Monday, October 31, 2011

Zombie (1979)

Ah, Lucio Fulci's "Zombie." Released in Italy as the unofficial sequel to "Dawn of the Dead" (with the title "Zombi 2"), it launched the director's career as the master of Italian splatter movies, and brought forth a wave of zombie movies from that country. I may not think it's the best Italian zombie movie ("The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue" and "Cemetery Man" are better) or Fulci's best movie ("City of the Living Dead" is), but it is the definitive Italian zombie movie, as well as the movie that went on to define the director's career.

The plot is pretty simple: Peter West (Ian McCulloch) is investigating some strange goings on, when he runs into Ann Bowles (Tisa Farrow), whose father has gone missing in the Caribbean-or so she believes. Meanwhile, an epidemic of walking, flesh hungry corpses has overtaken that region, and Dr. David Menard (Richard Johnson) is at the center of it, trying to figure out the cause (it's voodoo), as well as dealing with his increasingly angry wife Paola (Olga Karlatos.) In the process, Peter and Ann are headed to the Caribbean to find out what happened to her father, and Brian (Al Cliver) and Susan (Auretta Gay) are coming with them.

To be honest, the story here isn't that important, and the acting is largely pretty bad. However, on a purely visceral level, "Zombie" succeeds with flying colors. This is a movie that's unapologetic about over the top it is, with flesh munching zombies, gratuitous nudity and legendary moments such as a zombie fighting a shark that exist simply to make the audience go "holy shit, did you see that?" Also, it's gory as hell, with torn out throats, maimed flesh, and even a stomach churning moment in which Paola's eyeball is impaled in close up. It helps that the effects here are impressive, with excellent cinematography by Sergio Salvati and a wonderful electronic score by Fabio Frizzi complimenting the proceedings nicely.

The other reason "Zombie" sticks out is that it's atmospheric as hell. The dead here are the best looking zombies in movie history, covered in dirt, worms and maggots, and damn near looking like real live walking corpses. The scenes of them walking en masse and rising from their graves are positively spine tingling. Even notorious moments like the eyeball impalement are terrifying, as they are drawn out in grueling detail, leaving first time viewers to think "No way. They aren't going to show that!" And then they do, and you can't shake it off.

Simply put, this is a must for anyone who says they love zombie movies, and is the movie that made Fulci the cult sensation he is today. Absolutely essential. Also, the new re-release by Blue Underground looks and sounds incredible, and is a no brainer as far as purchases are concerned.

Rating: 9/10

Saturday, October 29, 2011

House of Blood (2006)

Olaf Ittenbach's career as a director is an interesting but usually not good one. He started out directing low-budget splatter films like "Burning Moon", "Black Past" and "Premutos: Lord of the Dead", which got him a cult following. He then graduated to doing make-up and gore effects for things like Uwe Boll movies, and directing larger budgeted movies like "Legion of the Damned", "Garden of Love" and "Dard Divorce", which were attempts at doing more mainstream friendly horror. Another one of these attempts is 2006's "House of Blood" (originally called "Chain Reaction"), which suffice to say, is pretty bad.

Dr. Douglas Madsen (Christopher Kriesa) has been taken hostage by a group of escaped convicts, who decide to take refuge in a cottage. Inside said cottage is a strange family that speaks in Olde English and also seems to double as a religious cult. The family then turns into bloodthirsty demons (is there any other kind?) and kills the criminals, but Dr. Madsen is saved by local girl Alice (Olaf's wife Martina), and ends up being interrogated by police (one of the officers is played by J├╝rgen Prochnow), and of course, they don't believe his story, so he ends up taking a bus ride to a prison with some inmates. The bus crashes, and you can guess what happens next.

I'll say this much about "House of Blood": The gore and splatter FX are pretty impressive, the cinematography is good, and Kriesa delivers a good performance. Unfortunately, he delivers the only good performance, as everyone else is terrible, mostly just shouting profanities and pointing guns at each other. They are all supposed to be from America, and this is supposed to take place here, but most of the cast speaks with Germanic accents, and it was clearly shot in Germany. Also, while the gore is effective, there isn't enough, as the viewer has to wait for what feels like a very long time for the splatter to hit-until then it's a lot talking and yelling at one another.

Then there's the fact that the direction, editing and script (which Ittenbach co-wrote with Thmosat Reitmar) are all pretty poor. If this was from a rookie director, it would be more acceptable, but Ittenbach has been making movies since 1989, and that this is his tenth movie. None of it feels like something that was directed by a man whose been making movies for seventeen years. It just feels like something directed by a hack looking to make a quick buck.

All around, this is a terrible movie, with very little to recommend. If you want to watch a movie from Ittenbach, watch one of his earlier splatter movies. Those aren't great, but at least they're directed by someone who gave a damn about what he was making.

Rating: 2/10

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Atrocious (2010)

The last "found footage" movie I saw was "The Zombie Diaries 2: World of the Dead." To say it left me unsatisfied would be an understatement, as I thought it was one of the worst horror films of the year. Now I get "Atrocious", which is one of the latest from Bloody Disgusting Selects.

The story goes like this: police have attained 36 hours worth of footage that may explain the murder of a family. In this footage, amateur paranormal explorers Cristian (Cristian Valencia) and July (Clara Moraleda) have joined their family on vacation in Sitges. They've also brought their cameras with them, as they are going to investigate the legend of the Girl in the Garraf Woods. When the family dog is found dead, it turns out that this legend might be true.

I found "Atrocious" to be a better movie than "Zombie Diaries 2" (or the first "Zombie Diaries" movie for that matter.) It's a movie that actually offers at least two genuinely scary moments, and a knock out conclusion. It also has better defined characters than that movie did. Here, we get to know them as people, giving their eventual fates more investing.

However, the film is ultimately hurt by the "amateur found footage" gimmick. Here, the viewer is given constant-and I mean constant-footage of the two running around outside, complete with lots of heavy breathing and shaky cam. Movies like "[REC]" and the like were able to take the found footage gimmick and deliver something that felt like a complete movie. This movie thinks constantly running around in an outdoors maze and people yelling and muttering makes for a scary time, when in reality it's kinda tedious. Then there's the scene nearing the end revolving around police procedural photos. I know it was meant to add weight to the family's death, but it just felt distracting and kinda annoying to me.

I want to like "Atrocious", as I'd hesitate to call it a bad movie, and because I love the Bloody Disgusting website. However, this ended up being a movie that could have been better than it ultimately was.

Rating: 5.5/10

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Classic Poster Art-Hardgore (1974)

Too lazy to post a review today. Will do so tomorrow.

Monday, October 24, 2011

City of the Living Dead (1980)

After "Zombie" was released, Lucio Fulci's career went through a bit of a boost. He had gone from being a director known for dabbling in comedies, westerns and Giallo films, to a man who pushed the envelope as far as zombies and gore were concerned, earning him the name "Godfather of Gore." So, how did he follow that up? With three occult tinged tales with zombies, curses, gore and lots and lots of splatter. The first of these was "City of the Living Dead", which is also my favorite Fulci movie from this period.

