Sunday, May 26, 2013

The ABC's of Death (2012)

I believe I've said this before, but death is the main character in all horror movies. Even more so than gore, atmosphere and suspense. It's the main unifying thing. So, an anthology film centered around it seems like a great idea-especially when you have a different director behind each segment. The end result is "The ABC's of Death", in which we see a death for each part of the alphabet. The result-well, sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.

The best ones to be honest, are usually the more tongue-in-cheek and blackly comic variety. "A is for Apocalypse" (from Nacho Vigolondo) largely centers around a man who won't die no matter how much someone tries, and "B is for Bigfoot" is an amusing twist on old urban legends. "H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion" is pretty hilarious to be honest, and has a neat twist by throwing in anthropomorphic animals and humor that's over the top but not to the point of being annoying. "Q is for Quack" is my favorite segment, and comes from Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett (who gave you "A Horrible Way to Die" and "You're Next") and goes the meta route for it. That being said, not all the attempts at humorous entries work. "E is For Exterminate" (which comes from Angela Bettis) feels like a joke that doesn't know when to end, "F is for Fart" (from Noboru Iguchi) is just gross, and "W is for WTF" is just that.

As for the more serious entries-"D is for Dogfight" is a rather ingenious twist that's actually pretty well directed, "P is for Pressure" (from Simon Rumley) and "X is for XXL" (by Xavier Gans) are actually pretty intelligent as far as social commentary is concerned, and "U is for Unearther" (by Ben Whetley) is an inventive take on the first person POV movie. Unfortunately, "L is for Libido" is a grotesque mix of masturbation and gore that feels more nauseating than it does interesting (it's my least favorite one by far), and "Y is for Youngbuck" (by "Hobo with a Shotgun" director Jason Eisner) just left a bad taste in my mouth with it's content. "R is for Removed" (which is from "A Serbian Film" director Srdjan Spasojevic) has a neat premise, but is hurt by trying to be too weird for it's own good. Finally, there's "Z is for Zetsumetsu (Extinction)" from Yoshihiro Nishimura is a look at human atrocities throughout history done-well, made in the same way all of Nishimura's movies are made. The mix of over the top images and social commentary really doesn't gel, and simply suggests that this style of weird Japanese horror needs to end.

As a whole, I'd say that this works about 45% of the time. As a whole though, I couldn't help but feel like this was a great idea on paper that should have been much better than it actually is. You can't fault it for ambition, but that doesn't always mean it's going to work out.

Rating: 4.5/10

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Thursday, May 9, 2013

RIP Ray Harryhausen

This guy was one of my heroes when I was a kid.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Spiders (2013)

Tibor Takács is a name that's not particularly well known in horror. Granted, he did direct the 80's cult favorite "The Gate" and the underrated "I, Madman", but his other credits ("Mansquito", "The Gate 2" and many TV movies and episodes) don't exactly scream "master of horror." His latest is "Spiders", and watching it, I couldn't help but thing "It resembles a SyFy Channel movie with better production values that somehow got a tiny theatrical release." That and the fact it stars Patrick Muldoon, who was in Tibor's other giant spider movie "Ice Spiders."

A Soviet Union space station crashes into a subway in New York. To make things worse, the thing was also carrying a strain of deadly, continuously mutating spiders that begin to breed like rats and grow into enormous size. In the process, Jason (Muldoon) and his soon to be ex-wife Rachel (Charisma Carpenter) need to find their daughter, who is lost in the city. Plus, it seems that Col. Jenkins (William Hope) and Dr. Darnoff (Pete-Lee Wilson) aren't exactly up to good things.

As I mentioned, "Spiders" feels like a SyFy Channel movie with better production values. The effects, whilst not excellent, at least look better than the usual monsters from those movies, and once the queen comes into play, it actually gets kinda fun. Plus, there's some minor gore, and Muldoon and Carpenter are likeable enough in their roles.

Unfortunately, there's little else that really stands out. The rest of the cast is ho-hum at best, with Hope pretty much playing the same character he did in "Aliens" and Wilson is just another crazy scientist type who also doubles as a poor man's Udo Kier. The direction-well, it's not bad, but Tibor doesn't really do anything you haven't seen before all that well. It all just feels static. The biggest flaw though, it that the film takes itself too seriously. To make a movie like this-especially one with a PG-13 rating, you need to add something resembling wit and a tongue in cheek playfulness to the proceedings, as something like "Eight Legged Freaks" can attest. There's not a whole lot of that here, and it makes the whole movie feel nondescript instead of fun in a guilty pleasure manner.

At the end of the day, I can tell you that I didn't hate this, but that's because there's little here that's actually worthy of hatred. It's all just sort of there, without anything that's worthy of mention or enthusiasm. In short: "meh."

Rating: 4.5/10

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Stitches (2012)

I know, I know, I've been gone for a while now. I wish I could explain why and whatnot, but long story short is I've been busy. With that out of the way, here's my first review in nearly a month, and it deals with the clown themed supernatural slasher "Stitches."

Stitches (Russ Noble) is a clown that works birthday parties and isn't exactly popular with the kids. At one party, he's accidentally killed in a freak incident-something that has haunted then birthday boy Tom (played as a teen by Tommy Knight) ever since. Years later, Tommy is throwing another party-one that has all the kids who were there the night Stitches was accidentally offed. For Stiches, this is great, as he's been brought back to life by a ritual from a clown cult, and he has revenge on his mind.

In a lot of ways, "Stitches" is something of a throwback to the days of the 80's slasher movie, right down to it's cliched characters (the fat kid-whose also the token gay guy, the horndog, the asshole and his bitch girlfriend) and party in a house setting. Thankfully, it manages to work better than other like minded slasher throwbacks thanks to some strong acting, better than usual directing, creative kills and warped sense of humor. The kills are all clown and circus based, and while not all of them work, the best ones (especially an umbrella themed murder and a head kicked off like a football) managed to genuinely make me laugh. Speaking of which, the jokes don't always hit (the lamest being a few bad one liners and a teacher with the worst comb over ever), the ones that did actually got me the laugh (especially a bit involving Stitches trying to ride a tricycle up a hill) really helped.

I also like how director Conor McMahon isn't trying to make the newest iconic slasher villain. So many slashers post "Hatchet" want the villains to have loaded back stories and iconic moments so much that they forget what makes these movies work. Little of that is here. The movie just says "Here's a clown, he was wronged (though to be honest, he was kind of an asshole when he was alive) and he's back for revenge." So many modern slashers could benefit by keeping it simple but not too simple, and this one thankfully does just that.

There's little about "Stitches" that screams classic to me, as it's flaws (such as the rather convoluted explanation for how the killer came back from dead) are pretty glaring. Still, it's a better than usual modern slasher that manages to get away with some funny moments and some awesome kills and gore as well. Sometimes, it's the little things that count.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Dawn of the Mummy (1981)

How much do you love Italian zombie movies? I mean really, how much? If you say "equivocally", then something like "Dawn of the Mummy" may change your mind. Granted, the final 15 minutes are a lot of fun, but the rest of it is a chore to get through.

The plot is really not anything worth getting into. Basically, a group of fashion models and their crew disturb the tomb of a mummy, reviving an ancient curse and the mummy himself. However, he isn't alone this time around, as he had an army of undead slaves (well, what usually looks like five or six zombies at least) that crave human flesh.

As I said, the final 15 minutes of this movie are pretty fun, as you get all the gut munching and mayhem you'd want from a zombie movie called "Dawn of the Mummy." Plus, I liked the scenes of the dead rising from their graves, which possess an eerie ambiance to them. Unfortunately, you don't get much else. For a movie that involves supermodels, there isn't that much in the skin department. Much of the time, the film feels to chaste, even not bothering to show anything when they go skinny dipping. Movies like this usually require at least some bare female flesh in order to get along. This movie seems afraid to do anything in that department.

It also doesn't help that so much of the film is done with the pacing of a slug on flypaper. Much of the film seems to be made up of endless scenes of chatter that don't go anywhere, with models and the crew talking about nothing in particular. That out of the way, it does offer the occasional  unintentional chuckle along the way, the highpoint being a model that stumbles upon a headless corpse, and the rather blase reaction from everyone around her as she freaks out. If it weren't for the abundance of gore near the end, this would be great MST3K material.

