Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dead Cert (2010)

There are times that when you read a premise on paper that seems fun, you actually aren't surprised when it doesn't turn out to be particularly good. At least I'm not. I've already seen countless movies that had fun premises-"Shadow: Dead Riot" for example-that didn't live up to said potential. A recent case in point: "Dead Cert", which wants to be a mix of a tough British gangster movie and "From Dusk 'Til Dawn", and wastes said potential.

In the East End of London, Freddie "Dead Cert" Frankham (Craig Fairbrass, who seems to be forever cast as a big, tough guy from the East End) ends up getting mixed up in the affairs of Romanian Gangster Dante Livenko (Billy Murray) and his gang. Well, it turns out that Dante is a vampire known as the wolf, and to make matters worse, the local strip club Freddy and his pals frequent is now overrun with the bloodsuckers.

To be fair, this movie does feature some decent to good performances, especially Murray, whose a lot of fun as the villain. The problem though, is that it takes too long to get to the good stuff, so to speak. It's not until the fifty something minute mark that the club is overrun, and until then, the movie is mostly just a bunch of talk with the occasional act of violence padding out time. Speaking of which, after the vampires come out to play, we get more talk. In fact, there's so many scenes of people arguing and conversing that you kind of wonder why the filmmakers decided to include vampires at all.

Which leads to the movies biggest problem: it doesn't go far enough. Sure, there's bloodshed and the make up FX look good, but they aren't anything you haven't seen before. In fact, for a movie that has strippers turning into vampires, the movie feels sort of tame. It takes itself too seriously, doesn't offer the bountiful female nudity and gore one would hope for, and the final battle between humans and vampires feels pretty anemic.

I went into "Dead Cert" with low expectations, and guess what? Mission accomplished. There's nothing here that sets this apart from other crappy vampire movies or British crime/gangster movies. Your better off just watching "From Dusk 'Till Dawn" again instead of this generic soup.

Rating. 2/10

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Best Sleeper Movies/Guilty Pleasures of 2011

2011 gave us plenty of movies that accomplished a lot, but unfortunately, some went on to be ignored. Here's a look at the limited releases and straight to video movies of 2011 that are worth checking out, but few seemed to talk about, in no particular order.

Best Sleepers

-I Saw The Devil-Of all the genre movies released this year, this has to be my favorite. A look at the nature of revenge and the possibility of man becoming a monster, this is harsh, unblinking stuff, with unflinching, brutal violence, bloodshed and several sprinklings of the blackest of black humor.

-Dream Home-The housing crisis in China gets the horror treatment in this intelligent, blackly comic slasher splatter movie, with a particularly strong performance from lead Josie Ho as a woman hard on her luck, pushed to the brink.

-We Are What We Are-A tale of a cannibalistic family that doubles as an allegory on politics, sexuality and the fracturing of a family, "We Are What We Are" is an honest, intelligent drama that deserves more fans.

-Julia's Eyes-Though I wasn't thrilled with the conclusion, this Guillermo Del Toro produced film straddles the lines between an old school, De Palma style thriller and an artful Giallo. Definitely worth a look.

-Prey-A angry, wild boar is a catalyst for generational conflict in this entry of what I like to call the "Pigsploitation" genre. Nothing groundbreaking, but worth a look.

-Rambock: Berlin Undead-Of all the "Bloody Disgusting Presents" movies, I feel this hour long take on the zombie apocalypse has been unjustly overlooked, as it's an interesting look at a man who is looking hard and wide to reconcile with his ex amidst apocalyptic panic.

-Phase 7-Another overlooked "Bloody Disgusting Selects" movie takes a look at the aftermath of a pandemic. What sets it apart though, is the tone, which veers more towards the darkly comic than it does the typical straight faced approach.

-Kidnapped-What looks on the surface like another "home invasion" movie is actually an interesting spin on it, as it uses split screen techniques and interesting plot twists to create a nihilistic but better than usual twist on the sub-genre.

