Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Crow: Salvation (2000)

To say that "The Crow: City of Angels" was a disappointment would be an understatement. The reviews were unkind, the box office wasn't up to snuff, and fan reaction was mostly poor. Plus, it killed off Rob Zombie's chances of directing an entry in the series, though that's probably a good thing. Needless to say, I doubt many were pining for a new entry.

We got one though, from Bharat Nalluri (who previously directed two British crime movies) in "The Crow: Salvation." I'm pretty sure that regardless of the prior film's poor performance, the Weinstein Brothers still had hope. Hey, maybe if this one is at least a moderate hit, we can get Rob Zombie to do the one he wants to do! Or, how about a hip hop version starring DMX and Eminem! Well, that never happened. Oh sure, the thing got a theatrical release. By that, I mean it played in one theater, and then disappeared a week later. Then it went to video, and few have cared about it since. Sure, it's gotten a cult following (You can't say the same about "Wicked Prayer"), but so does "City of Angels." That's not exactly good.

Alex Corvis (Eric Mabius) has been falsely accused of the murder of his girlfriend (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe.) He says he;s innocencent, and that a man with scars on his right arm is the culprit. This doesn't work out for him, he's executed, and since this is a "Crow" movie, he comes back from the grave for revenge.

"No, I'm not trying to be The Riddler."

There are a few things in the film that actually do work. Mabius, while not as good as Brandon Lee, does manage to make this version of The Crow his own without imitating the former. In fact, most of the performances here are good, though the presence of such great character actors like Fred Ward, William Atherton and Walton Goggins sure helps. Then there's Kirstin Dunst, whose the most surprising cast member here. At the time, she was something of a rising star and seemed to be the next big thing (yes, even before "Spider Man" and "Bring it On"), so my best guess is that the studio thought that she would be enough to warrant a wider release. Also worthy of note is the fact that the film manages to bring in some dark humor not unlike the first film, and the plot is occasionally more interesting than the one in "City of Angels."

Unfortunately, the rest of the movie isn't up to snuff. Probably the biggest problem is that there's no sense of style to this. Say what you will about "City of Angels", but it at least had a unique, Gothic look to it. Here, the movie just looks and feels like another generic sequel. The direction is also bland as all get out. Simply put, Nalluri doesn't know how to do an action scene, and thinks that randomly thrown in car chases and explosions will keep the viewers attention instead of character or plot development. The movie ends up feeling like it's being directed on autopilot by a man whose really not all that interested in what he's doing.

"Are you supposed to be like, scary or something?"

Then there's the fact that, like the previous movie, nothing about this feels necessary. The original "The Crow" worked as a stand alone movie, and nothing about it felt like it needed a sequel. This, like the first sequel, feels like it was made simply to get money from what it assumed would be an anxious public, but that would not be the case. That would be fine if, you know, the end result wasn't so paint by the numbers.

As a whole, I feel the same way about "Salvation" that I do "City of Angels." It has it's moments, and I can see why it has a cult following, but at the end of the day, the thing doesn't really justify it's existence. At the same time, a part of me kinda wishes that the Rob Zombie and hip hop versions had been made. Sure, they would have been bad (probably worse), but at least they would have had ambition to them.

Rating: 4.5/10

As for the somehow manages to be more forgettable than the last one. Tricky, Days of the New, some electro-rock group called Sin and Monster Magnet turn in some good songs, but the rest ranges from forgettable (lame Industrial Rock, a Rob Zombie remix-seriously, what was it with Rob Zombie remixes on soundtracks in the late 90's and early 2000's?), ill conceived (regrettable covers of Bob Dylan and Ministry by Hole and Static-X with Fear Factory singer Burton C. Bell) to all around awful (Kid Rock, a Fly's song with a rapper coming in for no reason whatsoever.) It just serves as a reminder of how bad some of the music was back then.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

On Second Viewing: Zombi 3 (1988)

Like it or not, those of us that review movies sometimes end up revisiting ones that we didn't care for when we first saw them. Call it a form of masochism, call it dedication to your craft, or you can call it a momentary lapse in judgement. Sometimes, we find ourselves enjoying said movies upon second viewing, while other times...not so much. Without further adieu, let's take a look at a movie I previously reviewed.

