Sunday, May 29, 2011

Drive-Thru (2007)

As the slasher trend in the 80's went on, some tried to mix this sub-genre with humor. Whilst there have been attempts at mixing slasher horror and laughs that worked ("April Fools Day", "Scream") many of them are just awkward ("Cheerleader Camp", "Graduation Day") and all around bad ("Aerobicide.") Granted, their are people who defend these movies, but I'm not writing for them now, am I? Anyways, 2007's "Drive-Thru" (which, unlike many movies Lionsgate releases straight-to-DVD, was actually produced by the company) tries to mix laughs and slasher movie gore, with a tip of the hat to the 80's slasher films.

The movie doesn't exactly open promisingly, in which a group of obnoxious "wigger" (I hate that word, but that's the only way to describe them) stereotypes stop by the local "Hella-Burger", only to be killed off by a killer dressed up as the burger joint's mascot, Horny the Clown. Yes, this is the level the humor is going after, and I thought to myself "This is going to be painful." Anyways, Mackenzie Carpenter (Leighton Meester) is a rebellious tough teen girl, whose friends and others start getting killed off by the killer clown, and he keeps leaving cryptic messages in chintzy 70's toys. Well, it turns out that the killer has a connection to her parents and the parents of those getting killed. Now, she's gotta stop Horny (I feel so stupid for saying the killer's name) before she turns 18-or at least until the detectives Dwayne Crockers (Larry Joe Campbell, who everyone keeps calling "crackers"-hey, I didn't write this shit) and Brenda Chase (Lola Glaudini) get her in jail.

To be fair, "Drive-Thru" has some great kills and gore (the highlight being the fried off face peeling off), but the impact of these kills is ruined by inappropriate, blaring Death Metal music (look folks, extreme metal does not equal scary, okay?) and the Godawful puns and one liners Horny delivers, not to mention the fact that he's nothing more than a terrible knock-off of Freddy Krueger. Acting wise, I'll give Leighton Meester this much-she's much better here than she was in "The Roommate", and she's got a likable screen presence and shows some real talent. Everyone else here isn't anyone particularly great, but they all fit their slasher movie stereotypes, though Campbell really grated on my nerves as the comical detective character.

Which leads to my biggest beef (pun intended) with the movie-none of it is as funny as the people behind it think it is. The fast food aspect is terrible, with annoying commercials and a cameo from Morgan Spurlock-yes, that one-as the manager of the Hella-Burger. We're supposed to laugh at this, but none of it is clever. I could go on about how hard it is to blend horror and comedy, but the whole thing feels lazy and forced. Some might like one liners like "Employee of the Month's 'bout to fuck you up!" and "Fast Food Kills Mother Fucker!", but it doesn't work for me.

To be fair, the movie wasn't as painful as I feared it would be, but it's still nothing I could recommend unless you happen to savor horror comedy movies at their cheesiest. Me? I enjoy some cheese, but this didn't do anything for me.

Rating: 3.5/10

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ghost in the Machine (1993)

In the early 90's, the internet was slowly catching on and virtual reality was supposed to be the next big thing. Whilst the internet is pretty much one of the more vital things in technology today, virtual reality never quite took off the way it was expected to, and merely became yet another fad. Nonetheless, the 90's were filled with movies that focused on these, and while there are still movies trying to scare us from the internet, the 90's also gave us movies that tried to make virtual reality scary. Well, "Ghost in the Machine" tried to make both scary-and failed miserably.

Karl Hopkins (Ted Marcoux) is a technician in a computer shop whose also a serial killer called "The Address Book Killer" (no, really) who get's the names of his victims via stolen...I'm not even going to finish the sentence, it's just too stupid. Well, Terry Munrow (Karen Allen) and her son Josh (Wil Horneff) leave the shop, and Karl's got his eyes set on them...only to end up in a car wreck. After dying in a cat scan, his soul is transformed into electrical energy, and he's now got unfinished business to attend to. Can super hacker Bram Walker (Chris Mulkey) help save the day. Also, this has nothing to do with the synopsis I'm giving, but Jessica Walter (best known as overbearing mother Lucille Bluth in "Arrested Development") is in this.

