Thursday, December 31, 2009

Deadline



Deadline 2009
Director: Sean McConville
Writer: Sean McConville
Starring Brittany Murphy, Thora Birch, Marc Blucas, Tammy Blanchard and Claudia Troll

It is rather ironic that about a week before the tragic passing of Brittany Murphy, that I had rented this film and watched it. It is especially sad, as I thought it as one of her best performances. The film is a ghost story that has the feel of a lot Japanese horror films. It boasts a strong story that is truly suspenseful. The cast of the film is above board too, Brittany is outstanding as is Thora and Marc too. The film is put together flawlessly well. The film has a palatable sense of impending doom throughout and it really carries that feeling till the shocking ending. The desperation of Murphy's character really carries the viewer with her through the entire film.
The plot basics are this, Alice (Murphy) is a writer recovering from a psychological breakdown. She retreats to a Victorian home out in the woods to recuperate and to finish a book she is writing before the impending deadline that is approaching. Things progress well, until she starts hearing strange sounds and going on's in the house. Alice is frightened but goes down to the cold and dingy attic where she finds a shoe box filled with mini DVD's. She begins to watch them obsessively, and at first they are the loving home movies of a married couple (Birch and Blucas). But soon they become a videologue of a husband's growing fears and obsessions. It leads to a horrifying ending and this causes Alice to investigate and what she discovers unhinges what little sanity she has left and the question is will she survive or will she suffer the same fate as the wife.
This is a great little film. The direction by McConville is very tense and suspenseful. The film is shot with a lot of contrasting shadows and lights and this really marks up the effect the film has on the viewer. The best example is how the videos start off very charming but they slowly turn sinister and it is very gripping watching the tone of the film change. The script is very good too. The character of Alice is really the crux of the film and the viewer really empathizes with her ordeal. The cast is exceptional. Murphy really owns the film and is very mesmerizing to watch throughout. Birch as the wife on the videos is very intriguing. She is very charming and you feel for her as her dilemma gets worse and worse. Blucas is great as the obsessed husband who goes off the deep end. The SFX and effects are quite good, especially when you see the spectral vision of Thora Birch. This is a great ghost story and one of the finest performances by the late Brittany Murphy.
This one gets 4 out of 5


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

100 Feet



100 Feet 2008
Director: Eric Red
Writer: Eric Red
Starring Famke Jansen, Bobby Cannavale, Ed Westwick, Michael Pare, John Fallon and Patricia Charbonneau

Eric Red is one of the best horror filmmakers that came out of the 80's and 90's and he has been silent since that werewolf film Bad Moon in 1997. It is great to finally see him tackle the horror genre again. And the subject he tackles is very powerful and gripping. The film tackles the themes of domestic abuse, self defense and preservation. The film combines a film like Poltergiest with The Burning Bed. It is a solidly gripping film that starts out slowly but as the story progresses, the viewer knows something is not quite right and it is not long till the spirit of the vengeful ghost begins to wreak havoc and with each attack it gets more brutal and violent. The mood of the film really makes it work, the entire ordeal has a sense of desperation to it. The cast is excellent too, the film really hinges on the portrayal of Jansen as the battered and coping wife, and she does an exemplary job in the role. The film is dark and dismal but, it is peppered throughout with bits of dark humor that alleviate the tenseness somewhat.
The plot basics are this, Marnie Watson (Jansen) is granted a early parole from the conviction of killing her husband. The only catch is that she has to wear an ankle bracelet that will not let her move more than 100 feet from her home, the same home that she killed her abusive husband (Pare) in self defense. She is kept under tabs by her husband's ex partner in the police (Cannavale), who still has resentment and anger towards her. She begins to adjust to her life as a prisoner in her own home, when strange things begin to happen. Soon, she is being attacked by an unseen able force and she soon realizes it is the ghost of her husband back for revenge. Marnie now has to find a way to survive and cope with this and try to find a way to exorcise his ghost from the house before he kills her or anyone who enters the house and is friendly with Marnie.
This is one of the best ghost stories I have seen on film in a long time. Red's direction is tense throughout, he sets it up so, that the viewer knows something is not right and soon those hunches are paid off. The scenes of the spectral attacks are executed flawlessly. The script is very taut and stress filled too. The story really makes you feel much empathy for Marnie and the struggles she has to endure in the film. There is good use of flashbacks to show you what has transgressed that has led her to this dilemma. The cast is uniformly excellent too. Jansen really holds the narrative together and is very believable as the battered but surviving wife who is trying to keep her sanity intact. Pare is great as the vengeful spirit and with never speaking a word he speaks volumes with his performance, Cannavale is great as the cop who at first doesn't; swallow any of her story, but soon comes to her aid and tries to help her. The SFX and effects in the film are amazing. My personal favorite is when the ghost goes crazy after watching Marnie have sex with the delivery boy and he gives him such a massive beat down that his spirit gets soaked in blood. The score by John Frizzell is melancholic and eerie and it sets the mood of the film accurately well. This is definitely one of my favorite ghost stories now and I highly recommend it.
This one gets 5 out of 5


Monday, December 28, 2009

Lust For A Vampire




Lust For A Vampire 1971
Director: Jimmy Sangster
Writer: Tudor Gates
Starring Ralph Bates, Barbara Jefford, Suzanna Leigh, Michael Johnson, Yutte Stensgaard, Helen Christy, Pippa Steel, David Healy, Harvey Hall and Mike Raven

In the latter era of Hammer horror films, they begin to delve into lesbianism with films like Countess Dracula and the Vampire Lovers. Lust For A Vampire was a continuation of that theme. I think more so than any other Hammer film it is the most overtly sexual. The many females in the film are constantly either in a state of undress or on the brink of being seduced and letting go of all their inhibitions.The way the story is portrayed it gives it both elements of class and elements of sleaze and these two disparate qualities seem to meld together well in this concoction. The film is presented in the usual graceful gothic style of most of Hammer's films. It has a enticing and gripping plot that is combined with a great lot of performances that push the film over the edge and truly make it a fine and daring vampire film. I have always been impressed that though Hammer had the Dracula films they also strived to do more original vampire films and this is a excellent example of one.
The plot basics are this. in the deserted chapel at Karnstein Castle, Count (Raven) and Countess (Jefford) Karnstein enact a satanic ritual to bring their daughter Carmilla (Stensgard) back to life. Also, Richard LaStrange (Johnson) has come to the village to do research on a book he is writing on witches, magic and vampires. He is warned to stay away from Karnstein Castle, he goes anyway and discovers three young girls dressed in shrouds, he soon discovers that they are students at a nearby finishing school. Richard then works a plan out where he becomes the new English teacher at the school. He becomes enamored with Mircalla, and as he becomes entrenched in the school it seems girls are disappearing and Mircalla is never far away when this happens. This all leads to the villagers discovering who Mircalla really is and with the aid of the priest of the village come to put an end to her. Richard is still besotted with the charms of the vampire and who knows if he will shake out of it or become the latest willing disciple to the Karnstiens?
This is quite a well done film. Sangster's direction is very erotically charged. He uses the mood of sensuality very well throughout as many of the females seem to be on the cusp of letting loose their inhibitions as the film progresses. It has a great gothic feel, but also balances it with a modern sensibility. The script is very well balanced. The character of Richard LaStrange has many foibles, but you sympathize with him anyway. The character of Giles Barton is the most memorable character in the film, who is like a needy version of Renfield. The character of Mircalla is very interesting too, as you do not know till well past half of the film if she is truly evil or just being used by the Karnsteins. The cast is uniformly good. LaStrange is very good as the stoic hero, who has his own weaknesses that could be his own undoing. Bates as Barton is great too, he is very sleazy and is a delight to watch whenever he is on screen. Stensgaard is very enticing as the malevolent Mircalla, and is mesmerizing whenever she is on screen. The SFX and effects are done very well in this film and add to the mood of the film. The score by Harry Robertson is very haunting and sensual and really works well with the themes of the film. This is a finely done vampire film with a overtly sexual nature that runs well on all cylinders.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lifeforce




Lifeforce 1985
Director: Tobe Hooper
Writers: Dan O'Bannon and Don Jakoby
Starring Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Mathilda May, Patrick Stewart, Nicholas Ball, Aubrey Morris and Nancy Paul

