Cult Cinema All about Cult <![CDATA[ A Campy Murder Mystery With Bela Playing a "Mute" Count Mora]]>
Meanwhile everyone in the town including the gypsies say that it is Count Mora who lives in a castle.  We later see Count Mora in his castle as night falls, walking through the castle that has no furniture and is overrun with vermin and what appears to be a single rat.  Mora has a bloodied wound on the side of his head and is accompanied by a woman who looks like a scary Lily Munster.  Throughout the film the two of them just seem to appear out of nowhere and neither of them speak.

There is an interesting scene where the woman seems to be transitioning back from a bat to a human and appears to swoop down to the ground.  This was a pretty amazing effect for 1935.

Overall, the movie is just a campy murder mystery with a weird ending that I am not sure I understand.  The DVD does offer to watch the film with commentary which may help me understand it better but I don't feel I really want to sit through it again.  The campiness of the film (unlike The Bride Of Frankenstein) really detracts from the film and it really is not up to snuff with Universal's Dracula or even Dracula's Daughter.  Bela played a much more interesting vampire in a later film (I think it was called Return of the Vampire) which I would recommend watching over this one.]]> Mon, 15 Jul 2013 13:41:05 +0000
<![CDATA[ My favorite film of all time.]]> Mon, 3 Jun 2013 22:55:49 +0000 <![CDATA[ A pretty remarkable movie, and warm welcome in sci-fi. 84%]]>

In 1982, a giant alien ship grinds to a halt above Johannesburg, South Africa. The aliens are referred to negatively as “Prawns” for their scavenger-like personalities, and are treated like garbage by both the public and government. The Prawns are forced in a giant slum called District 9, and Multi-National United (MNU) is really interested in getting their hands on the Prawn weapons and engineering them for human use (Prawn weapons won't work on human hands since they're only made to work with Prawns). Wikus van de Merwe, an MNU manager, is putting up eviction notices for the Prawns into District 10, and comes into contact with Prawn fluid that'll turn him into a Prawn himself. He's being hunted down by the MNU and has to make a reluctant alliance with a Prawn named Christopher Johnson if he wants any chance to come back to normal.


For the most part, I thought the characters were done really well. Of course, the best character is Wikus (Sharlto Copley). In the beginning, you see him as a mild-mannered jerk (if that makes any sense), and doesn't really care about the Prawns (though he doesn't want Prawns getting killed by MNU troops). The neat part of Wikus is that his character becomes “more human” when his metamorphosis makes him less human, physically-speaking.

The only character that I would say is closer in line to being the more traditional “good guy” would be Christopher Johnson (Jason Cope). Out of the other human and Prawn characters, he's really the only one who doesn't want to fight, but is forced into combat against the MNU near the end of the movie.

The antagonists, such as Colonel Koobus Venter (David James) and Obesandjo (Eugene Khumbanyiwa), are good in their roles. Some may complain that Koobus and Obesandjo lack depth, since they're straight-up maniacs, but I think this works out in their favor since for the former, it would dilute the menacing feeling if he was written to have sympathetic moments. Koobus's menacing vibe is enhanced with his superb tactical skills when in combat, and while he's not going to rival the Terminator in terms of supervillains, he's quite effective as the cold, murderous maniac.

However, I wish that some characters, like Wikus's wife, Tania (Vanessa Haywood), would have been developed a little more.


District 9 is noted for having quite a few things to say about humanity. As stated earlier, with Wikus, his physical transformation into a Prawn makes him more “human.” Also, this movie takes an interesting stand by showing the aliens in a more sympathetic light than the humans, thought I think the allegories relating to the Apartheid in South Africa are way too obvious. However, I think Neill Blomkamp did a better job at handling the way the humans and Prawns were handled than James Cameron did the humans and Navi in Avatar, since there was some nuance in the characters in D9 to make them more believable. I also applaud Blomkamp for pulling off his message without the use of making the Prawns look like eye candy (more on visuals later).

I also commend Blomkamp for not just portraying the big businesses (MNU) as evil to reflect the “evils of humanity,” but also shows it through the Nigerian warlords (headed by Obesandjo) taking advantage of and brutalizing the Prawns for their advanced weapons.


I thought the way D9 was told was pretty interesting, as it's not everyday that you see a sci-fi film with pretty strong action scenes told as a documentary in the beginning and end like one. I thought Blomkamp handled the fusion of documentary-styled film and traditional film well, since I thought the transitions were smooth.


Clinton Shorter's music for this movie wasn't bad, though I wouldn't put in the same league of the soundtracks in movies like Blade Runner, The Terminator, or Total Recall. However, I'll say that Shorter captured the mood of the gritty settings really well with tribal chanting and other musical elements very fitting to the geographical setting.


Trent Opaloch's cinematography for District 9 is quite good. The cinematography perfectly captures the gritty and violent atmosphere of the Prawns' lives, and I think the idea of it taking place in South Africa is a neat decision, since it's not everyday that you get a sci-fi movie taking place in this part of the world.


What really struck me in a positive way is the look of the Prawn technology, especially their weapons. I love how they don't look like totally outlandish guns more akin to a fantasy story in space, but look more like our weapons with a strong “alien” visual aesthetic to them. This also makes them look pretty nasty compared to other alien weapons in sci-fi (such as the Covenant weapons in the Halo games).

The MNU's personnel and equipment were made perfectly in this movie, since they're a potent military force that also reflects the fact that they're a private military entity. This is reflected in the fact that the personnel have a more “casual” look to them than official military personnel and that they don't have access to really powerful weapons like tanks and gunships.

The looks of the Nigerian warlords were done really well for the movie as well. They're shown as more “rag-tag” through their dilapidated vehicles and dwellings.


The special effects done by Weta Workshop are marvelous. The movie combines “traditional” special effects with CGI, and you hardly even notice that the effects are, well, effects. The mutations on Wikus's body are very convincing (these were make-up effects), and the same can be said with how the Prawns look (the Prawns were made by CGI). I think it's funny that despite the very convincing effects in the movie, the pricetag for them was drastically lower than what was needed to make everything in Avatar.


Despite the fact that District 9 is often labeled as an “action” movie along with its sci-fi tag, there really isn't that much action that goes on. However, the action that does take place is done very well. The movie decides to build up to the action near the end, which I thought was a good thing since it gave them more power.

I thought the scene where Wikus and Christopher storm the MNU building was awesome, as it showed the two armed with Prawn weapons and dishing out some unique deaths to the MNU mercenaries in the building (such as the arc gun making its targets blow up in a shower of blood).

The final action scene near the end was pretty amazing. The MNU and the Nigerian warlords are after Wikus, and donning a Prawn combat exosuit, dishes out some awesome damage against the enemies. The exosuit even uses a magnetic force to collect all the incoming bullets and uses them as lethal projectiles against those trying to harm Wikus, and even fires a mini bomb into someone's head. In one scene, he uses the suit's graviton device to pick up a pig and uses it as a projectile against an MNU mercenary. That scene was one of the most unintentionally funny things I've ever seen. I wish this Prawn exosuit was real, because I'd like to have this thing for home security.


This is not a movie for the kids since there's a good deal of gore and bad language throughout. There's scenes with both humans and Prawns getting dismembered, blown up, and shot at with plenty of bloodshed. One of the hardest to watch was actually against a Prawn, since MNU scientists start conducting experiments on Wikus's abilities to interact with Prawn weapons, and Wikus is forced into killing a Prawn with one of the guns (which is highlighted by Wikus begging to shoot at the pig carcasses instead).


While I wouldn't say that this is quite in the same league of movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, or Total Recall, this was a really solid sci-fi movie. In terms of sci-fi movies that came out in 2009, this runs rings around Avatar since it had much better character development and storytelling, not to mention better action scenes. I strongly suggest you at least rent this.]]> Mon, 24 Dec 2012 03:36:23 +0000
<![CDATA[ Come with me if you want to live!! 95%]]>
It's also interesting to note that if you ask around a lot of Terminator fans, most will tell you that Terminator 2: Judgment Day is their favorite movie. If you would have asked me this question about 10-15 years ago, I would have concurred with the consensus on this. However, after some deeper thought about the two movies, I now consider the first Terminator my favorite because compared to the sequel, the first Terminator movie has a much stronger sense of tension and urgency.


In the relatively distant future (2029), a nuclear war has wiped out most of humanity. However, armies of anthropomorphic machines and cyborgs are dead-set on eliminating the survivors. The genocidal machines send a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to Los Angeles circa 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), the mother of human resistance leader, John Connor. The human resistance sends a resistance fighter named Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) to infiltrate the Terminator and save Sarah.


What makes this movie such a great one is the characters. Sarah steals the show since she's very easy to relate to, since she feels like a real person. When she's faced with impending death by the Terminator, she understandably acts scared as hell and when she meets Kyle Reese, she initially thinks he's a maniac, even when he saves her from the Terminator at the Tech Noir club. Kyle is great as the "hero" of the movie because much like what John McClane would help establish in the mighty Die Hard several years after this movie, he's not unstoppable and is faced with grave danger that forces him to act creatively. He knows that the Terminator is much stronger than him, and in the beginning, is even doubtful that he can destroy it since he's restricted from the high-tech weapons he had in the future, and is forced to fight with sawed off shotguns and homemade pipe bombs.

Arnie did a great job as the Terminator. The Terminator lives up to his name, and is one terrifying entity that could easily make him among the best antagonists in film in the last thirty years. He has no emotion, can't feel pain, and is virtually unstoppable. It's also really menacing to see him murder people, especially unarmed women.


One of the things that really helps out this movie is how James Cameron has the story told. Through some scenes of exposition, such as when Kyle has to explain to Sarah what cyborgs are and what his life in the future was like, they didn't feel like the "designated spots" where exposition is done. Especially with Kyle explaining to Sarah what cyborgs are, he does so in a really cautious and quiet manner, since he knows that the Terminator is looking for him.

The logic behind time travel is not only established well, but like any good movie, the story and characters actually follow through that logic. An example would be with time travel. Only organic masses can travel through time, thus why the Terminator and Kyle arrive naked when they come into LA circa 1984, and when Kyle explains to a police psychiatrist why he couldn't bring back any advanced weaponry back to the past.


With this movie being a sci-fi action/thriller entry, the action movies are top-notch.

Since the characters are developed well, these make the action scenes that much more tense. Among the best scenes in this has to be when the Terminator enters the Tech Noir club and finds Sarah Connor. You see Kyle emerge and fire many shotgun shells into the cyborg and it doesn't stop him. Also, this scene helps establish how much of a cold, ugly entity the Terminator is when he ends up gunning down a few people at the club during the firefight.

Let's not forget the iconic scene where the Terminator assaults the police station Kyle and Sarah are kept in. This scene marks how terrifying the Terminator is since not even over two dozen armed police officers could stop him, and shows how creative Kyle is when he's faced with danger and isn't in a position to fight.

The action scenes also show Sarah and Kyle as vulnerable characters, which make you root for them even harder as the movie runs. Kyle gets shot a few times and towards the end, gets worn down from all the combat to where Sarah has to push him into "snapping back into it."

The chase scene near the end also enhances the Terminator's characteristic of being unstoppable and of Kyle's creativity, since the Terminator survives a head-on collision with an 18-wheel tanker truck and Kyle has to see if one pipe bomb can stop a cyborg driving a tanker truck.


Adam Greenberg's cinematography for this was perfect. The shots of at the time current day Los Angeles look gritty and claustrophobic, helping to enhance the feeling of dread and tension in this movie. I thought it was perfect to have the final fight take place in a factory loaded with robotic assembly machines, helping to further the feeling of industrialized, metallic terror.


While some special effects have shown their age (such as the walking Terminator skeleton near the end and of the Terminator's face when one of his eyes are damaged), other effects still look good today. I though one of the best-looking effects in that movie is when the Terminator does some self-surgery on his arm after getting in gun battles with Kyle, and you see the inner workings of his cyborg arm. This was simultaneously gross and impressive to look at. Even with the effects that could have aged better, the special effects overall help the movie greatly than harm it.


Brad Fiedel's soundtrack for this movie is one of the best I've ever heard in cinema, whether it be live-action or animated. Some may complain that the music is "dated," but I think it matches the tone and style of the movie perfectly. Most of the music on here is made from keyboard synthesizers, and all of it is instrumental. The soundtrack perfectly shows that a genius with minimal resources can make something brilliant. The mechanized, metallic beats and dread-laden synth-layers are superb, especially in the scenes where Kyle has a flashback to when he fought giant war machines and automated gunships and during the end fight in the factory.


This is not a movie for the kids, since there's quite a few scenes in the beginning with male nudity, some scenes of nasty gore, and a tastefully-done sex scene between Kyle and Sarah.


The Terminator is easily among James Cameron's brightest jewels in his filmography. If you don't have this movie in your collection yet, get it now.]]> Thu, 20 Dec 2012 05:44:49 +0000
<![CDATA[ A rather pleasant surprise. 80%]]> First of all, I'd like to thank a certain penpal of mine who brought this movie to my attention. Otherwise, I probably would have ignored it.

Most John Carpenter fans don't consider the 90's his best decade in terms of movies, though I think this movie is a pretty underrated horror diamond in the rough. While my favorite horror titles from the 90's are Event Horizon and Wes Craven's New Nightmare, In the Mouth of Madness has been a very welcome horror discovery for me.


In the Mouth of Madness is a movie about an insurance investigator named John Trent (Sam Neill) who winds up in a mental hospital. After being locked up, Dr. Wrenn (David Warner) interviews him about his psychiatric state, and tells the tale of his madness. Prior to his loss of sanity, John was hired by Arcane Publishing director Jackson Harglow (Charleton Heston) to investigate the whereabouts of their hottest property, horror writer Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow) and his story, In the Mouth of Madness (Cane's stories supposedly make the readers go crazy). John goes with Cane's editor, Linda Styles (Julie Carmen) to a supposedly nonexistent place called Hobb's End.


The characters in this movie were developed pretty well. I liked John's character since he felt like a real insurance investigator. His job forces him to be distrustful of everything and is good at playing the man who's initially unswayable into believing the supernatural content in Cane's books. His descent into madness as the movie progresses is believable and engaging. The other characters like Linda feel believable and pretty engaging as well.


Since this is a horror movie, the horror elements have to be good. Thankfully, Carpenter properly executed the horror elements in this movie. The scenes of horror taking place within John's mind really are creepy, such as in the beginning, when he covers his cell (and his face and clothes) with crude drawings of crucifixes, not to mention that he sees well-shot, creepy moments of gory murder happen in his mind. Later on, when John and Linda make it into Hobb's End, lots of creepy, surreal things happen.

Among the scariest is that John sees an old woman with monster-like appendages murdering someone in the hotel cellar, and when Linda finds herself encircled by zombie-like children (I normally don't think kids are scary, but this is one of the few moments where I was unnerved), and they dance in a circle around her. The scene with Linda being surrounded by the circle of dancing children reminded me a bit of the scene in episode one of Doomed Megalopolis where Yukari gets surrounded by a circle of evil, singing children.

The setting helps with the horror elements as well, especially the Byzantine church in Hobb's End. Its imposing height and creepy interior make it an ideal place for Sutter Cane to write his novels. The interior of the church even features breathing, bleeding doors, almost like an evolution of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.

The only negative things I could say about the horror elements is that in one scene, John has a “double nightmare” involving a zombie-like cop, and I swear it was almost like Carpenter recycled the “double nightmare” scene near the end of Prince of Darkness (which wasn't a good movie to me).


For the most part, the special effects are very good. The scenes of gore, zombie-like humans, and monsters all look very convincing, though in the case of the monsters, they won't top the animatronic puppet mastery Rob Bottin pulled off in The Thing. The only special effects that looked dated were this scene where Cane “opens himself” and it looks a little cheesy. However, all in all, I think the effects in this movie helped it out a lot more than harmed it.


John Carpenter's and Jim Lang's musical compositions were a good fit for the movie. The guitar-based opening and closing theme was a good fit for the movie, and the rest of the background music was more like typical horror fare, but it wasn't a bad thing at all.


In the Mouth of Madness is considered the last in John Carpenter's trilogy of “apocalyptic horror” movies, with the first two being The Thing and Prince of Darkness. In the Mouth of Madness isn't quite as masterful as The Thing, but it's far superior to Prince of Darkness.

If you're in the mood for a solid Lovecraftian horror film that delivers strong atmosphere of the apocalypse and descent into madness, then give this movie a shot, you won't be disappointed.

]]> Wed, 19 Dec 2012 07:07:38 +0000
<![CDATA[ A masterpiece in Japanese cinema. 94%]]>  

Since this is my first review with anything related to Godzilla, I'd like to say that I was a big Godzilla fan from 1997-2002 since at the time, I thought there was hardly anything as fun as seeing big monster fights with a huge dollop of cheesy English dubbing from the Japanese actors in the numerous Godzilla sequels. In my initial fandom, I thought Godzilla: King of the Monsters (the American, English-dubbed and edited version of Gojira starring Raymond Burr) was the most serious and somber of the bunch, and considered it the best. Rewatching Godzilla: King of the Monsters recently, I'd say that it's a decent 50's monster movie, but after watching Gojira, I consider Gojira a masterful film that can compete with acclaimed arthouse Japanese films like Harakiri and The Seven Samurai.




Near the coast of Tokyo, ships are reported as being destroyed by mysterious flashes of massive fire. The natives of Odo Island, the island near the ship accidents, claim that a giant monster named Godzilla has destroyed the ships. Upon further research from scientists and the government, they find out that a giant, destructive creature from the prehistoric era has come back...and is seemingly unstoppable. A scientist makes a horrible discovery that just might kill Godzilla, but could bring another global threat if ever revealed.




The characters in this movie were pretty well done, as just about all of them felt like real people. I thought the character with the most interesting personality was Dr. Serizawa (played by Akihiko Hirata). Dr. Serizawa was convincing as a scientist who's discovered something he wish he never did, and when asked to confront Godzilla with this, really shows the inner-conflict he faces. The legendary Takahsi Shimura played Dr. Yamane, an archeologist determined to find out why Godzilla is alive. I was intrigued by the fact that he wants Gojira alive since it's among the only creatures alive on Earth from the prehistoric era. Hideto Ogata (Akira Takarada) is a marine patrolman who wants Godzilla dead, much to the dismay of Dr. Yamane. Ogata's character feels pretty realistic, and I like the fact that the love triangle between him, Emiko, and Dr. Serizawa doesn't get sappy or take up too much screentime from everything else. The only criticism I feel comfortable in saying is with Emiko Yamane's character (played by Momoko Kochi). Her acting was good overall, but in some scenes that she screamed or cried (such as when Dr. Serizawa revealed his “horrible discovery”), they seemed a little melodramatic, but nowhere near being on the verge of bad acting.




If you've read Roger Ebert's lousy review for Gojira, you'd know that he smashed the “poor quality” of the film's special effects. I have to disagree with him on this because what he doesn't take into account is that Gojira was one of Japan's first movies heavy on special effects, and therefore, was a groundbreaking movie for its time in its particular nation. Even though this movie is 58 years-old, I think the special effects have dated pretty well, even if the shortcomings are noticeable in some areas. The gritty black and white cinematography and engrossing atmosphere make you forget that Godzilla is really a man in a rubber monster suit. The miniatures made for the buildings, tanks, and so fourth look good for the time, and the only scene where you can see an obvious special effect fault is that in a scene where you see Godzilla's tail through a destroyed building's window, you can see the string holding up Godzilla's tail. Though all in all, the special effects have aged pretty well after all these years and their shortcomings don't damage the viewing experience.




Akira Ifukube's music for Gojira is magnificent. The main theme of the movie is easily among the best main themes in the whole Godzilla franchise. The main theme of this movie would be really well suited for military marches. There's other musical compositions, like “Godzilla Comes Ashore,” that have a really dark, brooding atmosphere to them that really give me the chills. There's even some tracks like “Prayer for Peace,” that have a sad yet chilling feeling to them. The emotional diversity and good use of dynamics throughout the compositions in this movie really show that Ifukube was a masterful composer.




This category will also cover the themes of Gojira.


Besides a different language track and the absence of Raymond Burr, there's some pretty drastic changes in the original Gojira compared to Godzilla: King of the Monsters. One of the big changes that stuck out to me the most is the opening credits. In the US version of the movie, it's a simple, flashy title card with the movie title written in a font typical of American monster/horror movies from the 50's with Godzilla's roars and foot stomps in the background. In the original Japanese version, the opening credits immediately let you know that you're in for a totally serious movie. The opening consists of credits for the title, cast, and crew scrolling upward with the Gojira main theme playing in the background, along with Gojira's roars and foot stomps.


One difference that may seem innocuous to most viewers but really stuck out at me is the hospital scenes. In the beginning of the US version, you see a little girl cry over her dead mother, but it's quickly transitioned to Steve Martin (Raymond Burr's character) recalling the attacks and being carried on a stretcher. In the original, there's more focus on this girl, and it had much more emotional power when you saw Emiko trying to comfort her by telling her that her mother will be okay.


Another key difference is the order of scenes and actions that occur throughout the film. In the beginning of the US version of the movie, you already know that Tokyo gets destroyed by Gojira, with Steve recalling what happened. In the original version, it starts off with a ship at sea getting attacked by Gojira (though shot to where you don't actually see or hear the beast), and it progresses as to how you see Tokyo get destroyed.