Next to "Feardotcom", "Ghost in the Machine" (which has nothing to do with the song from The Police) is the worst "the internet is scary!" horror movie I've ever seen-the kind of movie that's insulting and offensive in how awful it is. The direction is uninspired, the premise is ludicrous but eventually uninteresting, the kills are awful even by the standards of bad slasher movies (only one is particularly gory), and the characters are dull and unlikable, especially Terry's son, whose nothing but an unsympathetic, snot-nosed brat. The acting is bad as well-Allen seems uninterested in the whole affair, and is clearly thinking "Come on, I was in "Raiders of the Lost Ark", "Malcolm X" and the Steven Soderbergh movie "King of the Hill." This is what my career's come down to?" Meanwhile, Mulkey is as milquetoast as they get, and Marcoux is really bland as the killer, as he's nothing more than a poor man's Freddy Krueger or Shocker (and "Shocker was a bad movie.)

Another thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is how clueless the director and writers* are when it comes to technology. Everything about it-from how the internet and computers work (even by early 90's standards it's sad) to how hackers work and how viruses are spread feels like it was written by people who simply looked at the covers and synopsis' of computer manuals and nothing more.

I wish there was something I could recommend about this movie, but there isn't. I will say this: I've noticed a lot of mixed to positive reviews of it on the Internet Movie Database, and those are the ones that people found the most helpful. Personally, I think that this doesn't help the commentor's reputations as people who aren't particularly intelligent, so I'll give my two cents: if you constantly bitch about the state of horror today, and hold this as an example of how it's done, or if you like this in general, than you either a.) haven't seen enough movies in your lifetime, b.) have poor taste, or c.) are absolutely fucking stupid.

Seriously, fuck this movie. I'd give it the dreaded "no" rating, but I feel like I give that out too much sometimes, so...

Rating: 0/10

*Director Rachel Talalay previosuly directed the worst "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie ever (yes, worse than the remake) with "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare." After this movie, she directed the inspired little guilty pleasure "Tank Girl" (oh Lori Petty, you shoulda been a star), but after that tanked, she ended up sticking with TV work.

Writer William Osborne previously wrote "Twins" and "The Real McCoy." After this, he wrote "Kevin of the North", "Thunderbirds", "The Scorpion King" and "Fat Slags." Co-writer William Davies worked with Osborne in the past, but also wrote "Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot!" and "Johnny English." Amazingly, he wrote the screenplay for one of last year's best movies "How To Train Your Dragon."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fertile Ground and Seconds Apart (Both 2011)

Well, on to two more "After Dark Originals."

First is "Fertile Ground", which is from Adam Gierasch and Jace Anderson. The movie deals with Emily (Leisha Hailey) and Nate Weaver (Gale Harold), a married couple. After Emily has a miscarriage, they move to Nate's old childhood farmhouse, where Emily finds out she's pregnant once again. All seems fine, until a 150 year old skull is dug from the ground, and the next thing you know, Emily starts having visions of ghostly specters, her husband starts behaving strangely, and she ends up being afraid for her life. Oh, and this pregnancy might not be the gift she thought it was...

"Fertile Ground" is an interesting change for Gierasch and Anderson, whose previous efforts were the 80's slasher meets modern day torture film "Autopsy" and the largely reverent remake of "Night of the Demons." Sure, there's a bit of bloodshed and moments of gallows humor, but this is a more traditional scare fest. To be fair, it's not a bad movie...up to a point. I liked the duo's prior movies, and for the large part they seem comfortable doing a different type of horror film, with some decent scares and atmosphere, as well as an effective score from Joseph Conlan. Then the last fifteen minutes occur, and the movie promptly falls apart, becoming a poor imitation of "The Amityville Horror" with an actress who can't act worth a damn. Too bad, because the movie is almost a sleeper movie.

Fortunately, Antonio Negret's "Seconds Apart" is a pretty effective sleeper, and the first "After Dark Original" in this line-up to win me over. This movie is about identical twins Jonah and Seth (Edmund and Gary Entin), who share the gift of telekinesis, which they of course use for evil. They're "project" of using said gift to cause and commit murder (and in the process film it) is doing fine...until Detective Lampkin (Orlando Jones-remember him?) starts to investigate. To make matters even worse, one of them falls for a girl, which really puts a wrench in the works.