Unless you are the kind of guy who is has to see every Italian zombie movie, there isn't any reason to own "Dawn of the Mummy." I'd make a "Yawn of the Mummy" pun, but I'd like to think that even I am above that.

Rating: 3.5/10

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Curandero (2005)

I tend to like Robert Rodriguez more than not. That being said, when it was announced not too long ago that a movie he wrote called "Curandero: Dawn of the Demon" was going straight to video, I was surprised it didn't even get a small theatrical release. As it turns out, it was made in 2005 and was produced by the Weinstein brothers, but they forgot about it for some reason and after they ran into financial troubles it sat on the shelf unnoticed. That is, until now, as Lionsgate has picked it up.

 

Carlos (Carlos Gallardo) is the son of a spiritual healer who passed away, and after his dad died his faith did too. When he meets investigator Magdalena (Gizeht Galatea), who is investigating a series of murders that seem to be connected to a Satanic cult/drug cartel, he begins seeing visions of demonic entities and gory murders. As it turns out, he is a "Curandero", or somebody who can see demons and cleanse souls, and  in the process it seems that Magdalena is unwillingly a part of this.

On paper, "Curandero" should work better than it does. The acting is pretty strong, the gore is pretty impressive and mostly lite on CG, and the characters are mostly interesting. However, where it falters is the direction and editing department. Director Eduardo Rodriguez (which as far as I can tell is not related to Robert) loves himself some quick cuts, as the film uses way too much hyper editing for Carlos' visions than it probably needs. The whole thing is filmed in a rather ugly manner as well. It all looks pretty washed out and ugly, with bland colors and a weak photo contrast that looks hideous. Also, the reason for the demonic outbreak can be seen the moment Carlos starts seeing images. The fact that there isn't any real ambiguity to the story hurts the film, as it doesn't offer a whole lot as far as surprises.


As a whole, i can definitely recommend "Curandero as a rental, but I can't see any reason for own it. It's not the worst thing Rodriguez is responsible for, but I still can't help but feel a little disappointed with the end result.

Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lucker the Necrophagous (1986)

Horror movies love to see how far they can go. The existence of "Blood Feast", "Cannibal Holocaust" and more recently "A Serbian Film" and the "Human Centipede" movies are living proof of this. That being said, that doesn't mean that this is a good thing. Sometimes, when you look past the desire to shock, you realize that there isn't anything actually there. It's nasty and gross, but it's also ultimately a bad movie. That's what "Lucker the Necrophagous" is, though it does sport a pretty cool title.

John Lucker (Nick Van Suyt) is a serial killer who awakes from a coma and escapes the mental hospital he's been in. 1.) How a man who has just woken up from a coma is physically capable of escaping is never explained, and 2.) I'd hate to work at a mental hospital in a horror movie, as everyone in these things is usually incompetent. Anyways, he goes on his usual spree of killing women because men are off limits in movies like this for some reason, and he also has a score to settle with the one woman who got away (Helga Vandevelde.)

"Lucker the Necrophagist" was released on video in the U.S. in a time in which German filmmakers started to make movies that pushed the boundaries of gore and sex (movies like "Nekromantik") as well as a time in which home video was making the old Grindhouse theaters and the like obsolete. You could probably find this at your local video rental (the thing went out of print pretty fast once the label went out of business), and it most likely grossed you out. On that front, it's successful-the gore is pretty remarkable for something clearly made on a nothing budget, and the thing is absolutely revolting, highlighted by Lucker having sex with a decaying, maggot ridden corpse.

Outside of the gross out factor? This has nothing. The direction is pretty amateurish, the killer at times can be more annoying than he is scary (I dare you not to hit fast forward during one of the many times in which he mumbles to himself), the score is your typical "tinny sounding electronic score" you found in awful low budget horror films of the time-I could go on and on, but it's pretty awful. Granted, other genre films of the period (and before) had shock value as their main objective. However, they could at the same time be entertaining in a trashy way ("Burial Ground") or had some actual atmosphere and scares to go along with it ("City of the Living Dead.") This has nothing going for it. It's more boring than it is disturbing.

Unless you are the kind of person who wants to see every "shocking" movie, there isn't a single reason to watch this. Just read a book or watch something else instead.

Rating: 1/10

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Storage 24 (2012)

I'm just going to skip the usual opening paragraph to get on with the story, since there really isn't a whole lot to say this time around. So: In London, a military plane crashes, leaving behind...something. Said something is an alien being, which ends up in a local storage facility. There, a group of people who work there, not knowing that the city is in lock down, may become it's prey.

That's all there is really. "Storage 24" does very little that's actually new or particularly interesting. Actually, it does have a few things going to it. On in particular is the monster, which is actually pretty awesome. Unlike say, recent movies like "Creature" and "Hypothermia", the people behind it know that a movie like this needs a cool looking beast, and that's what you get. It also gets away with a few moments of solid gore, one of my favorite cliches (the asshole that gets theirs) and a few genuinely funny moments.

In spite of all of this, it doesn't do enough to stand out. The characters themselves-well, the actors playing them aren't bad, but there's nothing about them that's likable or interesting. Just throwing in "Hey, Charlie (Noel Clarke) finds out his girlfriend (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) is cheating on him!" isn't enough to make you care about them. The whole thing as a whole doesn't feel all that fun. It mostly feels more like a SyFy channel movie that just happened to get a small theatrical release and a offers a little more gore than it does anything special. The flat direction and cinematography doesn't help, and the story and tone is muddled-at one moment it's a horror movie with character drama, and the next it's a tongue in cheek creature feature. The end result is probably worth a Netflix streaming on a boring day, but that's about it.

Rating: 4/10 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Prision (1988)

The prison system in itself is a horror. Much has been made about how it's either a form of modern day slavery, or as "Oz" and many films and documentaries show, a place where as they say, "you gonna get raped!" Or, a place of gratuitous female nudity, shower scenes, brutality and requisite lesbian sex scenes happen at the drop of a dime. It all depends on what you watch. You aren't going to find that in 1988's "Prison", which is both the directorial debut of future Hollywood Blockbuster kind Renny Harlin and one of the last films to come from Charles Band's company Empire Picture before they folded and he began anew with Full Moon.

 

Charles Forsythe was sent to the electric chair for a crime he didn't commit. Years later, said prison has been reopened by warden Eaton Sharpe (Lane Smith), a former security guard. Of course, the ghost of Charles Forsythe isn't going to take this, as it soon begins to haunt the prison. As things continue to escalate, Eaton begins to slowly unravel, and in particular starts to target new inmate Burke (Viggo Mortensen), who may not be all that he seems.

I'd be lying if I said "Prison" is a flawless movie. There are moments in which the plot holes start to really show (how is it that so many people refuse to believe this place is haunted whilst it's obvious that it is?) and there's a twist nearing the end that to be honest, is kind of lame. Still, this is a solid little movie that haunted house thrills with slasher movie undertones (Indeed, the supernatural horror film meets slasher feeling of the movie is somewhat reminiscent of the future "Final Destination" films) to a great effect. The kills are often pretty creative and bloody, and the make up effects accompanying them are solid throughout. It also helps that it's well directed (in fact, this might be the best directed movie Harlin has made), with effective cinematography to boot.

Acting wise, this is solid stuff. Mortensen does his best James Dean impression but still manages to stand out on his own, and the cast of great character actors (Smith, Tom Everett and Tom Lister for example) add to the level of fun within the proceedings. The score by Richard Band also stands out. It's an orchestral score done with synthesizers, but it perfectly captures the mood of the film. Finally, there's the prison in itself. Like the original "The Haunting" and "The House on Haunted Hill", it's essentially a character in itself, and the Gothic interiors creating a moody atmosphere to go with the occasional bloody kill it dishes out.


I can't really say that "Prison" is the lost classic that some say it is. It almost is, but doesn't reach that status. I can say that it is a nice little gem that manages to stick out in the world of 80's horror, and deserves the cult following it's received over. time Recommended.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hypothermia (2010)

I normally like the films of Glass Eye Pix. Like many indie film studios these days, they make horror movies. However, they are different than say, Troma and the like. Unlike those studios, Glass Eye actually respects it's viewers intelligence and doesn't feel the need to douse them with bad jokes and cheap gore. They actually expect something from you, as films like "Stake Land" and "The House of the Devil" have shown. However, that's not to say that they can't strike out from time to time, and unfortunately, the James Felix McKenney film "Hypothermia" wastes it's potential.