Among the most critical of differences is the emphasis of its central theme. Even if you've just watched the US version, you know that it's a warning about the dangers of nuclear warfare. However, in the original, it not only focuses on said warning, but also has strong reflections from its characters about how the nation suffered and is still suffering from the atomic bomb attacks nine years prior (Gojira came out in 1954, nine years after the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings).


I thought the execution of the message of Japan's suffering from nuclear bombings was superb, since Ishiro Honda lets you know that these bombings have really harmed the nation while at the same time, totally avoiding any nationalist sentiments to fully scorn America for the bombings while blindly praising his own nation. The focus solely on the suffering of nuclear attacks really gave this a personal, emotionally-powerful feel to the movie.




While I can't say that I've seen everything Ishiro Honda has directed, I'll still make a safe bet that Gojira is among the brightest jewels of his filmography. If you're looking for a Godzilla film that's totally serious in tone and serves as a harrowing reminder of the potential apocalyptic danger of nuclear warfare, then get yourself a copy of Gojira ASAP.

]]> Fri, 23 Nov 2012 22:49:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ "You touched me. Nobody touches me."]]>
Apparently, some people actually doubt the genius of Terry Gilliam. Here we have one of the most obviously imaginative minds working in the film industry of today and yesteryear, and people literally have the nerve to challenge his brilliance. Maybe they find themselves turned off by what he's been directing recently (which really isn't all that bad, with the exception of the tedious and boring "Tideland"), although that alone shouldn't be good enough reason for them to shut him out completely. Perhaps those people should go back and watch his earlier films. I don't know where I'd start. Maybe at the beginning. Or maybe at arguably his most famous work next to his debut - which was "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" - which would have to be 1985's "Brazil".

The year of release for this film is beyond ironic. It is an Orwellian comic fantasy that sees Gilliam using an over-the-top near-futuristic scenario as his canvas of choice. As far as films go, they don't get much more imaginative, funny, and entertaining as this. It appeals not only to my recently-developed fascination with big-scale futuristic storytelling, but also my admiration for absurdist humor, social satire, and artistic expression through visual indulgence. It's sort of like a gonzo roller-coaster ride. It is twisty, perplexing, multi-layered, exciting, ambitious, and particularly emotive. Simply put, I absolutely adore it. And even though I've seen most of Gilliam's films, I've never seen anything quite like this. He almost always brings something new to every film.

The story takes place in the future; where everything is overly complicated save for restaurant menus. It starts with a fly, which is swatted and then ends up in a nearby printer, screwing up a file that was currently printing. The file concerned the interrogation and death of the suspected terrorist Archibald Tuttle, although the misprint caused the name Buttle to appear instead. There is indeed an Archibald Buttle, and he is taken away from his family on Christmas Eve shortly. A young man by the name of Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is assigned by his boss Mr. Kurtzmann (Ian Holm) to look into the situation and in turn fix what he can of it. Sam is a privileged but unhappy fellow who finds solace only in dreams, where he is a knight in shining armor (with wings) who seeks to save a beautiful maiden.

When Sam goes to the home of Mrs. Buttle, he spots her neighbor Jill Layton (Kim Greist). This woman intrigues Sam because she is quite literally the girl he's been seeing in his dreams all along. He follows her, tries to make contact; all without being aware that she's currently being considered as a reference or a friend of Tuttle (Robert De Niro), who is now a rogue air conditioner repairman (air conditioning is very important in this future). To get more information about Jill, Sam must accept his mother's promotion to Information Retrieval, where he will have access to her files. His mother, Ida (Katherine Helmond) is thrilled that her son is finally showing signs of ambition, but is nonetheless still lost in the world of plastic surgery addiction.

And so the romantic conquest is set in motion. Sam breaks the rules so that he may be with Jill, albeit only for a single night. In the end, it's a sweet and touching love story; although not only a love story. "Brazil" is, above all, a film that satirizes bureaucracy (since if you know the film's history and Gilliam's own, as a filmmaker, you'll know how much he must hate the very concept). Futuristic films are often kind of frightening in what is realized - what we could become - although Gilliam is easy on the audience and provides us with something that is certainly dark underneath it all but comedic enough to also be sort of light-hearted. It's most obvious inspiration is "1984", hence the earlier mention of George Orwell. But "Brazil" itself inspired a lot of fellow artists and straight-up people; so Gilliam himself has his own legacy to claim.

This film has some of the most bizarre images ever committed to celluloid. Some of the most famous in "Brazil" include the scene with the plastic surgeon (Jim Broadbent) who pulls Sam's mother's face like taffy, the baby-like masks worn by the monsters that appear in the dream sequences, and then the dream sequences themselves, which celebrate the power of dreams and often involve Sam fighting off monsters, with his maiden in a cage that floats in the air, grounded only by ropes that are often loose. The imagery is both nightmarish and playful at the same time; Gilliam seeks to entertain, but you also get the sense that these things mean a lot to him. Even though the production had its share of problems, I think Terry got what he wanted (which is more than I can say for two of his more recent outings, if you know what I mean) and the visual style is 100% Gilliam.

This is one of those films that inspires me to want to become a filmmaker that pays extreme attention to even the most subtle of details in every little shot. This is one of those films that makes me want to be the most imaginative man I can be in life. It's so beautiful, so magnificent; so unforgettable. Watching it is an ecstatic experience that I personally react very strongly to. Every time I enter this world through the clouds, set to Geoff Muldaur's "Aquarela do Brasil", I'm in a state that can only be described as sheer heaven. So with that, I would say "Brazil" is an essential film. But know that it's not fulfilling to watch it simply once. If that notion annoys or perplexes you, it would either be wise to turn back or watch it anyways knowing you have been warned by yours truly. Over and out; my complicated had a complication.]]> Sun, 16 Sep 2012 19:16:39 +0000
<![CDATA[ Not overly impressed by this slasher-thriller, but Rutger Hauer was great.]]>
Robert Harmon's "The Hitcher" is a crowd-pleaser slasher movie. The original script that didn't make it to the screen was a lot darker and violent and was therefore scrapped (because darkness and violence is just no good), the suspense isn't too slow-burn for a majority audience so that it's easily accessible, and it'd got a big name in the cast that everyone adores. The producers were convinced that they weren't making a slasher film at all when they were making this movie and rather a thriller, but upon viewing the finished product, I'm not so sure. This feels like a slasher flick. A bland, messy, yet better-than-average slasher flick. And by better-than-average I mean, in the case of the slasher film, better than shit. "The Hitcher" really isn't bad at all. It has more impressive ambitions than most films of its kind, but then again you must remember that it didn't even want to be classified amongst them in the first place.

A young man (Thomas C. Howell) is terrorized by a hitchhiker who turns out to be a serial killer (Rutger Hauer) while delivering a car that he deliberately keeps saying isn't his to a location in San Diego. It starts with him picking up the hitcher and then driving him a little ways, although it doesn't take too long for this fellow to start saying stuff that could come off as disturbing. For instance, he tells his driver that earlier he killed the people in a car that the two see parked on the side of the road when they're still driving into the night. The young man, named Jim, manages to escape the hitcher by throwing him out of the car, left for dead on the side of the road; but of course the bastard follows him around and eventually frames Jim for his crimes. He accomplishes this by switching out their leather jackets at a diner.

The police come at the wrong time and instantly have the wrong man. We know Jim is not the killer, yet the bloody knife is in his jacket pocket. He has virtually nobody to turn to, except for a girl about his age (Jennifer Jason Leigh) that worked at the diner where he stopped. He's able to convince her that he's innocent and together they run from the law. Meanwhile, the hitcher continues to kill all who cross his path, stealing their cars so that he may further be a complete menace to Jim, who understands that there will more than likely be only way out of this hodgepodge.

I'm actually pretty amazed that the experience went by so fast, given how bored I constantly was with the film. It's not a particularly painful or painless watch; it's so heavily flawed that I couldn't really ever say I enjoyed it, but at the same time it's competently made to the point where it is, well, watchable. There is good camerawork (which could be easier appreciated if the DVD wasn't of such bad video quality, if only in the darker scenes), some good gore (although keep in mind, it's far from extreme), and yes, there are a few moments where the thing is actually thrilling. But it's still merely half a thriller as much as it is half a slasher.

On the bright side, Rutger is really good. On the not-so-bright side, I felt he was much underused. The film at least makes an attempt to be tense, but in the end, Rutger brings the best scenes and even those come off as underwhelming. There was nothing worth writing home about in the memorably menacing scenarios department. Plus, Rutger's killer character doesn't get nearly as much screen-time as he deserved; and instead, we're trapped in a story told through the eyes of Howell's "tough" (which translates here to wimp) hero. I do admire that the killer had no motivations behind what he did, since the best villains are often pure evil without any rational explanation, but at the same time these feel like characters that require detailed backstories and characteristics. Instead, the film is left on the side of the road with only its actors, its cinematography, and its laughably weird homoerotic undertones to save it from being a total loss. I say it's still worth seeing; even if it is a huge let down.]]> Fri, 17 Aug 2012 17:53:41 +0000
<![CDATA[ Strange world.]]>
In the fictional logging town of Lumberton, writer-director David Lynch has created an urban landscape pretty enough for a postcard. In a creepy opening, we see men on trucks waving from the streets, dads watering the grass, and flowers growing in front of a white picket fence. The town is a portrait of what an idealistic 1950's society must have been like; content, peaceful, sociable. Or at least this is how we felt it ought to be. Water from a hose meets the green lawn, and below we see a bunch of creepy, crawly bugs. Perhaps the one thing that's off about the society that we are seeing. Although I don't recall anyone taking particular notice of the roaches. Certainly not Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan), a student at Oak Hill College who is introduced as a kid who - aside from being back in Lumberton upon his father having a stroke - enjoys walks along the water; up until the day that he finds a rotting human ear in the middle of a field.

He brings the ear to the local police department and waits on results. Checking up on it, Jeffrey meets the town detective's daughter Sandy (Laura Dern), who tells him of her father's findings over a midnight stroll in the neighborhood. A mysterious yet beautiful night club singer named Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) is somehow linked to the ear, and Jeffrey steals a key from her apartment after posing as an exterminator and returns the next night, hiding in her closet, watching through the blinds as she answers an odd phone call, undresses, and after discovering Jeffrey's presence in her home, is revealed to be currently engaged in a sadomasochistic relationship ("Baby wants to fuck!") with a violent man named Frank (Dennis Hopper), whom Jeffrey theorizes is holding Dorothy's son and husband captive in exchange for her sexual services.

Jeffrey must get himself romantically entangled in this woman's life in an attempt to understand it and perhaps even rescue her. After their second (sexual) encounter, Jeffrey finally meets Frank face-to-face and is taken on a "joy ride", along with Dorothy and some of Frank's thugs. This joy ride includes going to an acquaintance of Frank named Ben's place for drinks and a show, and being beaten up and left for dead in a lumber yard overnight. Frank is indeed one of the most down-right repulsive and sadistic movie characters I've yet to come across; characterized by his constant inhaling from a gas mask that increases the pleasure of the sexual experience as well as the fact that he literally can't go a sentence without dropping an F-bomb. He is also involved heavily in drugs; and the police might be in on it as well.

"I can't figure out if you're a detective or a pervert." Lynch's entertains a lot of ideas that will not, in fact, entertain most people and will instead repel those who are deeply disturbed by themes of sadomasochism and notions of surrealism, typical to Lynch's work (the latter). It's a film about voyeurism, erotic romance, and those seedy little roaches that exist underneath the exterior of every town, every city, and every society. Our first reaction to the story is probably that it is strange, graphic, and unsettling; but upon visiting it twice after my initial viewing, I now see that it is a work of such profound emotional power and resonance that it destroys almost everything Lynch had made prior to it, although I do love "Eraserhead", so I'll be careful in my choice of words there.

I would consider it one of the finest films I've had the pleasure of watching and re-watching. "Blue Velvet" is a movie filled with memorable scenes both beautiful and unpleasant. Let's start with the former. Dean Stockwell as Ben has a great scene in which he lip-syncs to Roy Orbison's "In Dreams", a song which causes Hopper's character to show at least some emotion. It is implied that Frank had a dark sexual past with his mother, which explains the significance of the blue velvet (also a song which plays in the film itself and that Dorothy sings at the nightclub); and it might explain, somewhat, why the song somehow gets to the very core of his being. I am fully aware that a David Lynch film cannot be properly interpreted as his works are highly personal and his job is to entertain through images and sound (the film has both superb cinematography/lighting/use of color and a great soundtrack-score); although my personal interpretation relates to the story being a parable for domestic violence in societies like the one presented.

"It's a strange world, isn't it?" The film fascinates some and repulses others because Lynch hits us where it hurts. We've been in these places, and back then perhaps people did not acknowledge the horrors of inner-city life. "Blue Velvet" exposes every fear and every terror that lies within. It's both frightening and whimsical; there is an element of dark - very dark - humor as well as a genuine layer of grotesque urban realism. Just take a look at Ben's home, Dorothy's apartment, the diner that Jeffrey and Sandy eat at a few times during his investigation. All of these places are normal yet abnormal; the first two especially. Lynch can take just about anything and embed his dream-like spin which makes it all the more distressing. In dreams, I walk with it; in dreams, I talk about it. In dreams, I love "Blue Velvet"; and in dreams, I will watch it several more times in the near future. A strange world indeed.]]> Fri, 17 Aug 2012 17:45:36 +0000
<![CDATA[ Advertised as a B-monster movie; emerges something much more.]]>
The original 1954 version of "Godzilla" - AKA "Gojira" - evades the implications of its B-movie exteriors. Here we have a monster movie that is not really just a monster movie. If it were, it would not have been remembered. Instead, the film impacted those who saw it during its original run. It took a few years for it to hit overseas in America; and under an alternative name (with the subtitle "King of the Monsters") and different footage. But once the world got familiar with the name Godzilla, it never faded from our cultures. It is an important film and an impressive technical achievement for its time. But aside from the effects, which were great for their time, it contains some of the most relevant social commentary out of any contemporary monster movie or horror movie in general (although I wouldn't call "Godzilla" that exactly; think disaster film).

In Japan, a fishing boat disappears one night at sea, seemingly swallowed up by an ocean that engulfs the vessel in roaring water. Another ship is sent out to respond to the distress signal that was sent, and that one disappears as well. Nearby on Odo Island, the villagers are experiencing a bad season for fishing and wonder whether it is because the ocean God they know as Godzilla is in fact damning them. The island's inhabitants then perform rituals to try and keep Godzilla away from their island, and just as they are doing this; the reporters start flocking in by the numbers. Then, a storm hits the island; although something far more sinister - and as one of the villagers says, "alive" - is brought along with it to do the most damage. In the aftermath, the footprints of a large beast are found in the sand.

The people are of course hysterical. They talk, they banter, they debate, and they eventually theorize that nuclear bomb testing was what released Godzilla from its prison underground in the darkest depths of the ocean. But the talking will get them nowhere. The beast continues to strike various locations; destroying bridges and buildings and even parts of Tokyo. Loved ones are being lost every day. There's a particularly sad scene where choirs of young children sing a hymn for those lost in the destruction caused by the monster that reminds us of just how important it would be to stop its primitive rage. A one-eyed amateur scientist is currently developing an Oxygen Destroyer, which could be used to stop the monster dead in its tracks, but at the same time it could also be fatal to the humans if it backfired onto them.

"Godzilla" is an interesting movie because it lingers on the humanity of the people involved in the decision-making. In a sense, it is a movie about decision-making in itself. Are those pushing the buttons willing to risk the lives of others to destroy a great beast from the deep? Would it be possible to capture Godzilla for further observation? There are probably a few great scientific discoveries to be mad here. But the authorities don't seem to care. That's where the individuality and determination of the smarter citizens comes in. And that's also where the film is at its most interesting and entertaining. For a movie featuring a gigantic monster destroying shit, it's surprisingly clever in its plotting and is more story-centric than most movies of the genre that it more or less kick-started (although monsters have always been popular in most cultures around the world on cinematic terms).

It's difficult to look at the film and not be reminded of the Hiroshima attacks and the effects that WWII had on Japan. The film itself was intended as a grim reminder of the nation's past. We can't forget the most devastating of tragedies; and cinema is a great medium for the preservation of such things. Why would we want to "preserve" tragedy? Because once in a while, you know, we tend to learn from our mistakes; and with every great tragedy comes something learned, or so I would hope. So I see "Godzilla" as an evocative piece on the countries societal deterioration at the time. There are true artists behind this film - in part, director Ishiro Honda and screenwriting partner Takeo Murata - who observed and loathed the times and decided to express their feelings through a 400-foot tall rubber-suit reptile.

This film alone has inspired an entire legacy of sequels, spinoffs, and rip-offs. I wonder if any of them actually carried the tradition of provocative social commentary, or whether most of them simply cashed in on the titular monster for an excuse to showcase the latest in computer technology that can be used to digitally destroy parts of the world as we know them. The effects have indeed aged, from the fires to Godzilla himself, but there's a charming antique quality to even the most effects-heavy sequences and therefore it's consistently engaging. Over time, Godzilla has evolved in appearance and probably in background as well. The end of the film should have ended the very concept of the beast itself, but one of the motives behind a monster movie is the ignorance of man; so it's never really over. But "Godzilla" isn't so much about stupidity as it is how the cores of our being keep us united in even the most catastrophic of times. That is why it resonates on such a personal level with those who chose to view it as history rather than merely entertainment that is better forgotten than savored.]]> Fri, 17 Aug 2012 17:29:14 +0000
<![CDATA[ Gonzo entertainment! So very very fun.]]>
I love blood. I love guts. I love gore. I love anything (artificial) that flows in large amounts, even if we aren't speaking of bodily fluids. But if we are, then movie blood is what I always crave. The more the merrier is my motto when it comes to such a thing. I'm not easily offended or shocked by movie violence; and in the case of features like "The Evil Dead" and its sequel, the grotesque becomes the darkly comic and absurd. Peter Jackson apparently loves blood, guts, gore, and fake red bodily fluids as much as I do. His early effort "Dead Alive" (known as "Braindead" some places) is an ode or homage to the mere existence of over-the-top movie violence and gore. The whole thing has this real low budget aesthetic to it throughout the first half and that's charming, but what's even more-so is the transition from that to all-out gruesome carnage in the third act.

This is probably one of the most bat-shit insane and violent movies I have ever seen, period. It's such a lively, spontaneous, comic horror farce; it embraces special effects for blood and gore like few films before or after it truly have. And by blood and gore, we're talking organs coming back to life, faces being ripped open and necks suffering from a similar fate, flesh exploding into a frenzy of green goo, and a in a famous scene, a lawnmower meeting with mortal flesh and causing certain disfigurement and mutilation. Was there a line that Jackson ever considered? Because if there was; he not only crosses but disregards it all-together. With "Dead Alive", there simply is no line. And Jackson couldn't give less of a fuck about it.

It starts out with a sequence involving a couple of misguided explorers on the fictional Skull Island who intend to escape with a caged "Rat Monkey", which has a rather nasty bite. Not everyone makes it back alive. Cut to the town of Wellington, New Zealand; where the rat monkey now lives, confined in its cage with the other monkeys at a zoo. It's 1957; and the likably docile Lionel (Timonthy Balme) is living with his elderly mother (Elizabeth Moody) and is being pursued by a helpless romantic foreigner named Paquita (Diana Penalver). The two go to the zoo one day on a date and Lionel's over-protective mother tags along, only to be bitten by the crazed rat monkey. Lionel must take care of her while she is still sane, which won't be for long. She starts losing her skin (an ear, parts of her face, soon her whole body) and eventually goes completely mad, or so it seems. Perhaps she's just a zombie.

Her behavior gets increasingly violent and Lionel must purchase a syringe in order to fight back against his mother and the ill-fated house guests that she has killed and turned into zombies just like her. When mother leaves the house, she starts attacking townsfolk and turning them into zombies as well. Soon she'll have an entire army behind her. Lionel must contain what she's started in his house. But it's not easy. Two of the zombies have sex and produce a disgusting little zombie baby who Lionel attempts to father by taking it to the park and then subsequently beating the shit out of it. Then Lionel's obnoxious cousin arrives, discovers the zombies in the guest room, and invites all his friends and family to the house for a party. You know what happens next.

I'm a sucker for movies like this. Movies that are made according to a director's original and daring vision regardless of what the general public might think. Even the most mainstream of film critics have warmed up to this one by now; and it's considered a masterpiece in the field of marrying the humorous with the macabre by horror fans and movie critics specializing in or who enjoy the genre in particular. I can understand why. Here, you've got a director (Jackson) who is known for bigger and supposedly better things such as the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the spectacular re-imagining of "King Kong" (which also features Skull Island). But the truth is that the earlier end of the director's career was populated by absurdist comedies of an extremely over-the-top nature; and this is one of them as well as one of the best. If you're half as crazy as me when it comes to your taste in cinema; you're going to have the movie-going experience of your life with this one.