Though it suffers from a few flaws (do we really need another "man explains what's going on and nobody believes them" scene?), this is a shockingly impressive movie, with all around strong performances and an overriding atmosphere and dread permeating the proceedings. Even more impressive is the way the film is able to throw a few twists and curve-balls that actually help the film rather than hinder it-in fact, every twist and turn makes sense within the proceedings, especially in the conclusion. I also really liked the dynamic between the two brothers, which felt natural to the proceedings. These guys really do behave like brothers, scuffles and all, and while not exactly likable, you can at least identify with their relationship somewhat.

So as a whole. "Fertile Ground" is hampered by a poor final act and a weak performance. "Seconds Apart" however, is one of the more worthwhile sleepers to come out this year, and comes with a reccomendation.

Rating:

Fertile Ground: 6/10
Seconds Apart: 8/10

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wrestlemaniac (2006)

I make no apologies about it: I'm a fan of professional wrestling. Well, I'm on a break from it at the moment (it's not clicking with me the way it once did), but the point still stands. I guess that's why I've seen several B-movies with wrestlers. It's a sub-genre I've lovingly dubbed "Wrestlesploitation." That out of the way, there's still a few I have yet to see, or ones that I have seen but have yet to review. So, here's a movie I've been meaning to review for a while in 2006's "Wrestlemaniac."

A group of dumb, annoying people looking to shoot a porn movie meet a man in a gas station ("House of 1'000 Corpses" actor Irwin Keyes), who tells them to look out for the ghost town of La Sangre de Dios, in which a murderous Wrestler known as El Mascarado (Rey Misterio Sr.) resides. Well, they go there anyways because hey, that's the kind of things kids do in slasher movies, and what do ya know, the legend is true.

There really isn't a whole lot that stands out in "Wrestlemaniac." It clearly wants to be "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" with a Luchador instead of Leatherface and his family, but it's unable to do anything new. Granted, that parts okay, but it's also unable to do many interesting things. Sure, there's some nice death scenes and gore (El Mascarado likes to tear off his victims faces ala the way a "Rudo Luchador" tears off his opponents mask), and the novelty of him using professional wrestling movies is a lot of fun. That's all there is though. The porn movie sub-plot is obnoxious and never really that titillating or funny, little if any of the humor works, the sleazier elements feel forced, and the whole thing is largely a drag to sit through.

Oh, and then there's the characters. Granted, this is the kind of movie in which you are supposed to root for the killer, but still, at least give us one character that isn't disposable. The worst offender of the lot though is Steve (Jeremy Radin), the cameraman whose also a wrestling fan. I will give it this much-the fact that he concludes that unmasking him would be the only way to stop him, because in Lucha Libre that's the ultimate humiliation is a good idea. That out of the way, everything he and porn director Alphonse (Adam Huss) says and does got on my last nerve.

I've seen worse in the field of "Wrestlesploitation", but this movie just doesn't do anything particularly interesting or entertaining. I wish I had some wrestling related puns-oh wait, I do: it wants to get the three count, but instead it made me tap out.

Rating: 3.5/10

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mob Rules (2010)

In case you didn't know, Quentin Tarantino and Guy Richie's movies have had an impact-in particular "Pulp Fiction", "Reservoir Dogs", "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch." That's a good and a bad thing, because while those are all around excellent movies, a series of bad to mediocre movies "inspired" by those films have come around. Shit, there's practically an industry of movies like this in England. So of course, Lionsgate is going to get in on this-they have in the past-with the movies they release that don't get a theatrical release. So, let's take a look at the latest one, "Mob Rules", which tries to mix both Tarantino and Richie rip-offs.

C-Note (Lennie James from "Snatch") has come to America, where he has started his own criminal empire, is married but seeing Chilli (Tina Casciani), and in general is living the high life of cocaine and women. However, two men he screwed out of a lot of money in the past-Tyrone (Gary McDonald) and Anton (Treva Etienne)-are leaving London to come after him.

First things first: "Mob Rules" is yet another victim to Lionsgate's "let's give this direct to DVD movie misleading cover art" rule. That's because the cover (which, like many, is a lazy photoshop job) makes it look like a more "urban action movie", when in reality, it's a dialogue heavy rip-off/"homage" to the likes of "Snatch" and "Pulp Fiction."