Ray (Michael Rooker) is a simple, good guy who just wants to go ice fishing with his wife Helen (Blanche Baker), his son David (Ben Forester) and Dave's girlfriend Gina (Amy Chang.) However, it's not gonna be that easy. At first it's because of two strangers-Cote (Don Wood) and his son Steve (Greg Finley)-are blaring their music and disrupting everyone's peace. That turns out to be the least of Ray's problems though, as an anthropomorphic water beast is living under the frozen water, and it's not taking kindly to those around him that are human.

On paper, "Hypothermia" should work. The cast (with the exception of Wood, who seems to be channeling both Jason Sudekis and Diedrich Bader) all does a good job, the cinematography is fine, and it's heart is clearly in the right place. However, the film is largely boring. It clearly wants to mix 50's-70's creature features with the usual Glass Eye Pix dynamic, but the two don't gel. That's largely because much of the movie isn't all that suspenseful-it's mostly just the usual "10 Little Indians" scenario that you've seen many times before, with little there to spice things up. It also feels too simplistic plot wise-we never know where this thing came from, what it wants or why it's there, and the fact that even the conclusion feels both too simplistic and like a huge cop-out is pretty annoying. Oh, and while I'm normally for goofy looking monsters, this is a movie that's largely character driven and wants to rely more on suspense than gore, but the fact that the monster looks like this


Is actually kind of a letdown. A movie like this needs a creepy looking monster, not something that looks like a castaway from a Bill Rebane film.

As a whole, "Hypothermia" is a bit of a letdown. It has all the elements for a good creature feature, but it doesn't know what to do with those elements.

Rating: 3.5/10

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Night of the Demons 2 (1994)

I didn't go to Catholic School of any sort as a kid. This is most likely because there wasn't one in the town I lived in, but I went to regular High School and College. This is also the closest I'll ever come to discussing religion on this blog by the way. That out of the way, if there's anything to take away from the Brian Trenchard Smith directed sequel to the cult favorite "Night of the Demons" (speaking of which, why did it take so long for a sequel to be made?), it's that Catholic Sororities are no different than any other sorority in a horror movie-meaning there's topless women, horny men who want to fuck them, and some sort of evil going on.


Most people have met someone like this

The film opens with two Jehovah's witness types trying to tell a woman about Jesus. This turns out to be


Because this woman is Angela (Amelia Kinkade, reprising her role) who then turns them into mincemeat. Anyways, we cut to a local Catholic school, where Sister Gloria (Jennifer Rhodes) rules with an iron ruler. The school dance is about to happen, but Shirley Finnerty (Zoe Trilling) and her pals are banned for flirting with boys. Instead, they decide that spending the night at Hull House seems like a great idea, which turns out to be...well, look at the picture above you. That's right, Angela's back, and after going to the party (which leads to the only time on film anyone will dance to Morbid Angel), she has her eyes set on the girls...including Mouse (Merle Kennedy) whose related to Angela.

Like the original, nobody is going to look at this as a cinematic achievement. The humor is hit and miss, and when the jokes bomb (including some groan inducing puns), they bomb really badly. It mostly just has boobs and gore on it's mind, and doesn't demand much from it's audience. In short, it's the definition of a dumb, beer and pizza horror movie. However, like the original, it's pretty fun-and is actually a better movie in some ways.

A part of this is thanks to director Brian Trenchard Smith, who I think at least, is a better director than  Kevin Tenney. Like Tenney, he knows not to take all of this seriously. Unlike Tenney, he actually understands the importance of things like character development and plot, and the script (by original "Demons" writer Joe Augustyn) is better written this time around. It also has better acting than the original. Okay, some of the performances are bad, but the ones that stand out (in particular Rhodes as the tough as nails but kind at heart Sister Rhodes, and future Mrs. Ben Stiller Christine Taylor) manage to work, as the actors actually make you care about their plight. Finally, while you aren't going to get anything nearly as outrageous as the "lipstick scene" from the first movie (if this does pale in comparison to the original, it's that it's a little bit tamer in the sex and gore department), the creature and make-up effects are actually a lot better, with various different designs and beasts on display for your viewing pleasure.


When I think hip shaking music, I think songs from Morbid Angel's album "Covenant."

Nothing about "Night of the Demons" really sticks out as a great horror movie. That's fine though, because it never sets out to be one. It's a undemanding party movie meant to be watched with friends, and it largely does a good job with it's (somewhat low) ambitions.

Rating: 7.5/10

Friday, March 8, 2013

Oasis of the Zombies (1981)

There comes a point in every horror fan's life when they find a director they not only don't like, but also thinks they are a largely talentless hack. For me, you can add Jess Franco in that list. After directing some shockingly good genre films in the 60's, he went on to make a series of trashy, erotic exploitation movies in the 70's that in spite of the presence of the gorgeous Lina Romay, managed to make female nudity boring. So, what happens when you take away the sleaze elements? You get the French-Spanish Euricine production "Oasis of the Zombies", which is one of the most boring zombie movies ever made and proof that Franco is nothing more than a Hack-Fraud-Con Man.


The film opens the way you'd expect a Franco movie to open-with two lesbians in short shorts holding hands. For the raincoat crown (and the usual Franco watchers), you'd think that things are about to get steamy. Nope, doesn't happen. Anyways, a group of people we don't care about go searching for a treasure that apparently belonged to the Nazis that just happens to be in an African desert. Unfortunately for them, the treasure is guarded by some undead zombies.

That's about it as far as plot is concerned. The rest of it is, as I said, boring. The movie lacks the sleaze Franco fans come to expect, with only a few instances of nudity that feel strangely chaste. The gore is unspectacular, and the zombie make-up is inconstant. The score in particular is grating, as it's all just the same piano and organ tune played in a constant loop. The direction is bad even for Franco standards-there are way too many shots of inanimate objects on other useless things that serve no purpose whatsoever.

Hey, you seen my other eye?

I don't want to waste anymore time, but yeah, this movie sucks. Even Franco fans will probably find this to be a waste of time, and are better off watching his 60's-70's material.

Rating: 0/10

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Dark (1979)

Sometimes, the story behind the making of a movie is more interesting than the movie itself. Take for instance the Film Venture Industries released, Dick Clark (yes, that Dick Clark) produced "The Dark" from 1979. The film itself was originally supposed to be directed by Tobe Hooper, but for some reason (probably a mix of scheduling conflicts and studio conflict) he didn't direct it. That job went to Joe "Bud" Cardos, a former stuntman who previously directed the all around fun nature-run-amok film "Kingdom of the Spiders", which starred William Shatner. Needless to say, "The Dark" is no "Kingdom of the Spiders."


The plot deals with a killer known as "The Mangler" that has been roaming the streets of San Fransisco. Leading the investigation is Detective Dave Mooney (Richard Jaeckel), though a former convict turned novelist (William Devane) is also on the case after his daughter is killed. Also on the case (Christ, this is like a shitty version of "Zodiac") is TV reporter Zoe Owens (Cathy Lee Crosby.) Anyways, the writer and the reporter team up and fall in love, and a lot of nothing happens. Also, that killer isn't human at all, but a zombie like extraterrestrial.

There's lots of potential for a fun little twist on the slasher movie, but this offers little of interest other than the occasional bloody murder sequence. The cast of character actors seem to be trying, but all either overact or under perform as if they don't want to be there. The direction by Cardos is bland, at times resembling a really boring television movie than it does a theatrical one, as everything about this feels like a job for hire (this wouldn't be his last either, as he'd go on to direct "Mutant" in 1984.) Even the monster itself is kind of lame, and feels more like an Al Adamson creation made on a larger budget (for some, that will sound a lot more fun than it actually is.)

What makes things even worse is the script by TV veteran Stanford Whitmore. It's clear that the movie wants to be character driven, but nothing about the characters or the seemingly endless series of conversations they have are interesting. It mostly feels like one boring monologue or plot contrivance (hey, it's a psychic!) after another with the occasional bit of head severing violence on display. It feels like something that was originally written as a TV movie of the week that was spiced up in the last minute.


If you ask me, the only audience that could possibly show interest in this would be cinematic masochists and MST3K fans looking for something to mock with friends on a Saturday night. There's nothing that really stands out as interesting, and it's more of a dull chore to sit through than it is the pulpy B-Movie it pretends to be.