-Seconds Apart-The best of the "After Dark Originals" takes a look at two murderous twins with telekinetic powers, and how the rigors of high school life and blossoming sexual interests can affect sibling relationships. A thoughtful take on the "killer kids/twins" movie.

-Muay Thai Fighter-Yes, it's more of an action/drama with more emphasis on the latter, and yes, it's too long. That out of the way, this is a surprisingly well acted, choreographed and directed movie that exceeded my low expectations.

Better Late Than Never

-The Dead Matter-The self-distributed directorial debut (say that seven times fast) from one of the men behind musical group Midnight Syndicate is an assured blend of Gothic horror and tongue-in-cheek humor that relies more on atmosphere than it does gore. One of last year's biggest sleepers, which took me by surprise this year.

-Primal-Far from a classic, this pastiche picture is at least entertaining for what it is, and offers some choice laughs for good measure.

Guilty Pleasures

-The Taint-While it's way too self aware for it's own good, this tasteless, disgusting micro-budget movie also feels more like a Troma movie than many of it's kin does.

-Pleasures of the Damned-By all accounts, I should hate this micro-budget, sub-Troma satire/homage to trashy Grindhouse movies, which feels like it was made by a mediocre sketch comedy troupe. And you know what? I laughed hard at it many a time, though it does run out of steam within the last 20-15 minutes. The guiltiest "Pleasure" of the year.

So there you have it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Worst Movies of 2011

Every year, we get cinematic trash heaps that one could have gone without seeing. Here is the worst, most forgettable, and most disappointing movies of 2011

Worst

-Sucker Punch-Some people really shouldn't write their own movies. While I've enjoyed Zack Snyder's movies up until this point, here he made a colossal disaster that was M. Night levels bad.

-Repo Chick-What if somebody did a "Tim and Eric" style sketch, only without anything funny, and stretched it out to feature length? Then "Repo Chick", a preachy, confusing and confused offering from Alex Cox, is what you get.

-The Bleeding-The worst attempt at trying to make a modern "Grindhouse" movie yet, "The Bleeding" makes "Bitch Slap" look like "Lawrence of Arabia" by comparison.

-The Roommate-"Hey, let's make "Single White Female", only for the teen and tween set, and make it so bad they'll hate it!"

-Straw Dogs-I'm a bit more forgiving towards remakes, as I've defended the "Friday the 13th" and "House on Sorority Row" remakes as guilty pleasures, and I really enjoyed "Fright Night." This however, is awful, and a slap to the face of the original.

-The Reunion-By far the worst WWE movie I've seen so far, "The Reunion" is a mirthless bore. You know, I like Amy Smart, and I wish she could get better work than this.

-Shark Night-An example of genre movie making at it's absolute worst, "Shark Night" is a cliche filled, gore and entertainment free slog-well, except for the always awesome Donal Logue.

-Season of the Witch-Nic Cage sleepwalks through this drab PG-13 medieval outing, with only Ron Perlman offering a fun performance.

-Dylan Dog: Dead of Night-The popular Italian comic gets a movie treatment that the ScyFy channel would look down on. At least wrestler Kurt Angle seems to be having fun.

-Blood Oath-Terrible no-budget slasher #379 from Troma. I almost feel bad adding this here, but this is a pain to sit through.

-The Dead and the Damned-At some point, you gotta wonder why nobody has made a good "zombies in the old west" movie.

-Vanishing on 7th Street-Brad Fuller finally makes a bad horror movie with this redundant, poorly written and poorly acted movie that feels like a bad rough draft turned into a movie.

-World of the Dead: Zombie Diaries 2-It's "military men vs. zombies" movie #255, with added shaky cam and rape.

-The Task-The worst of the "After Dark Originals" features one of the worst conclusions in a fright film this year.

-Blood Out-Bad straight-to-DVD cop/action/crime movie I lost the count from Lionsgate has the distinguishing trait of being dull as dirt and poorly directed and written and edited etc. to boot.