That out of the way, this really isn't a terrible movie. The acting is mostly fine (save for Casciani), it has moments of humor that-gasp-are actually funny (don't talk smack about Oprah), and a good eye for location. Hell, writer/director Keith Parmer actually shows a bit of promise IMO. The highlight though, is the Jazzy score and soundtrack by Tree Adams. It's great to hear a composer think outside of the box for a change, and I'd actually like to own the soundtrack.

All of that out of the way, this still isn't a particularly good movie. The film of so derivative of the films of Tarantino and Richie (at a few points almost to the point of outright plagiarism) that it ultimately has no real identity. It also tries way too hard to be cool for it's own good, and I'm sorry, but if your a movie, don't try to be cool. Cool is something that just comes naturally. Finally, there's the conclusion, which is your basic "bullet's and bloodshed" finale (complete with imagery stolen from the likes of Chinese action films) that just rings hollow, like the director decided "you know what, let's wrap this up already!"

So, is "Mob Rules" worth watching? Well, if you're absolutely dedicated to seeing ever movie "inspired" by the likes of Richie and Tarantino, then you'll have seen a whole lot worse. For everyone else: it has a few positives, but at best, it's worth a Redbox rental.

Rating: 5.5/10

Monday, May 16, 2011

Husk and Prowl (Both 2011)

This year, instead of going with the "8 Films to Die For" format, in which After Dark Films and Lionsgate pick seven Independent/Foreign horror films (and one After Dark Orginal) to briefly show audiences in select theaters, the two decided to do something else instead: why not give audiences 8 Original Movies from After Dark (sponsored by the Scy-Fy Channel) instead of the usual "Horrorfest" route? So with that, for a weekend (or a week), we got "After Dark Originals." Let's take a look at two originals that, whilst not terrible, aren't the best start.

First of all is "Husk", which is a remake of Brett Simmons award winning short film from the director himself. Here, a group of friends end up stranded in a seemingly abandoned cornfield, and find an old farmhouse. Unsurprisingly, they aren't alone, and find themselves being in a game of "10 Little Indians" with murderous, living Scarecrows interested in adding these kids into their ranks.

"Husk" is a decent little movie, with some effective kills and gore, some great suspense, and a story that, while not too original (that is, if you've seen the 80's movie "Scarecrows"), is still interesting. However, the film is decent when it should be good. This is due to some rather poor performances, the kids making several dumb (but expected) decisions, characters that aren't particularly well defined, and a conclusion that left me indifferent. The biggest gripe I have however, is it's tendency to over explain itself, especially with flashbacks telling us about the dark history of the farm house. In this case, less would have been more. Still, it's a decent little movie, and very much worth a rental.

The same can't be said for "Prowl", which fits somewhere between decent and mediocre, and ends up being disappointing. In this movie, Amber (Courtney Hope) dreams of the big city, and decides to bring along her friends to help her find an apartment there. However, accepting a ride in a semi (Really? These kids are pretty much begging to be killed) turns out to be a mistake, as it's harvesting human blood...and them as prey for vampires.

The English language debut of Patrik Syversen (who previously directed the Norweigan "Wrong Turn" rip-off "Manhunt"), "Prowl" is a movie that should have been better than it is. The premise is ripe with potential, the gore flows freely, the acting is strong, and the director definitely shows potential. However, the movie eventually runs out of steam, and the "vampires hunting humans" plot goes from intriguing to botched when the process grows more and more predictable. When the movie does try to throw a curve-ball at the viewer, it's in the form of a plot-twist involving the lead vampire and our main girl, and I'll give you a hint: Remember "The Empire Strikes Back"? It's kind of like that, only here it's insultingly bad.

It's a shame too, as I said, these are movies ripe with potential, and could have been good. As they are though, one is worth renting, and the other should at least be rented with reservations. Not terrible, but not the best way to kick off my "After Dark Originals" experience.

Rating:
Husk: 6/10
Prowl: 5/10

Friday, May 13, 2011

Forest of the Dead (2007)

I know that making a horror movie for a budget of less than peanuts with a camcorder and friends is something that's hard. I know there's a lot of work, effort and determination to making these movies, and when you get down to it, they are real Independent movies, without any big stars or anyone whose notable whatsoever. That out of the way, while there might have been some effort put Brian Singleton's Canadian zombie comedy "Forest of the Dead", at least put some effort into making a movie that's entertaining to the audience and not simply entertaining to the filmmakers and actors.