In Dunwich (which here is said to have once been called Salem-logic isn't really this movie's strong suit), Father William Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine) has hung himself. Since then, bad things have been happening-people are found dead, blood pours from walls, maggots fall from the sky, Father Thomas is killing people in gory and disgusting ways, and the dead walk the Earth. Now, only psychic Mary Woodhouse (Catriona McColl, who became the female lead in Fulci's trilogy) who saw this death at a seance, reporter Peter Bell (Christopher George), psychologist Gerry (Carlo De Mejo) and his patient Sandra (Janet Agren) can stop this horror and close the gate of hell that has been opened.

While it does have a few unintentionally amusing moments (apparently, Dunwhich suffers from an infestation of howler monkeys), I find this to be the strongest of Fulci's "Gates of Hell" trilogy. Here, the direction, editing and cinematography are all top notch, the lapses of logic never become slightly annoying (people not aiming for the zombie's heads in "The Beyond") or lazy (a few moments in "House by the Cemetery", which I feel is the weakest in the trilogy), and perfectly accompany the nightmarish feeling of the movie, in which anyone at any given moment can die in the worst way imaginable. It also packs a fine score by Fabio Frizzi (though "The Beyond" remains his finest work) and even a few good performances (George in particular does a fine job.) Also noteworthy are the zombies in this movie. Yes, they eat human flesh and tear brains out of skulls, but they also teleport, giving then an almost ghostly quality.

With that of the way, I won't deny that the movie is mostly known for it's gore and atmosphere. This is the most disgusting movie Fulci directed, with two scenes in particular-town pervert Bob (Giovanni Lombardo Radice aka Italian horror's favorite whipping boy) getting a large drill rammed through his head, and a woman vomiting her entrails-standing out. Apart from that, you get plenty of rotting, worm covered zombies, maggots, worms, mud (both are shoved in a woman's mouth), brain ripping and more make you lose your lunch.

At the same time, this movie is also unbelievably creepy. The atmosphere is enveloped in death and pure evil, creating an air of inescapable horror. It also boasts what I think is the best set piece in Fulci's career, in which Peter must rescue a thought to be dead Mary out of a coffin via a pick axe. It's a purely suspenseful, Hitchcock-like moment that scared the shit out of me when I first saw it on VHS years ago, and still packs a punch today.

If you are interested in the oeuvre of Fulci, this probably isn't the best place to start-that would be either "Zombie" or "The Beyond." This however, is a very logical next step, and remains gross and disturbing to this day.

Rating: 9/10

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Zombies! Zombies! Zombies (2008)

You more than likely remember Jay Lee's 2008 movie "Zombie Strippers", which starred Robert Englund and porn icon Jenna Jameson. What you probably did (or didn't) know is that another strippers vs. zombies movie was released that same year-granted, I believe it was made two years earlier, and only came out in 2008 to capitalize on said movie's reputation. Anyways, Let's take a look at Jason Murphy's film "Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!"

Dr. Stewart (Michael Clinkenbeard-quite the name) has made a new drug, one that won't make you sick. Actually, it will make you sick-and by that, I mean it turns people into flesh craving zombies. Now, a group of strippers working and hookers, as well as assorted would be lovers, brothers and a pimp, must seek refuge at a strip club called "The Grindhouse" (ugh) and band together to stop the undead menace.

As you can tell, plot isn't the biggest thing on the mind of this movie. This is the kind of movie that can best be classified as a "dumb horror comedy", or a mix of horror and comedy that appeals to ones baser instincts and never exercises your thought patterns. To be fair, some of the performances are decent, the make-up effects look good, some of the jokes actually work (love two of our characters finding out that there was a chainsaw in the back of the truck the whole time), and it has an amusing opening with horror vet Tiffany Shepis.

That out of the way, the movie still comes up short. I don't want to rip on it, because it's heart is in the right place, and it doesn't want to be anything else but dumb entertainment. However, While there's some better than expected performances, you do get some weak ones as well. There's some fun kills, the impact they have is minimal because much of them are accomplished via weak CG effects. While there are funny moments, there's also plenty of moments that aren't as funny as they want to be-in particular a line that ribs on "Snakes on a Plane." Worst of all, while there is nudity, there isn't enough. This is a movie with strippers and hookers fighting zombies. You should all out embrace the seedier aspect this kind of movie should offer, not cover it up with bad jokes and bad CG.

There's little about "Zombies!" that's actually detestable, as this seeks out to be a dumb horror comedy and nothing more. That out of the way, it should have gone further, making it a light but unfulfilling snack.

Rating: 5/10

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Boy Eats Girl (2005)

High School can be hell. The awkward moments of erections and falling asleep in class. The bullies. The rude, apathetic teachers. The zombies. Okay, that last part has never happened (or at least best to my knowledge...), but that and teen love are the theme of Stephen Bradley's zombie comedy "Boy Eats Girl."

After Nathan (David Leon) has a bit of a misunderstanding with his no.1 crush Jessica (Samantha Mumba - remember when she was a pop star?), he ends up accidentally committing suicide. His mom ends up stealing a book of voodoo spells from the local church - why the local church would have such a book is beyond me and is never explained - she brings him back. Unfortunately, he's now a zombie, and after he bites a bully in a fit of rage, then infection starts to spread.

It's obvious that "Boy Eats Girl" is trying to ride on the coattails of "Shaun of the Dead." Like that movie, it tries to mix romantic comedy - in this case the teen variety - with the oft used zombie genre. Unlike "Shaun", there's little here that distinguishes this from other zombie comedy movies. It follows the usual "friends must band together to survive a zombie outbreak" mold that's been used to many times in the past, and doesn't give the viewer much as far as surprises are concerned. You know who will live and who will die, you get the usual "zombies eating flesh" moments, and by the time it's over, it will all feel familiar to you.

That out of the way, this isn't a particularly bad movie. In fact, it's kind of a cute one, with likeable main characters, and some surprisingly good performances to boot. It's also got some nice moments of gory mayhem, with the highlight being a "Dead Alive" inspired zombie massacre with a combine harvester instead of a lawnmower (though to be honest, the combine harvester massacre in "Evil Aliens" was funnier.) Best of all, the humor here hits more than it misses. This is a movie that clearly has comedy more on it's mind than horror, and the jokes and gags here actually made me laugh, which I can't say for the likes of say, "Bloodlust Zombies" or "Dead and Deader."

I doubt "Boy Eats Girl" will make anyone's top ten lists as far as zombie comedy movies are concerned. It is however, a sweet little mix of bloody carnage and teenage love that's a decent little time waster.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)

To really enjoy the trashier side of cinema, you have to look at it's lurid past. Before the likes of "I Drink Your Blood" and even the works of Herschel Gordon Lewis, there were several seedy movies-mostly nudie flicks-that catered to the baser aspects of human demands. Not in the mood for one of the cinematic greats of old? Then how about Dwain Esper's hilariously bad "Maniac!", or in this case, Joseph Green's shot in 1959 but not released until 1962 oddity "The Brain that Wouldn't Die"?