Kung Fu priests that "kick ass for the Lord", diabolical yet playful zombie newborns, silly dialogue, silly accents, yet effective satire on 50's New Zealand society; "Dead Alive" has just about everything I've been looking for in a movie but never expected I would get. As far as sheer entertainment goes, it's a marvel and I haven't had this much pure fun watching a movie in a long time, but I love it when the occasion pops up at random. Every self-respecting sicko should see this. Any self-respecting human being should see this. It's such a good, hilarious, ridiculous bloodbath that I can't stand seeing it being overlooked by ANYONE. It is good cinema. Because as a special effects extravaganza, it really does understand itself. It's completely self-aware of its absurdity. But it was also influential for the new wave of American horror film; particularly films like "Shaun of the Dead". It's a classic on its own right. A flesh-crawling, head-ripping, toilet-absorbing, blade-cutting good time.]]> Fri, 17 Aug 2012 17:16:45 +0000
<![CDATA[ Murder as art; mystery as romance. Deep Red is the pinnacle of Dario Argento's directing career.]]>
This is the quintessential Dario Argento thriller. Examine the director's entire career - down to every last film he's ever made before and after this - and you'll see that each one contains just a hint of "Deep Red" in its DNA. Argento has been around (in cinematic terms) for a while, since his debut feature in 1970, and if you know his name and have seen a few of his movies; then you're already partially familiar with the name he's made for himself. It's a tie between this and the phantasmagoric "Suspiria" for most widely acclaimed and recognized Argento film, but if I had to take a pick - and that's no easy thing to do when you adore the early works of the director - a personal favorite, this would be it. "Deep Red" explodes right from the screen and assaults the senses with a cleaver, a knife, a hatchet, and just about anything else Argento can find at his disposal. It is a beautiful, poetic horror film that reveals the Italians as the defining artists of their era in the medium of horror cinema.

A British pianist named Marc (David Hemmings) who is currently living in Italy witnesses the brutal murder of psychic Helga Ulman (Macha Meril) in her apartment from the streets. What he sees from where he's standing is her body smash through the apartment window; and what he sees once he's up there picking up the mess is a shady figure in a fedora and raincoat leaving the scene. What we saw earlier was an unidentified person - quite possibly the perpetrator of the crime - watching Mrs. Ulman as she performed her routine in front of an audience. Afterwards, the figure went to the bathroom of the theater where she was performing and put on some suave leather gloves. But of course, Marc didn't see all this. He didn't know that whoever killed Mrs. Ulman was stalking her that very night. All the same, he's now a part of a police investigation.

Marc is joined by spunky female journalist Gianna (Daria Nicollodi), who hasn't found the big break she's been hoping for all her life quite yet, although this might just be it. Together, they seek to solve the puzzle; find the killer, try to understand his/her pattern and who is on the list next if there is a list at all, and put an end to this madness. As they sleuth about, the two forge a very strong romantic bond; the two identify with one another, although at the same time they realize that the killer is still out and about, ready to strike, and that they must act fast if they are to save any more lives.

This is one of those movies where the police are of no help to the heroes whatsoever. A common story element in Argento's films is characters having to find their own ways out of the labyrinth that they've gotten themselves lost in from the beginning all the way to the end; and "Deep Red" has quite the labyrinth indeed. There are a few side characters of note: such as Marc's drunkard friend (who is later revealed to be gay) named Carlo, his eccentric mother who keeps confusing Marc for an engineer, and even Gianna's car (which is a piece of shit that is in need of some serious repairs), which has defunct doors. The killer, leather-clad, has his/her peculiarities; such as a tape recording of a children's nursery rhyme that plays whenever he/she is near. When you hear this song, you know shit's about to go down. Eventually you start to get familiar with the tune, and it becomes as important as say the "Jaws" theme. Too bad it's not nearly as world-renown.

But...who cares whether today's movie-going public isn't down with Argento or Italian horror cinema as a whole? Who cares about popularity? That didn't matter to Argento when he made this film and it doesn't matter to him now. There are plenty of people who appreciate this brilliant and thoroughly engaging film; including myself. In fact, I'd go as far as calling it one of my personal favorites. Yes, that's right. If I said there are few films that give me such satisfaction - such great pleasure - as this one, I would not be exaggerating. "Deep Red" is a flawless marriage of sound and sight; a mad concoction of elaborate murder set pieces (a gruesome bathroom death sequence is worthy a shout out), a screeching prog rock score, and impeccable cinematography. This is probably the best shot horror movie I've seen, considering that there isn't a dull frame in sight and the colors really get a chance to stand out. Argento's lighting techniques are as innovative as his loopy, if not imperfect storytelling.

However, this is not a film about storytelling or characters. Both of these things are indeed present, but they are put on the backburner to make way for things of more importance to Argento and fans of Italian horror dream logic: such as grisly but creatively over-the-top violence, quirky humor, and top notch suspense (Hitchcock, a few years before his death, praised Argento as the possible heir to his throne). Argento, in his early years, was a poetic of the macabre who by abandoning conventional storytelling brought to life nightmarish cinematic visions, and this is one of the great ones. Here, the images and sound tell the story. Music, I think, has the most impact on "Deep Red" and its overall quality. Goblin's original music score is absolutely unreal; and I love these guys, I really do, because they make music for horror movies that wouldn't typically be found in horror movies at all. And the music commands every scene that it appears in. Accompanied by the stunning imagery - such as the killer's grotesque drawings that are revealed in the walls of old buildings and baby dolls hung from a rope noose - the score is simply flawless. It's one of my favorite film scores ever.

I fear I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm giving this film - which I love to death and always will - my highest recommendation possible, gushing over the darn thing and showering it with praise that can seldom be matched. I might as well stop here. But I believe an element of the story sums up the film in a nutshell. In the beginning, when Marc was rushing to the dead body of the psychic, he briefly saw a painting hanging on the wall of the hallway that lead to her room that looked suspicious. Until the end, he questions whether what he saw was something authentic or something imagined. It looked like a face in the picture; a human face, but he can't be too sure. That's how I feel whenever I watch this film. It's a work of art that is just far too sublime to take in upon a single viewing. Every time I watch it, I find that I need to watch it once more just to absorb the essential details. You watch it and then you look within yourself for some rational explanation to it all. What I do now is stop thinking so hard and accept that the surrealistic artistry of Argento is - or at least used to be - his ability to manipulate our minds in such ways that we are overwhelmed and ever-so-vulnerable.]]> Thu, 26 Jul 2012 01:38:56 +0000
<![CDATA[ Come out and play-ay.]]>
"The Warriors" begins with a particularly stylish opening montage that depicts several gangs - each supposedly handling no weapons, and each limited to about nine members or less - boarding and leaving trains, riding buses and driving cars; all too one similar location. We could just as easily follow any single gang, but the one we follow throughout the narrative gives the film its title. The Warriors make it to the scene and an almighty figure named Cyrus rises onto a park stage in front of many gangs and calls together a truce. As long as the truce is in effect, gangs must be peaceful with other gangs. But when a rival gang member assassinates Cyrus and blames the Warriors for the murder, they're on the run from anyone in the streets capable of doing damage. After all, with Cyrus dead, the truce doesn't matter so much anymore. Oh, and I forgot to mention: this all takes place in the near future.

That's the entire plot in a nutshell, but it's not really about plot at all. The film was somewhat of a problem child when it first released in 1979; it was controversial for supposedly inspiring several violent acts amongst gang members who would often attend screenings for the sake of duking it out right there in the theater and therefore, critics didn't quite know what to make of it at the time. But luckily, time has been kind to this film. It has since found an audience that appreciates it in all its glory and what writer/director Walter Hill was trying to do. I'm not entirely convinced that he achieved everything that he'd hoped to with the picture, but it's an adrenaline rush of pure absurd, violent whimsy. And it doesn't even stop for petty moralization.

This is a style over substance exercise, but it's one of those absolutely entertaining and delightful ones that draws you in from the first frame. People remember it for the quirky characters, the hammy dialogue that delivers a laugh a minute, the exciting fight scenes, and the elaborate employment of lighting schemes. The "plot" - if you could call it that - is not much more than what I have already described, although the situational material is brilliant enough to carry the rest of the movie on its own. Notable action scenes include, but are not limited to, gang fights with: the Orphans, the Turnbull AC's, and the Baseball Furries, who provide iconic imagery for the film's status in pop culture with their painted faces and baseball bat weaponry.

Walter Hill said that he intended to present the film as a sort of live action comic book. He attempts to do so by sketching a paper thin plot that jumps around from place to place, ridiculous situation to situation, and by writing strange and peculiar characters. The Warriors themselves are a lively bunch - - Ajax (James Remar), Cleon (Dorsey Wright), Cochise (David Harris), Cowboy (Tom McKitterick), Fox (Thomas G. Waites), Vermin (Terry Michos), Snow (Brian Tyler), Rembrant (Marcelino Sanchez), and pretty boy Swan (Michael Beck) - and they're cleverly backed by more than enough supporting characters. The most important of all of them is perhaps Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh), a love interest for Swan.

But then again, let's not forget people like Luther (David Patrick Kelly), who delivers one of the film's greatest lines: "Warriors! Come out and play!" It may not sound like much on paper, but the ham-handed delivery of the line is simply priceless, and it has to be seen to believed, just like most of the famous scenes and quotes from the film. "The Warriors" is surely imperfect and probably still loathed by some mainstream critics, but I thought it was a fun ride charged by its visuals and wild, eccentric charm. I bet it works better with friends, since it's just so damn quotable that you've probably seen half of it without even meaning to (we can thank Youtube for that), but watching it alone, I still enjoyed myself quite a bit. It's a difficult film to pin down to one selective genre, but that's just one of the things that I found so endearing about this little futuristic actioner. If Cyrus were to ask if I dug it, I would say - without a doubt on my mind - "Yes, I do."]]> Thu, 26 Jul 2012 01:34:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Hard Movie]]> Sun, 15 Jul 2012 19:43:54 +0000 <![CDATA[Hard Candy Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]>
This movie proves that David Slade is one of the least talented filmmakers in recent years.]]> Mon, 25 Jun 2012 16:29:32 +0000
Characterized by its signature catchy lyrics, dancing trannies, midnight movie stylistics, and blood-red pouty lips on the common poster; "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" was an unmistakable cult phenomenon that took the world by storm in 1975 by introducing something new: audience participation. Since it's the characters and the songs that the fans of the musical film would remember most fondly; they would often come to midnight screenings and otherwise dressed in "Rocky Horror" attire, ready to sing along with their horrorshow heroes on-screen. They say that the best way to view the film is to see it in a theater with these very people, and they are probably right. I'm sure the audience participation aspect makes the film even more enjoyable than it already is. But at home, some say the magic is gone. I've heard critics make ridiculous claims such as that the film - upon a home video viewing - has been reduced to the bear minimal elements of its complete whole (which can apparently be accessed in the theatrical setting). Well, as I write this, I've seen it twice now; and I must disagree. Both viewings took place in the comfort of my own home, and my theory is that as long as you have good "surround sound" and a pleasingly large screen to view it on, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is still all kinds of fun, so long as this was your idea of fun to begin with.

The film and its characters now find themselves embedded into pop culture. I've seen shirts being sold in regular retail stores with the red lips printed on the front, along with various other shirts sporting art from the movie. And then there's the soundtrack, which is not too rare at all; in fact, I've seen it often at my local multi-media store. One of the largest cult films ever seems less of a cult film now, since it's moved more towards the mainstream. That's OK, since this does not affect how much I - or anyone else for the matter - was entertained by it. It's about quality, not quantity, as some many wise men tend to say. I'm a picky little bastard when it comes to full length musicals, as you may already know by now, but this is essentially what I want when I'm looking to admire one: great music and stylistic peculiarities that only this genre can possess. You couldn't do "Rocky Horror" as a conventional picture. It exists as a musical and only a musical; less about plot and more about rhythm, attitude, and flow. That's the kind of movie-going experience that midnight movie audiences are always looking for.

Lovers Janet (Susan Sarandon) and Brad (Barry Bostwick) get stranded in the middle of the woods one dark, stormy, and rainy night when their car breaks down; prompting them to literally sing their way to the nearest creepy looking Gothic mansion. When they arrive at the front of the estate to ask if the house owners have a phone that they can use, they are practically sucked in to the festivities at hand. Soon, the mansion's caretakers Riff Raff (Richard O'Brien) and Magenta (Patricia Quinn) are doing the famous "time warp" (again and again) along with the other residents of the house. Afterwards, the "master" arrives; Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the "sweet transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania". He ignores the requests for a phone and asks that Brad and Janet accompany him in witnessing the awakening of his newest creation, Rocky Horror (Peter Hinwood); a handsome devil who somehow manages to tear everyone apart. Also joining these characters in their downwards spiral towards madness and betrayal is Dr. Everett V. Scott (Jonathan Adams), a fellow scientist who the couple was heading to see as their car broke down.

The music is sung by the stars and was written by Richard O'Brian (creator of the original 1972 stage play of the same name) and the director, Jim Sharman. It's hard not to like a lot of it. From the intoxicating opener titled "Science Fiction/Double Feature" to the well-known "Time Warp" all the way to one of the last tunes - the beautiful and surprisingly moving "I'm Going Home" -, I was tapping my toes throughout the whole 100 minutes. Perhaps the film appealed to me as much as it did because it is heavily thematic in the realm of horror and science fiction. It seems to take most of its influence from films of both genres, "Frankenstein" specifically. Riff Raff is a sort of hunchback; Frank-N-Furter is somewhat of a mad scientist. The mansion itself feels like another dimension entirely, as if the characters have been transported to some otherworldly place. This feel which the film has achieved so gloriously is the key to its success as midnight entertainment for the late-night audience; it is strange, trippy, psychedelic, and spiked with a wicked sense of humor. It's very fast-paced and it might take a few viewings to really appreciate, but it truly does put a sinister spell on you from the beginning to the end.

With the help of its eccentric nature and its fan-base, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" understands that a film must not simply dream it to become big, but also be it as well; and so it is a film of massive scope and spectacle, an experience of much charm, sensuality, and magnificence. It's not the ultimate cult flick, but as a piece of pop surrealism; it's surprisingly not annoying, nor is it distracting. It's a film that serves as a diversion, but I firmly believe that there are classic movies even of that sort; and this is one of them. With something as interesting, funny, and entertaining as this; I cannot determine the exact amount of times I will be doing the time warp again in the future, but my expectation is that it won't be long before I do.]]> Sun, 24 Jun 2012 05:03:10 +0000
<![CDATA[ Lunacy, or...?]]>
However, the true star of this feature is not manifest as flesh and blood, nor of the animate or sentient; this picture's imposing chief presence hasn't a single line of dialogue and it does not perform. Disquiet pervades very few historic sites as it did the Danvers State Hospital, most infamous of the Kirkbride institutions established for the treatment of the mentally deranged. Danvers was a magnificent, sprawling psychiatric facility enlarged by solaria and underground tunnels to accommodate its enormous inpatient body, presumably the locale where the pre-frontal lobotomy was first administered and a costly exemplar of the Victorian era's bold confrontation of mental illness as a fearsome epidemic. Following the widespread federal and state budget cuts of the Reaganite '80s and modern propagation of humane treatments largely unfamiliar to the DSH's deplorable paradigm, the hospital was shuttered in 1992. Thereafter, it became a home to squatters and playground for vandals as it gradually deteriorated.
Nearly a decade following the DSH's closure, yet years prior to its demolition, Anderson chose not only to shoot a picture there, but to exploit its ghastly milieu in supplement of a fine (if conventional) narrative. More than its decrepitude and furnishings, the very terror of Danvers' departed lingers ineffably onscreen, and Anderson's utilization of proven psych scare techniques are only bettered by the incomparable Danvers foreboding.

Session 9's premise is simple, its plot familiar: an asbestos removal crew arrive at the abandoned mental institution to clear it of the legal profession's favorite construction material. Before long, the strained relations of this eccentric crew deteriorate rapidly, and their audience is confronted with a hoary question: is this commission host to madness, and if so, who among this lot of evidently unstable working men is truly cracked?

All of this flick's characters are stock archetypes: discomfited authority figure (Cullen), irascible working man (Caruso), obnoxious heel (Josh Lucas, already typecast as a prick after American Psycho), sullen closet intellectual (Gevedon) and youthful bonehead (perennial churl Brendan Sexton III, in a rare departure from his usual disreputable characters). Each is as thoroughly defined as their surroundings by way of ample (though not excessive) exposition, just as the Danvers facility is introduced in detail to audiences unfamiliar with its history and legacy, and for which fiction is appended to fact to expand the Danvers infamy.

In all, Anderson's achieved that to which nearly every horror filmmaker should aspire: Session 9 raises goose flesh proud and terrifies, if only for intervals of a few minutes. Much of his deliberate style and methodology are superficially comparable to those of Kiyoshi Kurosawa, though Session 9 pales in comparison with Kurosawa's best. Anderson opts to contrast normalcy with impermeable, discrete moments of terror, and does so effectively, but that chill seldom abates entirely in Kurosawa's broader scope, always lurking as an undercurrent of his most mundane scenes.

Among this picture's chief assets is cinematographer Uta Briesewitz, whose excellent photography via high definition digital video (printed to 35 mm stock for theatrical distribution) is colored by contrast nearly so lifelike as that of film, though lacking its richness of hue. Paired with Anderson's fastidious composition, their product is a very attractive movie produced with a meager $1.5M.

Since Session 9 is immaculately shot, ably performed and as unsettling an American horror flick as any of the past fifteen years, why must it wind down so poorly? During its final fifteen minutes, it casts both ambiguity and over an hour of cunningly cultivated misdirection to the wind to clumsily play its final hand after it's been exposed, and the faltering acting of this denouement reflects its ludicrous dialogue. What might have been that rarity of a truly great contemporary horror movie ends as a good effort partly undone by a hopelessly American failure to sustain obfuscation.

Danvers is gone, now - stripped of its historic status and demolished almost entirety by developers during the middle aughts to make way for apartment complexes. As usual, this is what bureaucrats and politicians in receipt of graft refer to as "progress," and their serfs are expected to grin and bear it because profit's to be had wherever suffering must be forgotten. Thankfully, Session 9 is not only a notable motion picture of its genre, but one of a few fine photographic accounts of an imposing and historied locale that's passed from institutional notoriety to the annals thereof.]]> Wed, 13 Jun 2012 00:17:40 +0000
<![CDATA[District 9 Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]> Despite the movie's less-than-subtle messages about humanity, I found this to be a strong film because of the fact that the characters have decent levels of depth to them, which is one of the main deciding factors for why I like District 9.  In particular, I found Wikus's change in character, physically and in terms of personality, the most interesting.  The cool action scenes and visual aesthetics to the Prawn technology are also helping factors with this.

Unlike the massively-hyped film Avatar, D9 was a bigger success for me for the fact that not everything is shown in such a black-and-white fashion, and D9 was able to successfully tell its story without pretty-looking cat aliens and a $250 million advertising budget.

]]> Fri, 1 Jun 2012 04:01:32 +0000
<![CDATA[ Scariest movies ever: The definitive list, until you write yours]]>

What people do to each other is more horrifying than what scary monsters might do to us. Frankenstein's creation only may be out there. Psycho killers certainly are.

It's not funny but in a way horror is like comedy. Something scares you or it doesn't, just as something makes you laugh or chuckle or it doesn't. There is nothing in between, no "almost funny" or "almost scary."

There is another horror/comedy link. If you don't think these movies are scary, at least you can laugh at me for thinking they are.

The scariest movie I've ever seen:

THE VANISHING (aka Spoorloos) 1988
Directed by George Sluizer. Written by Sluizer and Tim Krabbe, adapting Krabbe's novel The Golden Egg.

A man is haunted by the disappearance of his girlfriend and will do anything to learn what happened to her. Years later he encounters the man he thinks can give him the answer he seeks and he agrees to put himself completely in this stranger's power. Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu gives a subtle, chilling performance as the villain. He is not a Nazi but he nonetheless embodies the banality of evil. There are people like this in the world, and the chance that fate might put us in their paths is terrifying.

The original version in French and Dutch with English subtitles is far superior to the American remake, which features a listless performance by Jeff Bridges and an astonishingly absurd happy ending. The ending of this flawless original provides chills that linger long after you might want them to.

#2) JAWS (1975)
Directed by Steven Spielberg. Written by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, adapting Benchley's novel.

Much of this blockbuster is thrilling, but a scene at the beginning is absolutely horrifying. A woman treads water in the ocean. Suspended in a vast and mostly unknown void, she is alone except for a drunken companion on the beach who is too far away to help even if he could. That now-familiar music starts softly. It  grows louder. Then louder still.

She feels something brush against her but doesn't know what. Then she feels pain and doesn't know why. When the awareness of what is happening to her sinks in, her horror also agonizes those of us who are watching.

#3) PSYCHO (1960)
Drected by Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Joseph Stefano, adapting Robert Bloch's novel.

Serial killers exist. Doing something as ordinary as checking into a hotel can put us under their control. This classic about a deranged young man and his mother is familiar, but knowing what comes next does nothing to diminish its power. When Janet Leigh takes her shower or Martin Balsam walks up the stairs it is literally breathtaking. Only after events have played can a little relief can set in.

But the relief lasts only until we take a shower. Or walk into an unfamiliar house. Or do any of the other things that we can only hope remain routine. Many of those routine activities can summon memories of this unforgettable thriller.

#4) HALLOWEEN (1978)
Written and directed by John Carpenter.