Comebacks don't always work out. Some bands have been "making a comeback" for years now. Some directors have been "making a comeback" for years. The problem with this is that more often then not, comebacks just don't work out the way we hope they will.In a lot of ways, Lucio Fulci's (and the Bruno Mattei's) "Zombie 3" is something of the definition of a failed comeback.

The only way to make Radio DJ's tolerable

Fulci himself was no stranger to horror even before his splatter days. He made his first venture into the genre with 1969's "Perversion Story", and made several acclaimed Giallo films in the 70's. It was 1979's "Zombie 2" though, that made him a horror favorite. Released in it's home country as an unofficial sequel to "Dawn of the Dead", "Zombi 2" became the definitive Italian zombie movie-loaded with nauseating gore, outrageous set pieces, oodles of atmosphere and little attention to things like plot or thematic elements. After the movie was a hit, Fulci followed it up with more gore happy horror films-"City of the Living Dead", "The Beyond", "House by the Cemetery" and "New York Ripper" all made him a hollowed name in the annals of the genre.

And then...not much worthy of mention. Sure, he continued to make movies, but they were lacking. The wonderful style and suspense of his 70's Giallos was gone, and while some of his movies still had gore, they were rarely as nausea inducing or creative and atmospheric as his splatter films were. If anything, his movies were becoming boring and redundant instead of gross or creepy. So in short, he needed a comeback.

In what seemed like good news at the time, he was given an offer he couldn't refuse-a chance to do a sequel of sorts to "Zombi 2." Granted, it was in no way connected to the original and was written by Claudio Fragasso, but at the time it seemed like the movie he needed. Well, health problems arose, as did on set conflicts (the latter not exactly alien to Fulci) and production gaffs, leading to Fulci leaving the set. The end result is not exactly what those involved hoped for. Fans of the original were unhappy, it came out in a time when horror was starting to die in Italy, and it was unable to make to the states officially until the last decade.

A few, a few men.

The plot, as it is, kinda feels like a more action packed, more serious attempt at remaking "Return of the Living Dead." A terrorist is infected by the bio-weapon he's carrying, and his body is cremated by the U.S. military. As we all know, this turns out to be...

...and the next thing you know, it infects the inhabitants of the island the terrorist was on, turning them (and some of the animals) into flesh hungry zombies. Now, members of the military and some tourists most fend for themselves as the inevitable zombie apocalypse draws nearer.

Revisiting it, I found "Zombi 3" to be both an oddly fascinating and somewhat depressing experience. On one hand, the movie rarely makes any sense, is full of plot holes and can be unintentionally hilarious. The zombies themselves have no real continuity here-at one moment they are lurching flesh eaters, and the next they have the agility of a ninja. People often make the dumbest decisions, and completely random events (a zombie's head in a refrigerator flying out and attacking a man) happen without rhyme or reason, as if those behind it thought "Hey, why not?" In that way, it is worth watching as a bad but interesting experience.

At the same time, it all feels like a "what could have been" experience. Whereas the original had a sense of menace and rotting dread, this one tries to go the action movie route, which is a mistake due to how dull and ultimately boring the action ultimately is. People fire guns, zombies jump out of trees, people try to escape...and none of it is interesting. Also, while there's gore, none of it is up to par with the original, or even Mattei's "Hell of the Living Dead." Sure, that movie is bad, but there's a weird sense of fun to it, and it's completely unapologetic about it's cheap exploitation roots and impressive, gory set pieces. Here, it feels like those behind it are embarrassed with what they are making, and don't have any real conviction towards the film.

Finally, the whole thing feels like it's too little, too late. If this had been written by someone else and done back when Fulci was still hot, it could have been a more effective movie. However, the end result feels a lot like other Italian horror movies that started to pop up at this time-indifferent, lazy and not worth watching unless you are a bad movie fanatic.

Hey, that's not my leftovers!

Maybe in some alternate universe, "Zombi 3" is actually a better movie. In this universe though, it's a misfire that's best viewed as a morbid curio and little else.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012-The Rest

Just as it says-the rest. Disappointments, forgettable films, guilty pleasures and future bad movie classics.