Tobe Hooper is a director that seems to be hit and miss a lot of times. For every classic he makes like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, he gives us turkeys like Crocodile and Invaders From Mars. But when he makes a great film he really hits it out of the park. I think Lifeforce is one of those films. This was a film that was pretty much ignored when it first came out, but over the years it has gotten somewhat of a cult status, and a lot of that comes from the role of Mathilda May and her being sans clothes throughout most of the film. But, the film has a lot going for it, it has a great premise and plot that is never dumbed down for the audiences. It has some great SFX effect sequences and some great performances by Railsback and Stewart. It gives a unique perspective to the vampire and really makes it into its own thing. I think it is one of the more creative takes on the vampire legend, and admittedly the film is a bit dry but for someone who grew up on Hammer films, this method really works for my enjoyment of the film.
The plot basics are this, Hailey's Comet has returned and a American/British joint effort sends a space shuttle to investigate it. They get up close to the comet and discover a spaceship near it with several bodies in it and a few that look to be in perfect condition. The Crew then takes the bodies onboard their ship to have them investigated when they return back to Earth. When the shuttle returns to Earth it is found burnt out and everyone is dead except for Carlson (Railsback) and the 3 alien bodies are still in perfect condition. They take the body of the female alien (May) back to their laboratory and it somehow revives and begins to suck the lifeforce out of anyone it comes in contact with. Soon, it is discovered that anyone who falls prey to the alien will come back as a lifeforce sucking vampire and soon it infects all of London turning the denizens of the city into life sucking zombies. It soon becomes clear that Carlson has a psychic rapport with the alien female and with the help of Colonel Caine (Firth) of the SAS that they must put a stop toe the alluring and dangerous vampire.
This is a exceptional hybrid science fiction/horror film. Hooper's direction really has the feel of a British horror film. Which has a lot to do with a mostly British cast. He uses all this very well and it makes the film feel like one of the Hammer Quatermass films. The overt sexuality in the film also pushes it over the edge and all the sexual frustration that is alluded to in the film works very well. IT is a slow burn film, but Hooper runs it very well and you never feel like your time is wasted by the film. The script is another great genre piece by O'Bannon. It combines several genres, the science fiction genre, the horror genre, the post apocalyptic genre and the mystery genre. The character of Carlson really propels the film forward and you are always in his corner throughout all the proceedings. The vampiress is an enigma much of the time and that works in the story's benefit. The cast is great, with great performances by Railsback and Stewart. Firth is also good as the logical hero in the film that is not swayed by the beguiling sexiness of the vamp. What really makes the film work though is May, she is unencumbered by clothes and it just seems natural. She is very enticing but at the same time very dangerous. It is a hard thing to keep balanced but she does it very well. The SFX and effects of the film are exceptional as well. My personal favorite is when the husk of the vamp's first victim comes to life, it is very freaky and a bizarre sight to watch. The score by Henry Mancini also adds to the film's charm. It is haunting and overtly sexual which works well with the themes of the film/ This is one of Hooper's underrated gems in my book and well worth seeking out.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lair of the White Worm




Lair of the White Worm 1988
Director: Ken Russell
Writer: Ken Russell
Starring Amanda Donohoe, Hugh Grant, Catherine Oxenberg, Peter Capaldi, Sammi Davis, Stratford Jack, Imogen Clair and Christopher Gable

Ken Russell has always been one of the more unusual genre directors and each film of his has its own idiosyncrasies. He always seems to film his movies through a wapred kaleidoscope of reality. The most obvious example of that is the cult classic The Devils. Though, Lair of the White Worm has quite a few strange and disturbing images throughout the film. It has always seemed to me that most of Russell's films are best viewed with a higher state of consciousness and not as a stone cold viewing experience. A lot of this film is a classic neo gothic horror film but the scenes with the worm and its priestess subverting the reality of its victims make it seem like a film on LSD and that technique really works in the films favor. This film has a great feel throughout and some great performances by both Grant and Donohoe as the diametric opposites who must face off against each other. The imagery in the film is shocking and slightly disturbing and this is what makes the film work so well and has made it keep its appeal over the years.
The plot basics are this, Angus Flint (Capaldi) is a archaeologist who has come to the Trents sisters (Davis and Oxenberg) Bed and Breakfast to excavate some mines. He finds some strange coins in a skull and as he investigates he discovers the legend of the D'ampton family of the vanquishing of the White Worm. About a year ago the Trent's parents disappeared near the Temple mansion that is now occupied by Lady Sylvia Marsh (Donohoe). Soon, people star disappearing and Angus along with the Trent's begin to investigate. They are assisted by their friend Lord James D'ampton and get to the bottom of the mystery. Soon, Sylvia (Oxenberg) is abducted by Sylvia as it seems she is the high priestess for the White worm and it will be up to James and Angus to put a stop to the reign of terror Lady Sylvia has been putting the countryside through.
This is an exceptionally well done film. Russell's direction is great, he sets up a twisted sexual mood throughout the film and never fails to deliver on the sordidness of the whole affair. The surreal dream sequences involving Lady Marsh and the worm are the highlights of the film, they are like a post modern art exhibit brought to garish life. The script is very good too, it is based on a obscure Bram Stoker short story and combines a gothic feel with an adventures story of the likes of King Solomon's Mines. The characters are very bizarre and idiosyncratic, which works very well for the film. They are not really characters you expect to see in a film of this type, but somehow it really works out. The cast is exceptional. The film really belongs to both Donohoe and Grant, though. Donohoe vamps it up as a sexy femme fatale and she is mesmerizing whenever she is on the screen. Grant is a good choice at the opposite end of the spectrum, he plays the stalwart hero to a T. He has the feel of a Alan Quartermain combined with Sherlock Holmes. The SFX and effects are very well done, especially the animatronics White Worm. Also, the look of the monstrous Lady Marsh is quite horrific and works quite well too. This is a bizarre and surreal horror film, but one that is well worth viewing.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Basement Jack




Basement Jack 2009
Director: Michael Shelton
Writer: Brian Patrick O'Toole
Starring Eric Peter-Kaiser, Michele Morrow, Sam Skoyrne, Lynn Lowry, Michael Patrick Green, Joel Brooks, Dakota Carter, Tiffany Shepis and James Williams

It is very hard to come up with a slasher film that is original, as most of the ideas that work the best have been mined to death. Every now and then you discover a new one that takes some tried and trued ideas and adds a new twist to them. Basement Jack is one of those types of films. It really adds a new twist to the slasher genre that really works. It adds the element of a psychopathic killer that can only kill during thunderstorms. It also uses the trope of a mother and son relationship that is perverted ala Psycho and really breathes new life into it. The deaths and graphics of the kills are amazing and the cast is really very good for a independent film. It was a film that was very polished and seems perfect to have a franchise with. It had a grainy and grimy look, but it did not look false and seemed very organic with the feel of the film. This is a film I thought really breathed some new life into the slasher genre that I have not seen since Adam Green's Hatchet. But whereas that film has a lot of comedy to it, this one is a straight out horror film, that has some of the elements of Psycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
The plot basics are this, Karen Cooper (Morrow) is the lone survivor of a maniac known as Basement Jack (Peter-Kaiser), who committed a seven day killing spree that decimated her entire family. We flash forward to 11 years later and Karen is still living in feat that Jack will somehow return and finish her off. It seems now that Jack was found to not have received a fair trial and was sent to a mental institution and a year ago he was released and now murders that are the same as the ones he committed 11 years ago are happening again. It seems though, that the police think that Karen is behind the murders, but they will soon discover their mistake when Jack comes looking for her and wipes out any police officers between him and Karen. Karen soon realizes that her and Jack have unfinished business and that he is hunting her down and so it will come down to her and him, on one dark and stormy night and it seems nothing will stop Jack from making a blood soaked path to her.
This is a taut and suspenseful film. The direction by Shelton is very good. The use of the flashbacks between Jack and his mother really emphasize how damaged Jack was from the beginning and that he never had a chance to be a normal child. The way the film is shot almost has a documentary style and really works in the film's benefit. The script is very taut and moody. All the scenes with Jack and his mom are very creepy and borderline psychotic. The most jarring scene is when his mother makes him watch her having sex, so he knows how it is done, very disturbing. The character of Karen Cooper is the linchpin of the film and she is a very strong and capable female hero in the vein of Ripley from the Aliens films. Chris Watts is the cop trying to help her always seems way out of his league and is usually a detriment to the story. The cast is very exceptional for this film. Morrow as Karen really makes a strong protagonist for the film and you are always in her corner throughout the film. Peter-Kaiser as Jack never speaks but he does more with his eyes and his movements than he could do with his words and it works very well. Lynn Lowry as his mother, does a great job and it has been a long time since I have seen her and she still has a charismatic presence on film. She is very creepy and sick throughout the film. Skoyrne as Watts is decent, but he is a haphazard cop that reminds me more of Paul Blart Mall Cop than a police officer. The small role by Tiffany Shepis is great as always and she has the best death scene in the film. The SFX and effects in the film are amazing. The death of Shepis with her holding her intestines trying to push them back in is amazing and worth watching the film alone. This is a exceptional slasher film and except for the miscasting of Skoyryne and his shabby character this is a great film.
This one gets 4 out of 5