Menace lurks in the dark, both in our worst dreams and in our best movies. This is one of the latter that can inspire many of the former. A killer stalks a young woman as she babysits and everything -- shadowy cinematography, eerie music, perfect pacing -- makes the experience feel as horrifying for the audience as it is for her.

#5) MISERY (1990)
Directed by Rob Reiner. Written by William Goldman, adapting Stephen King's novel.

A writer's life depends on his biggest fan, who might be crazy enough to torture him until he writes more about her favorite character. Although writers might empathize more with the central character's plight, anyone who has ever been alone with a stranger can identify enough to feel dread when things start to go wrong for him. The moment when things go really wrong comes as an exceedingly unpleasant surprise.

#6 ) DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1932)
Directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Written by Samuel Hoffenstein, adapting Robert Louis Stevenson's novel.

and DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1941)
Directed by Victor Fleming; written by John Lee Mahin.

Frederic March won the Oscar for his powerful performance in the 1932 version, but Spencer Tracy's portrayal in the 1941 movie is more unnverving. Both productions bring interesting images to Stevenson's classic story. Both actors suggest memorably that monstrousness lies within us, and not too deep within.

Directed by James Whale. Written by R.C. Sherriff, adapting H.G. Well's novel.

Claude Rains gives an unforgettable performance as the title character, a remarkable feat because his character is not seen for almost the whole movie. He uses his voice to make us feel the man's slipping into violent insanity. Supposedly it is the invisibility serum that unhinges him, but Rains' tour-de-force makes us see that the madness was within him all along, just as it might be within all of us.

#8) DEAD OF NIGHT (1945)
An anthology directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Chrichton, Basil Dearden and Robert Hamer. Written by T.E.B. Clarke, John Baines and Angus MacPhail.

If anything is scarier than the real-life horrors we hear about too regularly and hope only to hear about, it is our dreams. When we let go of consciousness we can never be sure what will grip us. This movie about the dreams of people gathered in a remote house in England gives ample reason to dread your next trip to the realm of dreams.

Modern audiences might dismiss much of this restrained black & white movie as quaint, but not Michael Redgrave's powerhouse performance as a ventriloquist who thinks his dummy talks to him. What subsequent lesser movies and television programs have made trite, Redgrave makes haunting.

Directed by Paul Schrader. Written by Harold Pinter, adapting Ian McEwan's novel.

Helen Mirren makes this chilling. Christopher Walken plays her husband so of course something seems not quite right. One can't quite figure out where his interest in a young couple on vacation is leading. But Mirren is there and she's normal so we can believe that everything is okay. Isn't it?


The leisurely pace of the movie leaves us completely unprepared for the sudden, ferocious twist events take near the end. Although it moves too slowly for some viewers, the movie can scare anyone who has ever struck up an acquaintance with strangers in a strange land. And leave you less likely ever to do so again.

Directed by Robert Fuest. Written by William Goldstein and James Whiton.

Vincent Price stars in a movie that features much intentionally campy humor and some seriously unnerving images as well. He is a doctor using Biblical plagues as the theme for his murderous revenge on those he thinks are responsible for his wife's death and his own disfigurement. His method for getting locusts to attack a victim indoors is far-fetched but not impossible. That we haven't heard of real-life killers who use such ingeniously elaborate methods could mean that there aren't any, but it could also mean that they get away with it.

This movie provides perhaps the best showcase for the cultured menace of Price's voice.]]> Thu, 31 May 2012 21:33:23 +0000
<![CDATA[Godzilla (Gojira) Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]>
I think Gojira is much better because the movie has a smoother flow from not being edited and that as a whole, it has a much stronger emotional punch (mostly thanks to the inclusion of subtitles and with more focus on some "darker" scenes).  The movie also makes more sense since there's clearer elaborations on certain parts of the film, and certain sequences of actions make more sense as well.

Sony's Classic Media has released Gojira and Godzilla:  King of the Monsters in a 2-disk set, and with a retail price of only $9.99, all Godzilla fans should add this to their collection pronto.

Hell, even if you're put off by the Godzilla's infamous nature of being "campy," you should watch Gojira because I promise you this is a powerful, serious film.]]> Mon, 28 May 2012 06:33:39 +0000
<![CDATA[ Last House on the Left is little more than a snuff film]]>
It is a loose remake of Ingmar Bergman's THE VIRGIN SPRING (1960), but few people would watch Wes Craven's THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) expecting profound philosophical contemplation or evocative symbolism. The movie is about bloody revenge being taken after horrible violence and so its appeal is in its lurid subject matter and the chills and catharsis it promises.

And yet, one does not remake a Bergman film without signalling that one intends something more than a slasher flick. Craven, who went on to create the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and SCREAM movies, evidently wanted to convey some idea about the nature of violence and what it can do to those of us who are not habitually violent. He fails. Miserably.

It is harrowing to watch two women degraded and brutalized, but Craven makes it all worse by having his ostensibly moral characters -- the ones with whom the audience is intended to identify -- descend to the depraved depths inhabited by his villains and then never rise above those pits again. He brings LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT to a clumsy, abrupt ending that stops short of showing how his heroes respond to the atrocities they have committed. Craven shows that each of us can be driven to violence, which is inarguable, but his ill-considered approach suggests that each of us is no better than a serial killer, which is indefensible.

When they discover their daughter has been killed, a couple get revenge. Their desire to do so is understandable. A jury would be tempted to nullify the law and let them go if what they did reflected any of the restraint we ostensibly civilized people exercise over our base instincts. But no jury would condone what the parents do.

They are supposed to be good, smart people but they stupidly almost get themselves killed during their vengeance. Worse, Craven has them revel in bloodshed just as their daughter's killers did. The woman performs oral sex on one of the killers so that she can rip off his penis with her teeth. Her husband hacks up another killer with a chainsaw, a weapon that the makers of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE appropriately recognized is used only by monsters. Craven makes his would-be sympathetic characters as repellent as his villains.

Even before it gets to that irredeemable ending, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT suffers from significant problems and its audience suffers also. The inept movie is insulting. Horror movies often demand that we suspend a great deal of disbelief, but even viewers willing to play along will be tried too sorely.

Events in Bergman's THE VIRGIN SPRING unfold with grim logic. After a young woman is raped and murdered, plausible circumstances lead her killers to her parents' home. The parents unwittingly extend hospitality to the strangers before events lead them to understand that their daughter is dead and these men killed her. So the father avenges his daughter's murder.

In LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, Craven keeps the outline of Bergman's story, which Bergman drew from a 14th-century Swedish legend, but he does its logic violence almost as great as that inflicted on the young woman. Nothing in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT makes sense.

It starts when two young women foolishly place themselves in danger and then repeatedly accept their fates meekly. People are menaced by sadists in life and in the movies, but even knowing that it can happen does not make it possible to believe it could happen in this way.

After the women are killed, their murderers end up at the home of one of the victims, where the parents are anxiously awaiting their daughter's safe return. Bergman's film is set hundreds of years ago and it is possible that killers travelling by horseback along the only path through the mountains would end their journey where the victim started hers. Craven's movie is set in the early 1970s and it is impossible that killers who kidnap women in Manhattan would drive by chance along the back country roads that lead to the remote home of one of their victims.

Bergman has the parents in his movie recognize their daughter's fate when the killers try to sell to them their daughter's blouse. It is handmade and so it is unique. The mother in Craven's movie recognizes a peace symbol necklace she'd given to her daughter but that is now around the neck of one of the killers. In 1972, peace symbol necklaces were only slightly less ubiquitous than paper clips. There is nothing distinctive about this one and so the mother's recognizing it would be unlikely even if she were Sherlock Holmes.

She and her husband are far from clever, let alone smart. They invite four strangers who look like Manson family refugees into their home, feed them and put them up for the night. The father is a physician and one of the killers is obviously in the throes of heroin withdrawal, but this sets off no warning bells.

THE VIRGIN SPRING ends with the father trying to make sense of his daughter's murder and his violent revenge. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT should have ended the same way, but it ends instead with the audience trying to make sense of a movie that makes none.

Through almost all of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT there is an excruciating extended bit about how incompetent police officers are. The movie stops just as the sheriff, who has been delayed by exceedingly implausible situations, walks into the home that is now a slaughter house. Blood splashes on his eyeglasses and the credits roll.

That's a handy metaphor for the whole movie. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is a bloody mess and Craven's vision for it is hopelessly blurred.]]> Mon, 30 Apr 2012 17:05:48 +0000
<![CDATA[ You've got red on you.]]>
Edgar Wright is the kind of guy who I would best describe as nice. A director of comedy films - always has, always will be, I hope - , it's surprising that one of the genre's greatest minds working today does not succumb to the universal demands of the folks overseas. A filmmaker working primarily in his homeland United Kingdom, Wright isn't one to rely on gross-out gags or excessively crude humor. He does however seem to like blood a whole lot. But that's one of the simple pleasures of a great many artists. Wright achieved fame in his native country with his television program "Spaced", although it wasn't until he made "Shaun of the Dead" that the modern comic genius made his debut into worldwide sensationalism. This was the film that put him on the map, as a name to look out for in the future; his name was a selling point in itself for all his other directorial (and non-directorial) features to follow. Nevertheless, I like to think of this as the one that started it all; the madness, the hilarity, the ingenuity, the blood and the ice-cream. You know what I mean.

The titular hero, Shaun (Simon Pegg), is an almost fascinatingly lazy and hopelessly clueless man. He's a slacker, shares a flat in London with his best friend Ed (Nick Frost) - who's admittedly a bit of a useless turd himself - and goes through life day by day with a rinse-repeat philosophy on his mind, or not. He's able to uphold a decent job at a retail shop with indecent people, but he's not so lucky in his love life. Not too long after the story opens, Shaun's girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) breaks up with the hero, finding him to be incompetent. She believes that if they remain partners, they'll both end up drowning their sorrow and boredom in alcohol at the local pub - The Winchester - for the rest of their lives. She's probably right, even if Shaun has no complaints or regrets.

Things are not looking all too well for Shaun. He plans to get drunk with Ed for the next few days - and probably lie around the house a little - to try and get the breakup off his mind. These plans are interrupted when people start falling unconscious on the streets at random, old men start eating pigeons in the park, and seemingly drunk convenience store clerks are mysteriously ending up in Sean's backyard. It soon becomes clear that this is not just rapid public drunkenness; the newscaster on the television explains that this is the start of a full-fledged zombie apocalypse. After realizing that they aren't quite safe at all where they stand, both Shaun and Ed devise a plan to round up Liz, her roommates Dianne (Lucy Davis) and David (Dylan Moran), and Shaun's mom (Penelope Wilton) so that they can ensure a chance at survival. Shaun just hopes he won't have to take his stepfather (Bill Nighy) - whom he passionately loathes - along with them for the trip.

The first half of the film is devoted to build-up. The opening titles sequence depicts an almost emotionally desolate London in which life is forever repetitive, contrived, and almost robotic; people are essentially zombie-like even without the craving for human flesh. Shaun is no different, and there are two prolonged scenes - almost identical in visual style - in which he leaves the house, picks up a beer at the supermarket, and plops back down on the couch again. Then...there's panic on the streets of London. Now, the second half of the film is set after the group that Shaun has gotten together avoids the "panic". They set up camp in the Winchester for a while, hoping that they will be safe, even though a window has been shattered. They should be fine; they've got food, alcohol, and look, even a shotgun over the bar that gave the pub its name.

"Shaun of the Dead" is my payoff for all those countless days, hours, and weeks spent watching or just THINKING about zombie movies. The title itself is of course a play on a certain George Romero genre classic, and there are little in-jokes and clever references to past zombie flicks scattered throughout this one. So if you know your stuff about the genre, look out for those; and you'll have an even better time than what is already guaranteed. Even without the references, there are enough laugh-out-loud moments and jokes to more than keep the film afloat. Wright seems to enjoy visual gags the most; which is apparent in scenes like the one where the group walks through London to get to the pub disguised as the undead (they try their hand at convincing moaning noises and jolted bodily movements), as well as another where Shaun and Ed go to town on some bloodthirsty zombies hanging around their throwing Shaun's entire LP record collection in their general direction.

It's ultraviolent, bloody, and you'd better bet that it's sometimes quite profane (one of my favorite scenes is a non-stop barrage of four-letter words). But it's also one of the more absorbing comedies out there. I cannot simply count how many times I've seen and thoroughly enjoyed the film but I can tell you right now that it's been a while. I'm glad I finally revisited the film; for it's one of those special viewings where you feel like you're revisiting every last location presented in the actual movie. From the Winchester to Shaun's flat, to the individual scenes of humor that take place in between and within them; everything felt familiar, but in a good way. If I already know and anticipate the joke(s), but they still manage to make me laugh until it hurts, you know a movie has been taken completely to heart. It's one of the few comedies that completely immersed me in its universe. You remember the names of the smaller characters long after you've survived Z-day.

Case in point, the film has not changed on bit from the last time I saw it until now. "Shaun of the Dead" remains a bloody good time at the movies; the kind of flick that will someday (deservingly) spawn some sort of cult following (it already has, somewhat). If you are in need of a very fine introduction to Wright's hilarious and wholly impressive body of work, this would be the movie to get you started. It may not be loved by all, but you'd have to be a sourpuss to reject it completely. After all, one should know how to accurately distinguish a good homage/genre spoof from a bad one. What I like most about the film is that it mixes genuine atmosphere, scares, and drama with brilliant comedy that ranges from physical to dialogue-driven antics. If it had tried any harder, it might have failed; but then again, why let the thought even cross my mind in the first place?]]> Wed, 11 Apr 2012 21:13:47 +0000
<![CDATA[ Once again, Coscarelli shows that he has a beating heart and soul.]]>
The charm of a Don Coscarelli film is the way in which he treats his characters and the sparks that fly between them. Seldom does he mean to do this in a romantic sense, but I've always enjoyed his movies for their honest portrayals of friendship and human relationships. I'd have to say that one of his newer films, "Bubba Ho-Tep", is easily his most accomplished work since his breakthrough feature, "Phantasm", in terms of the overall character development and consistent endearment. It's the kind of film that you can't help but enjoy and respect; and while most critics may find it hard to love, I smell a fan-base and a cult status not too far off on the horizon. After all, Coscarelli is a favorite of horror fanatics worldwide, and since I consider this to be one of his best films yet, I imagine it will have no trouble finding its way into the hearts of a great many movie-goers and leaving its mark. What I don't know is whether my predictions will prove accurate; but what I do know is that it's one of the most enjoyable films I've seen in some time.

You might be wondering up-front; what exactly does the title "Bubba Ho-Tep" mean? The movie begins with a double-definition; and it's through this that we learn the true meaning of the film's title. Apparently, Ho-Tep refers to a mummy or Pharaoh of some sort, just anyone from Egypt (long ago) overall, and Bubba refers to, well, a white man (preferably a redneck). Another opening tidbit in the form of a condensed black-and-white documentary informs us that the remains of one of these Ho-Tep sorts has been recovered from an expedition in Egypt and is now coming to a museum near you. But when the bus carrying the mummified corpse crashes and lands head-first into a river, the spirit of the mummy is revived, and he decides to go on a killing spree in order to steal the souls of the living. He starts with a nursing home in Texas, not far from where the bus skidded off the bridge and into the water.

Living at the nursing home is an aging, cranky Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell). He is forever complaining about his penis and how he can no longer maintain or even flat-out GET an erection (although in one scene, an idea makes it possible for him to get one for just an instant) and pondering inevitable death. He's so very close to it. He's just waiting to die at this point. He is indeed Elvis Presley - The King - but nobody will believe him. As we're told, he's been confused for an Elvis impersonator that he had signed a contract with some time ago; only the contract, which would have provided legitimate proof of his true identity, was destroyed in a trailer-park grill fire explosion. The King is therefore reduced to nothing more than just a sitting duck in a bed, wondering whether his pecker will ever get better.

However, he does have one friend at the home; that is a man named Jack (Ossie Davis), who claims to be John F. Kennedy. This time around, I can understand why nobody believes his claims; the man is black, for God's sake, and he seems borderline mental. Yet, Elvis discovers a bullet wound - very much reminiscent of the one documented in the Zapruder film - on the back of his head. Nevertheless, the two seem to get along. This is good, especially when the two of them both discover a nasty bug infestation of giant green roaches in the building; making them intent on finding the source. Their findings bring them to the discovery of the escaped mummy, as well as his intentions. They decide that they must do all in their power to save the souls of themselves, their friends, and the people that lubricate their wrinkly dicks; and they proceed to do so in true Don Coscarelli fashion. Scenes of wheelchair-bound battle certain to ensue.

Coscarelli has been making films since the early 1970's, but he didn't venture into the horror genre until 1978. Still, several good decades later, he has not lost a bit of his wit or charm; resorting to cheesy - but admirable - animatronic effects for the bugs and traditional make-up for the mummy. The camerawork also creates an almost deeply nostalgic feel; which makes the film all the more entertaining, for me. Coscarelli almost even achieves a certain atmosphere with the camera placement, the lighting, and the locations put together; although I suppose that was the intent, given that he wanted to craft a horror-comedy that rightfully blended the two elements in equal doses. Sure, it's not actually scary, but some movies of this sort tend to half-ass both the production and the script, and that's not the case here. Coscarelli's strength is in writing characters that you enjoy being around, and he's accomplished quite a bit with his quirky JFK and Elvis reincarnations. There are also recurring themes of the philosophical approach to life and death; something not terribly new to the man's films.

The bottom line is this: if you want a good time, go out and rent this movie. You (probably) won't regret it. I think its best appreciated if you are aware and appreciate Coscarelli's earlier films; but it works well enough on its own. It may indeed underwhelm when the horror bits start to kick in, but it made me laugh like few films of recent times have truly been able to, and I appreciated that. I think it takes some considerable skill to pull off a charming, engaging comedy with characters that you care about and comic situations of skillful timing and a certain whimsical quality to them. Love it, hate it, like it, or think it's just kind of "meh"; "Bubba Ho-Tep" will nonetheless stick with you for its eccentric ideas and off-kilter perception of horror slapstick. Don Coscarelli; thank you, thank you very much.]]> Mon, 2 Apr 2012 01:56:04 +0000
<![CDATA[ There are good zombie movies, and Fido is not one of them.]]>
I have seen my share of zombie films both good and bad; and the Canadian-made "Fido" isn't either. It's a satirical horror-comedy with an intriguing premise, but unfortunately, I suppose it would be appropriate to just say up front that it does close to nothing with its simple but entertaining ideas. It presents us with futuristic ideas, although it sets the story in the 1950's; the idea is that radiation waves from space have hit earth and caused the dead to become the undead, or zombies, if you prefer. For a while, the living went to war with the dead - a battle which the former ultimately won - and after it was all over, a brilliant scientist had developed technology that would allow the zombies to become tame. From then on, zombies were to be treated as household pets or better yet even maids; in the film, we see these walking, rotting corpses mowing lawns and getting their masters lemonade. They can be controlled by a collar that they must wear at all times. It has been created by a company called Zomcom; and they provide consumers with a button and a collar, respectively, to be able to live out their lives without the fear of becoming a zombie's next meal.

The film takes place mostly in suburbia, where the hero (a young boy named Timmy, played effectively by child actor K'Sun Ray) is living a quiet, peaceful, but uneventful life with parents Bill (Dylan Baker, still as funny and creepy in equal doses as ever) and Helen (Carrie-Anne Moss). Then, his parents decide to purchase their very own zombie, in spite of Bill's profound phobia of the creatures. Timmy warms right up to the hulking beast, and soon it becomes more of a boy and his dog story than one about the zombie apocalypse (or zombies at all). I'll just assume that was what writer-director Andrew Currie was aiming for and move on.

Timmy calls his new friend Fido (played by Irish comic Billy Connelly, who breathes new life to the role of a character who is essentially lifeless). They have many misadventures over the course of the 90-minute film, including run-ins with classmates of Timmy's who aspire to work for Zomcom when they get older, and a tragic incident in which Fido chooses a not-so-kindly old lady that lives across the street from Timmy and his family as his meal of choice. For the most part, Timmy is able to keep such things a secret; but his new neighbor - the head of security for Zomcom - is on to his antics, and eventually it gets out of hand.

I respect the artistic vision that first-timer Currie had in mind. "Fido" is a rare horror-comedy with the purist of intentions - the gore is toned down significantly in comparison to most horror films these days, supposedly to provide a more family-friendly viewing experience, I guess - but I was let down when it failed to live up to the premise that it had been building up for so long. I liked the musical and visual representation of a 1950's-era America, but the film still failed to draw me in. The satire is too obvious, and while it's occasionally kind of funny, there aren't enough well-written characters or comical situations for the movie to hold its own. There are side characters that I found amusing, such as one played by Tim Blake Nelson, but overall; it's never as clever as it wants to be.