Rating: 1.5/10

Friday, March 1, 2013

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Girls Against Boys (2012)

I find it a bit creepy to be on the internet sometimes. Part of the reason is the ugly undercurrent of misogyny that permeates so many comments sections and user reviews (you know who you are BTW.)They tend to rant about women who don't want to fuck them or how they believe feminists are ruining everything for men in America. I'm mostly going on and on, but what I'm getting at is that there's some awful human beings on the internet and around the world. So, I must admit that I went into "Girls Against Boys" with a level of interest, as it would be nice to see a horror film from a feminists perspective. What I got instead...was kind of a mess.

Shae (Danielle Panabaker) has undergone a traumatic experience in the form of being raped by a seemingly "nice" guy. To add insult to injury, the guy she's been seeing (Andrew Howard) is married and with kids, and seems to be more interested in nookie than helping her cope. The only person who seems to understand is Lu (Nicole LaLierte), her co-worker, who believes revenge is the only answer. Unfortunately, her idea of revenge involves murder, and when Shae actually does show interest in an actually nice guy, Lu becomes jealous.

I appreciate what director Austin Chick is aiming for here. One could say that there should be more horror films done from a feminist's perspective. While I must commend the performances (Panabaker in particular is good. Girl deserves to be a bigger star IMO), the end result is lacking. There's violence, but there isn't a whole lot of gore here, so fans of that will be disappointed. It also largely feels more like a generic indie movie than it does a horror movie. It clearly wants to be a respectable horror movie, but it doesn't understand how horror works.

Which leads me to my biggest complaint-for all it's good intentions, "Girls Against Boys" seems to lack the courage of it's convictions. It's attempts to comment on gender roles in society feel undercooked, and once the revenge aspect comes to play, it all feels like your basic revenge movie. It clearly wants to say something about these issues in society (and in horror in general), but instead of being a thoughtful commentary or a "Men, Women and Chainsaws" style examination, it all feels "Been here, done that." The fact that Lu ends up becoming obsessed with Shae also feels unnecessary. It's feels exploitative in a "Hey, lesbians!" way, but this is not a movie that needs that. In trying to play it both ways, the film muddles whatever message it intends to have.

If you want to have an intelligent, feminist take on the horror genre-the go watch "Audition", "The Descent" or "Ginger Snaps" instead. Those movies actually make you think about gender roles and equality in the genre. This is just pretending  to understand when it doesn't know shit.

Rating: 3/10

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Nesting (1981)

Porn directors have done horror before. It's no real secret. However, seeing "The Nesting" is interesting simply because it's director (Armand Weston) was primarily known for bondage themed porn, but his film goes all out to be a classy, Gothic affair more interested in creeping it's audience out than it is throwing in gore. Not that there isn't any gore-there's a few moments, including a seemingly Fulci inspired bit of ocular trauma-but this is largely a relatively restrained affair.


Agoraphobic mystery writer Lauren Cochran (Robin Groves) decided to write her latest work in an old Victorian house that what do ya know, looks kinda like the one in the story she's writing. Unbeknownst to her, said house was a brothel in the 40's that has a violent past, and the spirits of the dead are not going to rest for long.

Clearly inspired by the Haunted House movies of the time and the writings of Stephen King, "The Nesting" have a few good things going for it. As far as directing bouts of violence and creating an atmosphere of potent dread, Weston isn't too bad. He's not great, but the haunting specters and creepy goings on managed to keep me more interested than I should have been. Where he falters is directing actors and writing screenplays (he co-wrote it with "Dawn of the Mummy" writer Daria Price.) As our lead, Groves is pretty wooden, though her boyfriend Mark (Christopher Loomis) is extremely grating, and got on my nerves whenever he was on screen.

Meanwhile, the screenplay is littered with holes. Lauren only seems to be agoraphobic on occasion-in fact, she sometimes seems to be too calm for an agoraphobic woman in a haunted house. Then there's the ghosts themselves. Sure, they can be creepy, but the screenplay really fucks things up with them. That's because *spoiler* they often seem to be protecting her, but when Lauren finds out about their past, they want her dead. It makes no sense whatsoever, and just left me scratching my head.


It's a shame too, because I really wanted to like this more. It has all the potential for a creepy little tale of Supernatural occurrences, but the largely mediocre performances and weak script keep it from reaching that potential. Not a terrible movie, but nothing worth watching either.

Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Nest (1988)

I don't know about you, but cockroaches gross me the fuck out. They spread disease, eat almost anything, and they...well, look at them. Plus, they'll be around long after us. In spite of my aversion towards cockroaches, I have a soft spot for Terrence W. Winkless' 1988 nature-run-amok film "The Nest." This sucker was a rental favorite for me back in the day, was produced by Roger Corman and his wife Julie (in fact, this is one of the last truly good Corman productions IMO), and is now out on a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack thanks to the good folks at Shout Factory.

Oh crap, I didn't put it in all the way when I zipped up...

Something bad is happening in the town of North Port. Lately, it seems that the remains of animals and even people are showing up half eaten. Book bindings are loosing the glue that holds them together. Sheriff Richard Tarbell (Franc Luz) knows somethings up, as does Mayor Elias Johnson (Robert Lansing), who wants an investigation. What Dr. Morgan Hubbard (Terri Treas) discovers is that it's cockroaches left over from a prior experiment. Seems that they have acquired a taste for living flesh, are a lot harder to kill, and are genetically mutating into whatever living being they consume.

In some ways, there isn't a lot new here. The film, like almost every "nature's revenge" movie in the 70's-today, owes a massive debt to "Jaws" (with a pinch of Carpenter's "The Thing".) The characters are all stock (the corrupt mayor, the mad scientist, the mayor'sinnocent daughter (Lisa Langolos) and the comic relief) and the acting is largely mediocre (only Treas and Stephen Davies as an exterminator stand out.) Thankfully, it gets by for the large part.

Why? Well for starters, the direction by Winkless is actually pretty good, making great use of lighting and setting, and also getting by thanks to a witty script by Robert King.* The other thing that helps is the infectious sense of humor, which ranges from lighthearted (the highpoint being an roach attack on a local diner, with the waitress using it to dispatch them in a variety of ways) the the decidedly dark (a roach attack on a lady in a leg cast.) In short, you can tell that this is a movie that doesn't take itself too seriously. Oh, and fans of nasty creature effects and gore are going to love the third act, in which hideous, CGI free mutants and some gooey gore effects show up. Finally, there's the whole spirit of the thing, as it has so much of what makes Corman productions fun-a sense of pure energetic spirit and can-do attitude.

Hmmm, I recognize you...

Funny, unpretentious and filled with beasts, blood and B-movie energy-"The Nest" is the kind of thing that reminds you why so many love 80's horror. It's not a classic, but it's a lost gem that should please fans of these kinds of movies.

Rating: 7.5/10

*King was mostly known for a while as the writer of the notorious flop "Cutthroat Island." These days however, he's gotten the last laugh, as he went on the be the creator of the acclaimed CBS series "The Good Wife."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Alive or Dead (2008)

My relationship with the studio known as Lionsgate is not always a good one. Sure, they release some good stuff from time to time (Damn it , see "Dredd" if you haven't already), but I've had to sit through so many bad straight-to-video movies that they've picked up for distribution that I can't help but sometimes feel a little bitter. Granted, I am a sucker I guess-I don't have to watch movies like today's entry "Alive or Dead", but I have a job to do (by that, I mean a movie to review for a website), so he we go.

I don't know why, but this picture makes me think of the song "Dancing Queen"

The premise deals with Maria (Ann Henson), who finds a bus in the middle of nowhere that has the words "Help Me" written on the window. She stops to check this out, and as we all know, that's


as she finds a girl in the bus named Sarah (Angelica May) who seems to be held captive. A driver then enters the bus and, unbeknownst to him that there's another person there, drives off. The bus eventually stops at a remote area that seems to be populated by mutated cannibals that consume human flesh, and the two girls must now fight for there lives against the cannibals and a large, weapon wielding killer.