The plot deals with a group of kids who go into the woods, and end up disappearing. Nothing new there, other than they involve a guy called Johnny Rebel (Chris Anderson) who always speaks in first person, and two gay French Canadians who exist only because the people behind it find homosexuality hilarious. Well, some other kids-including a white guy in an Afro who loves to say "propa!" a lot-look for those friends, and it turns out that said friends are now flesh hungry zombies.

I will say this much-I dug the electronic score by Matt Comegys, which really reminded me of the kind of music you'd hear in low budget, straight-to-video movies from the 80's, as well as the opening credits sequence. Apart from that, "Forest of the Dead" has no merit whatsoever. I could complain about the poor editing, poor direction, poor special effects, etc. Those things didn't bother me, because this was clearly something made for nothing by kids who are clearly having fun-like most micro-budget horror flicks. No, that's not the movies biggest crime.

The biggest crime the film commits is this: it's the worst kind of horror comedy hybrid-the kind that knows it's bad, and then goes out of it's way to be bad. All of the jokes and attempts at humor are painfully bad, to the point of make you wish it would end sooner, thus making a 79 minute movie feel like it's 4 hours. It's something that's clearly influenced by 80's horror (it's even set in the 80's and has a character named "Regan") and by Troma movies, but it seems to forget what makes those movies so endearing to audiences. The acting-look, I could forgive the poor performances, but these all feel like they are intentionally bad performances from a bunch of kids who are having fun, but forgot to entertain the audience.

I've never written or directed a movie, so maybe I'm wrong and they were going out of their way to make a movie for a specific audience. However, that audience is small at best, and most likely made up of teen horror fans whose taste hasn't fully developed yet. If your a 28 year old guy like me, this kind of thing just feels pointless and stupid, and offers little to any redeeming value.

I feel like I've exhausted my thoughts on this mostly, but to close, I want to give some advice to other aspiring, micro-budget directors or micro-budget directors to be: don't give up. Keep on trying. Keep on making movies, because there's nothing worse than wasted potential or not doing anything. Just remember to try to appeal to older audiences, or at least make something that someone other than yourselves would enjoy.

Rating: 0.5/10

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mutant (1984)

One of the things people tend to forget about old studio horror movies from 1971-1985 is that many of them were done without a hint of irony, no matter how goofy they might have seen/been. In today's more cynical, jaded world, movies like "Prophecy" (the one about the mutant bear), "Lifeforce" and "Night of the Lepus" couldn't be made with a straight face, and the studios would play it all tongue in cheek. That's why a movie like "Mutant" doesn't just feel like a relic, but one of the last relics from a time when you could pitch a movie, and studios would at least consider it.

Josh (Wings Hauser) and Mike Cameron (Lee Montgomery) are two brothers on the lookout for a good time, until some rednecks run their car over. There's a little something that's worse than those pesky rednecks though-namely a chemical spill is causing people in the town to die. Oh, and then they become purple skinned, gray haired zombies that have mouth like growths on their hands. Can the day be saved by Josh (Mike doesn't make it), the local, hard drinking sheriff Will Stewart (Bo Hopkins) and elementary school teacher Holy Pierce (Jody Medford)? Can Mike escape the wrath of those angry rednecks? Why is the movie called "Mutant" (also known as "Night Shadows") and has a poster that looks like that of an "Alien" knock off, but it's actually a zombie movie?

"Mutant" is very much a meat and potatoes style drive-in-horror-flick from the 80's, originally intended to be directed by Mark Rosman ("The House on Sorority Row") but ended up going to Joe "Bud" Cardos ("The Dark" and "Kingdom of the Spiders.") By meat and potatoes, I mean there isn't any real gore (unless you count the green zombie blood) or nudity on display. The movie also suffers from some serious pacing issues, and it sure does take it's precious time with getting to the good stuff. That would be fine if you actually cared about anyone other than Josh and his brother. Everyone else is essentially a stock character meant to be of assistance, to pester our heroes, or to become zombie food. It sure as hell doesn't help that none of the other performances are any good.

Still, this is an impossible movie to hate. Once the shit hits the fan, the movie rarely let's up, and has some nice scares and suspense scenes, including a moment in which a kid is attacked by zombie children. Nice to see such a curve ball thrown in there. Then theres the score by Richard Band, which is great and probably one of his best. Finally, there's the nostalgia factor. As I said, there's something charming about this kind of horror movie, even if it is a mixed bag, because it really is one of the last "let's put on a horror show" drive-in type movies of it's time. For that and the other reasons mentioned, I can see why it's remained such a cult favorite.