There are good performances. There is competent direction. And there are good, solid ambitions all-around. But I found the film to be a total drag; it never takes off as far as the premise goes, and it fails to combine gory scares with dark humor effectively. There were...a few big laughs, but that's pretty much it. Otherwise, you've just got a movie that feels as lifeless and dry as the decomposing corpses that occupy it. Maybe if the film hadn't exploded into a cesspool of heavy-handed sap and sentimentality towards the end, I might have gone easier on it, but even then, I can't say I was ever particularly entertained past the 20 minute mark. This isn't a good zombie movie, but it certainly isn't a bad one either. It fails to deliver the gore but I respect and admire what it's trying to do; just not what it actually does, which isn't much, to be honest. There isn't a doubt on my mind that others will find it to be more engaging, funny, and satisfactory; but I've been watching horror movies for far too long to make the mistake of applauding what is essentially a half-cooked effort. But then again, even those can be fun sometimes.]]> Mon, 2 Apr 2012 01:47:32 +0000
<![CDATA[ I've got it ! Let's kill a dog! Let's scare a baby! That'll creep 'em out!]]>
I don't blame director Tod Williams for the failure of "Paranormal Activity 2". I blame the studio for wanting to expand on a premise that seemed just about worn out by the time the original film ended. I also blame the studio for wanting to cash-in on America's arrogance; they know most of us are idiots, and that we will pay to see disposable garbage such as this, and they exploit the fact. Simply put, this movie is a product of greed. Why so many horror fans and movie-goers both passionate and casual are oblivious to all this is beyond me; worse, it freaking worries me. People defend the film by saying that whether we like it or not, it makes us jump: but those same people are forgetting that if we lived by that philosophy, just about every horror flick released would be good, so to speak.

The first film, if you missed it, involved a couple (Micah and Katie) who invested in a hand-held video camera that they placed in their bedroom in order to record some paranormal activity that Katie was suspicious of. If you did see the film, then you'll know that they ultimately got more than they bargained for. To review "Paranormal Activity 2", I feel it almost absolutely necessary to reference the original film as much as possible; because in a film as disappointing and flat-out indulgent as this, the least I can do is compare.

OK, so the film acts as more of a prequel rather than a sequel (for reasons genuinely unspecified); focusing on Katie's sister and her family this time around. Coincidentally, they too are disturbed by some strange going-ons in their household; prompting them to purchase hand-held digital cameras of their own (this investment inspired that of Micah). However, the cameras are placed in different places. See here: there's a camera by the family pool and the patio, one mounted in the new baby's room, and a few more all around the house (ranging from the front entrance to the kitchen). It's clear that these people really want to know the truth about what's going on; and whether it was wise to force their former maid to vacate the premises due to her strange behavior regarding the titular activity.

I guess the film might have worked had it been particularly skilled in the art of recycling. Too bad it's not. "Paranormal Activity 2" doesn't work for me because it takes the style from the original film and makes a considerable effort to do bigger, more extreme things with the concept. Stylistically, it feels entirely the same; with few surprises worth writing home about, save for a few good moments. Quite frankly, I was kind of bored by the familiarity in the situation presented.

So here I am; trapped with these hideously uninteresting people for just a little less than 90 minutes. Some will be willing to trudge through the muck and find something worth talking about "Paranormal Activity 2", but in my honest opinion, it doesn't even come close to truly earning my praise. Yeah, loud noises make the audience jump; that's natural, but I'm not really frightened by all that. In my opinion, fear only comes full circle when more thought-provoking issues are present, and "PA2" gives you absolutely none of those.

I'm not enthusiastic about this movie. I honestly don't want to be writing this review right now; but I'm doing it anyways, regardless of my personal feelings. I can't tell you whether "Paranormal Activity 2" is worth a gander or not; I say go your own way, and respect my opinions regardless of your own. Chances are you will enjoy the movie, to a degree. Just go in knowing that this prequel has no intentions to build up suspense the correct way; like a civilized horror film. It intends to scare you with loud noises, jump scares, and abrupt violence. If you're under eighteen years of age, that should be perfectly fine. You'll most likely have a pretty good time. I just wish I could share those sympathies; but I don't. Instead, I think "Paranormal Activity 2" sucks, and that's that.]]> Sat, 18 Feb 2012 02:31:09 +0000
<![CDATA[ Disturbed without seeing.]]>
It may not have the best story, or the best characters, or the best of anything; but I still found myself admiring Fabrice Du Welz's "Calvaire" a whole lot, and consistently to boot. This is one of those films that tries hard enough to succeed, in spite of its shortcomings (and I assure you, there are many), and the end result will either repulse you with its "awfulness" or surprise you with how genuine it is. A lot of loving craft went into the picture and I respect that; it all pays off. Welz has made a chilling thriller that truly aims to distress its audience. At this point, it isn't a matter of how much you love or hate the movie; it's how disturbed you are.

Normally, I wouldn't like this approach, but there's something about the way in which Welz goes about staging all three acts of his film. It's the story of pop singer Marc Stevens (Laurent Lucas) who is leaving a show at a retirement home when his car breaks down somewhere deep in the woods; and he finds himself stranded there, searching for help. Eventually, it comes his way in the form of a strange man searching for a lost man; and it is this same kind but quirky guy that leads Marc to an Inn not far from where his car remains. The Inn is run by a man named Bartel (Jackie Berroyer); who appears kindly, or at least kindly enough to tow Marc's car to the premises and attempt to fix it up a bit.

Marc stays a few days; a few nights. Bartel is comforting and nice; but there's work to be done. The car needs repairing, and so do Marc's emotions, which are in a tangle. To ease himself of this burden, he takes walks around the local and surrounding areas; troubled only by an instant in which Bartel warned him of a nearby village - telling him never to approach it. When Marc fails to listen and makes his way to the village regardless of Bartel's warnings; there is a dramatic turning point for the story that comes in the form of a scene depicting ritual-like bestiality between man and pig.

Oh, and that's just the beginning of the weirdness that is soon to unfold. The story keeps getting stranger...and stranger...and oddly, a little more complex; as it goes on, of course. Since I'm hoping that a good few of you reading are curious about the film and wish to pursue and ultimately see it, I will not go any further in describing the story; because going further would mean spoiling a lot of the nasty surprises present throughout the remaining portion of the story.

I like this movie because it does not cheat its audience. There's always a foreboding feeling of dread from the minute Marc hops in his van and hits the road; and Welz is very peculiar in how he builds suspense. He builds it through characters, dialogue, location, visual style, the off-kilter lack of a musical score, and horrors that have yet to reveal themselves. This is not - and I repeat, NOT - a horror movie; but more-so a quiet, deceptive, engaging thriller that does indeed have some thrills, some chills, and some scares. This is a film that makes its mystery known before it's even revealed; yet it's made with such taste and style that we don't call it "cheap" or "disappointing". Or maybe that's just me being opinionated; because I'm told that not everyone respected the ordeal while it lasted.

While I'm kind of sad that this isn't a great film; I'm also glad that it isn't a bad one either. I imagine that it could have been better had it have been given a stronger opening scene (it begins with Marc singing to some old people; there were probably many other mapped-out choices in terms of how to begin the film, and I'm sure they were all better than the final pick) and more interesting, multi-dimensional characters. However, it's got enough genuine tension and skill put into it that I can push those things aside and recommend it to those willing to trudge through some thick, thick muck.

In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to live with movies like "Wolf Creek" and "August Underground". But this is not a perfect world, and therefore the sick, perverted bastards behind such exploitative garbage are allowed to run wild in order to freely express their "art". The primary reason why I enjoyed "Calvaire" is because it's just as disturbing as the said films; yet it doesn't provoke disgust out of what we see. Rather, it's all atmosphere, tension, and build-up; something that those repulsive, sick insults to cinema lack. And if I had to choose how I'd want to be disturbed, I'd choose a film like "Calvaire" over some torture porn feature any given day of the week.]]> Sat, 28 Jan 2012 21:41:12 +0000
<![CDATA[ Creepy flick; best seen in its newest restoration.]]>
"The House by the Cemetery" is an exceptional example of a movie so bad that it's actually pretty good; perhaps even great. Under the direction of Lucio "Godfather of Gore" Fulci; it's a film plagued by boring characters, narrative incoherence, a slew of illogical situations, silly dialogue, and fame by way of the Home Video market. Okay, maybe that last one isn't so bad; given it's more of a fate, and not one that all films are lucky enough to meet. In my experience, people only like a movie if there's something about it if they like; because you cannot like, love, or even despise something without reason. The films of Fulci are often noted for three things: their gore, their atmosphere, and their surrealistic qualities. "The House by the Cemetery" is really no different when compared to Fulci's other works.

Here's what I've learned to do. I come into these movies with an open mind now; something I was unable to do when I had first begun discovering them. Yes, as a critic; I'm not supposed to like movies like this, because in theory, they are trashy, and nothing more. Indeed, there are few redeemable qualities to any of Fulci's films, other than that they can be immensely enjoyable as long as you're able to suspend your disbelief. We're expected to do that with just about every other film, so, why is it so difficult to do it when it's absolutely necessary?

"The House by the Cemetery" had me hooked and entertained because it displays all of what I've come to expect from the great gore-master. I've come to believe that Fulci is a poet of the macabre; and his films are all about style and the basic set-up of horror rather than substance. That's a logic that has always been prevalent in horror; but it seems to have been abandoned as of late for bigger, better things known as story and characters.

To me, the story is almost unimportant. But here's the basic run-down; a family of three - Lucy (Catrionna MacColl), Norman (Paolo Malco), and son Bob (Giovanni Frezzi, who has the most annoying voice EVER in the English dub of the film) - move from their city home in New York to somewhere a little quieter. The house rests just outside of Boston; and it is, indeed, a house by the cemetery.

However, upon arrival, it becomes very clear that something just isn't right about this particular homestead. The sound of a whimpering, unseen child is heard each night and sometimes in the day. The door leading to the basement is barricaded by boards conveniently nailed right on it. Also, every board in the house - be it in the basement, in the walls, or in the attic - creaks non-stop. It's enough to drive anyone mad.

However, a great evil lurks underneath the floorboards. There is a damn good reason why the basement is sealed off; and why the house gives off an ominous aura. That reason is Dr. Freudstein; a tall, horrifically deformed man who went bat-shit crazy and became an amateur surgeon of some sorts. It is said that he died and was later buried; but this could be a cover-up for the fact that he still maintains existence. Of course, this is a very predictable movie; so from the beginning his name is mentioned, we know for a fact that Freudstein is still alive; operating on helpless victims and their tender flesh, while those above resume the day's typical activities.

Even though it's a simple, on-dimensional horror story; it has its peculiarities. Lucio Fulci can make films both fascinating and unintentionally hilarious; such a formula is employed here, and to me, it works. "The House by the Cemetery" is a stupid, senseless film; made without wit or intent other than to shock through gore and jump scares. But it's also a film that now works as a sort of Midnight Movie; and if you look at it from that perspective, then it kind of works. It's been given a new, polished transfer from Blue Underground - and now, you can see it as it was meant to be seen; without some half-assed English dub, with restored images of Giannetto De Rossi's fantastic make-up/gore effects, Walter Rizzati's creepy original score, and Lucio Fulci's full devotion. I'd say it's one of the director's best; and whether that means anything to you or not depends on how much you either love or loath the famed voyeur of the grotesque.]]> Sat, 28 Jan 2012 21:35:05 +0000
<![CDATA[ Weak chopper.]]>
Making "Hatchet II" work wasn't much of a task. I was almost sure that Adam Green - returning for the sequel as both writer and director of Victor Crowley's legacy - was more than up to the challenge after seeing and in many instances just down-right loving the original "Hatchet"; but it would seem that he's gotten lost in his own mythology. There are as many reasons that attribute to why "Hatchet II" is not a good film as there are to why the original was; and I'll do my best to give each issue worth mentioning full, devoted coverage. You know, the kind that Green denied this film.

What went wrong? "Hatchet" was merely a very well-done homage to slasher cinema; and "Hatchet II" doesn't exactly aim for higher ground. Green has shown us that he's a talented filmmaker; and even after this minor but regrettable train-wreck of a horror-comedy, I still think he's one to watch. I know he can make up for this little screw-up as long as he tries a bit harder; one of the many problems of the film is that it just feels so darned rushed. I have no doubt that if Green decides to allow his next story/film to develop a bit more before setting up his shooting schedule, he can express his ideas with care as well as the kind of precision that has defined him as a filmmaker ever since his outstanding debut.

If you remember the first film, it was about a boat filled with people - headed by a quirky, Asian tour guide - that capsized while on a tour of a legendary swamp. Those people abandoned ship and made their way to land; only to discover that the swamp is haunted by the disfigured, aforementioned serial murderer: Victor Crowley. In the end, only one person survived; her name was Marybeth. In "Hatchet", she was played by Tamara Feldman; in "Hatchet II", Danielle Harris plays the role. Guess which one is superior to the other.

As "Hatchet II" begins, we see Marybeth fight off Victor Crowley and escape from the scene that ended the original film. From there, she gets back into town (New Orleans, if you have a bad memory) but does not feel that her job is done. Therefore, she consults Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd) - who appeared for just a minute or two in "Hatchet" - to assist her in tracking down and eventually killing Crowley; once and for all.

But they can't go back into the swamp alone. That is why - in a "Jaws"-esque scene - the Reverend invites/rounds up some of the local area's most ruthless and daring hunters to accompany them on a search-and-destroy mission of some sorts. Of course, to get their attention, he presents a handsome reward; although the Reverend seems sympathetic towards Marybeth, and therefore, it's clear that he shall try his best to help her out in this situation; however dangerous it may be.

Here's how it goes from there; all those willing to participate board the boats, enter the swamp, and get killed off one-by-one as Crowley discovers their presence. So basically, it's "Hatchet" minus a few of its central charms; such as its incredibly dark lighting, the consistent sense of humor, and the likably stereotypical characters. The only thing that "Hatchet II" has - that many slasher sequels do not - is an abundance of impressively staged kill scenes accompanied by a whole lot of bloody carnage. People get cut up, some guy takes a boat propeller to the face, and that ol' crocodile from the first film that supposedly "drinks his own piss" gets choked by his own intestines. Really, if there's anything good I can say about this movie; it's that Green does a good job in providing half of his audience with a sufficient amount of bloody mayhem. The kills are brutal, bloody, and creative; although they can't make up for the emptiness that lies beneath.

This just doesn't feel like an Adam Green film. You can slap that title onto any movie; but it has to have that feel - that passion - to it to actually, you know, work. And in that sense, "Hatchet II" simply does not. It tries to do just about everything that "Hatchet" did right; although it isn't nearly as funny (although it does have a few big laughs) or easy to admire. It's not a bad horror flick, and it has a few elements that will please certain genre fans (cameos/roles played by the likes of Tom Holland, AJ Bowen, Lloyd Kaufman, Joe Lynch, Mike Mendez, and R.A. Mihailoff are a plus); but for every right, there's a plethora of wrongs. And that's something that not even exploitative, over-the-top kills can even hope to cover up.]]> Sat, 28 Jan 2012 21:33:40 +0000
<![CDATA[ Excellent, faithful, loving homage.]]>
"Hatchet" belongs to a long list of movies where a giant, hulking humanoid monster pops out of nowhere and starts killing people. In this case, that monster is a disfigured mutant named Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder); and those people are an unlikely bunch that take a New Orleans swamp tour by boat, get stranded when it hits rocks and sinks, make way to land, and sooner or later, stare Victor Crowley in the face. You need not know much about this lot; other than that they all die in the end. Yep, that's all you need to know.

Alright, so perhaps a few of them are worth mentioning, as characters. It all starts with best buddies Ben (Joel David Moore) and Marcus (Deon Richmond); the former who quickly tires of the Mardi Gras celebration downtown, which his buddies are readily enjoying. Ben is recovering from a bad breakup; and the abundance of hot, half-naked women at the party scene isn't doing much to help him. Thus, he must reach to the back of his mind; where he remembers of a "haunted swamp tour" in the nearby area; mentioned and recommended by a friend.

So they make their way over to the place where tours are given, pay the fee, and board the bus that shall bring them to the swamp. Also aboard; the rest of the film's major characters. Such people include: sleazy pornographic filmmaker (Joel Murray), his two starlets (Mercedes McNab and Joleigh Fioreavanti), happily-married and happy-to-be-here couple (Richard Riehle and Patrika Darbo), and a strange loner named Marybeth (Tamara Feldman).

While Parry Shen, as the tour guide, isn't a particularly good, funny, or interesting one; he is the least of our problems, especially when the boat meets the fate that I mentioned earlier. It does indeed sink, thus provoking the others to safely walk from capsizing boat to slippery tree and rocks, and finally to land. Since basic and common logic says so, there's always help nearby; but of course, with these kinds of movies, there never quite is. An infamous legend - the deformed madman Victor Crowley - haunts the swamp area; hatchet - and many other assorted weapons to go along with it - in hand. And he's out for blood; preferably that of man.

The writer and director of "Hatchet" is Adam Green. Like many beginning filmmakers working in this genre; he's been a horror fanatic since childhood and only now is he putting his knowledge and endless admiration to good use. The film is a sort of homage - a throwback - to 70's/80's slasher films; complete with its share of nudity, blood, guts, and gore. This would typically boring, even for a horror-comedy, but Green has a lot more than a few simple, cheap winks up his sleeve; and he's basically out to prove that he's the real deal, and I think he succeeds in doing so.

Alright, I confess; I watch a lot of slasher movies both new and old. Few of them really impress me; but I think I'm drawn to them because I've learned from now that surprises can come out of nowhere, much like the villains in all these horror films that I watch. "Hatchet" is a rather delightful celebration of excess; it is an absolutely over-the-top-gruesome bloodbath that pretty much rivals any of recent memory. It's a thoroughly fun, hilarious, genuinely clever debut. And it's also one of the best slasher movies - and horror movies as a whole - from the previous decade.

Unlike a lot of filmmakers of recent, Green understands that style comes in all forms; narrative, visual, etc. He employs dark - almost too dark - cinematography and buckets of blood to give "Hatchet" the sort of unique, classy, nostalgic feel that it needs to bring it to near-perfection; and it would seem that he was fully committed the entire time whilst making it. Sure, it doesn't have suspense; and sure, it isn't scary. But is it really meant to be? The film can either be viewed as a dark, gruesome, almost outlandishly daring (in violence) horror-comedy; or you can choose to be a cynical asshole, and you can take the whole thing completely seriously. Let's just say that it's your choice.

However, I personally wouldn't want to miss out on such an devoted love letter to an often discriminated part of cinema; especially when it's got such a good filmmaker attached to it as well as such a good cast - including genre favorites such as Tony Todd (Candyman), Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), John Carle Buechler (make-up artist and director for a few of the "Friday the 13th" sequels) and Joshua Leonard (one of the stars of "The Blair Witch Project"). Given such attributes, I feel that "Hatchet" almost down-right PROMISES those who tread its waters a good time at the movies. I for one had a lot of guilty, perhaps even memorable fun with the film; and I can't wait to hear from Green in the future. I think he's got a lot ahead of him; or at least that's my personal forecast. And it will be an accurate one as long as "Hatchet" doesn't lie; and let me tell you, this one, it probably doesn't.]]> Sat, 28 Jan 2012 21:32:41 +0000
<![CDATA[ A fun little blood-drenched, low-budget B-movie.]]>
It takes a truly inspired filmmaker to channel tongue-in-cheek horror, in-jokes and references, comedic and plentiful blood-and-gore, and to top it all off; an idea that's just down-right cheesy and perhaps even completely unoriginal to begin with. I suppose to have a hold on a select few of those things indicates a passable and developing director; but to maintain a balance in spite of all these things? That's talent.

Whether it's a good film or a bad film that his very own inspiration spawns, Joe Dante almost always seems to be having fun with the films that he makes. The director of "Gremlins", its sequel, "The Howling", and the recent "Looney Tunes: Back in Action" is a cinematic live-wire; and I can't remember a time when he wasn't up to the challenge of providing something new, exciting, refreshing, or absurdly funny. He has a good sense of humor, no doubt; but there was a time when that very humoristic style hadn't quite been grasped or established for this filmmaker, and I suppose most of that time was spent in the 1970's, when Dante was first starting out.

Let's cut to the chase. In 1978, Dante practically made a knock-off of "Jaws"; a film called "Piranha", after its titular villainous fishies. Instead of the one great white shark that inhabited the still waters of Spielberg's said masterpiece of suspense and sheer horror, the piranhas come in groups of hundreds; thousands; perhaps even millions. And instead of the ocean, these bastardizations roam a small-town river.

The piranhas had been trapped in a swimming pool located at a military testing site; in which science met live animal, with horrifying results. You see; these are not ordinary piranha, but MUTANT piranha! All the more reason to keep as many people as possible out of the waters until they, I dunno, find somewhere else to feast.

There are characters - an insurance investigator (Heather Menzies), an alcoholic-by-the-river (Bradford Dillman), and many more - although I find them secondary to the large surplus of guilty-pleasure chuckles that "Piranha" has to offer. As far as B-movie schlock goes, I'd say it's a job well-done. The piranhas are mostly animatronic, which I admired; and the gore effects are delightfully over-the-top campy. Sure, they aren't the best, but when your film is endorsed by the legendary Roger Corman; great visual effects can't possibly be your (or his) forte.

Nevertheless, this is a good looking film; never under or over-produced, and if you ask me, it delivers on its many promises. If you go in expecting a dead serious movie about man-eating mutant fish; stop right where you are and turn right around, because you are about to be disappointed. "Piranha" is the kind of flick that just loves to wink at its audience; sometimes up front, sometimes not. There are numerous nods to the killer fish/shark/animal films of the past; and in a sense, it's a bit of an early homage to the genre. And it's a pretty good one too; it is its own movie, regardless of the inspirations that it so closely respects, admires, and satirizes. It's goofy, silly, stupid fun. But given the premise, the producer, and the attached director; such antics are expected upon first glance.