Absentia-A lot of people went nuts for this supernatural tale, but I found it to be a letdown. Sure, the acting is solid, but I found it to be kinda dull and the ending to be something of a bad decision. Also, the repetitive score got on my nerves

Expendables 2-I will admit that I liked this a little more than the last one, but the constant switches from serious action movie to tongue-in-cheek action movie is annoying. Also, Chuck Norris jokes in 2012?

Most Forgettable

Underworld: Awakening-It's...yet another "Underworld" movie. Sure, there's some fun action scenes, and it does have the distinction of being the goriest of the films, but at the end of the day, it all feels about as formulaic as they come.

Inkubus-Produced by and starring Joey Fatone, this sucker has a great performance by Robert Englund and little else. The cheap, Youtube video level production doesn't help.

Night Wolf-Lionsgate strikes again by saying Tom Felton stars in this unremarkable and mostly bad werewolf film, when in fact he only has a small supporting role. I don't remember anything else about it.

Guiltiest Pleasures

Rise of the Animals-Low on cash and acting talent, this manages to be a marginally charming little film that's more fun than most SyFy channel movies.

Zombie A-Hole-By all accounts, I should hate this micro-budget exploitation homage from Dustin Mills (whose "Puppet Monster Massacre" kinda annoyed me), but this shockingly imaginative movie has tons of gore, nudity, a bit of humor and insane amounts of dedication and enthusiasm to make for a shockingly fun time that puts most micro-budget zombie movies to shame.

Resident Evil-Retribution-If you were to ask me what this movie is about, my answer would honestly be "I have no idea." All I know is that explosions happen, slow motion is abused, zombies and monsters run amok and the most basic tenants logic, characterization and plot are thrown out the window for sheer mindless spectacle. However, at the very least, this is never boring and actually kinda fun in a "high fat buttery popcorn" way.

Future Bad Movie Classic

Nazi's at the Center of the Earth-For years, the Asylum has made bad movies. Here though, they have gone completely out of their mind, at first being shockingly serious and sombre for a movie from this studio. Then Hitler's head comes alive and is attached to a robot, and it goes fucking insane. Bad, but must be seen to be believed.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Best Sleepers of 2012

2012 saw several great horror movies. However, some ended up falling under the radar, and will hopefully find themselves an audience. Sure, you saw "Cabin in the Woods", and you heard all about "Kill List" and V/H/S, so what else is there? Here are the best genre films you probably missed (and should see) in no particular order

Dredd-Dammit  America, this should have been a hit. Pretty much the "Judge Dredd" movie many wanted, this sucker has it all-great acting, top notch direction, graphic bloodshed, a throbbing electronic score and some wonderfully dark satire. The fact it was a box office bomb kinda pisses me off, since I want to see more of this world.

Killer Joe-A southern fried, blackly comic noir with horror undertones, this deserves all kinds of love. Featuring great performances (including the best performance of Matthew McConaughey's carrer), excellent direction from William Friedkin, the most inspired use of the Clarence Carter song "Strokin'" ever, and the most perverse use of KFC ever put to film (or probably done anywhere.) This is the year's best sleeper, and needs to be seen by more people.

Bedeviled-Yes, another Korean revenge film that has something to say about the nature of vengeance. However, this one manages to create a build up to the meltdown, thus creating an impending sense of dread instead of any sort of catharsis. Challenging stuff to watch (this sucker has some ugly subject matter even for this kind of movie), but worth it.

Father's Day-If you haven't seen what may very well be the best movie Troma has released in years, it's not your fault-the company and Astron 6 are in a bit of a legal tiff right now (Troma might have been giving away DVR copies), and the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack is in a limited edition. That out of the way, this is an hilarious homage/send-up of exploitation that is tasteless, gory and absolutely demented-as well as one of the funniest Neo-Grindhouse movies so far.

The Loved Ones-Just when it seemed that the torture genre was all out of life, along came this sucker to breathe some new life into it. Featuring solid direction, great performances (especially from Robin McLeavy as the sadistic Lola) and a strong streak of black humor, this proves that you can still manage to make a movie like this work if you have the right ingredients. I'll take this over the "Saw" sequels any day.