I can't say that I loved "Mutant", or even liked it a whole lot due to the flaws really sticking out. However, for fans of 80's cheese and no-frills drive-in fare without buckets of gore, it's definitely worth a rental. In short: seen better, but seen worse.

Rating: 5.5/10
Update: I just found out that Dick Clark of all people co-produced this. Small world, huh?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Short Night of Glass Dolls (1971)

After the success of Mario Bava's "Blood and Black Lace", one thing was for certain: There was gold in them giallo films. Giallo, for the uninitiated, started as a series of pulpy crime novels from Italy, with the name stemming from the trademark yellow cover background. It wasn't until the 60's that movie versions came about, only to end up steering towards horror. With that, films like Argento's "The Bird With the Crystal Plumage", Antonio Margheriti's "Naked You Die", and Lucio Fulci's "Perversion Story" started popping up. Today, we look at one of the most celebrated titles in this sub-genre, Aldo Lado's* "Short Night of Glass Dolls."

The dead body of Gregory Moore (Jean Sorel) is discovered. Or is he really dead? Throughout the movie, we hear his thoughts, as he must piece together the events that have lead to him laying on a steel table, motionless and unable to do anything. As he goes through a series of flashbacks, he soon starts to remember events that involved murder, madness and a girl named Mira (Barbara Bach), who has a strange obsession with butterflies.

A unique twist on the sub-genre, "Short Night of Glass Dolls" is an expertly directed, shot, scored (by the one and only Ennio Morricone) and plotted murder mystery with occult overtones. Part of what stands out about it is that angle, which is strikingly unique, and adds an element of the fantastic to a genre that usually deals with human evil (though I could have done without the image of old people having sex.) Also notable is the lack of graphic violence on display. There's only one onscreen murder, and it's somebody being pushed off a ledge. I quite like the fact that there's so little on screen mayhem, as it adds to the Hitchcock like plot and events.

If there are any problems, it's in the ongoing narration from Gregory Moore. Usually, it works great, but there are moments (especially nearing the end) in which it get's annoying. Also, a minor complaint, but again, I really didn't need to see all those naked old people.

Those are all minor complaints though, as "Short Night of Glass Dolls" is absolutely essential for fans of giallo films, especially for beginners and those wanting a unique spin on the genre. Highly recommended.

Rating: 9/10

*This was the directorial debut of Aldo Lado, a writer and Second-Unit director turned full on director. His other credits include "Night Train Murders" (an Italian answer to "Last House on the Left"), "Who Saw Her Die", and "The Humanoid." This, "Who Saw Her Die" and "Night Train Murders" (a favorite of Eli Roth) remain his best loved films.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A look at DVD Distrutors/Studios that release horror

What it says. I'm only doing this this out of boredom. This is mostly older companies or companies known for releasing older titles

Synapse: These guys are great. They've released all kinds of classic titles in the past ("Street Trash", "Evil Dead Trap") and are now going into Blu-Ray with releases of old Hammer titles, the final "Coffin Joe" movie "Embodiment of Evil", and the slasher "The Dorm that Dripped Blood", as well as releasing old titles from the likes of Panik House and Elite Entertainment. Speaking of Elite...

Elite Entertainment: They've fallen on hard times. They aren't dead (they have two new titles coming out in June), but they seemed to lost the rights most of the older material they released ("Re-Animator", "I Spit on Your Grave" and "House on Sorority Row") to other companies, with only a few still in print, or from the last decade.

Code Red: Kind of a Godsend for fans of largely forgotten horror and exploitation, Code Red have released a few classics ("Messiah of Evil" and "Soul Survivor"), some oddities ("The Visitor", "Boardinghouse") and some real duds ("Night of the Dribbler.") Still, if genre fair like "The Carrier" and "Pets" are your cup of tea, then these guys are for you.

Media Blasters: Sadly, they don't seem to be releasing any new releases of older titles, and seem to be more about Anime and Blu-Ray releases of their back catalog at the moment. Still, they've released some well loved titles in the past, so hey, check those out.