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Echo




The Echo 2008
Director: Yam Laranas
Writer: Eric Bernt and Shintaro Shimosawa
Starring Jesse Bradford, Iza Calzado, Amelia Warner, Jamie Bloch, Kevin Durand, Carlos Leon and Louise Linton

In recent years there has been a glut of Japanese style horror films glutting the market and It had been a long while since I saw one I really liked, the last one being Pulse. The premise for this film looked intriguing and the trailer was very creepy. I am glad I did, as this was a very creepy and eerie ghost story, that made me jump quite a few times. IT also relies more on the mood and atmosphere, something you really do not see much of in today's horror films. The setup is handled well and the film slowly builds up until the tension of the characters in the film is palatable. There are moments in the film that are very unnerving and uncomfortable, and I do not get that feeling lightly when I watch a horror film these days. The characters are sympathetic and you hope they survive the experience and that is something that you really need in a film like this. You really need to care for them and they do that feat very well in this film. This was a remake of a Asian film called Sigaw and is directed by the same director. I have not seen the original but if it is half as good as this film, it is a truly well done film.
The plot basics are this, Bobby Reynolds (Bradford) is a young man who has just been released from prison on probation. He goes to move into a old apartment building in the East Village of New York, where his lonely mother had recently passed away. He tries to rebuild his life, but he is deemed an outcast for what he did. He tries to reconnect with his former girlfriend Alyssa (Warner), but she is wary. Soon, he begins hearing voices that seem to be coming next door of a fight between a abusive husband against his wife and daughters. He investigates but is never able to find any proof that these people exist. Bobby soon discovers that what he is hearing are the ghosts of the family who are enraged because none of the neighbors bothered to help the family when the husband beat the family to death. Bobby needs to find a way to stop it before him or Alyssa get hurt irreparably.
This is a very well done film. The direction by Laranas is evocative and eerie and serves the story very well. The claustrophobic feel of the apartment building can be felt in every scene in the film. The script is very taut as well. It starts off at a slow simmer but soon enough it boils over and that is when the terror and horror begins to be inflicted on the occupants of the complex. The characters are very well drawn out, especially Bobby and Alyssa. These two are the heart and soul of the film and everything in the film revolves around them and the viewer actually cares what happens to them, not a easy feat when making a supernatural film. The cast is very good, Bradford is very capable as Bobby and makes you see a man who has made some huge mistakes in his life and is trying to put the pieces back together into his broken life. Warner as Alyssa is good too, she is hesitant to listen to Bobby, but soon begins to believe the ghosts that are tormenting him. Also of note, is Durand as Walter the Abusive husband, and volatile spirit. He usually plays a good heavy and this film is no excerption. The SFX and effects are minimal, but are used to great effect. It just shows you that a little goes a long way. The best example is the beating Alyssa takes by the ghost at the end. This is a very creepy and haunting ghost story and well worth seeking out.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Monday, December 21, 2009

Samurai Princess



Samurai Princess 2009
Director: Kengo Kaji
Writer: Sotaro Hayashi
Starring Yu Aiba, Takashi Ayabe, Miki Harase, Mitsuru Karahashi, Asuka Kataoka, Aino Kishi, Dai Mizuno and Mihiro

The burgeoning sub genre in Japanese horror of extreme splatter gore and ultra violent films has been getting more exposure with films like The Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police. Samurai Princess is the latest in this genre of films directed by the writer of Tokyo Gore Police, this is a simple revenge plot over loaded with gore and extreme violence and if you love this stuff as much as I do you will really get a kick out of this film. The story is very simple, so there is no over thinking of the plot. It is the standard someone has been wronged and now there is only one person who can enact the revenge and justice that they deserve. The film combines a martial arts gore fest with a science fiction mecha story and does it pretty well. I saw a lot of similarities with the narrative and plot of the film with the Bruce Lee Classic The Chinese Connection. It follows the path of a lone warrior seeking justice for a wrong and it leads them down a dark path that can only end in one result.
The plot basics are this, while on a school field trip a young girl (Kishi), watches as 11 of her friends are raped and murdered and then harvested for body parts by creatures called "mechas". She is found by a scientist (Mizuno) who is also a mecha and he agrees to help her by grafting parts of her friends along with their souls into her body. Now that she is armed with their rage and power she is eager to decimate any opponents that stands in her way. She will also be chased by a police force that is out to eradicate all mechas, so she has little time to lose if she wants to achieve her retribution. It will all lead to a bloody showdown with the leader of the mob that killed her friends and it will be a fight that will shake the foundations of the earth, the question is will the Princess prevail or is she doomed to fail?
This is a great popcorn film. The direction by Kaji is fast and furious. The fight scenes are outrageous and a delight to watch. He lets the blood and limbs fly around copiously so you are really in for a feast for the eyes when you view this film. The script is basic at best, but that is all you need for this type of revenge film. You just need the motive for the hero and as long as the motive seems justifiable then the viewer has no problem accepting them. The script does a good job of setting up the Princess' torment and why she needs this bloody revenge. The villains are typically over the top and that works very well for the film. The scientist that creates the Princess brings a great deal of pathos and humanity to the story and that is something that is well brought out in the narrative. The cast is quite good, Kishi has a great screen presence as the Samurai Princess and really carries the film effortlessly. She pulls off both the action sequences and the emotional scenes very well. Mizuno is also very good as the scientist that creates her into the killing machine that she becomes. He really is the heart and the soul of the film and helps the viewer tap into the emotions of the characters. The SFX and effects are amazing. The limbs fly and the blood flows like a fountain throughout this film. The scene where the 2 police agents are attacked is one of my personal favorites, it was so over the top it has to be seen to be believed. This is another great example of the Japanese extreme splatter and hyper violence films and well worth seeing.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Flashbacks: Pumpkinhead



Pumpkinhead 1989
Director: Stan Winston
Writers: Mark Patrick Carducci and Gary Gerani
Starring Lance Henriksen, Jeff East, John D'Aquino, Kimberly Ross, Joel Hoffman, Cynthia Main, George "Buck" Flowers, Mayim Bialik and Chance Michael Corbett

Original horror is very rare to find nowadays, so when you discover something like Pumpkinhead it is a real cause for celebration. I remember when I first discovered this film and it is such a nice diversion from the Freddy's and Jason's. It is a shame that Stan Winston never got around to directing any other horror films, but at least when he did this film he created a true modern masterpiece. The creature is horrifying and actually looks like it could exist. The film is also anchored by what I think is Lance Henriksen's finest performance other than Bishop in Aliens. The pace of the film is just deliberate enough to keep the story going, but not bring it to a full stop before the mayhem begins. This is probably one of the last great creature features made, I cannot really think of one that is as exceptional as this film.
The plot basics are this, Ed Harley (Henriksen) is a shop keeper out in the woods who lives with his young son, Billy. They seem to have a very idyllic life together, but that all changes when a group of teenagers come around to run around on their motorbikes. While Ed is running some errands, the teens are running on their bikes when one of them hits and kills Billy. Ed stricken with grief and rage, remembers something from his childhood of a demon killing some one and decides to get his own brand of revenge on the teenagers. He goes to visit a reclusive witch who has the ability to arise the vengeance seeking demon known as Pumpkinhead and as it kills the teenagers one by one, Ed see the deaths through the eyes of the demon and realizes what a horrible price he has paid to enact his blood filled revenge. He begins to feel pangs of conscience but a ultimate sacrifice must be paid if he wants the demon to stop and one wonders if Ed is strong enough to make that sacrifice.
This is a great film. Winston's direction is phenomenal. The way he uses the shadows of the darkness in the film is amazing. When he does show the monster in all it's glory it is well worth the wait. The script is very good, it is set up at first like a old fairy tale that has come to life. It is a excellent change of pace from many of the slasher films that were being released at that time. The character of Ed Harley, is of course the strongest character in the script, as the entire story hinges on your believability of his grief and rage. The cast is very good, with special props to Henriksen as he really inhabits the role of Ed Harley. He makes you feel the rage and loss that propels Harley to do this act of desperation for justice and revenge. Flowers is very good too, as the neighbor who tells Harley how to find the witch who can help him enact his revenge. He does a lot with a small but vital role, just like he does in all the genre films he has been in like They Live and Wishmaster. The SFX and effects in the film are outstanding. The demon looks real and not like some guy in a rubber suit. All the kills are quite bloody and realistic too, and really make the film that much more memorable. The score by Richard Stone is another important element to the film. It is evocatively eerie and haunting, just what a film with themes like this needs. This is a original piece of horror filmmaking and well worth a look if you have not seen it yet.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Slices