-Helldriver-Yoshihiro Nishimura's latest can best be described as the low budget splatter equivalent of a "Transformers" movie. Sure, there's plenty of gore and weird moments, but the whole thing feels tiresome and altogether pointless.

Most Meh

-Battle: Los Angeles-This is the definition of the kind of movie you see that you watch, and while you don't hate it, you won't remember anything about it. It's bland, but far from bad really.

-Grave Encounters-This however, is bland and bad, and feels like a case against making found footage horror movies.

-House of the Rising Sun-It's kinda like "Blood Out", only not as bad, but still pretty bad nonetheless. Oh, and again, poor Amy Smart.

Most Disappointing

-Conan the Barbarian-What makes this movie all the more disappointing is the fact that there's some real pluses here-a great star turn by Jason Momoa, some fun action scenes and a few one liners that are actually good. Unfortunately the bad direction, uneventful script and awful story keep it from becoming the fun movie it should have been.

-ChromeSkull: Laid To Rest 2-How do you not do a sequel to an entertaining slasher movie? You add corporate infighting, government conspiracies and poor explanations.

-Tetsuo The Bullet Man-The most disappointing movie of the year though, goes to the long awaited third film in the "Tetsuo" series, which is a hyper-edited, poorly written Hodge-podge of ideas that barely feel finished.

Future Bad Movie Cult Favorite

-Hyenas-If there's any movie that deserves the same kind of infamy "Troll 2" and "Shark Attack 3" have, it's Eric Weston's hilariously ill-conceived "Hyenas", which made me laugh more than any other bad movie this year did. A must for bad movie fanatics.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Riot on 42nd St. (1987)

Tim Kincaid is a lot of things. A good director is not one of them. After gaining notoriety for the gay porn movies he directed in the 70's (no, I have not seen any of them), he went on to direct some of the absolute worst in 80's horror, science fiction and exploitation-"Breeders", "The Occultist", "Robot Holocaust" and "Bad Girls Dormitory" were among his movies outside of the world of pornography. With all that out of the way, "Riot on 42nd St." is of minor note, because it is a peon to the times in which cheap sex, violence, drugs and exploitation movies ruled that part of New York, and was one of the last of the dying breed of Grindhouse movies. That's not to say that it's any good.

Glenn Barnes (John Hayden) is a tough as nails ex-con who is paroled from prison, and wants to start a riot on 42nd street. There's a bit of a problem in rival club owner Farrell (Michael Spiro), who will do anything he can to keep Glenn from reaching his dreams. After Farrell's ferocious flunkies kill everyone off in the club's opening night, Glenn decides to go out for vengeance-even if that means going back to his old, violent ways. Also, Jeff Fahey shows up for some reason. While him showing up in a bad exploitation or genre movie wouldn't be out of the ordinary today, at the time he was something of a rising star, so it's a bit odd to see him here.

On paper, "Riot on 42nd Street" looks like it should be a lot of fun. It's got plenty of female nudity, some nasty violence and gore (the highlight involves a decapitation and said head ending up in the garbage), and it's clear that Kincaid has his heart in the right place. At the end of the day however, the whole thing is just bad. Granted, a lot of old exploitation movies are bad, but they still manage to be entertaining.

However, the problem is that Kincaid is a bad director and writer. The story makes little if any sense, and is full of continuity errors and lapses in the most basic logic, not to mention the poor cinematography, awful acting, awful music, and lack of any real edge. Sure, it's sleazy and gory, but in this case, nostalgia for the old days of trash cinema can only get you so far, especially when your movie doesn't have much in the way of story, characterization or motivation. Besides, the movies it wants to be like had good to decent directing. This feels like it's being directed on autopilot.

To say that this is Kincaid's crowning achievement isn't saying very much. If you are going to see one urban exploitation revenge saga-Then for crying out loud, go watch "Vigilante" or "Savage Streets" or "The Exterminator."