Dr. Bill Cortner (Jason Evers) has run into a bit of a conundrum-he and his girlfriend Jan (Virginia Leith) got in a car wreck, and only her head came in tact. No worries though, because with the wonders of science, he's able to keep her head alive in a pan. As he goes looking for a new body, it seems that Jan in a Pan (thank you MST3K) isn't too grateful for Billy keeping her alive, and begins to plot revenge. Oh, and she has telekinetic powers and uses them to read people's thoughts and communicate with the monster in the closet.

I know it was featured on Mystery Science Theater. I know that the acting is mostly terrible. I know that at the end of the day, this is a bad movie. And you know what? I don't care. "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" is a fun example of pre-Grindhouse era exploitation with gore (a torn off arm, surgery and a ripped out throat) that, while not a big deal these days, was back then. It's also got women in either lingerie or bathing suits, sleazy jazz music, melodrama, questionable science, despicable characters, an ugly monster and so much more that helped set the standard for what would become favorites in the likes of 42nd Street New York. Best of all, it clearly isn't taking itself too seriously, with the likes of gratuitous cat fights and a great last line.

If it does run into any problems, it's that it gets really talky. I normally don't mind dialogue in movies, but there are several conversation scenes that could have been shorter. Also, there are several plot holes here. Where are the police? Why is it called "The Head That Wouldn't Die" at the end credits? Maybe that was the original title.

I digress though, because this is exactly what a "so bad it's good" movie should be, and then some. Fans of cinematic garbage, this is a must. Everyone else-well, why would you be reading this review anyway?

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Slices of Life (2010)

Oh boy, this is going to be a bit difficult to review.

"Slices of Life" is an indie anthology film that has a lot going for it. Director Anthony G. Sumner shows a lot of promise, and clearly has talent. The make-up and gore effects are very impressive for a movie with such a low budget. Best of all, it has a lot of ambition, as this clearly wants to be better than the usual no-budget anthology film, and it actually has ideas. However, while I don't think it deserves all the one star reviews I've been seeing on IMDB and Netflix, it still ends up being something of a disappointment.

Our film opens with an amnesiac (Kaylee Williams) waking up next to a seedy hotel run by a strange older woman (Helene Alter-Dyche) and her helper Tiny (Marv Blauvelt.) Here, she finds three books-"Work Life", "Home Life" and "Sex Life"-which each contain the tales for our anthology.

Our First Story is "W.O.R.M." Here, William Robert Moss (Jack Guasta) has a shitty life at work. Everyone treats him bad, his boss denies him a raise, and even girls on web cams mock him. So, he creates a new nano-technology that will make people like him. It does-and it turns them into zombies.

"W.O.R.M." is the most tongue in cheek entry, as well as the weakest one. While the zombies actually look great, and there's some memorably gooey imagery, it's not as funny as it wants to be (the company is called "N.I.M.R.O.D."), and to be honest, Bill just isn't that likeable. We're supposed to sympathize for his loneliness, but he just comes off as a whiny snot who always feels bad for himself.

Next up is "Amber Alert", in which pregnant Vonda (Toya Turner) is being haunted by ghosts. Her husband isn't much help, as he's kind of a dick, and isn't around much. Oh, and then there's the killer whose abducting and murdering little girls...

There's some decent moments here and there (Vonda's first encounter with a ghost is actually kind of creepy), but "Amber Alert" is hurt by an incredibly obvious twist and a sense of predictability, as well as some very unnecessary (and poor) CG effects.

Finally there's "Pink Snapper." This one is the tale of Susan (Deneen Melody), whose is sexually abused by her uncle on a regular basis. After, knocking him out and running off with her boyfriend, they end up in a house with a kidnap victim named Elizabeth Nadasdy (Judith Lesser.) However, she's got a bit of a nasty secret downstairs, and her father Edgar (Bruce Varner) wants to make sure she doesn't kill again.

Though this one is also predictable, I actually found myself liking this segment. The practical gore effects are plentiful and absolutely disgusting, and Deneen Melody actually delivers a sympathetic performance. Oh, and the conclusion is great.

The problem with "Slices of Life" aren't the usual flaws that you find in micro-budget horror movies (bad acting-though this has an abundance of that-and poor editing), but the fact that while it has ideas, it ultimately has too many ideas. Little asides about things like Countess Bathory and briefly mentioned, but altogether forgotten, while other ideas are ultimately due to budgetary restrictions. There's also little jokes ("Fux News"? Really?) that might have seemed amusing at first, but are more groan inducing than anything else. Finally, the wrap-around segment feels anticlimactic, as if Sumner and his co-writers ran out of ideas in the last minute.

I really want to like this movie. The director shows some real promise, and I'd like to see what he'll do next (I believe it will be a remake of the Grindhouse favorite "Don't Look in the Basement!") However, the flaws end up weighing out the good points, leaving the final product to be disappointing.

Rating: 5.5/10

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Class of Nuke 'Em High (1986)

After "The Toxic Avenger", Troma went from another studio making and distributing exploitation movies (mostly teen sex comedies few people remember) to the new name in trashy genre films. Sure, they had released movies like "Mother's Day" in the past, but they weren't the hit "Avenger" was. So the question for Lloyd Kaufman and co. was most likely "So, how do we follow that up?" Well, they did that by doing "Class of Nuke 'Em High", which kept the offbeat humor, gore and nudity of "Avenger", and kept a keen eye on what it did in the past.

The plot goes like this: Ever since a power plant was built next to Tromaville high, strange things have been going on. Like how what was once the honors society is now a gang of horny, violent cretins, "The Cretins." Well, they get a hold on pot that's been dosed in nuclear energy, call it "an Atomic High", and sell it at a party. When lovebirds Chrissy (Janelle Brady) and Warren (Gil Brenton) get a hold of it, and have sex-things start to turn bad, because Warren's now prone to turn into a vengeful green mutant, and Chrissy got pregnant-and puked out said baby, which is a mutated tadpole of some sort. After somebody flushes it down the toilet, it starts getting bigger down in the basement...

To tell the truth, this isn't a good movie in the traditional sense of the word. The acting is mostly bad, some of the jokes and supporting characters are grating, and most of the cast is pretty one dimensional. That out of the way, it knows what kind of movie it is, and revels in it. This is pure cinematic garbage that's pretty entertaining to boot, with enough bloodshed, gratuitous breast shots, and can do spirit to boot. It's also got a great monster at the end, and The Cretins themselves can get pretty sadistic at times-and one of them gets one of the best lines in Troma movie history in "Hey, that's what you get when you date a yuppie baby!"

Also noticeable is the fact that it fully embraces the teen sex comedy genre. While this would sometimes show the downfall of a movie, here it works, as it fits the campy vibe the movie has. Then there's the fact that, while nobody would mistake it for having good taste, it's rarely that mean spirited. Compared to later movies like "Toxic Avenger IV" and "Terror Firmer", this isn't a movie that scraps the bucket for pure gross out gags and tedious shock tactics. In fact, it kind of has a good nature to it. Besides, while the actors playing them aren't good, It's hard not to like Warren and Chrissy. They're just two sweet kids in love, and you things hope turn out good for them.