The Snowtown Murders-Yet another Aussie horror film ("Loved Ones" was from Australia too), this downbeat horror/drama is based on the true story of the most notorious serial murders in the countries history, and is a creepy and unsettling look at the allure of evil and the horrors of homophobia.

Juan of the Dead-Helping to prove that there's still life in the undead heart of zombie movies, "Juan of the Dead" is a funny and intelligent look at the life of an aimless man who suddenly feels purpose when the dead walk the Earth. Filled with engaging characters and refreshingly smart political subtext, "Juan" is worth a look.

The Aggression Scale-Steven C. Miller finally proves himself to be a director to watch out for in this unique twist on the home invasion movie that's both suspenseful and darkly funny. You know the story-family moves in to a house, criminals decide to take them hostage. However, it seems the youngest son has a few tricks up his sleeve.

The Theater Bizarre-While "V/H/S" got a lot of attention, I feel that this unique little anthology has gone largely unnoticed, which is a shame. Not every segment works (Tom Savini's is a bit of a disappointment), but most of it manages to capture various moods and horrors in a way that's haunting, disgusting and refreshingly original.

Rabies-You know that movie where a group of people are hunted by a killer in the woods? The Israeli film "Rabies" takes a new spin at this by making sure that it really could be anybody.

Exit Humanity-Yet another spin on the zombie movie, "Exit Humanity" mostly takes place after the civil war where a man must cope with reality and try to find a way to survive-and a bit of hope-in a zombie ridden landscape. A good example of indie horror done right, this minimalist film doesn't override it's budget, is well directed and serves as another rare zombie movie worth seeing in today's overstuffed market.

The Tall Man-No,Pascal Laugier did not make a movie that will effect the viewer the way "Martyrs" did. This however, is a better than expected tale of a woman who must find out what happened to her children-and if the urban legend of an entity known as "The Tall Man" is real. Relying more on suspense and build up than gore and torture, "The Tall Man" may not be perfect, but I do feel that it deserves to be seen.

Bait 3D-There is really nothing that is groundbreaking or original here. Hell, a lot of it plays like the kind of thing studios dump in theaters for no reason. However, this is an example of that kind of movie which actually manages to be an entertaining little popcorn movie that offers enough energy, personality and humor to keep you interested.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Snuff (1976)

Bait and switch. That's the game behind "Snuff", whose behind the scenes story is much more interesting than the actual movie. Originally a forgotten exploitation film directed by the guys who gave you "Shriek of the Mutilated", a producer decided to re release it (unbeknownst to the directors) with new footage that would be added at the end. The footage? An authentic snuff movie. By "authentic snuff movie", I mean something that's clearly fake. Nonetheless, controversy started, protests (some fabricated") burst, and the movie itself was released. The end result? Nothing good, though the tagline "The film that could only be made in South America-where life is CHEAP!" and the unapologetic score (which even rips off "Satisfaction") offer incidental pleasures.

The "plot", as it were, deals with a cult lead by a man who calls himself Satan (pronounced "Sah-Ten") who gets his biker members to do his evil bidding. After a whole lot of boredom and nothing happening (the re-editing job leaves a lot to be desired), the "director" yells "cut", then invites one of the actresses (who is clearly not the same actress that was in the film) on set. Cue torture and murder, then roll credits.

Everything about "Snuff" ranges from unremarkable to unintentionally hilarious. The footage from "The Slaughter" is mostly boring, and plays out like "I Drink Your Blood" minus that film's trashy charm. The "snuff" footage itself is not only unconvincing, but borders on unintentionally comical. The gore itself is unconvincing, the actress seems to be more annoyed than distressed, and the act of violence is as unrealistic as the violence perpetrated in the "Slaughter" footage. The whole movie is much adieu about nothing.

Unless you absolutely have to see every notorious exploitation movie, "Snuff" is nothing worthy of note. It's a cheap, uninteresting exploitation film that gives cheap exploitation movies a bad name. Still, great tagline.

Rating: 1/10

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Worst of 2012

Every year, we get plenty of awful movies. It takes a special type however, to make the worst list. Here they are

The Devil Inside-It takes a distinct dishonor to be not only the worst of the year, but the  worst found footage movie I've ever seen. This tale of demonic possession not only has the two dumbest priests in the history of cinema (they don't want to be caught, yet they let themselves get filmed and demand the camera never go off) but one of the worst endings I have ever seen in my life. After seeing this, I almost want to forgive M. Night Shyamalan-almost.