Slices 2008
Directors: Lenny Lennox, Neil McCurry, Lance Polland, Steven Richards and Vito Trabucco
Writers: Bret Culpepper, Lenny Lennox, Neil McCurry, Lance Polland, Steven Richards, Matthew Olivo and Vito Trabucco
Starring Matthew Olivo, Trent Haaga, Julie Anne, Kevin Bangos, Elias Cecil, Bret Culpepper, Vincent E. Culpepper, Dan Lookabill, Deborah Lynn Dishington, Sebastian Gonzales, Aaron Manning, Chuck Williams, Chani Nicholas and Steven Richards

I watch a lot of independent horror films and this one caught my since it was a anthology film and those are one of my favorite type of horror films. Another thing that was intriguing about the film is that it had 5 different stories all written and directed by different writers and directors. This cause a change of flow in each story, but I thought all the stories are well worth watching. The film has a genuine creepiness to all the stories and the ubiquitous narrator they conceived for all the story is really quite fun to watch, he reminded me a lot of some of the best traits of the crypt keeper. He has a very sharp wit and uses puns as well and is never tiring to watch. This is a great little anthology film, that while not on the level of Creepshow is far superior to films like Tales from the Hood and Grimm's Prairie Tales.
The plot basics are this, a man (Olivo) cannot sleep at night and he turns on the TV and sees a horror film show coming one hosted by a humorous and frightening narrator (Haaga). So, his night begins by watching these tales of terror being presented before him. The first story is about a man (Williams) who thinks that he is on top, but soon finds that he is just another rung on someone else's ladder. Next we meet a writer (Lookabill) who has believed that he has brought his wife (Dishington) back to life but the truth is much more terrifying. The next one is set in the old west and deals with frontier zombies on the loose. Next is about a young man (Manning) who goes to a cabin to get lucky with some ladies, but unknown to him is that he will soon be besieged by vampires. The final story is about a camping trip that goes horribly wrong for some lovers and their friend (Nicholas) must try to survive the ordeal in any manner she can. After all the stories are done it seems they were all only a precursor to the insomniac being attacked by a unspeakable evil force.
This was a very well done film. The direction by all the various directors are done very well, the stories move very briskly and never extend the time needed to tell the story. My personal favorite was "Dead Letter", that one was really creepy and highly effective. The script is solid as well, the various writers give you just enough elements of the character to get you hooked into the stories, but they all know the main thing about them is the plot and they go full stem ahead with propelling it. The best character in the film has to be Professor Lucius Phibes, he is a excellent narrator and is a delight to watch him in every scene. The cast all does a excellent job, especially Haaga as Phibes, you can clearly see that he loves chewing the scenery and that brings so much more to the role than anyone else could have done. I also really enjoyed Lookabill and Dishington in "Dead Letters", they were both excellent and really pulled off their roles well. The SFX and effects were done very well too, I especially loved the corpse in "dead Letters" and the brutal murders in Turnout". This is highly recommended to fans of the horror anthology or just someone looking for a fun and scary film.
This one gets 4 out of 5


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Black Devil Doll



Black Devil Doll 2007
Director: Jonathon Lewis
Writers: Shawn Lewis and Mitch Mayes
Starring Heather Murphy, Natasha Talonz, Christine Svendsen, Erika Branich, Precious Cox and Martin Boone

This is a film I had been highly anticipating seeing, as it looked so wrong and in such bad taste that it had to be a hell of ride. I am happy to say it did not disappoint. Now if you are looking for a film with higher meaning and deep themes you are picking the wrong movie. This is a film that was made for fans of grindhouse exploitation films. This film is politically incorrect, sexist and violent as hell, and as I am cool with all those things I loved this film. I had not laughed my ass off so much in a film in a long time. If you think this is going to be like a black Chucky, you are wrong it is something much worse, a horny and murderous black militant doll and he is really out there on the outrageous meter. I believe he breaks the damn meter. This film is made very much in the vein of blaxpoitation and the sexploitation films from the 70's. Lots of hot and mostly naked girls getting molested by a doll and then brutally killed by same doll. The film is just shy of actually being a porn movie, but they hold back just enough to make it a really raunchy horror film.
The plot basics are this, Heather (Murphy) is a sexy, young and bored girl who one night decides to play with a Ouija board and this brings forth the spirit of a black militant leader who is being executed for raping and killing white females. He comes into her home and invades the form of one of her dolls and makes it his own. He then seduces Heather and then talks her into bringing her 4 hot friends to come over and he gets her to leave whole he concocts a plan to ravish them. He goes forth molesting and having sex with them, and either before or after he kills them in gruesome ways. Heather comes back to find all her friends dead and this enrages her to put a stop to the Black Devil Doll, but will she succeed or will something more horrible happen to her?
This is such a campy and over the top film. Lewis direction really captures the feel of a bad 70's drive inn film and it is played that way throughout the film. He films it just the way someone like Jack Hill would if he had made this type of film, and it feels very genuine and part of the time period. The script is funny as hell. The stereotypes of a black militant are used to excellent effect in the film and I also loved White T, the wannabe black guy who was actually white. All the girls characters were very stereotypical dumb girls that you would expect in a film like this and they are fun to watch on screen, especially since they are usually either naked or having profane things done to their bodies. The cast is good, I loved the voice for the Black Devil Doll, he really infused the character and brought it to life. Murphy as Heather was great, she had a very innocent vibe to her character and she was also sexy as hell. I hope to see her in more films after this one. The SFX and the effects are done very cheesily but they fit the film well and they never felt out of place. The kilss by the doll are all very fun and creative. This is a film that was made for fans of the grindhouse and drive inn era of genre films and well worth seeing if you dig films like They Call Her One eye or Foxy Brown.
This one gets 5 out of 5


Monday, December 14, 2009

Kill, Baby, Kill



Kill, Baby, Kill 1966
Director: Mario Bava
Writers: Mario Bava, Romano Migliorono and Roberto Natale
Starring Giacoma Rossi-Stuart, Erika Blanc, Fabienne Dali, Piero Lulli, Luciano Catenacci, Valeria Valeri and Micaela Esdra

Mario Bava is one of the undisputed masters of Italian horror and I am just beginning to delve into his long list of works. Kill, Baby, Kill is only the 4th film of his I have seen, the others are Planet of the Vampires, Shock and Black Sunday. The only film of those 3 that is better than Kill, Baby, Kill is Black Sunday. That one is till my favorite. This one though, is not far behind it, it is a great gothic film that reminds me a lot of many of the gothic romance novels I read when I was a teenager. The Gothic ambience that permeates the film is palatable and is as much a part of the film as the cast or the story. Without it, I do not think the film would be as powerful as it is. The film really conveys a feeling of thinly veiled menace throughout the entire film. As you are drawn into the film, the viewer is aware of the dangers that lurk around any corner and watch the proceedings with trepidation, awaiting when the next horror will unfold. It is a delight to watch and from the opening shot the viewer is mesmerized until the ending.
The plot basics are this, Dr. Eswai (Rossi-Stuart) is called into a small village to perform a autopsy on a young woman's by a Inspector of the town, Kruger (Lulli). Not long after he arrives Kruger dies and Eswa is helped with his investigation by Ruth (Dali), the village witch. It soon becomes clear, that the woman, Kruger and other woman have been killed by the ghost of a woman, Melissa (Valeri). A young girl, who is fed by the grieving hatred of her mother and exacts their revenge on the villagers who they see are at the fault of Melissa's death. This leads to Esawa and Monica (Blanc), a local nurse to be lured into a fatal confrontation with the spirit of the young girl and her grieving mother, but who will survive is the real question that must be answered.
This is a excellent film. Bava's direction is effortless in the way he presents the gothic mood and atmosphere that pervades throughout the entire film. Much of the deaths and terror in the film are more implied than shown and that really works in the film's benefit. The entire film has a haunting and eerie feel that never lets up till the finale. The script is quite good. It follows the plot points of many Gothic romances and this is a thing that the story does very well. The characters are not very drawn out, but stories like these are more about the plot and the atmosphere than characterizations and that is well evident with this script. The cast is very good, Rossi-Stuart is a very stalwart hero and one you would expect for this kind of film. Blanc is very convincing as the heaving bosom damsel in distress type and she performs this role very well. Dali is very mysterious as the witch and half the time you do not know where her loyalties lie. Valeri is very creepy as the little girl Melissa, she has a very "bad seed" quality to her performance that works really well. The SFX and effects are minimal and that is for the best, as this film is more about ramping up the atmosphere and not drowning the screen with gore and that works to its advantage. The score by Carlo Rustichelli is evocative and eerie and really helps accentuate the mood of the film. Without it, the film would not be nearly as effective as it is. This is a must see for horror fans and fans of the gothic horror film.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Island of Lost Souls