The biggest sin "Alive or Dead" commits is the fact that it does nothing interesting with it's initial premise. There's plenty of potential to create a suspenseful little indie horror movie out of the situation, but the film fucks it all up on several fronts. For one thing, the leads are dumb as a box of rocks. They have several situations in which they could actually do something, but the movie treats them like imbeciles that can't figure out the most basic feats of logic. It also doesn't help that the movie is boring as hell. Much of it seems to be made up of Maria and Sarah walking around, looking at there surroundings. I'm not kidding either, as it feels like there's more of that than there is any actual horror. There's little actual story here, and nothing about it is scary. It's just stupid.

"Ugh, that's one guy, one cup?"

Sure, it might look shockingly professional and polished considering it's $200,000 budget, and the make up effects looks fine, but that doesn't mean that this is a movie you should rush out to see. This is just another "Texas Chainsaw Massacre"/"Wrong Turn" style movie that does nothing interesting, and is ultimately a waste of time and energy, and was released by a studio that seems more interested in a quick buck than it is actually distribution something of quality.

Rating: 1/10

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Nothing But Trouble (1991)

I'm sure you are are aware of the podcast "How Did This Get Made?" It's a podcast in which a group of very funny people discuss and dissect some of the worst films ever made, and attempts to answer that question. If I were to add a movie to this list, it would be Dan Akroyd's directoria debut "Nothing But Trouble", which pretty much defines that question.

Financier Chris Thorne (Chevy Chase) meets up with a lawyer (Demi Moore), and the two decide to go on a business meeting. On the way, they stop by a town in the middle of jack squat, and are "arrested." However, things aren't what they seem, as they soon find themselves under the thumb of the despicable and ugly as sin Judge Alvin Valkenheiser (Akroyd), whose courthouse and prison are filled with oddities such as Dennis (John Candy) and his sister Eldona (Candy again), a hideous man/baby (Akroyd again), and various deadly traps.

There isn't a single damn thing about "Nothing But Trouble" that works. Everyone here is awful. Chase is at his smarmy worst, Akroyd is obnoxious as hell, Moore is a blank slate and Candy is basically told to be a grotesque buffoon. None of it is scary or funny. It lives in a paradoxical world in which it labors under the delusion that it's hilarious and that it's audience will be stupid enough to think it's funny. It's mostly just disgusting, with the Judge having a decrepit nose that looks like a penis and the sight of giant, filth ridden babies showing up for...well, because Akroyd thought it would be funny for some reason.

If anything, this is a movie that wants to be a grotesque blend of horror and comedy, and ends up being just plain grotesque. It's got plenty of gross out moments, but none of them are amusing. They are just gross. The other moments (the Judge dancing to Hip-Hop music, Chase being an insufferable little twerp, Eldona having a crush on Chase) are plain insufferable. Everything about it is a painful experience from someone who should have known better, but didn't.

Thankfully, audiences were mostly smart enough to avoid it (it cost $40 million and only made about $8 million total), and it was the first (and probably biggest) nail in the coffin for Akroyd's career in film, as it never recovered from it. I'm not going to say he deserved it-most don't deserve to have their careers ruined by a horrible flop, even if they were responsible for it-but that fact that it represents Hollywood indulgence at it's worst (and many reasons more) make me glad it did bomb.

Rating:


Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Asphyx (1973)

What's an Asphyx? Why, they are a Dutch Death Metal band who formed in 1987, and mixed the grinding sound of that genre with the slow, Sabbath like approach of Doom Metal. Okay, so other than that, what's an Asphyx? Why, it's an effective Gothic horror film from Peter Newbrook (in his only directorial effort-he was in charge of second unit photography for "Lawrence of Arabia") that's actually quite the underrated gem.

Hugo Cunningham (Robert Stephens) has a peculiar hobby-he likes to take photos of people and animals right before their death. Why? Because he keeps seeing a strange smudge like image in each picture and film. Now, with the help of his son Giles (Robert Powell), he is about to find out what it is-it's an Asphyx, a spirit of the dead mentioned in Greek mythology. As they continue to experiment, they discover that if you box an Asphyx up, that person/animal will gain immortality. This seems like a good idea at first, especially for Hugo, but as we know, immortality and playing God has it's price...

"The Asphyx" is really a triumph of mood, direction and set design (the sets have the kind of wonderful late 60's/70's look many try to replicate but can't), among other things. The whole thing is creepy as hell, with a story that feels like it could have come from H.P. Lovecraft. It helps that Newbrook has such a good eye for detail, as he perfectly captures a look into the world of a respected man going mad due to his research, and the effects it has on others. If you ask me, the movie actually offers some serious philosophical overtones, as it focuses on issues regarding life, death and man's ongoing battle with the latter.

Also worth mentioning is the performances, which are top notch throughout. Stephens in particular is solid, stealing the show as a man who wants to achieve the ultimate gift that's a curse in disguise, yet never goes too over the top in his depiction of a man losing grip of his sanity. In most movies, he would have become a raving lunatic, but here he's actually an very flawed and human character, which is a refreshing change of place. Oh, and the score by Bil McGuffie (who was a music director for two episodes of "Monty Python's Flying Circus") is great, managing to capture lush romanticism and haunting atmosphere with ease.

For fans of  little known but rewarding 70's horror, "The Asphyx" is definitely worthy of your attention. It's one of the most underrated British genre films of all time, and deserves a somewhat larger audience.

Rating: 8.5/10

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Death Race 3: Inferno (2012)


When you think about it, the "Death Race" franchise should be considered genre sacrilege. Whereas the original "Death Race 2000" was a brilliant bit of political satire that just happened to be a Roger Corman production, Paul W.S. Anderson's remake eschewed the satire (but still had a fair bit of social commentary) for over the top thrills. However, it managed to be a shockingly fun guilty pleasure. Sure, it was nowhere near as good as the original, but as a low calorie piece of action junk food that starred Jason Statham, it was better than it had any right to be.

Then we get to the sequel that doubled as a prequel, where we learned about Carl Lucas (Luke "I'm pretty much the poor man's Jason Statham" Goss) and how he became the notorious Frankenstein. To be honest, I wasn't impressed. Sure, it had some fun action and character actors like Danny Trejo, Ving Rhames and Sean Bean, but it suffered from a poor lead actor that played a character who wasn't all that sympathetic.

Am I Jason Statham yet?

Taking place after the events of the second film, "Death Race 3: Inferno" sees the game is now being run by scummy tycoon Niles York (Dougray Scott), who has moved Death Race to South Africa, and what do ya know, Carl's one game away from freedom. Teaming back up with Goldberg (Trejo), Katrina (Tanit Phoenix) and Lists (Fred Koehler), Carl and 10 other fugitives are about to run rampant across the African landscape, with plenty of explosions, mayhem and death on the way. However, York has other plans...

When you get down to it, "Death Race 3" is what some would call a "critic proof" movies. I like to call them "fan fiction" movies, in the fact that they feel like they were written by a small group of caffeine addled fan fiction writers who were paid to write an original script. Movies like "Legion" and the "Resident Evil" and "Underworld" franchises fall into this world. However, this one actually isn't that bad as far as guilty pleasures go.

Part of the reason the movie succeeds is the fact that it seems to embrace what it is more than the prior movie did. This is a dumb as a rock film that throws in gladiatorial fights amongst scantily clad women, slow motion car wrecks and unapologetic spots of female nudity and gore with pure abandon, and it actually does it in a shockingly competent manner. It also helps that Carl Lucas is less annoying this time. Sure, Luke Goss isn't what I'd call a good actor, but the character is a bit more straightforward this time, and doesn't stop to whine about his conditions like he did in the prior films. Fortunately, the rest of the cast is a lot of fun, especially Trejo and Scott. Danny seems to be having a lot of fun here, and Dougray is actually pretty good as a ruthless tyrant who manages to be more heartless than prior villain Weyland (Rhames, who does have a small role here.)

 It's a living.

As whole, "Death Race 3" is pretty much another straight-to-video sequel. Fortunately, it's not bad in that regard, and as a "Saturday afternoon with nothing to do" viewing is concerned, makes for a decent enough time waster.

Rating: 6/10


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Classic Poster Art: The Nest (1988)

Also, expect a review later this month or early in March.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dear God No! (2011)


At this point, I think it's time to put a moratorium on Neo-Grindhouse movement. It was fun for a while, and we got some enjoyable movies out of it ("Grindhouse", "Drive Angry" and "Black Dynamite" for example), but there are more bad movies in this thing ("Cherry Bomb", "The Bleeding", "Bitch Slap" and "Black Devil Doll" for example) to make me think this needs to end.

