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