Knock Knock 2-Just...damn. After whatever success the previous movie had, Lionsgate thought it would be fine to release a completely unrelated movie as a sequel. If you've seen "Dark Harvest 2: The Maize" (also an unrelated movie released as a sequel), you know how this turns out.

ATM-The premise is ripe for suspense (a group of people trapped in a closed space while a killer is outside) is ruined by horrible direction and decisions so stupid they somehow set white people back further. Add the fact that this was from the writer of the all around great "Buried" makes it all inexcusable.

The Apparition-I almost didn't want to include this, as it made me laugh (though all of those laughs are unintended) a lot. However, this would be ghost tale is let down by a brain dead script, lifeless performances, a complete lack of interest in the subject matter and an all too sudden and all around pathetic conclusion.

Piranha 3DD-A how to in making a terrible sequel, John Gulgar's "Piranha 3DD" (ha ha) has plenty of sleaze and gore like the prior film, but it lacks the spirit of that one. Here, it just feels ugly, insultingly stupid and nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is.

Strippers vs. Werewolves-Ya know, sometimes you need to come up with more than a cleaver title to make a fun movie. By that I mean all the time. Actually think things out.

Detention-A headache of a horror movie. "Detention" constantly barrages the audience with random nonsensical pacing, ADD styled plotting and pacing, incessant pop culture riffing and Dane Cook as a high school principal.

The Raven-So, how do you make a movie with John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe bad? By giving it a convoluted plot, poor direction and even a horrible performance from Cusack himself.

The Wicker Tree-Also the most disappointing movie of the year, "The Wicker Tree" is a sequel to the best horror film of all time-and lacks all the vision, humor and bleak atmosphere of the original. I know, I shouldn't compare it to the prior film, but when it all feels like it's being made by a first time director on autopilot (and it's actually by the director of the original), that's unforgivable.

Dark Tide-Barely released theatrically, this shark horror film starring Haley Barrey is a lot of things-boring, poorly written, poorly acted and poorly directed. If anything, it's a great example of how to waste a good cast on pure bullshit.

The Divide-Xavier Gans returns behind the camera in this post apocalyptic tale about the dark side of human nature. That would be great if it wasn't so in your face with it's message, which feels as subtle as a sledgehammer and as entertaining as a hangover.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance-I know that Ghost Rider isn't the most respected comic book creation, but I like him. Then again, I think the premise of the character is pretty great on a B-Movie level-which is something this sequel (and the prior film) can't figure out. It's got a decent first act, but the second and third ones are painfully boring, as if directors Nevaldine and Taylor can't do something out of their usual "let's throw a bunch of crazy shit onto the screen" mode.

I will say this much-at least there weren't any remakes on the list.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)

From what I gather, Theodore Gershuny's "Silent Night, Deadly Night" is the first Christmas themed horror film. A public domain favorite, it's not mostly forgotten (it has something of a following and is being remade), and I figured "well, I'm reviewing three Christmas themed horror films, so I guess this would be a good final pick."

"He went to 'Jared"!
Jeffrey Butler (James Patterson) has inherited a mansion with a bit of a dark past. You see, years earlier the place was a home for the criminally insane, and his Grandfather Wilford set himself ablaze on Christmas Eve. The townspeople are all acting pretty hostile towards the whole situation, wanting the place to be demolished. To make matters worse, a serial killer has escaped and begins to go on a spree that doesn't involve shopping on Christmas Eve. So, why is this all happening, and what connection does Jeffrey's family have with it?
It's be lying if I said this is a perfect film. It wastes John Carradine in a rather thankless role as a mute newspaper editor, and at times the direction feels a bit off. Also, not the movie's fault, but time has not been kind to this sucker picture wise. The image is so faded at times that it becomes difficult to tell when it's night or day, and the sound is more than a bit muffled.