In a movie like this, there are a few key aspects to its success. One is its faithfulness to the genre - which comes in the form of super-indulgent gore effects, a terrifically mad scientist (Kevin McCarthy), and a surprise extended appearance from scream queen Barbara Steele - and another is the concocted devotion from its creators. "Piranha" might not impress everyone looking for some bloody, low-budget giggles; but I'll be damned if I wasn't impressed by it. The film enjoys a semi-strong cult following these days, and I suppose it's that very following that shall keep it alive for years to come. I feel that it deserves such treatment - even if it is not a great camp classic and merely a good one - and I also think that more people should be introduced to a wonderfully corny movie such as this. So grab the popcorn and start watching; because the piranhas are a'coming to tear your ass to shreds.]]> Thu, 19 Jan 2012 17:58:51 +0000
<![CDATA[ A good movie, but not as good as I was expecting.]]> my Quick tip  you know that from the get go I’ve wanted to see this movie it looked very cool and I love the premise it’s looked very interesting and different. Unfortunately I never got to see this in theaters but I eventually found it on DVD. (HMV FTW)   
Daybreakers concerns a world where 90% of the population are vampires, the remaining humans are either given a choice to be turned or be hunted for their blood. Eventually the human supply begins to run out and the vampire world is in jeopardy a viable blood substitute is needed. Enter Edward Dalton a researcher at Bromley Marks, after helping out some fleeing humans he is introduced to Elvis who has a miraculous cure for the vampirism.
Daybreakers is one of the most creative Vampire movies I have seen, the premise alone is enough to get a bunch of points from me, but it’s the little things that I really like the small attention to details that made the movie feel like a Classic Vampire flick but with modern elements. Examples: Vampires cant see their reflections in the mirror so instead Mirrors are replaced with view Screens, Other things like driving stake through the heart or  beheading  being the only ways to kill a vampire and a UV warning in cars when it’s a little too sunny out. These little things that made like this movie so much they made the story a little more believable. As for the story it was ok, like most movies these days it’s a bit predictable, the pacing seems a little off in some areas and the movie itself seemed overly long. The Acting was nothing special although I really liked Sam Niell’s performance as the bad guy.
Overall this is a really pretty ok vampire flick, and if you are into Vampire flicks defiantly check this one out.]]> Thu, 5 Jan 2012 21:33:57 +0000
<![CDATA[Zombieland Quick Tip by cyclone_march]]> Tue, 3 Jan 2012 20:45:19 +0000 <![CDATA[ A bloody boring time.]]>
If my idea of fun consisted of corny dialogue, choppy plotting, and mediocre editing; then "My Bloody Valentine" would be a personal favorite in the field of simple-minded, guilty entertainment. Too bad my idea of fun almost never includes any of those three things; I can let all logic go and have a good time with certain films if there is enough craft, but like most 80's slasher flicks that use their axes and machetes rather than their brains; the intent is not exactly to give the educated or morally respectable an engaging flick. The aim was without-a-doubt to provide something brainless, witless, and completely unoriginal. Well, look at that; they succeeded.

Since it's a slasher picture, it must have a villain in the form of a serial killer or some such psychopath. In this case, he/she is Harry Warden; infamous in the mining town of Valentine Bluffs (located somewhere in Canada). Warden found himself trapped underground in a mine on the job when two of his co-workers weren't. He was stuck there for a few good days without food and without much good air to breath; he survived by eating his co-workers, an act which eventually lead to madness.

He spent a year in a mental institution and then escaped; murdering and eventually ripping out the hearts of victims who were not on his "good side", thus creating his legend. Some years later, the town is holding a Valentine's Day Party; something that, by legend, they are apparently forbidden to do. But the local young men and women are not so aware of the consequences that the said morbid tale might have on them; especially when Warden is still on the loose and hungry for blood.

And so he starts the killing; and leaves nothing to suspense. "My Bloody Valentine" begins and ends with an on-going string of murders, some of which include: death by laundry machine, death by boiling pan of hot water, and countless deaths by pick-axe, which happens to be our friend Harry Warden's weapon of choice. The film follows the slasher flick formula rather strictly; with Warden serving his purpose of being a rampart killing machine, as appropriately promised - and his victims providing the bloodshed and primal rage of the villain. If you're a fan of the genre and don't mind some major flaws; you might just enjoy this one. A lot of genre fans certainly appear to.

My problem with "My Bloody Valentine" is not that it's generic (which it is); it's that there is no room left for surprises. The film lives off its own formula; from the predictable characters to the cheesy acting, all the way to the desolation that is felt when a horror film lacks genuine horror. Provided, the predictability of the story and just about everything else could certainly mean a wild, fun-filled ride for some; but I'm just not feeling it, at all. I wanted to enjoy myself, but the problems were, to say the least, excessively unavoidable.

I've certainly seen worse slasher films; and I've seen better ones. My favorites include "Halloween" and "Black Christmas"; the first one which I love for its protagonist (who is not as dumb as most women in slasher pictures) and its scare factor, and the other which I admire for its ability to embrace the corny, stereotypical characters ("Black Christmas" was about a sorority house filled with "sisters" who were being hunted down one-by-one by a discreet madman who made obscene phone-calls). This one might have made my list if it had been, oh you know, interesting. But is there really anything interesting about a movie when all its got going for it as high points are a good cinematographer, a good setting, and some pretty whacky kill scenes? Not to me there isn't.]]> Sat, 24 Dec 2011 03:17:32 +0000
<![CDATA[Fright Night (1985 film) Quick Tip by vampire_eyez]]> Sat, 10 Dec 2011 02:29:02 +0000 <![CDATA[ Emotionally charged, devistating film; acts as a thriller, a horror movie, and a drama all at once.]]>
A strange and ominous man (Matthew McConaughey) is seated in an FBI office. He introduces himself as Fenton Meiks; the agent whose office he has entered goes by the name of Doyle (Powers Booth). The later has no idea what the former wants. He finds this oddball searching through his stuff when he finally arrives to the office after being called down to meet with Mr. Meiks. The agent is currently investigating a murder case centering on the infamous "God's Hand Killer" of Dallas, Texas. It is highly suggested and eventually confirmed that Fenton Meiks knows his share about the murders committed by this notorious local serial killer.

I suppose it all begins back in Fenton's childhood days; most of which he shared with only his Dad (Bill Paxton) and his younger brother Adam. The father of the two boys works as an auto-mechanic by trade; although at home, his life is devoted to but only two things, and that is his children and God. One night, however, Dad takes the second thing to dangerous and almost surreal new extremes; he comes to the boys' bedroom at night and explains to them that he has received a vision from God.

Dad now believes that he and the kids were sent to earth to slay the demons that freely roam it; disguised by their deceptive exteriors. The father claims to have been sent a special list of the demons that the family must collectively hunt, and so he keeps that close by at all times. He claims that to kill the demons, they must first receive the heaven-sent weapons; one of which is an axe so important that it even gets its own credit: Otis. With Otis in hand, the demon killing spree begins; with Dad getting the first taste of the madness and eventually letting his children in on all the fun. Fenton would rather not explore such dark things; while his younger kin is more willing to follow his dad's beliefs and values. In no time at all, the father has become the God's Hand Killer, in hopes that his sons shall someday take the name for themselves and continue to slay those nasty servants of Satan.

This is precisely the story that Fenton tells the Agent throughout the film. He earns the trust of the man who is of higher power - the Agent - and eventually he leads him to the spot where the Meiks family stared their faith straight in the face. This place of danger and bewilderment comes in the form of a rose garden; it is a location of traumatic childhood memories and silent cries from beyond the grave. A lot happens here whether we're seeing things through the eyes of children (in flash-back form) or in real-time as it's happening in the plot.

I half-expected the film to turn into another generic slasher picture when that trusty bastardization (Otis) reared its ugly (and sharp) ends. An axe is always a sign of danger in a horror movie; someone's got to use it, right? Most of the time, yes, this is the case.

However, my expectations of that turning point where very wrong. "Frailty" turned out to be anything but a familiar and boring excess in both violence and unsympathetic stupidity. In fact, it is a film of great sympathy; and perhaps even great horror. It's being marketed as a film within the boundaries of the horror genre, although it's one of those rare (and great) movies that takes it upon itself to mess with so many conventions that it almost transcends any classification, genre-wise. Paxton's film could be a thriller - because it is thrilling - and it could also be a horror film - because it depicts humane horror with an agenda. But deep down, there's this desire to be a drama; and among other things, I think this is where the film is most successful.

We identify with the childish sensibilities of the brothers; so we understand the pain that they must endure and the change that they are experiencing. I think they both fear their father - who is simply going mad in the head after being deluded by his religious beliefs - although only one out of the two is able to speak up for himself and voice his personal opinions. So there's some good character development that allows us to really connect with the central protagonists. And then there is the father - who is nothing less than a modern example of a great "Bad Dad" in the movies -. He repeatedly manipulates his sons out of his delusion; which is the only thing leading up to the assumption that he is the antagonist of this story. Yet, I feel "Frailty" is such a well-done and skillfully written film; it inspires sympathy for both sides and while we never like the father due to the things he says and does, we never quite hate him either, because we understand where his actions are coming from; his shattered mind.

Horror movies are seldom thought-provoking; just as thrillers are rarely great anymore. Here's a film that successfully makes a winner of itself in all genres that it covers: from horror to thrillers to, yes, even drama. It tells a sad, tragic, traumatic story of religion and how it can delude unassuming victims of psychological torment to committing acts of violence. This theme would have lost its relevance and its power if Paxton had intended to show much of the violence on-screen; but he's more interested in tension and the disturbing things which we cannot see. He wants us to hear, to feel, and to sense; he does so like a true master. "Frailty" is a thriller with emotions unlike any I have ever seen; and a horror film that depicts the horror like a true genre picture should be. It is often silent, discreet, and oh so very smart. I'd say it's about first-rate in every department.]]> Mon, 5 Dec 2011 02:51:13 +0000
<![CDATA[ Whacky, weird, and incredibly fun horror film based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft!]]>
If there's one reason to know the name of Stuart Gordon, it's because of his early masterwork of trash "Re-Animator". If there's anything you'll know the writer H.P. Lovecraft from, it's his classic short story "The Call of Cthulhu". These two brilliant minds met once in 1985 with the already-said film; "Re-Animator". Now, they have met once again in "From Beyond"; a quality piece of trash from director Gordon, who remains as lovably sleazy and exploitative as ever.

But I suppose there's a charm and a style to his methods of direction; there are the slobs who work with sleaze and then there are the artists (who also, from time-to-time work with sleaze). I'd say Gordon comes close to the second category than the first; there's an undeniable artistry to his every intent as a filmmaker, and I admire his career. His job is to disgust through special effects; he creates slime, blood, gore, and "other things". I need not mention his every creation. Let's just say that it's a surprise; and Gordon's artistic vision is an ambitious (and thoroughly engaging) one. If you know what to expect from the director, well, then there isn't much more to say about this film.

I think the reason behind Gordon's success in both "Re-Animator" and "From Beyond" is his connection and general understanding of Lovecraft's wild imagination; which often ran amuck with crazy ideas, but never strayed into the kind of camp and absurdity that Gordon - the adaptor of the author's great macabre tales - aims to present. "From Beyond" blends science fiction with horror; eventually attempting to bring a little bit of drama into the mix, but emerging the kind of film that it intended to be all along even if that last element doesn't necessarily work out for the better. But then again, in a horror movie, the drama seldom tends to work all that well; so we stop expecting it. But it's always a welcome surprise when a filmmaker does attempt to tackle such venues and emerges victorious.

You've got a pretty simple-minded yet ambitious story at hand; that of scientist-turned-schizophrenic Dr. Crawford (Jeffrey Combs) who has invented a machine which he referred to as The Resonator. This fine work of art allowed Crawford and a business partner to experience pleasure beyond that of our own world; in fact, the machine itself was made to open a whole other dimension and unleash its contents onto our own world. Crawford's partner is power-hungry and things get out of hand fast; Crawford kills his friend to prevent the madness that would have quickly ensued if he had not made the difficult decision, and he gives himself up to the police who are waiting outside (an annoyed neighbor, who heard the sounds and saw the lights that came from Crawford's house had called the officers).

He now moves to a psychiatric ward; where he seems more crazy, but still potentially brilliant. One day, he is visited by Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton), who takes him in as her patient after disapproving of the way that Crawford's current doctors are treating him. She attempts to gain access to the mind of her new friend and patient; eventually persuading him to accompany her and a friend (Ken Foree) to the house where The Resonator still stands, unattended. But, as it would seem; the old work partner has indeed left OUR world, but still exists in another. He is no longer human; and he will manifest himself whenever the machine is turned on during the initial stay of these three central protagonists. And they'll turn The Resonator on a lot; out of curiosity, hoping to discover something new each time. And oh, they will.

Man, oh man; is this movie gross. It's a rather outstanding exercise in bad taste; it does not attempt to redeem itself thematically or even through its own ambitions; which are often quite broad in nature. Gordon cares more about the exploitation of his subjects, and for once I can respect that; he makes use of a lot of complex and visually stunning special effects to tell his story in a different way than the traditional style. If we're talking about the plot of "From Beyond"; it's a very average movie, but if we're talking about the experience, then suddenly, it's pretty damn sensational. I enjoyed the film; it was lovably disgusting, and endlessly endearing at that. I appreciate what Gordon has going here, and somehow he transforms an almost irredeemably messy movie into something that can pass as solid escapist entertainment.

If you can get past the "gross" factor that comes with "From Beyond", then you might just get lost in it enough to appreciate it. I can't say it's anything great - but it's one of the director's best films in the sense that it almost entirely embraces his art, which was to create something disgusting, repulsive, tasteless, yet discreetly pleasurable. Not everyone call this kind of film - well-made or not - entertaining, but I'm forgiving as well as understanding. I imagine that a good number of people who see the film will be less forgiving, but what's life without divisive opinions, am I right? "From Beyond" is the kind of film that wants you to react; and it wants to laugh at how you go about doing so. I think that, in itself, is a kind of weird beauty.]]> Mon, 5 Dec 2011 02:49:59 +0000
<![CDATA[Oldboy Quick Tip by woopak_the_thrill]]> See Full Review here.

Too bad Spike Lee is about to remake this film for American viewers. Mark my words, it will NOT work. I cringe as to how the remake will become. But then again, it will probably be an attempt to make it more aimed to mainstream viewers.

]]> Sat, 26 Nov 2011 03:09:41 +0000
<![CDATA[ Kubrick, just okay?]]> 
RT Profile: 

"One thing I could never stand was to see a filthy, dirty old drunkie, howling away at the filthy songs of his fathers and going blurp blurp in between as it might be a filthy old orchestra in his stinking, rotten guts. I could never stand to see anyone like that, whatever his age might be, but more especially when he was real old like this one was." 

"Clockwork Orange's legacy resides upon strikes of brilliance, while everyone turns a blind eye to mediocrity. Kubrick takes Alex's treatment, scared repeat his opening thirty minutes of controversy." 
Despite some snappy dialogue, a dash of anti- totalitarianism and a devilishly crazed Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orangenever seems to tie it's loose ends, leaving the audience lost in a delirium of grandeur. A Clockwork Orange has gained quite a large following as time ticks by, like any Kubrick film, yet despite the strike of brilliance in any film of Kubrick, someone forgot the apply the polish and care. Underneath the gracious nudity and whity dialogue is chaos, a film so sure of itself that it completely misses its point. 

Alex DeLarge (according to the source) is a 15-16 year old living a life of theft, rape and ultra-violence with his 'droogs'. After the accidental murder of a woman with a giant penis sculptor - you read right - he is sent to jail where he undergoes an experimental therapy to end crime. As you can probably tell the therapy doesn't work perfectly (or works too perfectly) and we're sent of an trip of misguided ideology. 
This may seem like a well-structured, interesting film; however, if it were not for the first 30-40 minutes, I wouldn't hesitate to call this film lacklustre, and essentially boring. Now before you attack me with claims of a hatred for Kubrick, I happen to adore2001: A Space Odyssey, debatably his most boring film. Yet 2001 always had more, for every scene would sure enough merit a page upon both its technical value and philosophy. Yet the following film with our humble narrator fails to reach such potential. The greatest scenes we are given do no more than glorify violence. Opposed too much criticism, the violence was more than welcome (although tamed by today's standards), the nudity caused a comedic effect - perhaps the film has successfully desensitized me. Yet when we strap in and prepare for all the film has - the reasoning why we're watching ultra-violence to tune of Ludwig, but we're given nothing. 

Malcolm McDowell's infamous embodiment of Alex DeLarge is just brilliant. Although those who are still yet to remove the sticks lodged where the sun doesn't shine will attack Kubrick, I will commend him for truly making the antagonist the main star. I long for the anti-hero the win, the villain, who is by far more interesting than a hero preaching the same dull ideology, and in some respects, A Clockwork Orange succeeds, but at the same time trips flat on the face. Kubrick captures something so powerful and effective, and wastes it all. Kubrick captures a beautiful butterfly, yet chooses not to let it fly, nor does he pull its wings in true Alex sadism, he simply locks it away in a dull beige room. Alex DeLarge tears up the world slowly in stunning ways, whether we watch him beat his friends in slow motion, or indulges in a threesome in the direct opposite, 'fast motion' - the audience, as much as they wish to lie, sit back and indulge in the sadistic nature (from a distance of course). Yet Kubrick seems to run out of ideas, and throws our anti-hero into the slammer, where he loses all his charm and charisma. For the remainder of the film we watch our devil be stripped of his lovable malevolence, and sits in a boring, grey prison. And when he is finally freed, the plot flails around, lost in its ways. It's a darn shame it all ends on such a mediocre note. Kubrick gives us some of the greatest scenes to grace the screen and turns it into dullness, yet makes sure to shove some philosophy in your face, just so you remember that this film isn't completely pointless. 

Overall, Kubrick brings the goods, the same brilliances of 2001 with a cold, harsh dab of malevolence. However, we're only given thirty minutes of it, and then we're thrown into a trashy, messy and most importantly a boring film. The guilty indulgence of watching such a lovable character make the world a worse place to the tune of Ludwig and Singin' in the Rain becomes a boring preach on morals, yet it's not Kubrick behind the camera anymore; often it feels like an imitation of Kubrick. To conclude,A Clockwork Orange's legacy resides upon strikes of brilliance, while everyone turns a blind eye to mediocrity. Kubrick takes Alex's treatment, scared repeat his opening thirty minutes of controversy.]]> Wed, 9 Nov 2011 12:05:15 +0000
<![CDATA[ Zombie Party!]]>
Zombieland forgoes the regular rote of showing the apocalypse itself or even giving us a backstory to pin to it. All we know is that we are suddenly given this character, Columbus, who is running away from his life as a student at the University of Texas. We first see him in Garland picking up fuel ("You might think the zombies got to the place, but it's actually just Garland") when he is ambushed by a small group of zombies. He proceeds to give us not the backstory of the zombie outbreak itself, but his own background in relation to it: His insanely hot dorm neighbor was looking for a refuge for the night. When she woke up the next day, she was a zombie. And Columbus had to quickly kill her, all while fighting off the surprise of her sudden metamorphosis.

Zombieland is the Scream of zombie horror flicks: It manages to be in and of its genre of movies while being a parody of it at the same time. It isn't quite as self-conscious as Scream, but it's a lot louder and more fun, with more brilliant and funny lines.

Aside from Columbus's small strain of a background story, we get to know very little about the four characters in Zombieland. The four main characters only know each other by the cities they come from: Columbus, Ohio; Tallahassee, Florida; Wichita, Kansas; and Little Rock, Arkansas. Columbus is a bit of a geek who left Texas once the apocalypse happened to try to visit his family back in Columbus. Tallahassee is a good-hearted psycho who will stop at nothing to get his hands on a Twinkie; Wichita and Little Rock are a team of female con artists who hit their marks using the potent combination of Little Rock's age (she's 12) and Wichita's hotness. The one character in Zombieland who gets a real name is Bill Murray, who plays a role as a very successful movie star and comedian named Bill Murray. He apparently starred in some movie called Ghostbusters.

Columbus is the character the movie revolves around the most. Being a parody, Zombieland makes him into an unlikely hero. He's not Ash from the Evil Dead movies, a tough guy who is good at improvisational fighting while spitting one-liners. He's a geek who, when the move begins, has written up an unwavering rule code which he uses to stay alive during the zombie outbreak. Most of the time, he doesn't even break it. During the movie, he only ever breaks a single rule (Don't be a hero), and that's in order to rescue Wichita and Little Rock from one of those free-falling amusement park rides, where the two of them trapped themselves while trying to escape a large horde.

