Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Frozen




Frozen 2010
Director: Adam Green
Writer: Adam Green
Starring Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore and Kevin Zegers
Frozen is one of those man against nature films and in a lot of ways it reminds me of Open Water. Though I think this film delves into characterization far more than that film does. Some of the conversation scenes remind me of a scene from a Kevin Smith film. The suspense and the tension the film evokes is quite palatable and it leaves an impression on you after you finish viewing the film. The story is very tight and the cast does an excellent job with the material. You do not think a film about 3 people stuck in a ski lift would be so dramatic and exciting but it is. The film has some excellent moments of peril and there are no easy solutions for the characters. This is what makes the film so interesting. This is a taut and suspenseful film that will definitely rank on my list of the top horror films I have seen in 2010.
The plot basics are this, 3 college friends are on a skiing trip for the weekend and cannot pay the full price for ski lift tickets, so they bribe the operator to let them up at a under the table rate. It goes well for awhile but on their last trip up they are forgotten about and are stuck over the ski lane. They soon discover they will be stuck up there for a week and they now panic and try to come up with a way to save themselves. But other than being stuck on the lift they also have to worry about the roaming wolves looking for dinner.
This is a tense and suspenseful film. Green’s direction is captivating and mesmerizing. He really makes you feel for the characters and makes you sympathize with their plight. He films the suspense scenes very well. I especially loved it when the first guy tries to escape and what slowly befalls him. The script is very tight. The ongoing dramatic conversations between the 3 characters are very compelling and makes you stick with the film. You really want to see them succeed. The cast does a superb job. Bell does a great job and really grows as a character throughout the film. Ashmore is really top notch too and you really expect him to save the day somehow. Zegers does a decent job too. He sort of has a thankless role and pulls it off well. The SFX and make up effects are realistic and rather grisly. It helps keep the films sense of realism. The score by Andy Garfield is quite melancholic and suits the piece well. This is a small and intense film that is well worth viewing.
This one gets 5 out of 5


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Saw 3D




Saw 3D 2010
Director: Kevin Greutert
Writers: Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan
Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsey Russell, Cary Elwes, Sean Patrick Holden, Chad Donella and Gina Holden
It has taken 7 films to get us to this point and what a ride it has been. I know there are a lot of horror film fans that do not like the Saw franchise, but I have to say from beginning to end I did not see a film that I did not enjoy or was entertained by. I cannot say that for many other horror franchises. S this is the supposed final film in the series they set about resolving everything and I think they do a good job. I think if they bring it back someone else with no ties to John Kramer will have to be the killer. This film has some of the most gruesome traps and is by far the goriest in the series. The 3D effects are done very well and unlike most 3D films I never had a headache while watching it. The plot as always is intricate and the cast does a great job. The only thing I would warn against is this is not a film for the casual viewer, this is a film for the Saw fan and anyone not up to date on the films will probably be lost. But for the Saw fans this is a great way to end the series.
The plot basics are this, Hoffman (Mandylor) has escaped the trap John (Bell) had left for his wife, Jill (Russell) to complete and now he wants revenge. She goes to the police for protection and she gives them all the dirt on Hoffman they need. But he is coming after Jill. Meanwhile, self guru Bobby Dagan (Flannery) who is said to have survived a Jigsaw trap is pulled into a trap to save his wife (Holden). While Hoffman begins his intricate plan to dispose of Jill, Dagan has to traverse many traps to save his beloved wife.
This is a fantastic film. Greutert who directed the last installment does a great job with the traps. The opening public trap is a great example of this. He also ratchets up the tension between Jill and Hoffman to the nth degree and that suspense carries the film. The script is tight as well, it juggles many plotlines left from the last film and ties them all together so there are no loose ends as the film ends. The cast does an excellent job. Bell is only in it very briefly but as always he does a great job. Mandylor who has carried the franchise lately does a good job as well. Russell as Jill plays the part very manic which ratchets up the suspense. Flannery plays the douche self help guru with aplomb so you cannot help but root for the traps. Elwes return is brief but really ties the film together. The SFX and makeup effects are at there gooiest in this film and if you are a fan of the red stuff you will love it. The score as with all the Saw films is intense and beats down on you just like the film does. This is a great ending to the series and makes it one of the most solid and dependable horror franchises out there.
This one gets 4 out of 5