If you ask me, "Class of Nuke 'Em High" remains one of Troma's best accomplishments. Nobody's going to mistake it for a work of high cinematic art, but as cinematic junk food, it really tastes great.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

High Lane (2009)

Mountain climbing is not something that's on my "to do" list. The mere idea of it freaks me out. With that out of the way, I'm surprised that there haven't been many horror movies set around the world of this activity. I mean, it involves a large, natural setting in which anything bad can and could happen, so it seems like this and horror would go hand in hand. Anyway, director Abel Ferry's feature length debut "High Lane" tries to mix the two, even though the end result wasn't something I fell in love with.

Five friends-Chloe (Fanny Valette), Loic (Johan Libereau), Guillaume (Raphael Lenglet), Fred (Nicolas Giraud) and Karine (Maud Wyler) decide to go on a mountain climbing expedition-which has been closed due to repairs. Of course, this turns out to be a bad idea, as tensions mount, friendships are tested, and a killer (Justin Blankaert) is on the prowl.

The first half of "High Lanes" is pretty effective. We don't know what or who it is in the woods, and there's some genuinely suspenseful moments-the highlight revolving around a wire bridge. However, once the killer finally makes his appearance, some of the good will goes on the wayside. Up until then, this has been a well directed tale of suspense that relies more on volatile shifts in relationships and the menace of the natural world to build a sense of horror.

Then the killer is revealed, and when this happens, it becomes yet another "people trapped in the woods with a backwoods psychopath" movie. It even has the typical "victims are tied up" scenario that's been done a thousand times. If the movie has stuck with the original "people trapped in nature" style, this would have won me over, but it ends up being a erratically edited and cliche as they come movie. Also, what was with the sudden flashes to the hospital?

There's things to like about this movie, which makes it's shortcomings all the more frustrating. It's a case of a movie looking like it's going to hit the ball out of the park-only to strike out instead.

Rating: 5/10

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blood Junkie (2010)

These days, there's tons of nostalgia for the slasher movies of old. Ask the likes of Adam Green (Hatchet), Robert Hall ("Laid to Rest") and Frank Sabatella ("Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet) for example. Their movies bleed a love and yearning for a return for the age of gory, nudity filled slasher films of old. Another name you can add to that list is Drew Rosas, whose $7,000 slasher opus "Blood Junkie", which goes far enough to be set in the 80's.

Laura (Sarah Luther) and Rachel (Emily Treolo) can't wait to have fun in the woods with Craig (Nick Sommer) and Teddy (Mike Johnson.) Unfortunately, Laura has to take care of her little brother Andy (Brady Cohen), so she ends up bringing the kid with her. Unfortunately for them, there's a killer (Andrew Swant) with a thing for human blood in the local abandoned factory, and he has his eyes on them.

Everything about "Blood Junkie" bleeds nostalgia and love for the slasher movies of old-the killer is clearly modeled after the one from "My Bloody Valentine", while the dumb humor could have come from any of the "Friday the 13th" sequels. It even has a retro electronic score, a grainy look (some movies have a thing for doing that since "Grindhouse") and the same fashions and accessories from the 80's. So, does Rosas recreate the slasher movies of that decade? Yes and no.

For one thing, the tone and look of the movie is spot on, as it really does feel like you are watching a slasher movie from 1989 at times. The kills are bloody, but only one is really that graphic. Hell, the killer could have come from that part of the decade. Whilst guys like Hatchet Face and Chromeskull feel like slasher villains on steroids, the Blood Junkie really is a legit throwback to that part of the decade. All of that out of the way, the film ends up feeling too gimmicky for it's own good, with several of the jokes and references running on nostalgia and little more. After a while, one wants there to be more than just "Hey, we love 80's horror!" Also, the conclusion has a terrible twist at the end that soured the movie a bit for me. I'll just put it like this: if you've seen "High Tension", then you've seen an ending similar to the one here.

Is "Blood Junkie" worth a look? Well, it's certainly one of the better micro-budget slasher movies I've seen-it's probably the best I have seen. You might like it if you go into it with low expectations, but don't expect to be amazed either.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hell Night (1981)

After "The Exorcist II", Linda Blair's career didn't exactly recover. Sure, she had guest appearances on TV shows like "MacGyver" and a cameo in "Scream", but she also ended up in movies like "The Chilling", "Grotesque" and "Witchery." In short, strong roles in prominent Hollywood movies were a thing of the past. That out of the way, she did star in three genre faves-the revenge movie "Savage Streets", the women in prison classic "Caged Heat", and today's entry, the 1981 slasher "Hell Night."

Blair stars as Marti Gaines, who along with three other fraternity pledges, must spend the night in an old, Gothic looking house where a series of family murders took place years ago. Some of the frat members decide to fuck around and scare the pledges, but little do they know that the sole survivor of the Garth family-a deformed man with murderous intentions-is stalking the house.

"Hell Night" is, as you can tell, another movie that tries to capitalize on the success of "Friday the 13th" and "Halloween" (it's even from the producer of that movie.) That out of the way, this has some notable differences from some of those movies. First of all, while the characters are all people we've seen in slasher movies before (the sexpot, the horny guy, the sweet girl and her love interest), the movie actually invests some time with them, making them likable in the process-it helps that most of the performances are good too. Also, while there's some decent kills here, this is a movie that's not particularly interested in things like wanton bloodshed, and instead uses the decor of the house and the legend surrounding it to build a sustainable atmosphere, something some slasher movies of the time lack. Add a nice twist to the old "the police aren't doing anything" trope, an effective score by Dan Wyman, and a great conclusion, and you've got a quality horror movie.

To be fair though, there are two flaws with the movie. As I mentioned, I found most of the performances to be good. Blair is kind of hit and miss here, as she sometimes does a good job with the material, while other times she seems to not want to be there. Also, while I really enjoyed this movie, it probably could have had a few minutes trimmed, as it doesn't really need to be 101 minutes long.

That out of the way, "Hell Night" is a blast to watch, and I can see why the movie is considered a slasher movie classic to this day. Check it out if you have a craving for a fun 80's horror movie.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Child's Eye (2010)

The Pang Brothers are mostly known for two earlier movies in "Bangkok Dangerous" (they also directed the remake) and a horror film called "The Eye", about a blind girl who gets an cornea transplant, only to see ghosts afterwards. There's been three sequels since then, with the latest getting released in China last year, and in 3D to boot. Well, it's been released here in the states by Lionsgate in 2D, and not with much fanfare, and after watching it, I can see why.

The plot deals with a group of friends who are looking to have some fun in Thailand. Well, political protests are going on, so they end up in a dismal looking hotel instead of the one they wanted to go to. Of course, it turns out that the hotel has some dark secrets and a darker past, and it soon becomes apparent that it doesn't want them to leave.