Thankfully, it hits more than it misses, especially in the atmosphere department. This is actually a pretty creepy little movie that makes good use of flashback sequences (which use Mary Warnov and fellow Warhol factory regulars Ondine, Tally Brown, Lewis Love and Candy Darling) to create a mood of unease, as well as some genuinely haunting visuals (the best being a group of inmates escaping and slowly walking around as if they were zombies) and an effectively unsettling but simplistic score to boot. It also moves at a pretty reasonable pace and thankfully doesn't offer too much fat in the story, keeping things simple and effective. Oh, and if your wondering if there's any blood, you might be satisfied. It's not what you'd call a splatter film, as it relies more on ambiance than it does gore, but you do get a few choice kills with the highlight being a shockingly nasty ax murder.

I don't know if I can call this a lost classic, but it is a nice little piece of atmospheric, low-budget horror from the 70's that somehow managed to cast a spell on me. Sometimes, that's all I want.

Rating: 7/10

Interesting bit of trivia: Lloyd Kaufman was one of the producers for this movie. Also, Miss. Warnov was married to the director at the time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Don't Open Till Christmas (1984)

I can totally see why Christmas is such welcome fodder for horror films. The stress really gets to you. The commercialization is headache inducing, the music-I could go on and on really. Then there's just the thrill some seem to get in fucking around with all that Christmas cheer. I'm sure that's what the Dick Randall produced "Don't Open Till Christmas" was hoping for, even though the end result is pretty bad and not as fun as it should be, especially considering how gleefully sleazy it all is.

The mask looks more like the face of a man whose about to be caught masturbating than it does that of a serial killer.

"Don't Open" deals with a fate worse than being a mall Santa-being a guy dressed as Santa while someone is killing all the other Santa's. You just know your next. Inspector Ian Harris (Edmund Purmond, who also directed) is on the case, but like most, the case isn't going to have a pretty ending. The fact that his only help is a scuzzy tabloid reporter (Alan Lake) isn't making it any easier.

If it sounds like I'm being a bit too vague when it comes to the plot, that's because there's little to actually write about. The whole thing is paced terribly, with only the murder scenes having any sort of interest. They are pretty bloody and nasty, with the worst being a castration that takes place while the victim is taking a leak. Then there's Caroline Munro, who shows up to sing a pretty bad dance pop song, only for that to end with someone dressed as Santa getting offed.

Caroline Munro, probably thinking of better times.

Everything outside of this is pretty forgettable. The direction is pretty bad, the majority of the performances are weak at best, and the whole thing feels like a jumbled mess. The killer's motive often feels wishy-washy, a lot of characters show up for no apparent reason, and people sometimes don't seem to be too upset that people are dying. Granted, a lot of this is probably due to the troubled production history of the film, with Purmond being fired as director, and replacement director (and writer) Derek Ford also getting fired. Indeed, nobody knows who directed the final product, but I don't envy them due to the constant delays and re-writes the thing went through. It's amazing the thing got finished or released at all. 

Apart from those who love to watch cinematic train wrecks and the most devoted trash fans, I can't see many getting a kick out of this. The whole thing is confusing, and feels more like a series of scenes thrown together than it does an actual movie.

Rating: 2.5/10

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Silent Night (2012)

Confession time: I'm not what you would call a big fan of the movie "Silent Night, Deadly Night." Apart from it's "Killer dressed as Santa" gimmick, the controversy it gained, and a memorable kill involving antlers, I've always found it to be a somewhat forgettable 80's slasher. So, when it was announced that Steven C. Miller was going to direct a remake, I wasn't exactly upset. In fact, after the surprise home run that was "The Aggression Scale", I started to show interest in it. The end result is...actually not that bad, though I couldn't help but feel that it could have been better.

This Santa will "sleigh" ya! Get it? Yeah, I hate myself after that one too.

"Silent Night" opens with the killer putting on his Santa costume, making a mask, and getting right to work. By that, I mean killing a guy via electrocution. Cut Aubrey Bradimore, who is getting ready for her new job in the police force. Joined by the perpetually bored Brenda (Ellen Wong, who you may remember as Knives Chou in "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World"), the obnoxious Deputy Jordan (Brendan Fehr) and Sheriff Cooper (Malcolm McDowell), she soon finds herself hot on the trail of the killer Santa, who seems to have a pattern that goes beyond people being naughty or nice.