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Animals



Animals 2008
Director: Douglas Aarniokoski
Writer: Craig Spector
Starring Marc Blucas. Naveen Andrews, Nicki Aycox, Eva Amurri, Andy Comeau, Bart Johnson and Gillian Shure
This is a film based on a horror novel from the 90’s written by one of my favorite writing teams from the 80’s, John Skipp and Craig Spector. This is their first novel to be adapted and while it is not one of their best pieces of work, it was still a solid story. This film gets the feel of the story well, its only drawback is its shoddy CGI and how it tries to sidestep calling this a werewolf story. The story is solid and really combines a horror tale really well with a down on his luck type of story. The film also has plenty of sex and that keeps the story rolling along well. The cast is good too, both Blucas and Andrews give strong performances in this. It is in the CGI where this film falters and brings it down a bit. It also seems to shy from calling the creatures in the film werewolves and that is another misstep it makes. I think if it had been more confident in being honest on what the film was about it could have and would have succeeded more. I still enjoy the film and do recommend it to other werewolf film fans though.
The plot basics are this, Syd Jarrett (Blucas) is a down on his luck man in a small town just subsisting from day to day. Until the day he meets the gorgeous Nora (Aycox) and he falls immediately in lust with her. She introduces him to a sub culture of animals where he encounters Vic (Andrews) and they do not get along. He finds that Vic is more an animal than human and this causes him to break ties with Nora after he is bitten by her during sex and he starts undergoing changes. Jarrett then discovers his hidden feelings for Jane (Amurri) a woman he sees at his favorite bar every day and discovers that if he is going to survive he needs to master these new found powers and put a stop to Vic and Nora once and for all.
This is a fun film that is not without its problems. The direction by Aarnioskoski has its strengthes. He does the dramatic and sexual sequences very well. But the horror and attack sequences seem rather hollow and without any dramatic effect to them. The script does a decent job of characterizing Jarrett but fails with all the other characters, there is little if no development of anyone else. The cast is quite good though. Blucas is a great heroic lead who always seems to be a step behind everyone else. Andrews is a sleazy and despicable villain and is a character you love to hate. Aycox is mainly there as eye candy and she fills that role very well. The SFX and make up effects are half hearted at best. The blood effects are good, but the monster sequences are so bad they could have been done better by Ed Wood. The score by Alan Brewer is sophomoric and is way too bombastic for a film of this type. This is not the best werewolf film I have seen but it is far from the worst.
This one gets 3 out of 5



Monday, October 18, 2010

Boy Eats Girl



Boy Eats Girl 2005
Director: Stephen Bradley
Writer: Derek Landy
Starring Samantha Mumba, David Leon, Tadhg Murphy, Laurence Kinlan, Sara James, Mark Huberman, Sarah Burke and Paul Reid
This is yet another zombie comedy and I think it falls in with Dance of the Dead. IT has some cute scenes and is generally pretty funny but it does not stand toe to toe with a film like Shaun of the Dead. It is a Scottish film and everyone involved does a splendid job on the film. The story is pretty smart and funny and I think will easily appeal to the youth generation. The cast is quite good and Mumba is really quite fetching. The film has a good amount of gore and spreads it around quite liberally. This is a fun and bit raunchy zombie comedy and is well worth the zombie connoisseur effort and time.
The plot basics are this, a young man (Leon) in high school professes his love to the girl of his dreams (Mumba) and she shoots him down and he is dejected. So, he kills himself but his mother finds a book in the church she works in and brings him back to life. There is a problem though, she has brought him back as a flesh craving zombie. He bites the local jock and that starts a chain reaction of zombie attacks and before he fully succumbs to the need for flesh he vows to save the girl and his buddies.
This is a fun and raunchy zombie film. The direction by Bradley is solid and the pace of the film is brisk. He films the zombie sequences very well. I especially loved the blowjob zombie attack scene that was hilarious. The script is very good and really brings all the characters to life. Even secondary characters like the school slut Cheryl have a story arc. It is what makes the film work so well. The cast is excellent all around. Mumba is very enticing and does a good job of making you care about her. Leon as Nathan is very sympathetic and you are always rooting for him and hoping that he will survive this ordeal. I really think Sara James as Cheryl really steals the movie though. She is a delight to wath and very sexy to boot. The SFX and make up effects in the film were quite good and would easily hold up with a company like KNB. When Nathan bites the jock on the football field that is done very well. The score by Hugh Gramm and Stephen Rennicks has a hip feel to it and suits the film very well. This is a solid piece of zombie filmmaking and well worth seeking out.
This one gets 4 out of 5