"The Child's Eye" does have a few things going for it. There are some genuinely eerie moments that take place-the highlight involving a girl hiding from a human/dog hybrid-that managed to catch my attention, and the score by Origin Kampanee is fine when the more horror centric moments take place. Also worthy of note is the fact that the Pang Brothers decide to opt for an atmosphere which at times resembles that of a house of horrors, with bad events and twisted situations lingering within each corner.

The problem however, is that they don't always know what to do with these events. Sure, there's a few nice moments, but most of the horrors on display range from the usual "Asian ghost movie" cliches, to moments such as a tormented husband that feel like a parody of said genre. The acting-well, it's not bad, and the actors, God bless 'em, do what they can with the material given to them. However, the material doesn't give them very much to do other than look scared, thus failing to give a reason to care about them. The ending of the movie is pretty poor as well, with terrible dialogue ("You have to let go of your hate") and a lame "Oh shit, what's that" conclusion. This, plus the abundance of cliches really cause the movie to fall apart when it so clearly wants to be a scare fest.

In the end, "The Child's Eye" isn't a terrible movie. I don't even know if I could call it a bad movie. It's just an exceedingly average movie that brings little to the table, and is mostly forgettable as a result.

Rating: 5/10

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nightmare Alley (2010)

I try to be more forgiving when it comes to micro-budget horror movies. These DIY efforts are usually labors of love, made for almost nothing usually by amateur filmmakers who are passionate enough about what they do. However, I can't forgive "Nightmare Alley", a vile, pointless and all around painful anthology film that feels more like a bad extended pilot for the worlds worst cable access television show, and has a host who delivers one liners that would make even the worst horror host cringe.

Our film begins with a segment with two jack-offs going on about how people are pussies and constantly calling people fags (believe me when I say the rank homophobia gets worse later on.) Well, they meet a hobo who gives them a comic book-the latest issue of "Nightmare Alley"-and then are thankfully offed by the hobo.

Now on to the segments of this anthology.

A Fistful of Innards
-Three cowboys come across a meteor, and want to sell it for cash-until one of them betrays and shoots the other two. Unfortunately for him, they immediately come back as zombies and consume his flesh. They then kill a bunch of people off screen.

This sucker is as painful as they come, with dire acting (I normally don't bitch about poor acting in movies like this, but nobody here seems to be putting forth any effort) and even worst writing. Amazingly, this is the best of these segments.

Rebellion-A doofus with a ponytail buys a rubber rat from a novelty store, which possesses him to kill women for the purpose of sucking out their souls and growing large to take over the world. One of the dork's victims escapes, only to become the rats slave instead.

I admit that I was mildly amused by the use of the phrase "penis wrinkle", but this is a segment that shows no knowledge as to how humor works. It also happens to be pretty misogynistic, so with this and the homophobia of a prior and later segment, I seriously think there's something wrong with directors Laurence Holloway and Scarlett Fry. Yes, two people directed this.

Death Chat
-A man is caught cheating by his wife, who walks out on him. So, he decides to try an online sex chat to get laid, only to be hacked up by the vengeful ghost of a jilted lover.

I have nothing to add other than the fact that the man is supposed to be twenty six, but he looks like a redneck in his early 40's.

Meat-A trashy Bettie Paige look alike meets a fat guy who never wears a shirt and loves to rub his nipples. When she takes him home, her husband (played by the dude who knocked out Danzig) finds them, and when the guy leaves, she kills her husband. Six hours later, he comes back, and she feeds him the flesh of her hubby.

This segment feels way too much like a short movie even Troma would neglect. Also, her husband is also fat, which makes me believe she digs prime cuts.

Closet Case-A man is hit on by a gay guy, then kills said gay guy. He then takes a gay porno magazine, and masturbates to it.

This is the worst segment of them all, and is the biggest proof that the people behind this have serious problems. You know, in the segment "Rebellion", the main character wears a shirt that says "asshole." This is exactly what the people who made this are.

The Great Damone-In a riff on Roger Corman's "A Bucket of Blood" and Herschel Gordon Lewis' "Color Me Blood Red", a put upon painter kills his wife, and uses her blood and body parts to create his work. This works at first, but after his second piece of art offends people, he is taunted from beyond the grave by his ex. He then kills himself and ends up in hell.

This segment bugged me in particular because it actually has a neat premise. However, everything about it (the acting, the direction and the gore) feels incredibly lazy.

Slash of the Blade-The ghost of Jack the Ripper goes around killing people in broad daylight. That's it.

First of all, this has what may be the worst Jack the Ripper costume ever. Second of all, there's a series of Jack the Ripper like killings going on, and the police to nothing about any of the complaints. Okay then.

There's nothing about "Nightmare Alley" that's worth a damn. I've noticed some people have defended this movie, saying things "Come on, it's a B-movie!" and "But it's like, horror man, and it was made outside of the Hollywood system!" To that, I have this to say: Fuck you. People like you are the reason horror fans get a bad rep. I enjoy B-movies-shit, this blog is pretty much dedicated to them. But this is not fun at all. This is the worst kind of bullshit imaginable. The kind of shit I wouldn't even recommend to my worst enemies. Just because a movie doesn't take itself seriously and is a B-movie is not an excuse. Fuck you, fuck this movie, and fuck the people who wrote and directed it.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries 2

The found footage genre is all the rage nowadays. From 2008's "Cloverfield", "[REC]" and "Diary of the Dead" to the likes of the "Paranormal Activity" movies and "The Last Exorcism", people love watching horror films about horrific events caught on camera. Back in 2006, we a little movie called "The Zombie Diaries", which told stories of people with a camera filming their lives as the world fell through a zombie epidemic. I wasn't too wild about the movie, but it did good enough for a sequel to exist. Too bad said sequel seriously sucks.

The movie starts out in fine form, as we catch a night in the lives of a family trying to live on in a world in which the dead walk. Too bad it's only footage that was found by military types. Said soldiers find a civilian named Leeann (Alix Wilton Reagan), as well as possible hope when talk of a boat rescuing survivors. However, this may be at long reach, as our intrepid soldiers must not only survive the walking dead, but also murderous survivalists, and the possibility that salvation isn't going to turn out the way they wanted.

I'll give the movie this much: the acting is good, but that's the only compliment I can give this movie. The first (and probably biggest) problem with "The Zombie Diaries 2" is the fact that you really don't care about anyone here except maybe the family in the beginning. That's because there really isn't any characterization here, as these are just your typical stock survivors and army people trying to survive, to the usual psychopaths that stalk a apocalyptic world. Everyone here feels like a facsimile of a person. The direction also feels a bit "meh", as it's all edited erratically and the usual shaky cam that shows up in these movies makes some of the action a bit confusing. There's a bit of gore, but it's the usual shotguns blasts to the head and flesh munching that you've seen in so many other zombie movies.

Which leads to my next complaint-there's nothing here that sets this apart from other found footage horror movies or zombie movies. The whole thing feels uninspired, with no real reason to care about who lives or who dies, or what happens next. Also, did we really need three rape scenes?

You've seen this kind of movie before, so there's really no reason to bother watching it. You're better off watching "Day of the Dead" or waiting for the next season of "The Walking Dead" than sitting through this.