Granted, one could argue "But Joe, these are supposed to be bad!", and I would say "That's no excuse." Many of the old Grindhouse movies weren't supposed to be bad. The fact that they were and weren't supposed to be can add to the charm. Trying to be a bad movie usually results in something that's not just bad, but hard to sit through. Such is the case for James Bickert's everything but the kitchen sink movie "Dear God No!"

The Impalers are a Satan loving biker gang on a rape and murder spree across the tri-state. After a bloody battle with a rival gang Satan's Own, they take refuge in a cabin in the backwoods of Northern Georgia that's owned by a disgraced Anthropologist. However, what they though would be another home invasion soon turns into something else entirely, because the good doctor has a hairy secret locked in his basement.


Shot on 16mm, "Dear God No!" clearly wants to be a lot of things. It wants to be a throwback to the days of hard drinking, testosterone driven biker movies. It wants to bring to mind the kind of offbeat, forgotten exploitation movies companies like Something Weird and Retromedia put out. It wants to remind you of movies like "Night of the Demon" and other Bigfoot movies. In short, it wants to be one big tribute to the glory days of 70's and early 80's exploitation.

That would be fine and all, but Bickert doesn't seem to fully realize what made those movies work. Sure, it's got gore, sadism and low budget how to, but in the process of trying to shock, it just comes off as tawdry instead of offensive. This is a movie that wants to offend with gleeful abandon, throwing in plenty of rape, boobs, gore, nun's being slaughtered and pregnant women being killed. However, it's attempts to shock and offend feel forced instead of inspired. Joe Harley at HorrorTalk said it best by comparing it to something like "Family Guy." It likes to think of itself as shocking and offensive, but in reality it's nothing but desperate.


One could argue "But Joe, it's exploitation!" You could make that argument, yes. However, older exploitation movies knew what their audiences wanted, and didn't come off as trying way too hard. Many of them pulled it off with ease. This is a cheap pretender to the throne that wants to earn it's exploitation stripes, but doesn't know how good exploitation movies work.

Rating: 2/10

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mortuary (1983)


I want you to take a look at the above poster. Looks like a zombie movie, doesn't it? Now, watch this trailer


This of course, is a case of misleading advertising. Why? Because in reality, "Mortuary" is anything but a zombie movie. In fact, it's a slasher movie that at times barely qualifies as that.

Christine Parson (Mary McDonough) believes that the death of her father was not accidental, but in fact murder. With the help of her boyfriend (David Wallace), she starts to investigate, and discovers that there's something weird going on at the local mortuary. Something involving weird, Satanic seances, a creepy Mortician (Christopher George, in his last role before his death a few months later) and his geeky, awkward son (Bill Paxton.)

If Ghost Face from the "Scream" movies replaced his mask with corpse paint

"Mortuary" actually starts out and concludes in an interesting fashion. The location is creepy, the cult angle is ripe for potential and the score by Joe Cacavas is an eerie and effective. However, the end result becomes a mix of good ideas and really bad ones. The acting is alright (though Paxton steals the show), but nobody here outside of McDonough and Paxton's characters are interesting. There's a little bloodshed, but only a little. In fact, the movie feels more like it wants to be a Gothic horror movie than it does a slasher, and that it's a bit embarrassed by the latter aspect. That's a little understandable considering the fact that by 1983, there were now too many slasher movies, but it forgets things like the Satanic cult, which kind of bungles the potential for the former. Besides, in a movie like this, a little splatter would have helped.

Then there's the direction and script. The direction by Howard Avedis occasionally shows moments of inspiration, but for the large part resembles a generic TV movie that just happens to have a little nudity and blood. The script by Avedis and Marlene Schmidt is all over the place, going from an occult mystery to a slasher to a "Psycho" style tale of childhood traumas and the effects on the abused  on the drop of a hat. There's little actual attention to a coherent plot structure here, and the fact that the killers identity halfway through and that it drops the ball with the whole cult subplot doesn't help the movie's favor.

So you're telling my there's a chance...

Honestly, if it wasn't for Paxton's performance and a few nice touches here and there, I wouldn't remember anything about "Mortuary." The end result feels like a missed opportunity, as it's a schizophrenic, disjointed mess that never manages to recover it's flaws. Far from terrible, but nothing spectacular either.

Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Blood Bath (1966)

I remember back in the 90's, when Roger Corman was producing remakes of some of his classics-movies like "Piranha", "Humanoids From the Deep", "Wasp Woman" and "Not of This Earth" got the remake treatment. While some most likely cried foul, others knew it wasn't the first time he had one of his movies remake for some cash. "Not of This Earth" had already been remade in the 80's, and in 1966 Jack Hill directed "Blood Bath", which is something of a remake of "A Bucket of Blood."

Antonio Sordi (William Campbell) is an artist that likes to do paintings of women that are near death, and said paintings are a hit. Sordi also likes to live in a bell tower, and believes he's actually a vampire. As women he's painted are reported missing, tensions start to build, other artists grow suspicious and Sordi's sanity begins to further disappear...

"Blood Bath" is kind of a hit and miss affair to be honest. The direction by Hill and co-director/co-writer Stephanie Rotham (also a bit of an exploitation vet) is fine, but the script is everywhere, feeling more like a collection of sometimes effective, other times ill-thought out. The acting is sometimes good (Campbell does a fine job, and Sid Haig is fun in a supporting role) and other times pretty poor (most of the actresses are here more for eye candy than they are for their skills as thespians.) It's pretty short (62 minutes), doesn't have any fat in it's story and moves at a reasonable pace, but little about it is surprising, especially if you've seen "A Bucket of Blood." Finally, that movie's level of satire is missing here, as it all feels like a rather standard mid 60's horror movie than it does anything special. That's a shame too, because the idea of an artist trying to capture death is fascinating, but it's never actually explored.

As a whole, "Blood Bath" is at least worth a weekend afternoon viewing, but it doesn't offer a lot that's particularly memorable either. It's pretty much the definition of "Eh, it's okay."

Rating: 5/10

Friday, January 25, 2013

Night of the Devils (1972)

Giorgio Ferroni is not a name that most horror fans talk about. Granted, that's most likely because he only directed two movies within the genre, but they are notable entries none the less. His first was 1960's "Mill of the Stone Woman", which came out the same year as Mario Bava's "Black Sunday" and is one of the best early Italian horror movies of all time. His other is the surreal take on the vampire film "Night of the Devils", which, while not as good as his prior horror tale, is still worth watching.


In the backwoods of Italy, Nicola (Gianni Garko) has been through hell, and is in an asylum because nobody believes his tale. His is a tale of finding a woman in the road, which leads to his car crashing. He finds what he thinks is refuge in a cabin. When patriarch Gorca (Will Vanders) tells him to leave at night, strange events revolving around buried coffins, curses and vampire turn horrific.

While the heavy exposition to the dreamlike narrative can be exhausting, and the twist at the end leaves a lot to be desired, "Night of the Devils" is for the most part a strong tale of atmospheric horror. The whole thing is all about mood, and by God this sucker is full of it. The whole thing breathes with unease, and Ferrioni understands how to draw that feeling out so that the bloody third act packs a punch. Speaking of which, the third act is pretty strong stuff for this era, sometimes capturing the poetic approach to violence that the likes of Dario Argento and even Jean Rollin would capture in their best work, whilst other times serving as brutal and uncompromising in the face of the creepy atmosphere beforehand.

It's also capably acted, with Vanders in particular standing out as the tormented head of a curse family. The direction manages to be solid throughout, as Ferrioni uses everything-fog machines, soft lighting, bright colors-to his advantage, creating the feeling of a nightmare. Oh, and the score by Giorgio Gaslini is effecting and haunting, with electronic cues, haunting strings and psych rock passages perfectly befitting the picture and it's bleak tone.


It's a shame that Giorgio Ferroni only did two horror films in his time. Watching them, I couldn't help but think that he could have become one of the celebrated names within the genre had he made more. Still, at least we have two to remind us of what he was capable of.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Club (1994)

There's not a whole worthy of interest in today's entry, the mid 90's Canadian horror film "The Club." Really, it's just another in a long line of straight-to-video movies from that time that nobody remembers, so the fact that it isn't on DVD is no big loss. It is on Netflix instant though, and opens with the Miramax logo, so I'm sure either Lionsgate or Echo Bridge will be putting it out on one of those budget movie packs soon.