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday Flashbacks Village of the Damned 1995



Village of the Damned 1995
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: David Himmelstein
Starring Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Pare, Meredith Salinger, Mark Hamill, Peter Jason and George “Buck” Flowers
John Carpenter has doen a few remakes of classic horror films and Village of the damned is the latest one he did and compared to his other remake, The Thing it is a slight film by comparison. Now, I have never seen the original film this is based on, but the way Carpenter structures the story and uses that acting talent it is a solid and dependable horror film. It is one of his lesser films but is still quite good. He ratchets up the suspense masterfully and he adds quite a bit of violence and explicit gore to it as well. He picked an excellent cast; both Reeves and Alley carry the film solidly on their shoulders. The eerie soulless stares of the children do the job of creeping you out and really makes the film work well. This is a solid if not ground breaking horror film.
The plot basics are this, an American village is visited upon by some alien life form that makes all the women of the village pregnant. Nine months later all the children are born and at first seem normal. It does not take long for the parents to notice that there is something werid and strange about these children. Also, that tye do not seem to be quite human or even humane. Soon the government senda a team into the village led by Dr. Susan Verner (Alley) to figure out what these alien children want and if they are malevolent. She asks for the help of local town doctor Alan Chaffee (Reeves) to assist her. They soon discover these children have their own plan and now they must come up with a strategy to stop them or the world may be doomed.
This is a suspenseful and tense film. Carpenter’s direction as always is flawless. The way he shoots the children is compelling and eerie and when they attack the local priest and the school janitor it is unnerving and frightening. The character interactions between Chaffee and Verner are done quite well too, you really sympathize with Chaffee. The script is well polished and delivers a solid horror story with some nice twists in it and you really ar on the side of Chaffee throughout the movie and how he wants to save the children but doesn’t know if he can. The cast is solid. This is one of my favorite performances by Reeve other than his role as Superman. Alley as the government doctor is deceptive and conniving and really pulls it off well. I also liked the small role of Hamill as the manic priest who goes to far. The SFX and make up effects in the film are lurid and work very well. The score by John Carpenter and Dave Davies has a somber and melancholy mood to it and suits the film very well. This is one of Carpenter’s lesser films but compared to other directors it is quite good and I think it is well worth a look again.
This one gets 3 out of 5