When you get down to it, this is really a remake in name only. Instead of focusing on a man's downward spiral, what we get instead is a pretty straightforward slasher movie. On the plus side, the cast is pretty game throughout. McDowell chews scenery (well, yeah) and is clearly having fun, while King makes for a sympathetic protagonist. Donal Logue however, ends up stealing the show as a foul mouthed, total asshole who just happens to be a town Santa. Speaking of which, the movie is actually pretty funny at times, which helps quite a bit. Much of this has to do with the colorful supporting cast, and the movie is smart enough not to make the killer an anti-hero while also making most of his victims unsympathetic. Oh, and if you want good kills, this sucker has tons of them. Heads a split open, people are torched alive, fed to mulch machines and so much more. 

At the same time, this is still a flawed movie. For one thing, I found the random shout outs to the other films to be a bit awkward. Normally I don't mind this, but scenes such as a recreation of Linnea Quigly's death in the original actually fall flat, and almost left me wanting to see the original again to compare the two. It also occasionally falls victim to a lot of modern editing techniques as well. Fortunately, this doesn't happen often, but the occasional quick cut and shaky cam sequences that pop up kinda hurt the momentum a but. Finally, the reveal of the killer at the end is kind of lame. You can't help but wonder if writer Jayson Rothwell had no idea how to end it, and just pulled something randomly out of his hat.

As a whole, I can say I liked "Silent Night" more than I thought I would. I'm sure fans of the original, and slasher fans in general will probably get a kick out of it, even though I don't think it will end up in the cavalcade of classic Holiday themed horror films.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, December 3, 2012

Simply Having a Bloody Christmastime!

It's December, and that means it's time for awful commercials, eggnog, having to hear "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime" and "Christmas Shoes", and of coarse, Christmas themed horror movies. This time around, I've decided to dedicate my time to reviewing three of those movies
  • "Silent Night" on Tuesday
  • "Don't Open Til Christmas" on Wednesday
  • "Silent Night, Bloody Night" on Thursday
Hope you like all of this. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pieces (1982)

"Pieces" is an interesting movie to talk about. When you get down to it, it's not a very good movie. The characters are poorly written, some scenes are awkwardly staged, the direction is occasionally suspect and the movie is unintentionally laughable at times. At the same time, I love it's rancid, illogical heart. It's also undeniably fun, stupid to the point of being almost charming, is shockingly inspired and loaded with every fans of scuzzy exploitation want. Plus, it proves the taglines to be right: "It's exactly what you think it is!" and "You don't need to go to Texas for a Chainsaw Massacre!"

"Son, are you making a puzzle of a naked woman?"
"Okay dear!"

"Pieces" is the heartwarming tale of a mother who finds her son making a puzzle of a naked woman, and the son who just felt that he had to kill her with an ax and hack her up with a hacksaw. Years later, these events have lead him to go on a killing spree which involves campus women, a large knife and most notably a chainsaw. Not only that, but a chainsaw that he can hide behind his back and not have the victim notice it. As the bodies pile on and the police investigate, it seems that anyone could be the killer. So, who is it? The Dean (Edmund Purdon)? Lt. Bracken (Christopher George)? Campus kid Kendall (Ian Sera)? Or could it be campus hedge trimmer Willard (Paul Smith, who is best known for playing Bluto in Robert Altman's "Popeye")?

"Dude, like...why are ya lookin' at me like that?!"

In spite of it's many flaws, "Pieces" actually has some things going for it. For one thing, the mystery aspect is handled pretty well, as is the slasher element. Part of what makes this so fascinating is that it also serves as something of a giallo film. The killer has all the hallmarks of the kind of killer these movies offered back in the day-the black gloves and trench coat, the identity clouded by shadows, and even a stabbing on a waterbed that recalls that genre at it's most violent. Speaking of which, fans of gore and sleaze are going to have a field day with this. The splatter is nasty and unflinching, and also uses actual pig's blood instead of the usual kayro syrup. Also look for tons of female nudity, as well as some brief male frontal if you are in to that sort of thing.