Rating: 1.5/10

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Queen of Blood (1966)

We were all about space in the 60's. There was the space race, science fiction novels popping up everywhere, and of course, movies and television. Space operas, aliens, stations on the moon, wacky gadgets that never came to be, robots-you name it, we were obsessed with it. Well, you'll find some of that in the Roger Corman/Samuel Z. Arkoff produced film "Queen of Blood", which like Mario Bava's classic "Planet of the Vampires", mixes blood suckers with aliens and space.

I'm sure you remember that we didn't have stations on the moon and whatnot in 1990, but that's the case here. Anyways, an alien spacecraft has landed on mars, and a rescue team lead by Allen Brenner (John Saxon) is out to see it. They find an alien girl (Florence Marly) there, and take her on board. Big mistake, as she's hungry for blood, and after she drains Paul Grant (Dennis Hopper), it's clear that she will feed again...

"Queen of Blood" isn't a classic, but it's fun for what it is. The direction by Curtis Harrington is solid, as he manages to conjure up a tangible atmosphere throughout the proceedings that's reminiscent at times of the aforementioned "Planet of the Vampires", especially in it's sense of pervading dread and horror. I also enjoyed the theremin and moog heavy music on display, which has a sense of kitschy fun to it. And kitsch is exactly what the main draw of this movie is. Every cardboard and paper mache set, every optical effect, and the goofy hairstyle of the queen herself adds to the campy exterior on display.

If there is any flaws with the movie, it's that it takes way too long to get to meet the vampire/alien girl. For a while, it's a lot of talking and shots of cheap sets, with a bit of stock footage thrown in, and while that can be fun, I started to wonder "when does the queen of blood show up" several times. Also, a minor and somewhat selfish complaint, but I wish Dennis Hopper was the lead instead. He's one of my favorite actors.

Complaints aside, this is a fun slice of sci-fi schlock from back in the day, and fans of these kinds of movies should check it out. Now if only we could have space stations on the moon...

Rating: 7/10

Monday, October 10, 2011

Slaughter Night (2006)

The past is probably the biggest antagonist in slasher movies. From Freddy Krueger's prior life as a child murderer to the jilted ex-lover of "The Prowling", tumultuous events of yesterday are usually the case for a killer to go on a rampage. Where am I going with this? I have no fucking idea, but it plays a part in the Dutch slasher movie/supernatural possession tale "Slaughter Night."

After she's caught in a night of partying, Kristal (Victoria Koblenko) ends up in a car wreck that kills her father. Well, she and her friends decide to visit a mine were a child killer
Andries Martiens (Robert Eleveld) was stopped for good. Well, not for good, as they make the mistake of bringing an Ouija Board with them, and the next thing you know, his ghost starts possessing people...

There's nothing about "Slaughter Night" that's original, as it feels like a hybrid of the 80's slasher movie with more modern slashers. While it does have it's strong points (some great kills and gore, and some better than usual acting), it still falls apart. One of the reasons for this is the fact that the script is riddled with plot holes. For example, when the lift starts working, why don't any of these kids use it? Why would they bring an Ouija Board with them? Why is one guy stabbed, impaled, etc., yet comes back as if nothing happened? Why would somebody go into a supposedly haunted mine after being in a car accident? Nothing is explained here. It's also extremely by the numbers, and offers nothing you haven't seen a billion times before. Sure, that can be fun, but here it just feels lazy and pointless.

The biggest flaw however, is the editing. While the gore and kills are all great, all of the violence is handled with really distracting use of shaky cam. If the two directors had done this movie without that, I would have been more forgiving, but because I had trouble telling who the victims were and what they or the killer were doing because of the editing, I damn near got a headache.

There's worse slasher movies out there, but that's not saying very much. "Slaughter Night" is a mess, and left me thinking "I could have just watched "The Burning" again instead of this."

Rating: 3.5/10

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Vigilante (1983)

After directing porn, Bill Lustig went on to direct exploitation movies outside of that spectrum. The resulting first three movies-"Maniac", today's movie "Vigilante" and "Maniac Cop"-stood out for two reasons. The first was the sheer respect they had for the Grindhouse/exploitation scene and the movies they produced, and the other was how they depicted pre-Giuliani New York. In these films, the streets are a world of corruption, drug pushing, prostitution, murder and other niceties that run rampant, and that are sometimes punished. "Vigilante" is a look at what happens when people are pushed too far in this city.

Nick (Fred Williamson) and others have had it with the pimps, dealers and filth that routinely threaten the lives of their families and loved ones, and have formed a vigilante group to deal with what the police and law can't and won't deal with. Eddie Morino (Robert Forster) doesn't want to get involved-then his wife Vickie (Rutanya Alda) is fatally wounded and his son is killed by a gang of thugs. When the law doesn't work his way and he ends up in jail, Eddie realizes that vengeance is the only solution, and Nick's posse are the answer.

Though it doesn't exactly break new ground in the revenge genre, "Vigilante" is a very entertaining and well directed slice of gritty action movie making. The acting is fine, especially from leads Forster and Williamson, and the villains are pure scum that are clearly meant to be hated and picked off one by one. The electronic score by Jay Chattaway complements the action well, and the action scenes themselves are violent but never veer too far into sadism. This is also a more accessible movie than Lustig's prior work "Maniac", as it isn't filled with sleaze and ugliness. This is a pretty standard movie in comparison.

Also worthy of note is the sheer love the movie shows for it's exploitation brethren. You can tell that this movie is heavily inspired by the Italian cop and revenge movies, especially the way the violence is handled, while the color scheme at times harkens the works of Dario Argento. In this sense, it's a logical successor to "Maniac", as it shares that movies affinity for violent exploitation and it's depiction of New York as a city that's rotting away at the core.

If you're a sucker for revenge movies, then "Vigilante" is a must. It's also a given for those interested in 42nd Street Fair from the 80's, so check it out.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, October 8, 2011

David Hess: 1942-2011

There's Nothing Out There (1992)

One of the characters in Wes Craven's classic "Scream" that sticks out the most is Randy, played by Jamie Kennedy. Here was a guy who was a lot like others who've watched a bunch of horror movies-he knew the rules of the genre. Some hate the character and the movie, but whatever. So, why am I bringing this up? Because Rolfe Kanefsky made his directorial debut with "There's Nothing Out There", which did the "guy knows the rules of horror" thing before "Scream", though I doubt it was an influence on that movie.

You know the plot-seven teens go to a cabin in the woods, only to run into a monster-in this case a beast that looks like a giant tadpole with teeth. So, whose their only hope? Why it's Mike (Craig Peck), whose seen a whole lot of horror movies, and knows the rules.

"There's Nothing Out There" is largely considered to be Kanefsky's best movie, and it's easy to see why when you consider the fact that he's since recycled the "young people go up against inhuman evil" movie twice afterwards with "The Hazing" and "Nightmare Man". Oh, and that his other credits include several erotic spoofs and a writing credit for the Denise Richards/Pamela Anderson movie "Blonde and Blonder." Then again, it's obvious that he knows he's not making great art, so I can't really fault him.