Thursday, October 14, 2010

Train



Train 2008
Director: Gideon Raff
Writer: Gideon Raff
Starring Thora Birch, Gideon Emery, Kavan Reece, Derek Magyar, Gloria Votsis, Vladimir Vladimirov, Koyna Ruseva, Valentin Ganey, Ivan Barney and Nikolay Mutafchiev
Train was originally supposed to be a remake of the 80’s classic Terror Train but it turned into something else. When you boil this film down to its essence it is basically Hostel meets Turistas on a train. It does this idea admirably well. It definitely goes with the other recent horror films of this type like the Saw films and the Hostel films and it can hold its head up with those films. This is a brutally gory film and the scenes are very hard to watch. But, if you love hard edged gore you will definitely like this film. The script is basically plot over character as it is all meant to get you to the train and to let the carnage ensue. The cast is decent but the film really hinges on Birch’s performance and she does a masterful job with the material. The gore in the film is intense and the camera never flinches or cuts away from it and I found that quite refreshing. This is a solid horror film and on well worth seeing.
The plot basics are this, an American collegiate wrestling team is competing in Eastern Europe. A few of the competitors miss the train they are supposed to travel on for the next event. They find a new train and get on it with their coach, (Jensen) but something is not quite right with this train and some of them begin to disappear. It is soon discovered that this train is used to hijack passengers and to use their body parts and organs for black market surgery. One of the teammates, Alex (Birch) discovers this and now tries to survive and stay one step ahead the evil people aboard this malevolent train.
This is a tense and scary little horror film. The direction by Raff is tight and the film has a very claustrophobic feel with the train sequences. When Birch is running through the train you feel her isolation and her fear. His filming of the blood soaked torture sequences are chilling and makes the viewer want to look away, but he will be unable too. The script does its job but most of the characters are flat and the only character you really feel for is Alex. The story is really one of plot over characterization, and yet it works here. The cast is ok with the exception of Birch. She is the shining example of what is good about the acting. You root for her and want her to achieve victory. The SFX and make up effects in the film are brutal and are done very well. It reminded me of some of the work that was done in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. The score by Michael Wandmacher is tense and brooding and fits the film very well. This is a film that works well and uses the terror of the Eastern European landscape very well.
This one gets 4 out of 5



Monday, October 11, 2010

Dead Snow




Dead Snow 2009
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Writers: Stig Frode Henriksen and Tommy Wirkola
Starring Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Lasse Valdal, Evy Kasseth Rossten, Jeppe Laursen, Jenny Skavlen, Ane Dahl Torp and Bjorn Sundquist
Nazis and zombies seem to be 2 things that go together well, though you do not see these combinations often. The last time I saw it was in the 7-s cult classic Shock Waves. I think it is far too long since it has been done and Dead Snow does an awesome job of combining these things with a great comedic touch. The film has some great homages that remind me a lot of films like The Evil Dead and Dead alive. But do things differently enough that makes it original. It is by far one of the best zombie films I have seen in awhile. The story is quite funny and it has a genuinely likable cast. It is also by far one of the bloodiest films I have seen in awhile and that makes it a breath of fresh air. This is just a fun film and is a real treat for the horror fan.
The plot basics are this, a women is being chased through the snow covered mountains of Norway. She is being stalked by Nazi zombies. She was on her way to meet a bunch of friends for a skiing weekend and due to the attack she never shows up. Her friends still expect her and have fun while they are waiting and then as evening approaches they receive a wandering visitor (Sundquist) who tells them a horror story about what happened to a battalion of Nazis in these mountains during the war and that they should respect and fear these tales. They scoff and send him on their way but soon they are besieged by the zombies who seem to want something. The group must now band together and find a way to survive or become zombie fodder.
This is just a fun movie. The direction by Wirkola is very light and is alos very reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s work on the Evil Dead with the whole cabin in the woods motif. He stages the huge zombie attack scenes very well. The scene where the 2 guys grab anything they can use from the shed as a weapon is a classic scene. The script is very light and witty and really carries the film through all of its absurdities. It throws plenty of curves during the film and always keeps you guessing on who will survive. The cast is quite good. I especially liked Valdal as Vergard, he makes a resourceful protagonist that reminds me a bit of Ash. Frogner as Hannah was another performance I liked. She was resourceful and not too stupid. The SFX and make up effects in the film are amazing. I especially loved the intestinge rope climbing scene. It was so over the top but the gore still looked realistic. The score by Christin Wibe was very campy and frothy and fitted the film very well. This is definitely one of the better zombie films I have seen recently and well worth seeing.
This one gets 4 out of 5

