blow me away, "Hit and Run" is a better than expected horror flick that doesn't break too many rules and should be of interest for those wanting a quick but entertaining experience. Nothing special, but nothing bad either.

Rating: 6.5/10

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

Samuel Z. Arkoff was a man who produced many a genre picture. His credits are numerous (141 production credits according to IMDB) and the films he produced are sometimes notable-he introduced the world to Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon fer Christsakes! He also worked with the one and only Roger Corman, producing several of the directors Poe adaptations, and sharing a producers credit with Corman as well. One of those films is Daniel Haller's 1970 adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror."

Meet Wilbur Whateley (Dean Stockwell.) He's an attractive fellow who has an interest in Nancy Wagner (Sandra Dee-yes, from the "Gidget" movies, and whose character was never in the original story) and a book called The Necronomicon. Oh, and he wants to use said book to help the Old Ones break free. Can Dr. Henry Armitage (Ed Begley) stop him?

Though one of my favorite Lovecraft stories, Haller's take on the tale doesn't really work all that well. For one thing, it's biggest flaw is that it fails to capture the cosmic horrors of the authors work, instead opting for a psychedelic and dated visual approach the more resembles an acid head's nightmare than something evil. It's also to be frank, rather dull, with lots of talk taking over what should be atmosphere and dread. Then there's Dee and Stockwell. Sandy was obviously trying to break out with this role, but her performance is a bit wooden, while Stockwell just overacts as Whateley, coming off as goofy instead of frightening or imposing.

The movie does have it's charms though. Beagley does a fine job in his role, while Sam Jaffe does a very good job as Old Whateley, who manages to capture the feeling of the story better than Stockwell does. There is also one scene (involving something nasty in the house) that's the one moment that does manage to attain the level of cosmic horror in the story. The highlight though, is the awesome score by Les Baxter, which is at turns surreal and catchy as hell, especially the main theme (oh, and the title credits are awesome.)

As a whole, "The Dunwich Horror" is a missed opportunity, and one of the weaker Arkoff/Corman collaborations. I've seen worse (and I do mean worse) Lovecraft adaptations, but this sure as hell doesn't stand out as one of the best.

Rating: 5/10

Circle of Pain (2010)

I'm not really much of a Mixed Martial Arts fan to tell the truth. I watch professional wrestling (a man deserves his guilty pleasures, okay?) and I had a passing interest in Mixed Martial Arts in my teen years, but that's it. So I'm not really aware of "Tapout" or whatever it is, other than the fact that 1.) I see guys wearing "Tapout"shirts in town (and I've seen them in Wal Mart) and 2.) That they've released several Straight to DVD movies via Lionsgate, those purveyors of bad exploitation trash on DVD. So It was only a matter of time until I watched one of these movies, and I decided to go with "Circle of Pain", which while better than other "Tapout Presents..." ventures, is still a terrible movie.

Dalton Hunt (Tony Schiena) is a retired fighter whose been living a quiet life. Thing is, Colin "The Brick" Wahle (Heath Herring) is about to beat his record. So thanks to his pal Wyatt (Dean "I was Superman and now I can't get a role worth a damn" Cain) that he put in a wheelchair and the villainous director of a MMA company named Victoria Rualan (Bai Ling) telling him he has to, Dalton must come out of retirement to battle Wahle.

One of the things that's really noteworthy about "Circle of Pain" (and other "Tapout Presents..." movies") is how cheap the whole thing looks. The production values aren't exactly shot on video bad, but they essentially resemble those of a soft core skin flick. Also notable is that like it's predecessors, the movie suddenly becomes something of a soft core flick, with sex scenes thrown in for no reason whatsoever other than to pad out time. Apart from that, little if anything stands out in this movie, which is amateurishly directed by Daniel Zirilli, features few if any invigorating fight or action scenes, and is guilty of false advertising (the movie advertises Kimbo Slice as the star, but he's only in the film for two scenes.)