Anyway, the plot deals with a night at the prom, where all kinds of unsavory people-a rapist teacher (Kim Coates) and an abusive boyfriend (Zack Ward) are amongst the many forgettable people there. When the clock hits midnight, these two and some others find themselves in some sort of limbo between heaven and hell where a bunch of random things happen. The man anchoring all of this (Joel Wyner) is actually a demon, and he wants their souls.

That's it pretty much. Granted, the acting is actually pretty good (Wyner steals the show, clearly having a ball and injecting some much needed humor into the proceedings) and the score by Paul Zaza (whose genre credits include "Prom Night", "My Bloody Valentine", and "Popcorn" to name a few, though he also scored "Porky's" and "A Christmas Story") is spirited and effective. That's about all the kind things I can say about this.

The film in itself plays out like a weak version of "Night of the Demons", as whatever sex and violence is pretty tame for the large part. It also makes no sense, often leaping from one "frightening" scene to the next without any real context or basic narrative structure. On that end, it kinda reminded me of Dante Tomaselli's "Horror", only without that films reverence for Italian and American horror from the 70's and early 80's. Then there's the conclusion, which is a headache of an ending and is confusing to boot. It especially doesn't help that out of the rest of the non-contextual nature of the film, this was the most head scratching element of all.

I can't see most horror fans getting excited for this, as it's a mostly dull movie that doesn't deliver enough of what some may want, and feels more like watching a rather uneventful nightmare instead of an actual movie. Go read a book or something instead.

Rating: 3/10

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fire with Fire (2012)

I promised myself that I wouldn't see another movie that has 50 Cent in it (or anything that he produced through his Cheetah Vision film label) ever again. Of course, I had to to break that promise, so here we are with "Fire With Fire." Thankfully, Mr. Cent only has a cameo, and for a Grindstone Entertainment production, this is actually a watchable movie. It's not a good movie per say, but I'll take whatever improvements I can get at this point.

Josh Duhamel stars as Jeremy Coleman, a fireman who sees a store clerk and his son gunned down by David Hagan (Vincent D'Onofrio), who you know is evil because he has a swastika tattooed to his chest. After testifying against him, Coleman's girlfriend Talia (Rosario Dawson) is nearly killed by a hit-men, which finds him under witness protection thanks to the likes of Mike Calla (Bruce Willis, who looks like he'd rather be anywhere else than this.) However, Jeremy knows that this isn't enough, and that Hagan and his cronies won't stop until he and Talia are dead, so he decided to take actions into his own hands.

I'd be lying if I said that "Fire with Fire" is worth owning, or that it's a good movie. The movie has plenty of plot holes (we know that Calla lost an old partner to Hagan, but it's barely explored) and only some of the performances are worth a damn. Duhamel is a handsome face, and he tries, but he's just not that good of an actor. The plot is nothing special, but it's a shame that it doesn't do much with what could have a more fun premise in the vein of 80's vigilante movies.

That being said, some of the performances here are actually fun, with Onofrio stealing the show as a white supremacist douche with quite the criminal record, though his fake Southern accent is pretty amusing. It also manages to get some solid character actors such as Richard Schiff and Vinnie Jones showing up, which doesn't add any class, but it makes the proceedings more bearable. Best of all, it's actually a decently directed movie that gets away with some fun action scenes and inspired camera angles, and at 98 minutes, it moves at a reasonable clip and feels more like a time waster than it does a waste of time. Whether or not that sounds like a recommendation is up to you.

There's not a whole lot about this that's memorable in the least. However, it doesn't do anything offensively bad, and as a Netflix stream or Redbox rental, you could do a lot worse. It's at the very least an improvement for the folks at Grindstone Entertainment, so it actually gives me hope that someday, they'll be able to make a fun straight to video movie someday.

Rating: 5.5/10

Sunday, January 13, 2013

RIP David R. Ellis


He may be most well known for "Snakes on a Plane", but for my money, he directed the best of the "Final Destination" movies.

The Crow 2037: A New Age of God's and Monsters (Script Review)

And now, for something completely different, By that, I mean a review for a movie script that was never made. So, here goes.

I have conflicted feelings when it comes to Rob Zombie. I think White Zombie's "Astro Creep 2000" is the second best Groove Metal album ever made, and the prior album "Le Sexorcisto" is almost as good, though I don't care much for his solo work. As a director-well, I love "The Devil's Rejects", but I find "House of 1,000 Corpses" to be less than satisfying. "El Superbeasto" is an amusing concept, the the execution is nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is. The less said about his "Halloween" movies the better.

All of that out of the way, his first movie wasn't supposed to be "House of 1,000 Corpses." It was supposed to be "The Crow 2037: A New Age of Gods and Monsters." Originally intended to be a follow up to "The Crow: City of Angels", it fell into the wayside after that movie tanked with critics and was poorly received by audiences (even though it did make it's money back) and "The Crow: Salvation" only played in one theater and was unceremoniously dumped to video. He apparently rewrote it as "Black Racer X", though whether or not that becomes a movie is yet to be seen (it probably won't.)

The movie starts on October 31st, 2010. A young boy and his mother (who probably would have been played by Rob's wife) are killed by a Satanic priest (who would have been played by Christopher Lee) for a cult who worship "the fallen one." The boy rises from the dead...and then grows up to be a tough as nails assassin. How a dead body would grow up is beyond me. Twenty seven years later, life is good-until painful memories start to resurface, and since this is a Crow movie, he soon begins to seek revenge.

I will give Rob this much-the script has all kinds of ambition, and is different from all of the other Crow movies. Whilst this still has the action with horror undertones feeling of the other films, it's also heavily indebted to science fiction. It also has some great visual ideas (a "Red Riding Hood" inspired vignette and a torture chamber inspired by Frankenstein's laboratory from the old Universal horror films), though that's where the good points end.

For one thing, a lot of this doesn't really feel like "The Crow." It lacks the tragic romance of those movies, and feels a lot more like what would happen if some fan fiction authors tried to mix "The Crow", comic books, old horror movies and anime into an incoherent mesh of things that are supposed to be cool, but aren't. Random mutants, alien gods and bouts of ultra violence peppered with a too cool for school anti hero might seem like a good idea at first, but "The Crow" it is not. The end result makes little to any sense, and I can't help but be glad that it didn't get made.

It's also sloppily written. None of the characters apart from the dark priest are interesting. It's mostly a bunch of tough guy posturing and "cool" one liners with little tension or reason. Plus, the crow itself doesn't figure a whole lot into the store. Sure, the main character is mostly invincible and  there's a crow, but as I said, nothing about it feels like "The Crow." It feels like something made by somebody who has a very thin grasp on the mythos and what made the original so great. It's different, but that doesn't make it good.

Rating: 3/10

Classic Poster Art: I Drink Your Blood (1970)


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dracula 2000 (2000)

Everyone has their guilty pleasures. For some, it's the "Underworld" series. For others, it's a slasher movie or zombie movie they know is bad, but they like it anyways. If you've read this blog, you know that I have my guilty pleasures. One of my guiltiest pleasures of the last decade? Patrick Lussier's "Dracula 2000." This is a movie that falls into the line of "hip and cleaver" horror movies that came after "Scream" and where unable to capture what made that movie so special. Yet, unlike the other wannabes, this is actually a fun time.

Dracula also seems to be repelled by buttoning his shirt up

One night, a gang of thieves (Omar Epps, Sean Patrick Thomas, Danny Matherson and Jennifer Esposito) break into a manor that they think contains all kinds of riches. What they end up getting in return is something worse than that in Dracula (Gerard Butler), who proceeds to turn all of them into vampires. Now, Abraham Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer) and his assistant Simon Sheppard (Johnny Lee Miller) must find a way to stop the ancient vampire and his growing army of the undead (which also includes Jerri Ryan and pop singer Vitamin C.)
 
In the process, they soon find themselves traveling to New Orleans, where Dracula is located, and has his eyes set on Virgin Megastore clerk Mary (Justine Waddell), who has some sort of connection to both Dracula and Van Helsing in a twist you see coming a mile away. You do however, get a twist about Dracula you don't see coming, which is actually a good one to boot. In the process, I try to figure out if Virgin Megastores still exist.*
 
 The vampire should get that checked out.

