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