The Island of Lost Souls 1932
Director: Erle C. Kenton
Writers: Waldemar Young and Phillip Wylie
Starring Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, Bela Lugosi, Kathleen Burke, Arthur Hohl, Stanley Fields and Paul Hurst

This is the first adaptation of H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr Moreau and it is a very dark and brooding film. I still prefer the 1977 version over this one, but this version has plenty of things to make it a worthwhile adaptation. It is very sexual for a film of this era and also has some tinges of sadomasochism with Moreau's use of a bullwhip to curtail the creatures ferocity. The film is anchored by the fine performances by Laughton and Lugosi and also the brimming sexuality of Burke as the panther lady. This must have been a very shocking film to see when it was first released as I do not believe the audiences at the time were ready for the cruelty and sexuality that is on display within this film. It is a short film but it really sets out to give you its themes and ideas in that short timeframe. S lot of the violence in the film is more implied than shown and that really works well for the films benefit rather than its detriment. This is definitely a classic of the horror genre and it is a shame that this is not available on DVD yet.
The plot basics are this, Edward Parker (Arlen) is adrift after his ship is sunk and is picked up by another ship. Parker gets into a scuffle with Captain Davies the Captain of the ship and as a result gets left on a island that he was delivering a shipment of wild animals to the owner of the island, Dr. Moreau (Laughton). Though, Parker had already sent a telegram to his fiance Ruth (Hyams) and soon she hires a ship to find out where he has disappeared too. Parker soon discovers that Moreau is a whip cracking overlord to a growing population of human/animal hybrids that he has had his hand in creating. It soon becomes clear to Parker that Moreau is insanely mad and has a god complex. Moreau tries to control Parker by introducing him to Lola, the Panther Woman (Burke, but this does not work and then once Ruth shows up on the island, it seems to be the worst time as it seems the creatures are beginning an uprising and they want nothing less than blood. No one is safe and who knows who will survive the bloodbath.
This is a excellent film. The direction by Kenton is filled with sexual tension and scenes of sadism. He directs all these powerful themes with a strong hand and a good use of the jungle locale. The final scenes where Moreau loses his grip on the creatures is a fine example of how taut this film is. The script is good, and really balances the savagery of the animals with the despicability of human nature that Moreau shows in all it's ugliness. The brimming sexuality between Parker and Lola is very palatable too. It is amazing how sexually realized the script is. The cast is superb. Laughton really chews every scene he is in and when he goes bull whip crazy at the end it has to be seen to be believed. Lugosi as the Sayer of the Law is great too, his scenes are very minimal, but he makes great use of what time he has. You can see the ferocity that is welling up within him just begging to be released. Burke as Lola the Panther Woman, is very sexual and you cannot help but be mesmerized by her anytime she is on the screen. The SFX and make-up effects for the time this film was made are astounding. All the human/creature hybrids are great to look at with a special nod to Lugosi's creature. It is great that the haunting eyes of Lugosi are still able to come across through those make-up appliances. This is a treasure trove of classic horror and is a must see for any horror fan.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Island of Dr Moreau 1977



The Island of Dr. Moreau 1977
Director: Don Taylor
Writer: Al Ramrus
Starring Michael York, Burt Lancaster, Barbara Carrera, Nigel Davenport, Richard Basehart and Nick Cravat

Out of all of the varied adaptations of The Island of Dr Moreau, this version is my personal favorite. It really stays true to the vision of the original story and has all around great performances. The effects of the creatures are very good too. The film also has a great protagonist in the form of Michael York, who I have always liked since seeing him in Logan's Run and the Three Musketeers. They also picked the perfect actor in Burt Lancaster as Moreau. He is dignified at times and at others Haughty and self important. It is the perfect balance for the god like complex Moreau has. The film flows organically and segues from scene to scene very effortlessly. I first saw this movie at the drive inn when I was 6 years old and its till plays out just as enjoyable as it did back then. It is a shame that the version with Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer falls as flat as this one soars. It just goes to show that when things come together, that it really makes for a fine cinematic viewing experience.
The plot basics are this, Andrew Braddock (York) is adrift on a lifeboat after having his ship sink and him along with another survivor drift through the ocean, until he comes across an uncharted island. He makes it to land, when suddenly He and his companion are chased by unseen forces. Braddock runs until he is discovered by a man (Davenport), who rescues him and takes him back to an enclosed fortress that is run by the enigmatic Dr. Moreau (Lancaster).. As he is nursed back to health Braddock discovers that Moreau was a esteemed scientist who's theories on man and the instinct of animals were scoffed at. So now he lives on this island continuing with his experiments on men and animals. IT soon becomes clear to Braddock that Moreau has gone mad and is now forcibly evolving animals into humans. He rules these creations with an iron fist and he decides to try and turn Braddock into a animal to see if he can eradicate the rational mind of man. IT does not go well and soon Moreau kills his cohort and the creatures see this and rise up and start an all out war with Moreau that will not end well for either sides. Moreau's edict is do as I say and not as I do and the creatures do not cotton to that.
This is a great little film. The direction by Taylor is very suspenseful and gripping. The chase through the jungle in the beginning is choreographed very well, without letting you see what is pursuing Braddock. He also does a great job of filming the siege to the camp at the end, there is much chaos but he films it in a way that it is very easy to follow. The script stays very true to Wells' original vision and really plays up the maniacal god complex that Moreau had. It also plays up the romance between Braddock and Maria very well and realistically. The cast is excellent. Lancaster as the megalomaniacal Moreau brings a great gravity to his performance and it is great seeing his frustration when his experiments on Braddock do not bear fruit. York is a great stoic hero as well. Carrera is very sexy and mysterious as Maria and at times the viewer does not know what to make of her. Baseheart as the Sayer of the Law is phenomenal as well and his is the best performance in the film, the emotions he is able to convey underneath the make up is astounding. The SFX and effects are very good and remind me a lot of the original Planet of the apes make up effects. That probably has a lot to do with John Chambers being in charge who was the make up designer on Planet of the Apes. This is a excellent film and by far the best adaptation of this classic story.
This one gets 4 out of 5





Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Flashbacks: Day of the Dead




Day of the Dead 1985
Director: George Romero
Writer: George Romero
Starring Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joe Pilato, Jarlath Conroy, Anthony Dileo Jr., Richard Liberty, Howard Sherman, G. Howard Klar, John Amplas and Gregory Nicotero.