Anyways, this is mostly a fun movie. Sure, you've seen the "kids in the woods" movie a billion times before, and there's little here that's original, some of the jokes fall flat, the acting is bad, etc. That out of the way, Kanefsky clearly knows what kind of movie he's making, and obviously loves the genre that he's sending up. It's also got the requisite gore and nudity (something Kanefsky's genre films are mostly known for) that you'd want from a movie like this, some good direction for a first time effort, a fun electronic score (though the 80's sounding pop songs in the soundtrack are a bit grating), and some inspired moments of humor (the best involving a tribute to "Raider of the Lost Ark.) Oh, and then there's Mike. Though his character occasionally get's annoying, Craig Peck manages to make him believable for the most part, as well as an amusing audience surrogate. He's pretty much everyone who has yelled "don't do that" while watching a horror movie.

So, is "There's Nothing Out There" a classic? Not really, though it's clear Kanefsky knows this. It's an amusing little horror comedy that's never offensive or bad, and makes for a good time.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, October 7, 2011

Grim (2010)

The thing about Troma releases is that you have to be careful with what you watch. Sure, sometimes you'll get a fun little movie like "Class of Nuke 'em High" or "The Toxic Avenger", or a re-release like "Mad Dog Morgan" or "The Hanging Woman", but to get through that, you have to trudge through a lot of bullshit. Well, Adrian Santiago's debut feature length movie "Grim" isn't quite bullshit, but it doesn't hit the ball out of the park either.

When he was a child, Nicolis Grim (Jack Pinder) saw his parents murdered by Atticus Miller (Scott A. Mollette), Cutter (Brad Hartliep) and Romeo (Niko Red Star), only to be taken in as a child by a married couple. Now an adult (Christopher Dimrock), he is out for vengeance for the murder of his biological and foster parents, and he has three people in mind.

On paper, "Grim" seems like your standard, meat and potatoes revenge movie-except for two differences: 1.) It was made for $2,500, and 2.) it takes place in an America in which the fall of society has been brought forth by a complete economic collapse. This last part is interesting, and it's hard to fault Santiago for the ambition he stacks onto the film. Yet, for all the bloody violence (including a cringe inducing fingernail removal), mostly fine cinematography and all around great story, "Grim" ends up coming up short.

Why? Well for starters, the pacing for the film is off. This is a movie that tries a slow burn approach, but can't make up for it because the film is essentially "talk/kill/talk" throughout. It's also poorly choreographed, with scenes of violence either coming off as too staged or too clumsy for it's own good. Finally, the biggest flaw is the tone of the movie. Sure, the film lives up to it's title, but the actions that occur end up feeling like they are much ado about nothing, as it rarely feels like the actions of our character have any real weight to them. As it stands, it ends up being a film that lacks a feeling of purpose.

It's a shame too, because I appreciate that Santiago went for a no-budget film that strays away from the usual slashers and/or zombies fair that many of these movies are. Besides, he has another movie on the way, so maybe he'll show signs of improvement. Until then, this is a noble but ultimately too flawed first effort.

Rating: 4/10

Also, It's now going to be four movies released by Troma getting the review treatment. Expect another one this weekend.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chawz (2009)

I love South Korean movies as of late (okay, except for "D-Wars.") From the movies of Chan Wook-Park (the "Vengeance" trilogy, "Thirst") to the films of Jeen-woon Kim ("The Good, the Bad and the Weird", "A Tale of Two Sisters" and "I Saw the Devil") and Joon-ho Bong ("The Host", "Mother"), this country seems to have my heart when it comes to movies. Well, not every movie is going to have my heart, such Jeong-won Shin's tongue in cheek "Chawz", which is amusing enough, but not as fun as it should be.

In a small mountainside village, tourists seem to be vanishing? So, what could it be? Why, it's a humungous wild boar, who due to hunters killing all the animals, has acquired a taste for human flesh. Now, a cop with a pregnant wife, a vengeful farmer, a famous hunter and a girl who wants to be the next Jane Goodall are among those who must stop it.

If it weren't for the giant wild boar, "Chawz" wouldn't feel like a horror film at all. Much of it is played like a tongue in cheek homage to "Jaws" (right down to the title) with a bit of "Razorback" thrown in for good measure. The film is pretty well directed, with amusing enough characters and situations (the highlight being the girl trying to film our intrepid pig hunters), and a plot that's mostly easy to follow. Also, it's nice to see a genre film of this type offer some characterization instead of the usual "kids get killed off by giant monster" movie. Oh, and yes, the boar itself is pretty awesome.

Unfortunately, the humor is very hit and miss, with several gags (including one during the end credits) that left me either rolling my eyes of mumbling to myself "well, that joke bombed." It's also way too long at two hours. Granted, it at least gave us some decent characterization, but this is not the kind of movie that should be two hours long. The comic tone tends to collide with the more horrific elements of the movie on a few occasions, which is jarring to say the least. At one moment, the pig is on a rampage, and the next people are cracking jokes.

"Chawz" is a decent little movie, but it could have been a bit better. As a whole, it's certainly not at the top of the South Korean movie litter, but it doesn't want to be either. It's an amusing little romp, and nothing more.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, October 3, 2011

Coffin Rock (2009)

Cheating can always get you in trouble. Just ask the movie world. The likes of "Fatal Attraction" have shown a guy cheating with another woman, only to end up in trouble...mostly because the bitch is psycho. Well, "Coffin Rock" tries it's hands at this genre, but reverses the roles.

Rob (Robert Taylor) and Jessie Willis (Lisa Chappell) are a married couple living in a small fishing town, and they're having marital problems because even though they've been trying for 15 months, Rob can't seem to produce a child. One night, a drunken Jessie runs into Evan, (Sam Parsonson), and they end up having sex. Now Jessie is pregnant, and there's no way Rob is the father. To make things worse, Evan is a psychopath whose prone to stalking and violence.

To the films credit, "Coffin Rock" (that title sounds more fitting for a heavy metal based horror movie from the 80's) does feature some fine direction and cinematography, as first time director Rupert Glasson shows some promise, and cinematographer David Foreman has a great eye for location. Also, the performances are all strong, especially Parsonson as Evan. This is a character who can and will snap at a moment's notice, and the actor makes many of his outbursts chilling and realistic. Oh, and I gotta give the actor credit for putting a live fist in his mouth. That takes real commitment.

Unfortunately, there isn't much in "Coffin Rock" that separates it from other "jilted lover" movies, as this is pretty much "Fatal Attraction" with a crazy guy and not much excitement. Sure, Evan is a scary guy, but we know he's crazy from the get go. There's little ambiguity to the character, and the movie doesn't give us any doubts about his sanity, which slightly lessens the impact. Also, Rob and Jessie don't behave in the most logical way, as Jessie has opportunity after opportunity to tell Rob the truth, as it would at least lead to the police taking Evan in, but she doesn't, which lessens some sympathy for her. Rob meanwhile, is apparently dumb as a rock, as he never seems to suspect anything about Evan until later on, even though the psycho keeps showing up and Jessie acts differently when he's around. Then there's the conclusion, which doesn't have the emotional impact it so clearly wants to have.