Then there's the complete randomness of the whole experience. Events sometimes occur without explanation or sense. For example
  • A woman on roller sketes running into a mirror
  • A woman who is decapitated in the park in broad daylight
  • Mary Riggs (played by Christopher George's wife Linda Day) running into a karate professor who attacks her, falls to the ground, gets up and says "Must have been something I ate! Bad chop suey!" To be fair, moments like that do show that the people behind the movie probably didn't take this too seriously.
  • This

The fact that it's so of it's time helps too. If someone tried to do something like this today (I'm looking at you, "Porkchop"), it wouldn't be as enjoyable as it is. This sucker is a nice little time capsule of the kind of thing that was shown in Grindhouse and Drive-In theaters back in the day, and the kind of sleaze that once filled video rental shelves. You can't really recreate that.

At the end of the day, those who don't like unintentional comedy and buckets of filth and sleaze will probably avoid this. Everyone else: You'll probably find a place in your heart for it like I do.

Rating: 8/10

This film was co-written and produced by Dick Randall, who produced a ton of exploitation movies from 1961-1991. His other credits include "The Girl in Room 2A", "Black Deep Throat", "Master With Cracked Fingers", "Escape From Women's Prison", "French Sex Murders", "Slaughter High" and "Don't Open Till Christmas"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ritual (2002)

The story behind "Ritual" is in some ways more interesting than the movie itself. It originated as a remake of one of my favorite zombie movies, "I Walked with a Zombie." However, the "Tales From the Crypt" content was added later, which is kind of weird to me. I mean, at that point whatever pop culture influence the TV series had was pretty much gone, and the prior film "Bordello of Blood" was something of a bomb. Anyways, it sat on the shelf for a while until Dimension purchased it, removed the Crypt Keeper, and pretty much made it a straight to video remake of "I Walked with a Zombie" with a different title. It received little to any fanfare, though it can now be bought on DVD and Blu-Ray for cheep thanks to Echo Bridge (who purchased a lot of the more forgotten Dimension titles) or on Netflix instant.

Opening with a burning room murder that's much better than the one in "Ghost in the Machine", "Ritual" then takes us to the U.S., where doctor Alice Dodgson (Jennifer Grey) had her license suspended after a patient dies. Luckily for her, she soon finds work at the Caribbeans in Wesley Clayborne (Daniel Lapaine), who has cephallitis. That's not his only problem though. Wesley believes that he's been cursed by a voodoo ritual, and that at night, he becomes a zombie. As she digs more into finding out why Wesley is cursed and who is responsible, she soon finds that the conspiracy goes beyond him, as murder and more strange events begin to take place.

Before I to the review, I just want to say that Kristen Wilson plays an island girl named Caro Lamb. I mention this because holy smokes, she is absolutely gorgeous. I mean seriously, her character drips pure sex appeal, and is one of the sexiest women I've seen in a genre movie in ages.

Good lord.

Anyways, "Ritual" is an okay but not exactly spectacular film. It has plenty of atmosphere, most of the performances are good (Wilson steals the show), the gore is used sparingly and effectively, there's a few nice nods to the original (though a cover of "Oh Misery" kinda sucks), and for the large part, the mystery surrounding the film is rarely boring. Unfortunately, the script just isn't up to par. There's humor (mostly from Tim Curry as a permanently horny doctor), but most of the movie takes itself far too seriously. There's little actual energy in the writing, not to mention that the movie itself is a bit too long for it's own good.

"Hello? I seem to have ended up in the 80's."

Then there's some seriously wasted opportunities. One of the biggest is how the film uses Curry. The man's a well respected character actor, but it hardly does anything with him. He's there for a few scenes, and that's it. Then there's the other subplots, such as Wesley's older brother Paul ("Nightbreed" actor Craig Sheffer), which ultimately don't go anywhere interesting. In fact, the big twist nearing the end isn't all that surprising at all. In the end, this is a wasted opportunity. Sure, it's perfectly watchable and wouldn't make a bad Saturday afternoon viewing, but it's also kinda forgettable. It doesn't really feel all that necessary, and feels more like a mix of a mid 90's horror film and a direct to video sequel to Wes Craven's "The Serpent and the Rainbow" (which I love) than it does a remake of of the most important zombie films ever made.

Rating: 5/10

Classic Poster Art: Twins of Evil (1971)