When it comes to the zombie film, George Romero is the undisputed master of the genre. If not for the greatness that is Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead would be his best take on the series. Where Dawn deals with consumerism as zombieism, Day deals with paranoia and the single minded mentality of the military which has always been a problem with the military mind set. Romero really sets up his story and really goes with the claustrophobia feel of being stuck in a military installation. With a great cast of characters, with Captain Rhodes stealing the show and by far the best character in the film. His histrionics are so exaggerated that you cannot help but be mesmerized by his thoughts process and the insane actions he ends up taking. This film also, has the epitome of great make up effects thanks to the overtly realistic work of Tom Savini. I still have yet to see a film that had done a better job in gore effects in this film. The only thing I would say detrimental to the film is I wish that Romero's original script had been filmed, that was a really great piece of writing and would have been a phenomenal film.
The plot basics are this, after the events of Dawn of the Dead, zombies have overrun the United States. All that seems to be left of the government is a underground military installation. Sarah (Cardille) is a scientist that has been working to try and find a cure for the zombie affliction. She and other scientists work in tandem with the military in charge of the installation. After the General in charge dies, the facility is taken over by Captain Rhodes (Pilato) who has his own ideas on what should be done. There is also Logan (Liberty) who is working on his own crazy ideas by domesticating a zombie (Sherman). Rhodes sees what Logan is doing and loses it and then takes over the facility and decides to deal out his own brand of justice on Sarah and her friends. It doesn't quite work out though, since a mentally unbalanced soldier (Dileo Jr.) decides to let the zombies into the installation and after that it is a race for survival and it seems the military goons will get their just desserts.
This is a great film. Romero's direction is excellently done. The tension between the scientists and the soldiers is really palatable. He sets the stage for the conflict really well, and the tension between the two faction until they finally erupt is like a razors edge. He uses the claustrophobic locale to the best of his ability and it really plays to the advantages of his direction. The script is great too, the dialogue between Rhodes and Logan is mesmerizing to watch and really makes the film along with Logan's interactions with Bub. The characters are very well developed and Sarah is a great main protagonist that the viewer can really relate to. Her predicament and what she has to do to survive will make the viewer really get in her corner. The cast is excellent, Pilato as Rhodes steals every scene he is in and is the best character in the film. Liberty as the mad doctor Logan is also excellent. He is really interesting to watch him slowly unravel into madness. Sherman as the friendly zombie Bub is another piece of the puzzle that works fantastically in this film. Especially when after Logan is killed the emotion he feels is palatable. I never thought I would feel empathy for a zombie but Sherman makes it work. The effects by Savini are amazing, they are so realistic and nausea inducing. My personal favorite is the zombie on the gurney that tries to rise up and as it does you see it's guts plop onto the ground. The death of Rhodes is another favorite and it is really grody. The score by John Harrison is eerie and haunting, but it also has a tropical feel which really comes together at the end of the film. This is one of the best zombie films ever made, and a must see for any horror film fan.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Infestation



Infestation 2009
Director: Kyle Rankin
Writer: Kyle Rankin
Starring Christopher Marquette, Brooke Nevin, Kinsey Packard, E. Quincy Sloan, Wesley Thompson, Linda Park, Deborah Geffner, Jim Cody Williams and Ray Wise

Killer bug films have always been a subject for horror films that I have always loved, from Empire of the Ants to Arachnaphobia. Infestation is the latest entry into this sub genre and it reminds me a lot of the early 90's classic Ticks. With a hint of Shaun of the Dead. Marquette plays a loser at everything just like Shaun, but with his affable personality you cannot help but like him. This is a film that originally aired on the SyFy Channel, but was released on DVD not long after and it deserves to bee seen in it unexpurgated form. This is a low budget film that operates on all cylinders and hits the ground running. It has a sly sense of humor, a greet plot, some excellent effects and a stellar cast and all these things gel together so well. The added bonus of having Ray Wise in the film is just the icing on the cake for this film.
The plot basics are this, Cooper (Marquette) awakes after having a bad day at work, haven just gotten fired wakes up in a cocoon of some sort at work and he quickly discovers that a army of bugs has been harvesting people for food. After he defeats one of the insects, he awakens the rest of the office and a girl, Sara (Nevin) who was inside her car coming to see her mother, who was Cooper's boss. After narrowly escaping flying bugs, Cooper comes up with a plan to get back to his house, where his father (Wise) is a survivalist and very well stocked for just such a predicament as this. Along the way the group runs into various problems and slowly the group dwindles down till Sara is abducted by one of the creatures and Cooper who has feelings for her has had enough and decides to go and rescue her, without any thinking of his own well being. This leads to a explosive finale at the bugs nest.
This is a solidly funny and exciting low budget film. The direction by Rankin is excellent, he balances the humor of the situation with the horror of giant bugs very well. It is all played as a tongue in cheek situation and that makes the film much more entertaining than it would have been if it was played completely seriously. The script balances the humor very well with the outlandish situations the characters find themselves in with the bugs. The interactions between Cooper and Sarah are funny as hell, as are the conversations between Cooper and his father. These character dynamics are really what makes this film a step above most killer bug films made recently. The cast is excellent. Marquette as Cooper is a great joy to watch,, he is such a affable loser that really brings to mind Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead. Nevin as Sarah is a good opposite to Marquette and they play well off each other with Him flirting with her constantly, and her shooting him down in rapid succession. The small screen time That Wise is on the screen really brings a lot to the film. His wry sense of humor and his constant breaking down of Cooper makes him a hoot to watch. The SFX and effects are excellent. The CGI used never looks very fake and you actually believe that giant bugs have taken over the world. The bugs are very gooey and you see a lot of the guts of them and it is grody and fun. For fans of giant bug invasion films and slacker comedies like Shaun of the Dead, I highly recommend this film.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Duel



Duel 1971
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Richard Matheson
Starring Dennis Weaver, Eddie Firestone, Tim Herbert, Lucille Benson and Carey Loftin

I had seen bits and pieces of this film over the years, but had never seen the film in it's entirety. I recently found the DVD for cheap, so I grabbed it and finally watched the film in one shot. I am sorry I waited so long as this is a exceptional thriller. It is anchored with a frantic performance by Dennis Weaver and a great script by the always great Richard Matheson. The film starts off slowly but, quickly ramps up and once the chase is on it does not let up till the finale. Spielberg is really at the top of his game in this film. He ramps up the suspense with each passing moment till the viewer feels the desperation and the fear that Weaver does. It is a great idea to never show the truck driver and not give any logical reason why he is pursuing Weaver. That is what makes the scenario all the more frightening. This is by far the best crazed driver film that has yet to be made. Joyride tried to build on this idea, but it added too much to the mix and doesn't have the effect that this film does.
The plot basics are this, David Marin (Weaver), is driving through the countryside trying to get to a appointment with a client. He has a strained relationship with his family and he is hoping that this appointment will work out. It seems to be going well, until he cuts off a semi truck, and that seems to infuriate the driver of the rig and he then starts to play games with David. He allows him to go in front of him, but he tries to trick him into getting hit by oncoming traffic. David freaks out and stops at a diner, and tries to figure out who the driver is, but he can deduce who he is and the truck leaves and he thinks he is safe and proceeds on his trip. The truck shows up and tries to run him off the road and finally David snaps and enters a battle of wits with the truck driver and it is only a matter of time before one of them makes a mistake that the other will be able to capitalize on.
This is a superbly crafted film. The direction by Spielberg is suspenseful and taut. The scene in the diner is fraught with paranoia that seeps into the viewers psyche as along with David they try to figure out who the driver is. The film is handled with a scalpel edge and it doesn't let you go until the end credits roll. The script by Matheson based on his short story, is economical but very well executed. You only get the briefest feel of David's character, but you can see that he is a Everyman who has trouble standing up for himself. But, now he is in a situation that requires him to man up and deal with a confrontation head on. The cast is good, the film really relies on the performance of Weaver as David though and he pulls it off effortlessly. The best example of this is when he freaks out during the climax, the extreme close up of his breakdown is intense as hell. The action sequences in the film is intense, especially the attack on David at the phone booth and the bombastic finale. This is one of Spielberg's most economical films, but he really pulls it off and makes a tense and harrowing chase film.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Die, Monster, Die!