"Coffin Rock" isn't a necessarily a bad movie, it's just one you've seen before, with little in the way of it offering anything new. It's probably worth a Netflix stream, but not much else.

Rating: 5/10

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Blood Oath (2007)

For October, I decided to review three recent releases from Troma. My first pick is David Buchert's by the numbers slasher "Blood Oath", and by what I've seen, it's not a good start.

After a prologue featuring genre favorite Tiffany Shepis and the worst looking decapitation I've ever seen, we get down to business. Long story short: kids go camping in the woods, here about a local legend revolving around a dark incident in the Krupp family, and what to ya know, their son is not only alive, but is a killer, and starts killing said teens played by adults.

If you've seen a slasher movie set in the woods, then you've seen "Blood Oath." Generic as all get out score? Check. Kills that are nothing special? Check.Visual nods to other, better horror movies (here it's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Friday the 13th" and "Just Before Dawn")? Check. Killer whose a Leatherface clone? Check. Stunt casting from genre veterans (in this case, Shepis and Tina Krause)? Check. I think you get the point. This feels like the kind of no-budget slasher movies that polluted Blockbuster and other rental chains back in the mid 2000's instead of the 80's slasher homage it so clearly wants to be.

Look, I like some Troma movies. I like several of the 80's slasher movies. This however, is not one of the watchable Troma movies. This movie is everything you've seen in shitty micro-budget slasher movies and then some, with only a nasty bit nearing the end and a few instances of decent camerawork keeping me from giving it the dreaded "no" rating.

I think I've said all I can about this. There's no reason to see this unless you love slasher movies made for a nothing budget. Everyone else should avoid.

Rating: 1/10

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sweatshop (2009)

Wow, two reviews in one day? Will wonders never ceases?

Anyways, when I reviewed the ultimately disappointing "Damned by Dawn", I mentioned how hype can sometimes disguise the fact that a movie ultimately isn't very good, especially once it's released. Case in point: today's entry, "Sweatshop." I remember reading about the movie two years ago, as it was a slasher movie that was getting good reviews and lots of hype in the festival circuit. It was announced sometime last year that Synapse would be releasing it, but it ended up getting picked up by Screen Media instead. It also got released earlier this year in the UK, and with it finally available to the public, word of mouth started getting a little less kind. It's now available in the US, so let's get to reviewing this sucker.

"Sweatshop" opens with a nude girl in an abandoned factory (hm, kinda like "Saw"*, but sleazier), whose being pursued by a hulking maniac known as The Beast (Jeremy Sumrall), only to be shot down by a cop played by Fangoria editor/reviewer Michael Gingold.

Cut to later on, in which a group of cyber-punk loving goth kids-leader Charlie (Ashley Kay), horndog Scottyboy (Peyton Wetzel), slutty gal Lolli (Krystal Freeman), crazy gal Miko (Julin), and one guy who sticks out a bit more (but barely) in Scotty's fat, redneck brother Wade (Brent D. Himes), as well as several others-enter the abandoned factory. Here, they are going to hold a big rave made up of Futurepop music and other kinds of things some of the kids like today or whatever. Well, they get horny, get high, and get carried away by The Beast's minions, or just caught by the big lug himself. Oh, and he's got a great weapon-a hammer that's a pole with an anvil attached to it.

I'll say this much about "Sweatshop"-it's got a nice score by Dwayne Cathey. Oh, and the gore and kills are incredible. The gore FX themselves are very impressive, and The Beast has some creative ways to kill folks-Miko's death is probably my fave. Also, this movie has created a potentially iconic killer in The Beast. Slasher movies have had plenty of large, hulking slashers in the past, but this guy has a great weapon, and is imposing to boot. Also, it's nice to have a slasher movie with a really fun conclusion to boot.

Too bad the rest of the movie doesn't really live up to all of that. For one thing, the characters and the actors playing them are absolutely appalling and obnoxious. Whenever characters like Scottyboy and Miko would open their mouths, I just said to myself "these people can't be killed soon enough." This leads to problem numero uno, in which we have to constantly see and hear these dolts bicker, fuck and dance, and that gets annoying very, very fast. My next complaint deals with the direction and editing, which feels more like it belongs in a music video than it does a low budget slasher film. Then there's my final bitching point, which is that most of the music outside of the score didn't do it for me. I know there's an audience for this kind of Dark, Gothic dance music, but I'm not a fan of that. I do like a few Industrial Dance artists (Nitzer Ebb, Front Line Assembly and Front 242 for example), but not what was featured here.

Is "Sweatshop" for you? Well, if you love wall to wall gore and nothing else, and if musical groups with named like Lucid Dementia and Android Lust tickle your fancy, then yes, check it out. The rest of us can probably do without it, or at least watch it and think "Well, the gore and kills were great. Too bad the rest wasn't."

Rating: 4/10

*Seriously, how many abandoned factory buildings are there in the city in which the "Saw" movies take place? And why haven't the police checked these things already?

Strigoi (2009)

Well, it's October, and that means that time of the year in which I do the most reviews on the blog in one month. To start that off, let's get busy with Faye Jackson's 2009 vampire film "Strigoi."

Vlad Cozma (Catalin Paraschiv) has come to a small town in Romania, where former mayor Constantin Tirescu (Constantin Barbulescu) has died. Vlad believes it was murder, and when he tries to get information from the strange and shady locals, he figures that they had something to do with his death. Well, Constantin is back, and the townspeople believe that he's a "Strigoi", or some kind of vampire. Vlad doesn't believe this at first, but the more he unravels, the more he starts to believe...

A British production shot in Romania, "Strigoi" isn't flawless (it doesn't have any real conclusion, and it could have had five or ten minutes cut off), bit it is an interesting take on the vampire film. Here, the vampires can only be killed off via cutting out the heart, and they tend to eat a lot when they aren't sucking blood. The film also boasts a quirky set of supporting characters, and a sense of humor that ranges from the black variety to at times oddly heartfelt. It's not quiet "Shaun of the Dead" levels of successful (very few genre films are), but the movie did make me laugh some, and managed to put a smile on my face, especially at the end. That out of the way, those hoping for a movie with lots of gore and action will be let down, as this is more of a slow moving dark comedy than it is the usual modern vampire tales.

Also noteworthy is the political commentary present in the film. Here, the vampires and the events of the town are more than just a metaphor for post Communist Russia, in which Communists and Capitalists vied for the future of the country. In fact, the burying the dead here is a metaphor for Russia trying to bury and move on from it's past while looking at an uncertain future. It's kind of refreshing to see a horror movie tackle such issues in the manner that it does, as it never feels heavy handed, but still offers some food for thought.

Will everyone like "Strigoi"? Probably not, as it differs greatly from what you normally get in these kinds of movies. That out of the way, those looking for something kind of fresh might want to give this a shot.

Rating: 7/10