For a movie like Zombieland to work, it has to be oozing attitude! Our attitude in Zombieland is Tallahassee, played the the wonderful Woody Harrelson in all of his psychotic glory! First of all, the guy loves his Twinkies. Throughout the movie, his sole object in life is to get a Twinkie before life's little Twinkie meter runs out. His rationale revolves around the fact that Twinkies all have expiration dates, and that the expiration dates aren't going to stop coming up just because a zombie outbreak prevented them from ever getting to the stores. But what really sets him apart is that he's the only one in the movie who takes real pleasure in killing the zombies. His methods are creative, methodical, and brutal, and it's clear he's never going to be at the forefront of any zombie rights movements. He drives huge Hummers and carries the loudest weapons.

Since this is a post-apocalyptic world and the few remaining humans are sparsely spread out and looking out for just themselves, none of these characters trust each other when they meet. Columbus and Tallahassee have a brief standoff upon meeting, and when they meet Wichita and Little Rock, they are conned out of their supplies. They also get conned by them a second time upon a happenstance encounter by the roadside, and instead of just leaving them off for dead again, Little Rock and Wichita just take Columbus and Tallahassee along for their ride for some reason. Along the way, they turn into a surrogate family for each other.

For a parody, a lot of the movie is played straight. There's certainly humor, and a lot of it comes with tongue placed firmly in cheek. The humor, while it plays on the line of self-consciousness, never actually crosses it. Part of it is the violence, which frequently isn't taken very seriously, at least not by the director. Zombieland plays out like an excuse for the stars - Jessie Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin - to get physical, say cadences of silly lines, and generally have fun.

Even the plot is minimal. We don't know much about the characters. All we know is that the movie begins with Columbus trying to make his way back to his namesake hometown to see if his family - who he admitted has never been close - is okay. He meets Tallahassee, and then they meet Wichita and Little Rock. The plot about Columbus going home is given a throwaway line and immediately abandoned. He has an exchange with Tallahassee about some mythical place out west where there aren't any zombies, and this plot thread is thrown instantly by the wayside when Tallahassee retorts with a remark about how everyone hears about a place like that: "In the east, they believe it's out west, and in the west they say it's in the east. You're like a penguin at the North Pole who hears the South Pole is real nice this time of year." The real triumph in Zombieland is that the heroes survive another day.

Zombieland is a fun movie. If you don't like horror movies, it probably won't change your mind, but if you can take horror infused with a load of comedy and destruction, you'll love it.]]> Mon, 31 Oct 2011 21:17:26 +0000
<![CDATA[ The story of a man devoted to the dead; distracted by love and those hidden, human desires.]]>
"Cemetery Man" is another one of those horror flicks where you either love it or you hate it. I've heard some critics call it "vile" and "witless", while others "appreciate the satirical undertones" and praised the writing as well as the directing. Only a select few are truly in the middle. But you know what...I don't really care what others think. I love a lot of movies because I should rightfully be able to embrace and remember however many of them I want; and this is, by my definition, certainly one of the greats for its genre. Often cited as the last great Italian horror film, this adaptation of a 1991 novel written by Tiziano Schlavi - author of the popular "Dylan Dog" comics - is a bloody hoot. If that's what you expect out of director Michele Soavi, who is a noted assistant director for a good number of Italian-Horror legend Dario Argento's feature films, then you'll surely have a good time with this one.

It's no surprise that Schlavi's book covered the material that is at the center of "Cemetery Man"; the film itself resembles "Dylan Dog" in a variety of ways. Take, for instance, the premise: lonely cemetery caretaker Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) and his child-like assistant Gnaghi (Francois Hadji-Lazaro) work by night to defend their seldom-mentioned town from the returning undead that rise from the graves; zombies. Dellamorte has been doing his job for years now, and the townsfolk appreciate the skill and craft that he exercises in his work. But...what's a man working the graveyard shift to do? Dellamorte practically has less of a life than his dunce of a business partner. He lacks all love and basically all communication aside from those who respect and appreciate his choice of lifestyle and work. This is why it becomes a problem when Dellamorte finds himself mysteriously in love with a beautiful woman (Anna Falchi); who seduces him and pulls him deeper into an entirely new nightmare of psychological confusion, lust, and human desires.

Dellamorte is not much unlike me. He accepts his fate - and the rest of his life - but does not hesitate to challenge it. There are plenty of people who fear that they will never be able to understand or even "access" love; myself included. Francesco Dellamorte, that ever-so-relatable man, is a perfect portrait of the love-fearing internet dweller, the love-fearing gentleman living forever in isolation, or the love-fearing man who chooses where he stands on the romantic food chain.

So there is some resonance to be found here. We do indeed care about the two main characters; Dellamorte especially is a worrisome fellow, but his partner is a sympathetic, shy, lonely creature who has desires of his own. There's a sub-plot in the film where he finds love in the decapitated head of a girl who was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident. It's this sort of dark comedy that carries the film from goodness to greatness; it will no doubt turn off some people with its violent, off-kilter style; however, if I can recommend it to anyone, it would be those who don't mind a film that tries to be something different, quirky, and unforgettable. "Cemetery Man" is all of those things, and gladly, not because it tries too hard to be each; but because it simply is.

I laughed plenty of times; or at least enough times to say that I felt the humor here was effective. Dellamorte's daily (or nightly) routine consists of a shower, a phone-call, a not-too-random zombie walk-in, and finally, a burial or two. It is funny because Dellamorte does not see any of these things as abnormal; and indeed, some of them are, and some of them are not. We all take showers, we all make phone calls, but do we all shoot zombies in the head with a pistol? Most of us haven't come close.

Not every horror film - even the truest among them - is intent on horrifying. While it often drifts further away from fright and edges more towards comedy, Soavi's film is still a "real" horror film. It has characters that we care about, a well-told story with philosophies and thoughts of its own, and spectacular imagery to boot. Those who think about horror movies more than the average genre fan will definitely find something of value here; "Cemetery Man" is thought-provoking and crafted with visionary intentions; and this is precisely why I think it classifies as great cinema.

A bizarre, uncomfortable sex scene atop the grave of a lost lover; the widely-known "surprise visit" from the Grim Reaper (Death) himself; and plenty of scenes involving the planting of bullets can all be found here. There's even an ultra-surreal ending - which I shall not spoil - that most certainly takes the cake for one of the most complicated and philosophical endings for a horror movie...ever. Some might find it pretentious, some might find it meaningless, but when you look into it, the finale isn't really either of those things. The film, seen through the eyes of simplistic analysis, is a story that highlights the boredoms of reality (love amongst the living) and our hidden yearnings. I find it relevant and creative; atmospheric, beautiful (on both the narrative and production sides), and wickedly entertaining. Not for all tastes, I will admit yet again, but few horror movies are; so for those who might want to check out "Cemetery Man", you know who you are...or at least you should.]]> Mon, 31 Oct 2011 00:39:25 +0000
<![CDATA[Hatchet II Quick Tip by FM_ALEX]]> This film while good feels a like a bit of a step down though for some reason. All the elements of the first film are there but it just doesn't seem like it is on the same level. I think that while the humor is there it just isn't as humorous. That was my favorite thing about this first movie. Don't get me wrong this is still a very good flick and very fun, you know, turn the brain off flick.]]> Sat, 29 Oct 2011 06:11:41 +0000 <![CDATA[ FUN FLICK]]>


After the first film was released it started to gather that all important cult fan following. That was more than enough for Adam Green [Hatchet, Frozen] to get his sequel financed. Of course he already had plans on doing that any way so it worked out. Now this time around he is looking to add to something that was already loved by many. In a lot of cases like that films can fail miserably if not done right. Luckily he knows what his audience wants and who they are so it turned out pretty good.

The second film picks up where the first left off with Marybeth looking for another ride back into the swamp. She still wants revenge for her family and now for her fallen friends form the first film. She goes to Reverend Zombie [Tony Todd] who appeared in the first film briefly for help. She knows he once had a haunted swamp tour and wants him to take her out there once again. He agrees but puts together a crew of hunters to find Victor and take him out. He of course has reasons all his own.

Now this is a fun film just like the first one with campy 80's over the top cool kills and such. The acting is about the same as last time and it is cool to have Tony Todd in a bigger role this time. Perry Shen returns form the last film, but didn't he get killed? Yes he did but he is playing the twin brother this time. This explains why the brother in the first film had no idea where to go, you'll see. Any way I was happy to see that because he had one of the best scenes ever on that last film.

The kills like I said are cool like they should be and the body count is higher this time I believe. Like the last film the special features here are excellent. The behind the scenes are great and the commentary is great. I fact Adam Green delivers on all his commentaries, not all directors are good talkers for some reason. So I was happy with all the special features once again.

This film while good feels a like a bit of a step down though for some reason. All the elements of the first film are there but it just doesn't seem like it is on the same level. I think that while the humor is there it just isn't as humorous. That was my favorite thing about this first movie. Don't get me wrong this is still a very good flick and very fun, you know, turn the brain off flick.

]]> Sat, 29 Oct 2011 06:10:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Effective, creepy, and intelligent; Darabont's "The Mist" is a delightfully scary thrill-ride.]]>
"The Mist" is a deceptive horror film; based on a Stephen King novella, and directed by Frank Darabont, who has in the past helmed a few of the most famous and widely-known adaptations of King's work. He is a talented, understanding filmmaker; and I admire both his style and intentions, all of which were good for this very film. He wanted to entertain, but at the same time, he wanted to make an adaptation that forced the audience to think a little, and with a little bit of effort and a lot of outstandingly complex thought, he is able to take a situation that King created through literature and turn it into a successful movie. This is one of those rare horror films that works as both a film of its own genre and one of another. So if you had to ask whether it's a solid, say, drama; then I would say, yes, it works in that sense.

So it gives you more than you expect; while still giving us the monster movie that the premise and trailers suggest. I can't say it accumulates to a work of great cinema, but this is the work of a director who is passionate about his material, and wants to explore it in deeper, more interesting ways; or at least ones that are considerably more interesting than those of most filmmakers. In a world where monster movies and horror films themselves are consumed by vile, tasteless exploitation of the genre; Darabont makes movies like "The Mist", and damn, he makes them pretty skillfully. I liked this film. Perhaps I enjoyed it even more than I actually liked it. Some find it mediocre and heavily flawed to the point of no return; I find it thought-provoking, intelligent, suspenseful, intense, and when it wants to be, startling and sometimes even a bit...scary.

H.P. Lovecraft says that our greatest fear is the fear of everything that is unknown. If we cannot see it, feel it, smell it, understand it, or know that it exists whatsoever; then such a thing will scare us the most. This philosophy has been used in horror cinema since time immemorial; a notable example is "The Blair Witch Project", a film which speaks of a witch, yet it does not actually show the hag.

The horror of "The Mist" is all in the title; there is indeed a thick mist, but it's what's within it that matters. It engulfs a town; nobody can see through it. A group of people are trapped in a grocery store while the mist consumes the surrounding areas; and they learn of what lies within it only through sounds and the chances that they, often unfortunately, take. Since I guess it wouldn't hurt to tell, I guess I'll mention that the force inside the mist comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms. All-the-same, the villains are all prehistoric-esque monstrosities from some other alternative dimension; they aren't from around these parts. They could easily break into the store, since the entire front is covered with glass windows; completely vulnerable. The people inside panic, for they don't know what to make of what surrounds them outside. Hell, they can't even see what's out there; for the most part. Since what they fear are the creatures of the mist; what you get to see includes the following: mutant bugs, mutant bat-things, mutant-spiders, and a giant behemoth towards the end which strangely resembles what I call a "Cthulhu Dog".

Darabont's focus, however, is not entirely on the monsters outside; but the monsters on the inside as well. There is much tension between the human characters; there's a religious fanatic amongst them, turning people against one another at every chance she gets, and eventually developing her own little cult of followers. Those who still hold on to their remaining humanity attempt to survive and care for whoever else shares there all-too-human qualities; the main protagonist of the story himself is a loving father, trapped inside the store with his young son. There are a lot of other characters too; some who we care about, and others who we don't.

I have read King's original story, and it's quite brilliant; yet, I will not bring myself to point out parallels and criticize how "faithful" Darabont was to the material. He was faithful enough for it to be a satisfying watch; in a sense, he makes it his own vision. He changes the ending and crafts intense moments as only filmmakers can. I liked that. I also liked how he didn't simply take the easy way out when it came to creating the creatures that we do see; the visual effects are beautiful, grotesque, and all-together complex. It's a visual feast, and in some instances, a rather intellectual one too. The drama is believable (for the most part), and Darabont's attempts at making "The Mist" something more than just a simple monster movie are for the most part successful. The actors do their jobs; some better than others, especially Marcia Gay Harden as the religious fanatic that I have spoken of earlier. The best actor/actress in the film for sure.

I enjoyed "The Mist" because those behind it enjoyed themselves too. Darabont was doing what he does best when he made this film; to many, it might not be as stable or likable as his "The Shawshank Redemption" or "The Green Mile", but he's got a thing for crafting human drama, and he knows how to make a real satisfactory and respectable Stephen King adaptation. What's not to admire about his style? Is "The Mist" his best film? No, it is not. Is it a great one at all? Again, no. But it's thoroughly enjoyable in a number of ways, from a number of different angles. It can be seen as an entertaining and old-fashioned B-movie, or one could see it as an intense drama of both visual and surprisingly human spectacle. Let's just say that when things get intense in the store, we believe it, we go along with it, and we await what will happen next. It's the kind of film that keeps getting better as it goes along. And I appreciated that, amongst all the typical filth that Hollywood tends to release into what should be the sewer, but instead ends up to be the general theater. This is a film with both ambition and wit to spare; and I was all over it.]]> Tue, 25 Oct 2011 20:16:46 +0000
<![CDATA[ Masterful Halloween classic-in-the-making.]]>
Halloween movies are Halloween movies because they care about the popular holiday and choose to often exploit the horrors that we celebrate annually at the end of each October, and without noticing it. You've got your classic holiday flicks such as "Halloween"; then you've got your "classics-in-the-making", and oh, there are plenty of them. "Trick 'r Treat" is but one such film; a hilarious, bold, charmingly grotesque little horror flick that unfortunately met a fate not quite suited for it; the dreaded "direct-to-video" release. For some reason, this masterpiece didn't make it to theaters, and after seeing it a few times - as I have - I can certainly see why. Perhaps it wasn't the film's morbid sense of humor that turned off the audiences that first screened it; but rather the underlying themes. "Trick 'r Treat" is not a film that hates the holiday that it's about, but it is somewhat daring, and chooses to explore a side of it that few films care to. It crosses a line, but stays within enough boundaries so that it doesn't come off as offensive. Personally, I loved the film, and for Halloween's sake, I always will. I'll watch it every year, on that very day. There's truly no better way to celebrate a good holiday then with a good movie; and this one's a sure keeper.

So it's Halloween. Everyone is roaming the streets in some fairly complex and admirably spooky costumes. Excitement, anticipation, and late-night lust are in the air. As long as the story takes a turn for the paranormal and the supernatural at some point, then it's clear that just about anything can happen. Most times, it will. There are four short stories told here; along with an opening and a concluding chapter, making "Trick 'r Treat" an anthology film. Each story shares a common theme, in a sense, and each one also has the film's mascot, Sam, making an appearance. He shows up in some strange, random, and unpleasant places; but for a guy so ominous, he's actually pretty cute. Look up a picture of him sometime. You'll see what I mean.

The first story: The Principal. We follow Steven Wilkins (Dylan Baker), a man with dark secrets and shadowy urges. He is the principal of the town in which he lives, meaning that just about every trick-or-treater will know his house and who lives within it when they arrive on his doorstep, bags open. But he doesn't care. This night is about fulfilling his deepest desires; beginning with the murder of a young boy (that blonde kid from "Bad Santa"). There are some good chuckles to be found when Mr. Wilkins is attempting to bury the corpse in his yard as his own little boy constantly yells at him from the window, and his grouchy neighbor complains about a peculiar "stench" that comes from over the fence. We think Wilkins a cruel, sadistic man; but by the end, we learn just how much of a loving father he is. Yet still, his night is far from over.

The second story: The School Bus Massacre Revisited. This is probably the part that upset people the most. It centers on a group of kids who are collecting jack-o-lanterns for what they refer to as a "charitable cause", but we soon learn otherwise. They grab the "freak" of their age-group, who has carved a mass number of pumpkins herself, and they head to an abandoned rock quarry, where a terrible thing happened some years ago. A girl in the group tells the story as it is; a bus driver intentionally took a bus full of mentally deficient children to the quarry to do something unspeakable, but his plans were soon foiled when one of the kids got loose and drove the vehicle straight off the cliff and into the water. Both the kids and the driver were never heard from again. So we think. Knowing this, the kids decide to pull a prank on the "freak" character that they have dragged along with them, although all goes wrong, and it ends in a bloody mess. I can't tell you much more than that.

Now this is a good one: The "Surprise Party". A woman, her sister, and their two friends head to a Halloween party deep in the forest, eventually parting ways so that the single woman can find herself a date. She walks, and walks, and walks; never quite finding the right guy, but certainly pondering it. She eventually decides to call it quits and head to the party alone, but she is stopped and put in a dangerous situation, which eventually works out for her benefit, and reveals the true nature of this "party".

The final story is called Meet Sam. Sam, as I said, is the film's mascot. If you ever wondered what the "Spirit of Halloween" looked like, well, then look no further, because Sam is certainly what I would think to be such a being. His sights are set on many people throughout the film, and he seems to act as a reminder to those who break Halloween traditions and such. He doesn't take the mistreating of his favorite holiday very well; not very well at all. So when he becomes fixated on Principle Wilkin's grouchy neighbor (Brian Cox), things get messy and violent quickly. He invades the poor old man's house and teaches him a lesson about respecting Halloween...the hard way.

Here's a film that one could watch over-and-over again and never get bored. It does the right thing, thus never trying to get scares, but more-so campy and satirical laughs. And as far as that goes, it got a pretty good amount out of me. I suppose you have to connect with the film's dark - very dark - sense of humor in order to elicit the sort of response that it's trying to get out of the audience, but let me tell you: you're no better than that grumpy old man if you don't find scenes including death-by-lollipop or people literally made of pumpkins to be at least mildly amusing. And you don't want to be him, now do you?]]> Wed, 19 Oct 2011 21:48:20 +0000
<![CDATA[ Funny, effectionate "must" in vampire entertainment!]]>
"Fright Night" is what 80's horror cinema was all about; having fun without being overly dumb. To impress an intelligent audience, one had to actually WRITE a film and THINK about what made films such as this one work. I believe that "Fright Night" works because its writers were well-researched, and its director, Tom Holland (of "Child's Play" fame) knew - at the time - how to craft a well-made work of seemingly effortless entertainment. This is now one of my favorite vampire films; and I don't come across those too often. Perhaps that is because films such as "Twilight" plague the movie-screens of the world with PG-13 filth that dumbs down the vampire legend and lore for younger audience. But in the end, it's still films such as this one that keep us sane and engaged in what the vampire sub-genre of horror has to offer. And as far as vampire movies go, I'd say that "Fright Night" is rather great.

The screenplay works, and therefore, so does the film; since the movie essentially revolves around how well each storytelling element works. It's a satire, a homage to a now-lost genre, and also it's own film all-together; which is quite glorious indeed. I loved every comedic, creepy, entertaining moment of it.

You might know the premise, and then again, you might not. So here's the break-down; a typical high school kid named Charlie is facing problems both suitably normal and also atypical. As far as normal goes, he's having girlfriend troubles; the girl is uncertain of his habits and hobbies, which include watching horror films as well as other people, from his house, with a pair of ol' binoculars. One day, Charlie gets a new neighbor. Well actually, he gets two; Jerry (Chris Sarandon) and Billy (Jonathan Stark). Acting out on traditionally normal fashion to this new arrival, Charlie spies on his new neighbors and discovers them lifting a coffin into their basement. Charlie is terrified, but his mother has already been half-seduced by the handsome Jerry, and his friends - "Evil" Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) and girlfriend Amy - are a bit skeptical or his supposive "sightings". Better yet, Charlie is completely fixated on the concept of Jerry being a real-life vampire. Perhaps he's been watching too many late-night horror flicks. Or maybe he's right.

After consulting the police and having no luck with foiling his neighbors' evil plans, Charlie must turn to his favorite nighttime horror-host; Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), for answers. Vincent - on screen - has many times claimed to be a vampire hunter, but he doubts himself, and his show is even cancelled due to the lack of concern or interest amongst his target audience. But Charlie gives him a second chance at getting his name out and noticed; through captured and/or killing the boy next door.

Yeah, it's simple. And yeah, sometimes it is absurd. But I loved "Fright Night" because it embraced just about everything that some might find to be "wrong" with it (clichés, familiarities, etc.), but one cannot deny that it has a heart; and it has stolen my own. It isn't often that I see a vampire movie with such rich social commentary. The film takes the time to take a little reality check; and therefore, if there is horror, then there's a good chance we will gladly relate to it. However, "Fright Night" is equally as interested in getting shrieks as it is laughs; and I will tell you up-front that this is a very funny film. One of the funniest vampire films I've seen, perhaps. One can't shake from their memory delightful moments of human comedy such as the ones that occur before the vampire plot even takes full-form. And the vampire scenes, well, let's just say they are ghoulishly fantastical. The make-up effects are outstanding, the score is atmospheric, and the cinematography is surprisingly inspired. Such things can almost always make a good movie, and not always a great one; but this time, I think it all works to the film's benefit.