Die, Monster, Die! 1965
Director: Daniel Haller
Writer: Jerry Sohl
Starring Boris Karloff, Nick Adams, Freda Jackson, Suzan Farmer, Patrick Magee, Paul Farrell and Terence de Marney

I was digging around at Big Lots and saw this old Roger Corman film and I nabbed it up for 3 bucks and I am glad I did. IT is a moody and atmospheric gothic horror film, and I believe the first film adaptation of a H.P. Lovecraft story. This story, "The Colour Out of Space" was adapted once again in the late 80's into the film "The Curse" and this version is far superior to that one. It relies heavily on gothic mood and a fine acting portrayal by Boris Karloff. If anything's bogs this film down it is the cheesy special effects, specifically when Karloff is transformed by the meteor that has seemed to affect everyone in the village. That is a minor quibble though, this film relies heavily on the same plot structure as Corman's earlier classic "The Fall of the House of Usher". It follows the same beats, as in a young man coming into a house to meet up with his love and is soon beset by strange happenstance's that befall him and finally a deep dark secret that the patriarch of the family is trying to keep hidden. IT is a solid structure, but the film pales in comparison to that Vincent Price classic. Nonetheless it is a solid example of a great gothic horror film and well worth pursuing.
The plot basics are this, a young man (Adams) goes to the countryside to meet up with his fiance (Farmer) at her family home. He meets her wheelchair bound father (Karloff), who is a scientist and he is very unwelcome to him and urges him to leave immediately. He disregards these warnings and soon discovers the deep dark secret that he has been hiding. It seems that he discovered a asteroid that is giving out strange radiation that at first makes people sick and then transforms them into monstrosities. Soon, it destroys his wife and he decides to destroy the asteroid but it has disastrous results and now it is up to the young man to put an end to the horror this family has endured.
This is a solidly well done gothic horror film. Haller's direction has the right touch of eerie mood and atmosphere to carry the film through till it's ending. He has a great sense of perfect locale and never shows too much of the monsters, but just enough making your mind create the visions more than what you see upon the screen. The script by Sohl is good too, it follows the trappings of the gothic horror film to the letter, and though you never witness anything new and exciting, the trip is very enjoyable. None of the characters really move past the horror film stereotype and though I would have liked more characterization it was not needed for the story. The film is more about the plot than the characters. The cast is good. Adams as the stalwart heroic lead is quite serviceable as is Farmer as the swooning damsel in distress. This film really belongs to Karloff though, he commands your presence with every scene he is in and definitely makes the film well worth watching. Also, Magee in a small part as the town doctor, is very good and I always enjoy seeing him in genre films. The SFX and the effects are rather cheesy and pedestrian, but that is to be expected from such a B movie. It kind of adds to the charm of the proceedings. If you enjoy gothic horror, Karloff and Lovecraft definitely check this one out.
This one gets 3 out of 5



Monday, December 7, 2009

Zombie Stand-up




Zombie Dearest 2009
Director: David Kemker
Writers: David Kemker and Mark Cavanagh
Starring David Kemker, Paul O'Sullivan, Wendy Jewell, Shauna Black, Ron Lea, Derek McGrath and David Sparrow

Every year there is a gamut of zombie films and it is really a struggle for most films to differentiate themselves from most of the run of the mill zombie films. For every Zombieland there are 20 like Automaton Transfusion. Zombie Dearest is the most recent one I have seen and it combines several types of movies and blends them together well. It is a comedy, a zombie movie, a romantic drama and also a variation on "The Monkey's Paw". These disparate elements all come together and make a great independent film. The film is written directed and starring David Kemker, and he juggles all these various tasks very well. He makes a likable lead character who has many weaknesses's and he tries to overcome them, which makes for much of the hilarity that ensues in the film. The film also has the most entertaining zombie I have seen since Fido. The zombie is very funny and has a great presence in the film and makes it well worth watching.
The plot basics are this, Gus Lawton (Kemker) is a failed comic and he pushes his wife Deborah (Black) too far during a birthday party and she leaves him. She moves into the country into her old and abandoned childhood home, which needs a lot of work to be livable again. Gus follows her and begs for a chance to get back into her good graces. While he is repairing the septic tank he digs up a zombie (Sparrow) and he is able to order him about and has him do the work for him, and he also tries out his new stand up material on him. Things go well at first, but then the zombies primal instincts rise to the fore ground and Gus and Deborah must come together to put a stop to the zombie before it is too late. Soon, the zombie goes on a rampage and Gus is bitten and it is now only a matter of time before Gus becomes a member of the undead and it will then be up to Deborah to end the madness.
This is a original and quirky film. Kemker's direction is very good, he balances it well between wry humor, sheer terror very easily. The best parts are when Gus is trying out his new comedy material on the zombie, I thought that was funny as hell. The script is very good too, it really makes you feel the ineptness of Gus as a person and how hard he tries to be a success to win Deborah's love back. He is a very well rounded and fully realized character that the viewer can really empathize with. The cast is excellent, Kemker as Gus really anchors the film and carries the whole film. He is genuinely funny and definitely has a sad sack feel to his performance that really works. Sparrow as Quinto, the zombie is great too, whenever he laughs, you cannot help but smile because it is so pathetic. He is definitely one of the most memorable zombie I have seen. Black is very good as Deborah and she is very likable and sexy, which goes a long way in a role like this. The SFX and effects are also very well done. The look of Quinto is very believable and you can envision him as a zombie very easily. If you want to see a fresh and original take on zombies, with a darkly comedic spin, check this one out.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Real World Meets Night of the Demons




The Last Resort 2009
Director: Brandon Nutt
Writers: Nathaniel Bozen, Nathan Oliver and Martin Papinchak
Starring America Olivio, Paulie Rojas, Marissa Tait, Sita Young, Arianne Zucker, Nick Ballard, Jeremy Glazer, Jamil Mena, Sandro Del Casale and Ian Patrick Williams

I checked this film out, because of a trailer I saw on a recent rental. It has America Olivio who was in the Friday the 13th redux and the premise looked interesting. It sort of looked like a combination of Turistas and Night of the Demons. I am glad I seeked this film out. It was definitely worth a watch, if just a little too short to have a solid story and ending for enduring these characters for this time. The film is really quite graphic and that always gets high marks in my book. Even a bad horror film can somewhat be saved by adding buckets of gore. Another thing this film reminds me of is The Real World Cancun. It definitely starts out as having that lets party and let it all hang out vibe, but that quickly turns dark when the girls get separated and the majority of them decide to go on a shady tour bus, and after that it just delves into madness and possession and this handled very well in the film.
The plot basics are this, a group of young women are traveling to Mexico to celebrate one of them soon to be nuptials. They party hard on the first night, and one of the girls, Sophia (Olivio) hooks up and is left behind the next day when the remainder of the girls decide to take a tour bus to see the sights of the countryside. They have picked the wrong tour guides though, as they are robbed and left for dead. They wander the desert and find a deserted and dilapidated resort. They decide to spend the night and resume trying to head back to town in the morning. Bizarre things begin happening though, it seems as if the resort is possessed by a hidden evil and it starts to subvert its influence on the girls. Meanwhile, Sophia is in the town, trying to figure out where her friends have disappeared too. Sophia and a few guys she met, get the same tour guides to take them, but luckily they figure out what the tour guides are up too and stop them and find out where her girlfriend's had gone too. She has the remaining tour guide take them to the Resort and as Sophia looks for her friends she discovers that some unspeakable evil has take over their bodies and she must find a way to beat it or she will succumb to it too.
This was a solidly done film. The direction by Nutt is good. He is able to meld several disparate genres and gives the viewer a solid and gripping horror film. The film starts off as a party film and then quickly devolves into a bad vacation film and then finally turns into a evil possession film. He juggles all these various ingredients very well. The flashback scenes of what happened in the resort years ago, are done very well and are quite spooky. The script is good, the characters are all pretty stereotypical. The only one that ever really gets developed is Sophia and that is probably why she is really the only one you care about as you watch the film. I did enjoy the propagator of the possession and would have loved to have seen more of him. The cast is decent, the only shining examples are Olivio and Williams. The rest just seem to be there as potential victims. The SFX and effects are quite good, the opening scene where Williams cuts out the tongue of a girl is quite bloody and fun. Also, toward the end of the film where Sophia discovers what has befallen her friends are quite blood soaked and with lots of body parts flying around. If the film excels at anything it is all the gore in the film. This was a fun and diverting film, but nothing truly memorable. Check it out if you want to kill 75 minutes with some hot chicks and lots of blood.
This one gets 3 out of 5

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chatroom Carnage



iMurders 2008
Director: Robbie Bryan
Writers: Robbie Bryan and Ken Del Vecchio
Starring Gabrielle Anwar, William Forsythe, Tony Todd, Frank Grillo, Terri Colombino, Wilson Jermaine Hereida, Charles Durning, Billy Dee Williams, Margaret Colin, Justin Deas, Joanne Baron, Brooke Lewis, Miranda Kwok and Christie Botelho