Rating: 4/10

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Razortooth (2007)

There's a television channel called "Chiller." You probably know what it is. They're dedicated to horror, and while they occasionally show one of the classics (albeit usually in edited form), they also like to show movies that studios like Viviendi, Anchor Bay, Image and Lionsgate like to dump straight to DVD. I mention this because if there was ever a movie for that channel, it would be Patricia Harrington's monsters-snacking-on-rednecks movie "Razortooth."

Set in a small Southern community, "Razortooth" deals with a giant eel that's snacking on the locals. Delmar Coates (Doug Swander) and his ex, Sheriff Ruth Gainey (Kathleen LaGue) are on the case to see why the towns people are disappearing. I've already explained why, so let's just get down to it: there's also some kids who are accompanied by a scientist (Simon Page), whose responsible for the big man-eater.

There isn't much in "Razortooth" that's particularly good or memorable. Oh sure, it occasionally feels like the kind of regional horror fair you used to get, and there's moments in which score is decent, but that's it. The acting ranges from bland (our leads) to bad (the kids) to over the top and obnoxious (the townspeople, who are a bunch of actors hamming it up with fake Southern accents.) The gore is your standard "blood shooting from prop bottles" nonsense, while the eel itself is a stiff moving CGI creation that looks like something from a SyFy Channel movie.

That's what the movie feels like too. I know that this is an independent movie with a budget of $3,000,000, but I've seen so many horror movies made for less that look better, are more ambitious, and offer more entertainment than this. There's little here that resembles a movie anyone would give a damn about. For something that's being touted as being from 'A producer of "The Devil's Rejects"', this feels pretty anemic.

If you crave CGI monster movies of all kinds, then you might enjoy this. Everyone else will feel like this is a waste of time, and not worth the 90 minutes.

Rating: 2/10

Oh, and one of the cast members is Josh Gad, whose found success recently for his role in the Broadway musical "The Book of Mormon."

Friday, December 2, 2011

ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2 (2011)

Some readers may remember a while back when I reviewed Robert Hall's slasher movie "Laid to Rest." I found it to be a good time, but it didn't lend itself to be some kind of classic-not that it was trying to be one-and little about it seemed like it needed a sequel. Well, fans demanded it, so Hall decided to give them one. The end result...is not too good.

Starting where the original left off, we see ChromeSkull (Nick Principe) left for dead, his skull crushed. However, he's not dead yet, as Preston (Brian Austin Greene-yes, that one) brings him back to a shady government building, where he is put back together. Now he's disfigured (he should at least be glad he's alive), but Spann (Danielle Harris) has plans plans for him-and is in a bit of a power struggle with Preston, whose hellbent on becoming the new ChromeSkull. Soon, a girl named Jess (Mimi Michaels) and Tommy (Thomas Dekker) from the last movie are at the mercy of two killers...

The first mistake "ChromeSkull" makes is that it reveals too much about the killer. Sure, we don't know his history or why he does what he does, but when it turns out that he works for some large corporation, it ruins the character. One of the reasons ChromSkull (or as he will be called from here on out, Skully) was so interesting in the original is that we knew nothing about him other than the fact that he was a killer with a camera, a chrome skull mask and an assortment of sharp weapons and creative ways to kill people. That's all we needed to know about him. By making him an employee of sorts, it kills whatever mystique he had. Plus, there's so many plot-holes in the movie. What does this corporation do? How are they financed? We end up getting more questions than answers, and it's frustrating.

It also doesn't help that the story is so uninteresting, and the various sub-plots are kinda lame. We don't need two people in a corporate power struggle. We don't need a boring police procedural. We especially don't need someone moonlighting as a killer. We need protagonists that are interesting and a story that doesn't feel convoluted. Oh sure, we've got great kills and gore, as well as an effective Industrial Rock score and good performances, but when the plot is weak and the side-story is lame, you don't really care all that much. When a weak "final girl" moment and a plot twist after the end credits that's insulting in how stupid it is is what you have, then what's the point of watching?

It really sucks that a movie with potential and such a great slasher ended up becoming a mess, but lo and behold, that's what you get. The ending leaves room for a sequel, but if you ask me, they should stop here.

Rating: 3/10