From the get go, I can tell you that this is hardly a great movie. The plot occasionally feels convoluted. Like many horror movies from this time, it hasn't aged too well and sometimes feels like it's trying to hard to be "hip" (Dracula watching a Monster Magnet video and liking what he sees-I doubt he's be a fan if he actually existed.) in a way that just feels awkward. All of that being said, this is still a fun time that doesn't take itself too seriously, but unlike something like "Urban Legend", actually has some nice one liners and genuine laughs along the way. It also doesn't overstay its welcome and moves at a pretty brisk pace, and thankfully doesn't have too much fat in the story.

The movie is also surprisingly well directed for a major studio genre movie from this period. Lussier manages to get away with some arresting visuals (the highlight involves Mary being stalked by Dracula's brides in a blood red room with red window drapery) and fun action scenes that make up for the lack of Gothic atmosphere. In doing that, he goes for a more lighthearted one that puts more emphasis on actions scenes and one liners. Thankfully, the cast is game (save for Waddell, whose performance is a bit awkward) and clearly having a lot of fun with the material on hand. Butler in particular seems to be having a good time, clearly relishing the chance to play an all around evil villain with dark sexuality (thankfully not going the route of "tormented romantic figure") and menace. Finally, I mentioned that there was a twist so

*spoiler*
It turns out that Dracula is actually Judas Iscariot. Granted, they could have went further with this angle, but it's actually a surprisingly original take on the origin story of the legendary vampire
 
*end spoiler*

Just another Mardi Gras. Only with less women flashing their breasts for beads.

At the end of the day, I can't really say that I recommend "Dracula 2000." It's not what anyone would call a classic in the genre. However, I find it to be a satisfactory bit of cinematic junk food that doesn't do anything outstanding, but still manages to work better than it has any right to. You can have your "Underworld" movies. I'll take this instead.

Rating: 6.5/10

*I just looked at Wikipedia-yep, they still exist.

Anyways, since this came out in 2000, it has soundtrack made up of rock songs. The breakdown: Slayer and Pantera get away with some decent tunes, System of a Down does a nice cover of Berlin's "Metro", Monster Magnet has a fun, organ driven rocker in "Heads Explode", and the Static X song is shockingly tolerable. The rest is just a bunch of lousy Nu Metal that serves as a painful reminder of what was popular back then.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Genocide (1968)

Among the things I got for Christmas, the one I can say I am happiest with is the "When Horror Came to Shochiku" box set. This is entry #37 in Criterion's ongoing "Eclipse" series, and here focuses on the genre efforts that the well respected Japanese studio Shochiku made from 1967-68. Needless to say, it's something of a treasure trove for fans of offbeat genre films. Without further adieu, let's look at an film in this set.

Shochiku and it's brief foray into horror and science fiction is something that fascinates me. Sure, every country releases it's fair share of horror films, and it's always (well, almost always) great to see other countries take on genre cinema. However, this one was so brief (only one year) that it's particularly refreshing to see it remembered to this day. Well as they say, all good things must come to an end. So let's get on to the last movie in the "When Horror Came to Shochiku" box set, the "nature run amok" film "Genocide."


Whilst headed to an island, A U.S. B-52 carrying a hydrogen bomb is attacked by a huge swarm of insects, causing the plane to crash. As it turns out, these particular insects are able to cause people to go insane and/or die. As the survivors of the crash and those on the island try to find a way to stop this, it appears not all is what it seems...particularly with the case of Annabelle ("Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell" actress Kathy Horan.)

It's interesting to see that this is from "The X From Outer Space" director Kazui Nihonmatsu. Sure, it has some incredibly ridiculous moments that need to be seen to be believed (the insects chanting "Genocide" and the various convoluted twists revolving around Annabelle), but unlike that movie, this is a dark, deadly serious science fiction/horror drama that has some serious things to say about environmental disasters, military meddling and nature's role as a great equalizer. It's also a better acted movie than that film, with performances throughout managing to resonate with the viewer in one way or another. Oh and this is probably the most exploitation like of the movies here, with of insect-maimed flesh, bikini clad babes, over the top melodrama, ripped off shirts and more.


It's also not as fun as that movie, and is the weakest of the films. That's not to say it's a bad movie-it's actually a decent time and offers some pretty memorable and strange moments. It's just that the whole thing tries to juggle too many social themes (war, the horrors of the Holocaust, man's inherently cruel nature and the strained relationship between he U.S. and Japanese governments-both of which are portrayed as being cruel and indifferent) and so many different plot points (conspiracies, romance and deceptions abound!) that it kinda feels confusing. I can tell that  those behind this are taking all this seriously, and the nihilistic tone is actually pretty fitting. However, by trying to do too many things at once, a part of it feels a bit like a missed opportunity. With a tighter script, this could have been a lost gem.

As a whole, this should be of interest for fans of movies where nature get's payback, and for fans of the bleaker side of science fiction/horror movies. However, don't expect some sort of undiscovered gem. Just expect a bizarre B-movie with big ambitions that, while not reaching all of them, makes for a perfectly watchable experience.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Living Skeleton (1968)

Among the things I got for Christmas, the one I can say I am happiest with is the "When Horror Came to Shochiku" box set. This is entry #37 in Criterion's ongoing "Eclipse" series, and here focuses on the genre efforts that the well respected Japanese studio Shochiku made from 1967-68. Needless to say, it's something of a treasure trove for fans of offbeat genre films. Without further adieu, let's look at an film in this set.

Many Japanese horror films deal with ghosts in some form or another. This isn't a recent phenomenon either. From Nagisa Oshima's "Empire of Passion", Masaki Kobayashi's "Kwaiden" to Nobuhiko Obayashi's completely insane "House" gave the Japanese public tales of spirits long before "Ringu" and "Ju-on" captured the imaginations of so many horror fans. In a way, it makes sense that Shochiku would follow up the bleak science fiction/horror hybrid "Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell" with a film with a more supernatural bent in "The Living Skeleton." Japan has a rich folklore filled with tales of ghosts, so why not try their own spin?


Years ago, a ship that held gold was taken siege by it's crew, who then proceeded to kill the captain, his passengers, a scientist and a girl named Yoriko (Kikko Matsuoka.) In the present (well, 1968 but whose counting?) Mayumi's sister Saeko (Matsuoka again) is still coping, and has found refuge in a priest (Masumi Okada). When Rumi and her boyfriend (Yasunori Irikawa) decide to go scuba diving, they find the skeletal remains of the murdered passengers. Soon, the vengeful spirits of those killed (including that of Mayumi) begin to return, and they have one thing in mind: revenge.

Out of the four movies included in Criterion's "When Horror Came to Shochiku" box set, "The Living Skeleton" is the most artistic and all around best of the lot. The direction by Hiroshi Matsuno (his sole credit too) is top notch throughout, creating a tone of pure dread and hopelessness. It's also capably acted, with Matsuoka in particular standing out as the tormented Saeko. Oh, and if you like blood, then this is the bloodiest of the films presented as well. Granted, it's hardly a splatter fest, but if the sight of maimed bodies, scarred flesh and a knife punctured eyeball tickle your fancy, then this might be for you. That being said, this is something that fans of Gothic horror will appreciate more than the gore crowd.


Also worthy of  mention is how unafraid the film is to take inspiration from horror movies from other countries. The look of the film brings to mind the foggy, Gothic horrors of the productions Universal and RKO made in the 30's and 40's (there's hint of mad science in the end), while the tone and atmosphere is very reminiscent of classic Italian horror films such as "Black Sunday" and "Mill of the Stone Woman." I also find it interesting how this movie's tale of watery vengeance from beyond the grave is somewhat reminiscent of a later movie in John Carpenter's "The Fog", and I can't help but wonder if this movie served as an influence on that one. As for fans of camp, well the skeletons look kinda goofy and the ship looks more like a toy than a model, but other than that this is a sombre outing that sticks with you to the end.

For fans of supernatural horror and old fashioned scares, "The Living Skeleton" is a must, and is a seriously under appreciated gem that's begging for rediscovery. I know it's the movie in the box set I'll revisit the most, and I can't wait to watch it again.

Rating: 9/10