There are so many different slasher movies that come down the pipeline, so it is very hard to come up with a original and fresh take on the genre. There have been a few different takes on the internet as a modus operandi for a slasher film, the most obvious being Feardotcom, and also the most forgettable. iMurders is the latest in this subgenre and by far the most well executed and the most memorable. It uses the plot device of a internet chat room as the locale of the murders and works this scene very well. IT also combines the slasher with a police procedural very well. Another thing that works well for the film is the great genre cast it entails. With great genre stalwarts like Forsythe and Todd it guarantees that horror fans will definitely check the film out and hopefully word of mouth will ensure that the film will get the most encompassing audience it deserves. Also, unlike most recent slasher films, it throws you many curve balls on who the killer is until the final reveal at the end. It is very rare that I am surprised by who the killer is, but this film succeeds and it really deserves accolades for succeeding with that.
The plot basics are this, Sandra (Colombino) has just moved into town for her job as a party planner and has just moved into a new apartment. She along with a group of other people are involved with a chat room mystery game. It always varies from month to month and this month it involves a murder mystery, but unbeknownst to the players the mystery is real. It seems as if the players are being picked off one by one. Sandra soon becomes romantically involved with one of her neighbors in her new apartment building, Joe Romano (Grillo), who is an ex cop who's past is mysterious and he does not divulge. Soon, 2 FBI agents (Todd and Lewis) begin to investigate and it seems as if Sandra may be the culprit behind the chat room killings. This causes Joe to investigate and it seems as if he is being led down a path that he may not like what he discovers. How it will end will be a surprise to Joe and my end badly for everyone else.
This is a good film. The direction by Bryan is very good. He hides the identity of the killer effortlessly, so the viewer really never has a idea of who it may be. There are many red herrings sprinkled throughout the film, and it always keeps you guessing. He also sets the stages for the murders well and they are shot expertly. The script is great too. It balances a huge cast of characters, but they all get their fairs hare of screen time and all seem to be fully realized. From Billy Dee Williams shady lawyer to William Forsythe's sleazy and opportunistic college professor. The cast is excellent, they all work well off of each other. IT is interesting how you see one person as the lead and it just jumps to another actor with the next scene, so as you become more drawn into the film the viewer has no idea who to really root for. Forsythe and Williams are the shining stars of performances in the film though. Forsythe is very sleazy and perverted and is a delight to watch. While Williams at first seems like a genuine good lawyer, but as the plot twists you see how his character really is. The SFX and effects in the film are great too and very bloody. My personal favorite is when the stay at home mom is killed, that was brutal and unnecessary, but still fun nonetheless. This is a definite breath of fresh air in the slasher genre and well worth seeking out.
This one gets 4 out of 5


Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Flashbacks: Creepshow 1982




Creepshow 1982
Director: George Romero
Writer: Stephen King
Starring Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Carrie Nye, E.G. Marshall, Viveca Lindfors, Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Stephen King, Tom Atkins, Tom Savini and Gaylen Ross

The horror anthology has long been a favorite style of horror fiction and horror films for me. From classics like Tales from the Crypt and the Amicus anthologies of the 60's and 70's, all the way to modern films like Tales From the Hood and Trick R Treat. Creepshow though, is by far my favorite of these films. A no brainer collaboration between Stephen King and George Romero, this film does everything right. The way the film actually looks like a E.C. comic and the great performances really puts this film a step above all other anthologies. The way romero uses over exaggerated lighting and sound effects really makes the stories come to life and leave a definite impression on your mind. The effects in the film are mind blowing too, with by far the best rotting and walking corpse I have ever seen in a film. The stories are quick and too the point and never stay around any longer than is needed toe have the viewer get the point. The framing sequence too, is one of the best in a anthology film and it goes full circle at the end, making it it's own story.
The plot basics are this, A father (Atkins) is punishing his son for reading a grisly horror comic, and as he leaves the comic seems to come to life. The first story involves a anniversary party of the killing of a rich old miser, who was killed by his eldest daughter (Lindfors), but he rises to enact bloody revenge. Next we meet Jordy Verrill (King), a country hick who discovers a meteor and finds that his contact with it is transforming him. Next, we meet Harry Wentworth (Danson), who is having a illicit love affair with the wife (Ross) of Richard Vickers (Nielsen). Vickers discovers this and plots a wicked revenge that comes back to bite him. Next we meet a college professor (Weaver) who has a friend (Holbrook) who he plays chess with and is enduring a brow beating wife (Barbeau). He discovers a crate in his lab, which contains a carnivorous beast and he comes to his friend for aid, and he decides to use it to do away with his nagging wife. Finally, we meet Upson Pratt (Marshall), a business mogul who is cutthroat and a recluse, living in his climate controlled penthouse. It seems he has a bug problem and it seems they are trying to overtake him, but will they?
This is an exceptional film and one of my all time favorite horror films. The direction by Romero is flawless. He conveys the mood of each story perfectly and uses the lighting and music to really heighten the mood and really gets the viewer to feel the way he wants them to feel. The script by King is no different, each story is very tight and as minimalistic as possible. These kind of horror stories were always more about the plots than the characters and that works to the films advantage. All the characters are very overblown and melodramatic and are a delight to watch. The ensemble cast is excellent, Barbeau and Marshall are probably the 2 biggest scene stealers in the film. Barbeau as the nagging wife Billie in "The Crate" is a delight and you really hate her and want to see her meet her vicious end. Marshall as the caricature of Howard Hughes is great as well, he chews every scene of his with great relish and the viewer definitely cheers when he gets his due. The SFX and effects by Tom Savini is amazing. The walking corpse of Nathan Grantham and the creature in "The Crate" are the 2 high points of the film and in all of horror films in general.. The final ingredient in this great film is the score by John Harrison, which personally is my favorite horror film score. It just sets the playful and eerie mood of the film perfectly and I am always humming it for days after I watch the film again. This is a perfect horror anthology and one of the best films by both Romero and King.
This one gets 5 out of 5

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thirst



Thirst 2009
Director: Chan-wook Park
Writers: Seo-gyeong Jeong and Chan Wook-park
Starring Kang Ho-song, Ok-yin Kim, Hae-sook Kim, Ha-kyun Shin, In-hwan Park, Dai Suh-oh, Young-chang Sung, Mercedes Cabral and Eriq Ebouaney

The vampire film is a tried and true sub genre of the horror film and every so often it gets reinvigorated. The latest stem in popularity, mainly is due to the Twilight phenomenon, which is primarily geared towards adolescent female teenagers. And a lot of the modern vampire films, books and TV shows are following in its footsteps for better or for worse. Thankfully Chan-wook Park's Thirst has come to breathe new life into it and it really succeeds. The film like most good vampire films is at its heart a doomed love story, but it also is very sensual and overtly violent, with some great bits of dark humor sprinkled throughout the film. At it's most basic the film makes me think of a vampiric version of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Though it is more sad and frightening than lovely. This film is a great alternative to films like Twilight and well worth a horror and vampire film fans time. I have not seen a vampire film I have as thoroughly enjoyed this much since 30 Days of Night.
The plot basics are this, Sang-Hyum (Ho-song), a priest volunteering at a hospital, decides to volunteer for a secret test that is developing a vaccine that will hopefully eradicate a deadly virus. The virus takes over his body and he nearly dies, but somehow he miraculously recovers. But, as time passes he discovers that the testing has transformed him into a vampire. After this, He fights internally withe the carnal pleasures that taking someone's blood brings out in him.. Soon, he runs into a old childhood friend Tae-ju (Kim) who asks him to help him her out of her abusive family relationship. Old feelings come to rise and soon he finds himself in a illicit relationship with her and he cannot seem to pull back away from it. She reveals a dark side with each more insidious thing she gets him to do. Now he wonders, if he can stop her and what it will cost him that he has not lost already.
This is a expertly done vampire film. Park's direction is flawless, he has lost none of his deft touch since Oldboy. The way he slowly sets the stage for what you are about to witness is amazing. At first, the film seems to be primarily a love story, but then he changes direction and it becomes a bloodbath of Fatal Attraction proportions. The script is very good too, you really empathize with Sang-Hyum and feel his pain as he struggles with his obsessive love that will not allow him to see any of the faults with his lover. Tae-ju is another great character who starts out as what appears to be a being of pure innocence, but as the layers are pulled back you see how malevolent she is and always was. The ending of the film has some of the best moments of black humor I have ever seen in a film and I was busting a gut as I was watching it. The cast is great as well. Ho-song is a great protagonist with a dark side he is trying to suppress. You never lose your siding with him, which is always a hard thing to do in a film like this. Kim is magnetic and overtly sexual as the victim who turns into a predator. She gives a great performance and is definitely the best role in the film. The SFX and effects are great. The film can be very disturbing and graphic at times and they show this very realistically on screen. If you are sick of the Twilight crap and want a fresh and innovative take on the vampire legend, definitely seek this one out.
This one gets 5 out of 5