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pieces




Pieces 1982
Director: Juan Piquer Simon
Writers: Dick Randall and John W. Shadow
Starring Christopher George, Linda Day George, Frank Brana, Edmund Purdom, Ian Sera, Paul L. Smith and Jack Taylor
This is a wonderfully trashy yet fun film. It is not a film that would ever win any technical awards yet somehow this film works. It is enjoyably sleazy and it wallows in its gore which is a fun aspect of this film. This is a film that dwells on the gory and sickening and it really works. It also tries to go the murder mystery route but it is pretty simple to figure out who the killer is. That is not the fun of this film; the fun is watching how the killer dispatches these nubile young females. It has a great genre cast with stalwarts like Christopher George and Paul L. Smith. The film is very lurid in all the details of the killings and I think that is what makes this film a gem and one that I revisit again and again. The story is simple but effective and easily carries the film to its shocking climax. This is a high point for fan os exploitation horror and a must see.
The plot basics are this, while playing with a puzzle a child is stopped by his mother and she is shocked by what he is doing and admonishes him. This drives the kid wild and he grabs an axe and chops her to death but he hides the details so the police think he is a victim as well. Forty years later there is a rash of killings at a university where the killer takes various body parts from each young girl he kills. The head investigator in the case, Lt. Bracken (George) makes a deal with the Dean of the university (Purdom) to have a young police woman (George) infiltrates the school posing as a tennis teacher. Hopefully then they can draw out the killer. Along with the help of a student (Sera) they try to find the identity of the killer without becoming victims themselves.
This is just a cheesy and fun cult movie. The direction by Simon is mainly just adequate until he gets to the kill scenes those are done quite well. I especially loved the deaths in the shower and the waterbed. The script is decent and carries the film but it is simple at best. It is mainly there to get you from point A to point B. The film is really about the rampant nudity and all the killings. The cast does a good job. I really liked Christopher George as Lt. Brackett he was quite good. Lynda Day George was quite fetching and did the damsel in distress quite well. I liked Sera as the main protagonist too and he is someone you feel for and you put yourself in his shoes. Smith is great as the obvious red herring and does a great job with his performance. The SFX and make up effects are quite good. The death scens are brutal and shocking. The score by Librado Pastor is quite campy and cheesy and suits the film very well. This is just a classic cult slasher film and one of my favorites to watch again and again.
This one gets 4 out of 5


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nightmare City




Nightmare City 1980
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Writers: Antonio Cesare Corti, Luis Maria Delgado and Piero Regnoli
Starring Hugo Stiglitz, Laura Trotter, Maria Rosario Omaggio, Francisco Rabal, Sonia Viviani and Eduardo Fajardo
Italian zombie films are one of my favorite genres of horror films and Nightmare City is one of the better ones. It is also the first zombie film to have fast zombies and the only one I have ever seen to have zombies use machine guns. The film is by Umberto Lenzi who is better known for his cannibal opus Cannibal Ferox. This is quite a fun and entertaining zombie film. The direction is pretty solid and for a badly dubbed Italian horror film the acting is not bad. Stiglitz makes a great lead and the film has some great zombie attack sequences. I especially liked the opening scene at the airport. It is tense and when the madness breaks out you are on the edge of your seat. The pacing in the film is quite fast and furious and suits the film well. This is definitely one of the better zombie films made during this era.
The plot basics are this, reporter Dean Miller (Stiglitz) is assigned to interview a scientist that is arriving on a plane at the airport and he has a cameraman alongside him to film the interview. While he is waiting another plane makes an unexpected landing and a armed military force surrounds the plane. When the plane opens a group of blood thirsty creature disembark and use tools to kill everyone in sight and they eat their flesh. It is soon discovered that these creatures are contaminated by radiation and need human flesh to survive. Dean decides after this all breaks loose to go rescue his wife (Trotter) who is a doctor at a local hospital and when he gets there discovers that the hospital is overrun by these creatures too. Soon Dean and his wife are on the run and trying to stay one step ahead of the monsters.
This is a fun little zombie film. Lenzi’s direction is solid. I like how he leers on the carnage of the zombies. The scenes at the airport and at the hospital are to prime examples of this. His pacing is quite good too; there is never a dull moment in the film. The script is decent, it never really tries to explain this phenomenon and doesn’t really give much characterization to the characters, it is more about the plot than anything. The cast is decent, Stiglitz is a little stiff but he performs the part well. Trotter is a excellent damsel in distress and always seems to be in peril. The SFX and make up effects in the film are quite gruesome and very gory. The carnage scenes are quite long and drawn out. The score by Stelvio Cipriani is very campy and cheesy and really suits the film. This is not a film that you take seriously but one you are just supposed to have a good time with.
This one gets 4 out of 5