Anchor Bay: They're the guys who got a few titles from Elite ("The Evil Dead", "Re-Animator" and "I Spit on Your Grave"), but since being purchased by Starz Media Group, they're more about releasing their own titles, or Sci-Fi Channel movies. Oh, and yes, they're still re-releasing "The Evil Dead" on a regular basis.

Blue Underground: I love these guys. They've been releasing special editions and Blu-Rays of old titles Anchor Bay used to release, as well as so much more. They've got special editions of "Deep Red", "Torso" and "Zombi 2" on the way, which makes me a happy camper.

Dark Sky: They've released older titles in the past (including a superior release of "Horror Hospital"), but this studio seems to be releasing newer titles with the help of IFC and Magnolia.

Unearthed: Admitting, I'm not a huge fan (a lot of mock snuff films and shot on video movies), but they have released special editions of "Rock and Rule" (love that movie) and "Frankenhooker."

Troma: Still kicking around, though I wish they'd learn how to do better transfers on some of their releases (especially "Mad Dog Morgan."

Severin: They're mostly known for releasing "Birdemic: Shock and Terror", but they've also released the classic "Santa Sangre", Paul W.S. Anderson's "Shopping", the cult faves "Psychomania" and "Hardware", Lucio Fulci's "The Psychis", and so much more. These guys know what they're doing.

Redemption USA: They've released plenty of erotica, but I'll always know them as the studio that released several titles from the late Jean Rollin. Also, not made by him, but I gotta see "I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle."

Mondo Macarbo: They've released plenty of offbeat obscurities (such as "The Sadist With White Teeth"), but they're probably mostly known for giving the world Bollywood horror titles and really bizarre horror and exploitation from the Philippines. I have nothing else to add other than the fact that you must see "Lady Terminator."

And those are just a few off the top of my head.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Strange Behavior (1981)

Kids. These days-well, actually always-you hear about all the bad things the kids are up to. "Billy shot his best friend", "Kids are taking drugs", "Wild sex parties", etc. It always seems like kids are up to something bad. Well, at least according to the local news. Anyways, it's therefore no surprise that kids (or at least teens and college students) doing bad things will forever be a staple for horror, and why they always end up getting killed or end up killing. Well, both things happened in Michael Laughlin and future "Gods and Monsters", "Kinsey" and "Dreamgirls" director Bill Condon's creative take on the mad scientist and slasher movie tale "Strange Behavior."

Taking place in the good ol' US of A (but filmed in New Zealand), "Strange Behavior" tells the tale of Pete Brade (Dan Shor, looking like a dead ringer for Jesse Eisenberg), agrees to volunteer for some experiments run by Dr. Gwen Parkinson (Fiona Lewis.) Meanwhile, Pete's sheriff Dad John (Michael Murphy) is investigating a series of murders that seem to be being perpetrated by the teen populace of the town. Of course, it doesn't take a genius that Parkinson's experiments are the cause of this, but at the same time, a man thought to be dead may be the mastermind...

An intriguing take on the standard "dead teenager" formula, "Strange Behavior" has plenty of things that help it to stand out from it's slasher movie ilk. The kills are bloody, but they don't wallow in bloodshed and creative death scenes, instead opting for a surreal, almost dreamlike quality. There also aren't the usual scenes of teens behaving stupidly-in fact, the kids here are more realistic than the ones we usually get in these kinds of movies. Even more notable is that, whilst not a horror comedy, that there is a morbid humor to some of the proceedings, and that director/writer Laughlin and co-writer/associate producer Condon are having fun with the material. The acting is also all around fine, with Lewis in particular standing out as the icy, cold hearted Dr. Parkinson. Oh, and nice score by electronic music icons Tangerine Dream.

If there are any problems, it's that the pacing at times is a bit too slow, and the parental aspect of the film feels unexplored. The return of Dr. Le Sange (Arthur Dignam) could offer a bit of a "sins of the father" sub-plot, but that mostly feels untouched on. Also, it would have been nice if we got to know a little bit more about Dr. Parkinson, as she's such a chilly persona, but we never do learn much about her.

That out of the way, those flaws are minor, as "Strange Behavior" is worthy of the cult following it's received, and definitely worth a look for those wanting a little bit more out of their "dead teenager" movie.

Rating: 8/10

Classic Poster Art: The Beyond (1981)