The film also has two very special, memorable performances too. I am of course speaking of Sarandon as his vampire Jerry and McDowall as the vampire hunter, Peter Vincent. When it comes to cinematic vampires, I'd say Sarandon's portrayal of Jerry is pretty high up there. He's nasty, seductive, handsome, ominous, and absolutely demeaning. He does his job considerably right. Then there's McDowall, who gives what I believe to be the best performance in the film. He plays the late-night horror-host part very well indeed, with some dialogue that is often times both comic and personalized; no other actor could play his character quite like he does.

"Fright Night" is an old-fashioned vampire tale, and that was a part of the charm. It evokes nostalgia of the Gothic era of horror, and the modernized era as well. It's hip, quite jolly, and consistently enjoyable; a real marvel of a movie. I'll even go as far as to call it a classic; not only for its time, but for time all-in-all. There aren't many vampire films that can match it in either style or grace. It gave me a fright that I will try my hardest never to forget, and since entertainment is of value these days, I am recommending the film. If you want a great vampire flick, then you've got it.]]> Wed, 19 Oct 2011 21:41:03 +0000
<![CDATA[ Thrill me.]]>
Now here's a peculiar little horror flick; bloody, violent, grotesque, and actually pretty funny as well. There's no doubt that it most likely embodies the elements of a horror-comedy, but some still won't be able to grasp such a concept. I know some people who argue against the fact that heads blowing up and flesh being torn could ever be used as a vehicle for generating laughs, and such people won't find a film such as this to their liking. It will lack all appeal not only because they don't get it, but also because the fact that they don't get it means that they're essentially close-minded enough to the point where even intentionally cheesy one-liners and a plethora of references to various movies and their respective directors can't save the experience from expiring immediately. I'm not one of those people, and that's why "Night of the Creeps" -which is indeed a horror-comedy that is really quite close to what I am speaking of - was so enjoyable for me.

Vulgar not in profanity but rather in cinematic violence, this is a classic 80's gorefest that contains just about as many laughs as it does flesh wounds pouring with the red, red kroovy. If you can find enjoyment in such a thing, then I say dig in, but otherwise, this might not be the easiest sit-through out there. Still, I think that most people who are understanding of how these "horror-comedies" work will find it a fun ride; while it lasts. But for me, there's something more of value here; and that's why I consider it such a "classic". Is it great cinema? No, but I will certainly remember it. It's funny, it's clever, well-written, and with more than its share of memorable quotes. It's an 80's film that pays homage to 80's films. Knowing that, ask yourselves: how is that not just instantly...lovable?

The film starts off on an extraterrestrial ship; in which the aliens that inhabit it are caught within a tornado of hatred amongst the passengers. These pig-faced, orange little bastards don't appear to be content; one runs off with a "top secret experiment" sort of capsule, which contains what I call a "horrible thing", while two other more...faithful aliens chase after that rather unfaithful one. They don't catch the traitor in time, and he launches the capsule into space, and finally, we learn that it has crash-landed on earth. Then, the film essentially opens AGAIN (in something that I like to call the "double-opening", which can sometimes be sort of charming and in other instances just-plain pretentious and annoying), this time with a black-and-white sequence depicting the discovery of this fallen object. A not-so-bright young man and his girlfriend take a drive and witness a glowing object hurtling towards somewhere in the woods behind them. The boyfriend is curious and goes after it, only to discover little creepy things lurking inside the capsule, which was the falling object, one of which jumps out at him and lands in his mouth.

A little over twenty years later, the scene has shifted to 1986; where Chris (Jason Lively) and his buddy J.C. (Steve Marshall) are trying to score women at college parties. Chris particularly takes a liking to a girl he falls for on sight, whose name is Cindy (Jill Whitlow). Chris believes that the only way to get this girl to notice him is to perform some outlandish stunt to please the frat boys. The "boys" give Chris and his buddy a simple but challenging task; to break into a cryogenics lab and steal a body. Things are going well until the two lovably losers chicken out, run for their lives, and leave the corpse that they had intended to steal to lie there on the floor. However, we are shown a glimpse of something important; the body had those creepy crawlies from the capsule stored inside of it, and they have been let loose. This, and many other things along with it, eventually turns many heads, one of which is that belonging to Detective Ray (Tom Atkins), who had a rough past that is eventually explored later on in the film. But for now, there are much more...important things at stake; what can those creepy crawlies (which are slugs, by the way) do?

As you might expect, they can take over the human body and control the mind; rendering man a zombie slave. I don't suppose they can infect others through a bite, like most classic movie zombies can, but the slugs certainly come in large numbers; and since the only way to kill them, as it seems, would be through fire; the survivors, Chris and company included, must do their bests to live through this invasion.

I loved watching this movie. It has its great pleasures. One of them, in particular, is Atkins' performance as the Detective. He's been in just a few films, sure, but this is the performance that everyone will remember. His catchphrase is "thrill me", and his campy attitude fits the film's own atmosphere perfectly. He's one of the many lost gems to be found here; a horror film that can be enjoyed by audiences both young and old. I should also mention the large number of movie references. There are characters here who don last names such as Romero, Landis, Raimi, Cameron, Miner, Cronenberg, and even Carpenter-Hooper. These are, of course, fairly obvious references; but if you're a horror fan, then it's quite difficult not to appreciate them. "Night of the Creeps" is as endearing as most horror flicks come, and for its kind, I'd say it's one of the best. It lives by clichés and conventions (the final twenty minutes or so involves a shoot-out/burn-out between the human characters and the dehumanized zombies), but at the same time, it's a fine satire that sets out to spoof them. Satirical horror films that work are few, and if "Night of the Creeps" works, then it works well. At that, there really isn't too much more to say about it other than it's worth seeing, I recommend it, and as far as evil-slug flicks go, it's hard to beat.]]> Wed, 19 Oct 2011 21:34:53 +0000
<![CDATA[ Brilliant, original, visionary, frightening zombie classic.]]>
Two siblings, a brother and a sister, visit a cemetery to place a cross and flowers at their father's grave. The sister seems happy just to do it, while the brother complains "I don't even remember what the man looks like!" He also whines about missing church that day, etc.; he is a rather selfish man. The two prepare to leave the cemetery, but not before they notice a strange man walking amongst the tombs of the dead. The distinctive feature is in the way he walks, and otherwise, he just looks rather sickly. He approaches the sister and immediately attacks. It would seem as if he is trying to grab a quick bite of her flesh. The brother pushes the man away and engages in a short-lived brawl, which ends with the death of him and the eventual escape of the sister from the scene itself. The odd man chases the sister in the car that she arrived in; which she decides to abandon after it breaks down, thus, continuing on foot. This begins "Night of the Living Dead".

The sister (whose name is Barbra, played by Judith O'Dea) finds her way to a seemingly abandoned farmhouse. She sees the man-with-the-funny-walk approaching the building and quickly finds her way inside. She locks all the doors, and believes she is safe, but it would appear that more-and-more strange men and women are making their way - slowly and slowly - towards the house. What do they want? Why do they walk in such an odd manor? And why did that one at the graveyard try to bite Barbra? All is revealed in time, but not until night falls do we learn more about just what's going on.

A black man named Ben (Duane Jones) suddenly appears out of nowhere in his pickup truck, and Barbra allows him entry into the house when she discovers that (1.) he is not one of those strange men and women outside and (2.) those who are amongst them are unexplainably hungry, seemingly for humans themselves. Through some valuable dialogue, and a well-worn premise (that was pretty much invented in this film), we learn that the dead are coming back to life and walking the earth, hunting warm flesh wherever they can find it. We're still left with one question; how exactly are the dead returning as pale, flesh-craving versions of their former selves? Like most of the questions to be asked regarding the film, give it time, and you shall receive an answer as a reward.

There's also a family hiding out in the cellar of the farmhouse, although they are far less cooperative than those who prosper above. Those who live under the floorboards, for the time being, are pissed off big time; their little girl has been bitten by one of the ghouls outside the building and is falling ill. Survival is very much of the fittest; as those below are not intent on striking deals or partnering with the "fairer" breed of characters. And yet another question comes along: what will they do when the undead break down their barricades and invade the insides of the home?

The director of the film, George A. Romero, poses questions intelligent and thoughtful enough to make his film, in a way, kind of brilliant. It's the kind of zombie movie he's been making since this and well into his more recent career; and it never quite gets old. He seems to be using his undead beings - which were to be known as zombies - as devices for social commentary and satire; there's even some political stuff to be found here as well. I appreciate that in a zombie movie; seldom does one such film get around by allowing the zombies to be nothing more than targets for the armed and the dangerous. By no means is this film flowing with enough zombies - disgusting, revolting, or covered in highly complex blood-and-gore make-up effects - to scare most who are in "today's audience", but truly frightening or not, "Night of the Living Dead" is a compelling, original, smart, spooky, and instantly memorable tale of survival in an ever-changing world of horror and dark fascination. It was great for its time- misunderstood, perhaps, but still great - and it's still great now. It was so great that it even spawned a few sequels, all which were (officially) directed by Romero, King of the Zombies. Not all of them were as good as his debut feature was, but nonetheless, this still ranks as one of his best overall. It's scary good.

As with all good - and even great - horror features, this is a film with many specific shots - images - that I shall gladly remember and hold dear. Of course, I love the story and themes behind "Night of the Living Dead", but sometimes we must rely on sight alone to be moved, and believe me; what you see here could very well be remembered for years to come. Consider the scene where Barbra heads upstairs in the farmhouse and discovers the decaying corpse of the (now previous) owner, which makes for one of the film's most frightening and shocking scenes. A classic, in my book. Also, what about the scenes with the pale, white zombies alone? Will they be remembered? Sure. The simplicity in the design for such beings only adds to the feeling we get when we set eyes upon them; and it allows us to consider the difference between a truly scary zombie and one that is simply disgusting to look at. I like both kinds.

What you've got is a fairly well-acted and spectacularly ghoulish experience. I loved every moment of it, and it's now one of my favorite zombie films of all time. Why wouldn't it be? When he had his earlier, and overall BETTER days, George Romero could make some pretty interesting stuff. The same cannot be said about a good deal of his newer works, but the fact that he was once able to make a film as good (and iconic) as this one on such a low, shoestring budget, is impressive and admirable. I can only hope that my first film - if I ever get to that - meet such a fate. But if he did it, then so can I; or at least that's the positive way to see it. I'm sure Romero would appreciate my appreciation. All friendly, respectable directors do; and the filmmaker here seems like a fun-loving guy who simply enjoys playing around with dead things. He isn't quite twisted; but he can make the grotesque into the quietly artistic, and in the end, I think we all know that very few directors can do that.]]> Sat, 15 Oct 2011 01:55:12 +0000
<![CDATA[ Shockingly solid slasher satire sequel.]]>
"Scream 2" is all whimsy, all wit, and all entertainment. I don't find it quite as funny, scary, or unforgettable as the film that it is a follow-up to, but it works in the same ways as the original film and operates well with Wes Craven returning as its director. The man who penned the first "Scream", Kevin Williamson, also hops aboard and once again does a pretty good job at providing us with what's simply put, a screaming good time. If you go to these movies for anything more or anything less, then you may not find this sequel to your liking. But then again, if you're one of those people, then you probably saw "Scream" and lacked the ability to see what everyone else was apparently seeing. It's not exactly difficult to find humor in something as deliciously over-the-top as "Scream" or its sequel, but there are of course, detractors. Perhaps this isn't their idea of a good time. That's too bad. As long as they can have fun otherwise, then I think we're OK. "Scream 2" is made for a certain audience, and luckily, I'm not in the minority when I say that it's actually pretty darn good.

Most of the original cast returns for the film, which was a nice surprise. If you didn't know already, "Scream" was a somewhat groundbreaking and undeniably original horror film in which the characters had seen the horror films that we saw; and the film set out to satirize the genre as a whole. If you know what to expect from that set-up, then you know what to expect from "Scream 2". It leaves off from the first film; which ended in a bloody finale that was as hilariously well-written as it was appropriately violent and intense. The first film involved a vile, sadistic stalker/serial killer who made creepy, flirtatious house-calls to young women in which he would ask them horror trivia and the like. They were playing for people's lives, or at least, that was how it was with the first game. But as we know, in the end, the killer(s) were revealed, and the story had seemingly ended. Boy, were we fooled!

Sidney (Neve Campbell), the central heroine from the first feature, returns here as the main role. You've got a nice change of location, as Sidney is studying at a college now, and you've got most of the characters that you remember from "Scream", so really, it's all a matter of what Craven and his filmmaking team do next. Sidney has a new boyfriend (Jerry O'Connell), and since her original circle of friends was killed by the end of "Scream", some new amigos. This includes Mickey (Timothy Olyphant), Hallie (Elise Neal), and Randy (Jamie Kennedy) who, come to think of it, was indeed in the first film. So there; not everyone was stabbed to death.

You thought the murders had stopped, but you'd be wrong. The psycho killer known as "Ghostface" is back and at it again; first starting at a movie screening in which a film based on the brutal events of the first film is having its world premiere. A couple is killed. The news people get involved. And when I say that, I hope you think of Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox); the nosy news lady from the first film, who would consistently intrude on the lives of the victims and friends. She hasn't changed a bit.

"Scream 2" is ridiculously predictable, but only because it wants to be. We know every twist, and we know just about everything that Craven is going to do with his story, but here; I don't think it's all about storytelling. This is yet another fine satire of the slasher film, so Craven's central fixation is film references and dialogue. It's an intelligently written film, where the scenes of brilliance certainly stand out among other things. I think you'll like it as long as you enjoyed "Scream"...and as long as you can tolerate graphic violence.

This isn't a great film, like its predecessor. It's well-acted, and made as only a Wes Craven slasher film can be, so if you go in looking for a good time; then that's what you will get. I didn't expect greatness, and what I got was goodness, so I was alright. There's some good writing and direction that went into the product, and in the end, it kind of works well; or at least well enough to impress this guy here.]]> Sun, 9 Oct 2011 20:29:49 +0000
<![CDATA[ Fear and Loathing in Junior High School.]]>
Todd Solondz's "Welcome to the Dollhouse" recalls the sad, desolate, lonely days of adolescence; particularly within the Middle School days of our lives, also known as Junior High. I know that those days, as well as the High School days, seemed painful and long. They must have been the same for Solondz, as he seems to have made the film out of personal disgust for the lowest members of youthful humanity; he appears to be gnashing his teeth, although through both humor and drama. You won't like the film unless you can relate to this feeling, and I feel that many cinephiles will. Cinema isn't well-appreciated at a young age, and only certain individuals take it up as an interest early in their lives. These people are insightful, intelligent; non-conformists to society. Neither is Solondz. He makes different, challenging, and sometimes brilliant features; each one inspired, each one deep in one way or another. I can't say that all of his films are straight-up masterpieces, but with this film, his debut picture, he's certainly made a name for himself. He tackles subjects worth tackling, but seldom tackled nonetheless. He creates characters almost unrealistically realistic. His movie is in itself a great euphemism for a sort of living hell.

I have been there, and I remember every last bit of the experience. I can't say that the good outweighed the bad by any stretch of the imagination, when it comes to this, but when there was good to be found in my Junior High career, it was a nice feeling or relief. And then the bad came in through the cracks and proceeded to eat me from the inside out yet again; but I enjoyed the moments where I didn't feel this way. I like this film because the situations, such as one where the female protagonist of the story stands in the lunch room, tray in hand, looks for a place to sit down and devour her meal, are relatable and masterfully staged. Solondz isn't a man of style; clearly, he's a man of wit and substance. But that's exactly what I love about the guy.

Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo) is a Junior High student; Jewish, virtually friendless, and frequently bullied not only for her name (the kids call her "wiener dog") but also for her shy, quiet, nervous personality. She can't help it. But her peers don't care. They see her as vulnerable, which she most certainly is, and they will take advantage of her. One of her most infamous bullies is Brandon McCarthy (Brendan Sexton Jr.); a boy who sends spitballs towards our heroine, sexually harasses her in detention, and at one point; he even threatens after-school-rape. On second attempt, Dawn shows up for the occasion, which ultimately shows how desperate she is to make contact; a connection, perhaps. She is unassuming, and it's funny; but also painful.

I believe a lot of the film's depth comes from the constant juggling of Dawn's life at home and her career as a student. School isn't particularly fun - whatsoever- for the poor girl, and neither is home. Her parents are unsupportive, her brother strikes her as uninteresting aside from a friend named Steve, whom Dawn falls smitten for. Then there's her sister, who at first seems like nothing more than a crucial source of annoyance for the central character, and in an instant, she becomes something much more important within the story.

What had my eyes glued to the screen was Solondz and his sympathy. He understands people. Even the strangest among them. The kids in "Welcome to the Dollhouse" - and even a few of the adults - feel rejected, lonely, forever sad; as if they are going nowhere. Maybe that's how it is. Dawn doesn't seem to have much of a future ahead of her socially, but academically, she might make some progress. Solondz - also the writer of this film - writes her character as an intellectual teen who tries to fit in, but can't seem to make the cut. Some people just don't know how to be cool, to the point where they just stop trying and act like they're content being labeled as "weird". Nobody wants negativity thrown their way. Dawn doesn't invite the harsh criticism that eventually meets her and sticks with her; she lives with life, and that's what she gets. I haven't exactly gotten any more or any less when it comes to such a thing. Therefore, there was an emotional investment to be made here. I think that Todd Solondz's "Welcome to the Dollhouse" is captivating, well-performed, ridiculously well-written and often times quite funny. But then comes the insightful bits; and such inclusions make the film much more than I expected. It's a nice little 86-minute surprise. I hope that my readers will discover it and come up with their own theories on its philosophy, regarding life. Keep on livin'.]]> Sun, 25 Sep 2011 19:36:02 +0000
<![CDATA[ Plenty of meat and humor to spare...]]>
Give me intentionally corny genre homages over the usual Hollywood bull-crap any day. Most of the time, these sorts of movies work; and for good reason. Some filmmakers can go beyond the ambitions of a fanboy and really make a solid movie. James Gunn, who penned 2004's "Dawn of the Dead" remake, has officially gone on to direct his own movie with "Slither"; which is indeed a homage to the B-movie side of the horror genre, and at that, I think it's a pretty good one.

What this movie does that so many homages like it fail to do is keep it simple. We've all seen movies like this one, and while most entries try to do something new (and fail miserably), here's a movie that sticks to the genre rules, and therefore, succeeds. It has charms of its own; one of them being its director, Gunn, who clearly put a lot of effort into the film. It looks nice and cheesy - just the way I would have wanted it. I had fun with it, and it's clearly one of the best horror films of its year.

In an obvious but loving nod to "The Blob", a meteor falls to earth, but this time, it contains a parasite-like needle that infects a man named Grant (Michael Rooker), who lives in a small town called Woodsville. The parasite kills Grant, but takes over his body and mind; thus creating a zombie out of him. However, writer-director Gunn doesn't let the idea start there; he takes a detour down "Night of the Creeps" lane. By that, I mean that he adds small little parasite slugs into the story, as well as tentacles that come out of Grant's chest and infect anyone he can corner.

Meanwhile, in Woodsville, the local authorities, including town sheriff Bill (Nathan Fillion) try to cope with the situation. The town mayor (Gregg Henry), a school-teacher and the wife of Grant (Elizabeth Banks), and many other locals join in on the case; and hunt Grant down as he begins to hideously deform day-by-day. There's a great scene, taking place in the night, which takes up a good deal of the film; that brings zombies into the mix. As it turns out, the little slug parasites can infect people and turn them into the walking dead!

I appreciated all the movie references and B-movie clichés, and Gunn seemed to know what kind of movie he was making. There's plenty of gore, presented in comedic fashion, for those who can appreciate that kind of thing. I liked the sense of humor that the film had, and it's pretty much consistently funny (in a cheesy sort of way, but it's all intentional, don't worry). It's not for everyone, but fans of the genre; they will like this.

Naturally, one of my favorite aspects of the film was Grant himself. I love Michael Rooker (I'm a big fan of the compelling masterpiece that is "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer"), and it's nice to see him finding good work once again within this genre. However, when he transforms into the slimy slug being, he's one disgusting son-of-a-bitch. It just keeps getting worse, his infections and stuff, as the film goes on; eventually, he's just one big orgy of blood, meat, and flesh. He's absorbing humans, who become part of his body. This was a nice addition to the film, as it hits just the right combined note of funny and revolting, but what's a horror comedy without its share of shock value?

There's an appeal to "Slither", and it is affectionately made enough for me to recommend it. I laughed a lot, and so will you, depending on how much you can laugh at, and how far your own sense of humor will go. Some people will probably go into this thinking it's a straight-up horror movie, thus they expect to be scared, and they come out dumbfounded that they weren't. I've already said it (kind of) many times, and I'll say it again; this is COMEDY-HORROR film. That means that it combines the standard genre expectations with a sense of humor, and it's a winner. I enjoyed myself, I admired Gunn's craft, and I hope he goes on and makes plenty of other fun, solid films in the near future. On the bright side, and oh, there are many when it comes to "Slither"; here's another movie I can plan for some sort of a "guy's movie night". I can imagine getting drunk to this, but in a non-insulting and all-around good way. Alcohol is not required, but with it, you can still have fun; and that, my friends, is a goddamn blessing.]]> Tue, 30 Aug 2011 19:51:28 +0000