Monday, September 20, 2010

The New York Ripper



The New York Ripper 1982
Director: Lucio Fulci
Writers: Gianfranco Clerici, Lucio Fulci, Vincenzo Manning and Dardano Sacchetti
Starring Jack Hedley, Howard Ross, Andrea Occhipinti, Alexandra Delli Colli, Paolo Malco, Cinzia de Ponti and Cosimio Cinieri
Lucio Fulci is well known for his grisly and blood thirsty films and this one may be his most grisly. There is some very graphic violence done to women in this film and it might not be for every ones sensibilities. This is a film that tells a captivating immoral story as well that really captures the sleaziness of Times Square New York in the mid 80’s. The film is kind of like a time capsule in that respect. This is a brutal film that if you are a fan of sleazy exploitation it will be right up your alley. It is loaded with many sex scenes and the violence against women is very brutal and it can be viewed as a misogynistic film. What makes it all the bizarre is the ludicrousness of the killer using a Donald Duck like voice. The acting is pretty solid and the cast is quite good with some definitely attractive women to ogle in the film. The twist at the end is not too hard to figure out but is not blatantly obvious either. This is definitely one of the top films in my opinion of the Fulci canon.
The plot basics are this, there is a serial killer stalking around the Times Square are of New York City who talks like a duck when he tantalizes the police. The head detective in the case (Hedley) teams up with a college psychotherapist (Malco) to hunt down this deranged killer before he strikes again. It seems as if this killer will never be sated as they find more mutilated bodies. It does appear though the killer is closer than it appears to be and one wonders if they will be too late to save the next victim.
This is a suspenseful and gory film. Fulci’s direction is very good, his eye with the camera has a leering aspect to it. As if you should not be watching this mayhem but yet here you are. The scene of the nipple mutilation is one of those scenes that is horrifying yet you cannot help but look at it. The script is decent but it is really only there to support the gore and grisly deaths you see on the film. Though I do get a kick out of the Donald Duck talking killer. The cast is quite good. Hedley and Malco have a great chemistry together. De Ponit was one of the best victims in the film too; it was quite a treat seeing her getting sliced up. The SFX and make up effects were done tremendously well. I especially liked the nipple slicing scene. The score by Francesco De Masi is quite sleazy and really suits the ambience of the film. This is definitely the sleaziest of Fulci’s films but nevertheless a fun one to watch and therefore one of my favorites.
This one gets 5 out of 5



Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Flashbacks: In the Mouth of Madness