Also, the acting is (as expected) terrible. Look, people pay to watch these guys beat the tar out of each other, not for their acting skills (though Herring at least seems to be having fun.) Dean Cain (who must curse the name of Terri Hatcher every day of his life) in particular is bad, seeming to be bored and uninterested as if he's only doing this for the paycheck. Hell, the only reason this isn't getting a 0/10 is because of Bai Ling. An underrated actress (with credits including "The Crow", "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" and "The Beautiful Country"), she seems to know what kind of movie this is, and plays the villain to a hammy T, delivering the only fun performance in the movie.

As a whole, there is not reason whatsoever to watch "Circle of Pain", which doesn't feel like something made for MMA fans as much as it feels like a cheap cash grab. I do wish that Tapout and Lionsgate would stop releasing these movies, but it's obviously not going to happen anytime soon.

Rating: 1/10

Apart from this, Daniel Zirilli has also directed "Voodoo Tailz" and "Curse of Alcatraz." You watch them-I don't dare to.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Call of Cthulhu (2005)

You know, I haven't had the time to review any short movies. Yeah, I did an anthology of short films, but I haven't done a short movie. Well, let the 2005 silent and black and white adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu" be the first.

Told through flashbacks, "The Call of Cthulhu" deals with a nephew (Matt Foyer) is taking care of his Uncle's estate, when he notices some strange documents. Documents that talk about "Cthulhu Cults" and other misdeeds. What he discovers are the dark secrets that reveal man's ultimate fate, and the tentacled god that will bring it forth.

If there's anything holding "The Call of Cthulhu" back, it's the films use of more modern techniques to try and capture the feeling of silent films. By doing so, the film hurts the feeling of a movie from that era, and hampers the film slightly.

Apart from that, this is beyond the shadow of a doubt the most faithful adaptation of Lovecraft's works so far-not surprising considering that it's from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. The film hits every note scene for scene from the master's story, perfectly capturing the feeling that something very, very bad is about to occur. The fact that's it's done as a silent film is also great. The story itself is from the 1920's, so why not do it in the style of that era's movies? Hell, we even get a stop motion Cthulhu, and the image of that, let me tell you-it's a great visual to behold.

In spite of not being able to completely replicate the style of silent films, "The Call of Cthulhu" is a must for fans of H.P. Lovecraft, especially those wishing more adaptations were faithful to his work. Check it out.

Rating: 8.5/10

Neighbor (2009)

Don't ya hate it when a movie feels like it came out too late? This happened in the late 80's when the horror genre saw a glut of terrible slasher movie that went straight to VHS and were too little too late as far as catching lightening in a bottle, as the sub-genre had gone out of favor. Same has happened to the torture genre. What was once something of interest ("Saw", "Hostel" and "Martyrs") has gone the way of "who really gives a shit?" ("The Butcher", "Train" and "The Final.") You can add Robert A. Masciantonio's "Neighbor" as another "too little too late" entry.

A mysterious, unnamed girl (America Olivio) has moved into a nice Canadian suburb, and has made it her mission to torture, maim and kill anyone unlucky enough to cross her path. In particular are Don Carpenter (Christen Campbell), his wife and his friends.

If "Neighbor" gets anything right, it's that the direction isn't bad, and the acting is strong. Particularly strong is Olivio as the girl, who apart from some annoying pop culture quipping, manages to do a great job. She's always menacing and creepy, without ever overdoing or overstaying her welcome, making her one of the more interesting torture junkies in a while.

That's not enough to save the movie though. While I like that the movie creates a shroud of mystery for her, the fact that absolutely no reason is suggested or even hinted at hurts the movie. In fact, there is little if any logic to this movie. Why is it that nobody can tell that this clearly unbalanced woman is up to no good? Why are there so many coincidences and plot points that go unexplained? Nothing is answered at all. Then there's the fact that in the end of the day, it's just another torture movie, and like so many recent entries, the violence feels mechanical and uninvolved. You can only show people being tortured for so long until it just becomes dull. Add to a rather sudden conclusion and the fact that it promises a sequel, and you get a movie that annoys more than intrigues.

Sure, it has it's pluses, but there are so many things going against "Neighbor" that it would probably if you didn't see it. You've seen it before for the most part.

Rating: 3/10