In the Mouth of Madness 1995
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: Michael De Luca
Starring Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, Jurgen Prochnow, David Warner, John Glover, Bernie Casey, Peter Jason, Charlton Heston and Frances Bay
This film was Carpenter’s own take on the work of H.P. Lovecraft intermingled with the popularity of Stephen King and it works wonders as a horror film. Carpenter considers this his final film in the unrelated “Apocalypse” trilogy which began with The Thing and continued with Prince of Darkness. The film is really a homage to writers of horror fiction and it shows. It is a frightening film that deals with paranoia and really makes for a tense and scary film. The imaginative script really works wonders and you really side with Trent and hopes he finds a solution to the nightmare he is thrust in. This film has a great cast and I think Neill gives a standout performance in the film and its amazing to watch him go form a by the books investigator to a manic loon. This is a intelligent and twisted piece of horror cinema that really delivers and really feels as if it could be a lost Lovecraft tale.
The plot basics are this, insurance investigator Trent (Neill) is hired by book publisher Jackson Harglow (Heston) to find famed horror writer Sutter Cane (Prochnow) who has a new book being released and he is needed so they can publish the book. It seems Cane’s books cause mass hysteria and hallucinations to the people who read his works. Trent believes the disappearance is a marketing strategy so along with A editor (Carmen) goes on the hunt to find Cane. He believes Cane’s fictional town Hobb’s End is a real place and thinks that is where he is hiding. He finds the town and discovers that Cane is changing reality and bringing his creations into the real world. Trent must now find a way to stop this or it may well be the end of the world.
This is a fantastic and terrifying film. Carpenter’s direction is solid and there are times where you wonder if things are actually happening or are they just in Trent’s fevered mind. The scene on his couch when he is studying Cane’s work is one of these and really makes the viewr jump. The film also plays more on mood and atmosphere rather than just shock scenes and that’s really what makes the film work. The script is smart and suspenseful. The way it opens with Trent being brought into a sanitarium really makes the viewer want to find out how he got to this point. At first Trent is seen as sort of a dickish character but as he uncovers more about Cane the viewer really cares what happens to him. The cast is flawless. Neill gives what I think is his best performance as Trent and plays a great flawed hero. Carmen is a great co lead to the film and she plays up her bizarre parts to play very well. Prochnow is a great evil character and you can see he relishes his role in the film and hams it up quite well. I especially loved his scene on the bus with Trent. Heston has a small role that he is great in as well. The SFX and make up effects in the film are quite good and really play up the terrifying aspects of the film. The score by Carpenter has a hard rock feel to it and almost feels like AC/DC did a horror soundtrack and it suits the film really well. This is a great film by Carpenter and one that I revisit quite a bit.
This one gets 5 out of 5 stars



Thursday, September 9, 2010

Let the Right One In



Let the Right One In 2008
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Writer: John Ajvide Lindovist
Starring Kare Hedebrent, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Henrik Dahl, Karin Bergquist, Peter Carlberg, Ika Nord, Mikael Rahm, Karl-Robert Lindgren, Anders T. Peedu and Pale Olofsson
Vampire films seem to be the in thing right now but with films like the Twilight series they are without a bite to them. This film does not have that problem it is touching but still has the savagery every good vampire story needs. It is both a love story and a horror film and it balances these 2 things very well. It is by far the best vampire film I have seen since 30 Days of Night. It is a nuanced and thoughtful film and not a film for casual viewers. It is really a film that makes its viewers think and that is a good thing to see in a horror movie. The story is deft and smart with a light touch to it, yet it still has great scenes of horror. The cast does a excellent job and you really like the characters of Oskar and Eli. This is a film that chooses its shots well and always fires accurately. The violence int ehe film is brutal and horrific but it is never dwelled upon which is the right feel for this film, because at its heart it is a love story.
The plot basics are this, Oskar (Hedebrent) is a bullied 12 year old who dreams of revenge. He falls in love with a strange girl, Eli (Leandersson) who has moved into his apartment building. Eli is not like other girls. He discovers that she is a vampire and he becomes conflicted by this/ But she also helps him to find courage to face his school bullies and he also begins to fall in love with her. His dilemma is how deeply will he follow this girl who could be a danger to him and does he let himself fall completely under her spell.
This is a fantastically well done film. The direction by Alfredson is flawless. He really uses the location to his best advantage, it really has a surreal and desolate feel to the surroundings. When the vampire attacks do come they are done quickly and brutally and staged very well. He makes no bones that at this essence this is a horror film warapped around a love story. The script is very tight too, the characterization of Oskar really makes you sympathize and care about what happens to the boy. The way Eli is characterized makes the viewer get as mesmerized as Oskar does. The cast is superb. Hedebrent as Oskar is great he really brings pathos to his character that you really care about. Leandersson as Eli is hypnotic and you cannot take your eyes off of her anytime she is on screen. The SFX and make up effects are great. There is not a lot of them but what is there is used phenomenally. The score by Johan Sodergvist is melancholy and haunting and is perfect for a piece like this. This is definitely one of the more original and better vampire films in the last 20 years and one that is a must see. I hope the American remake can be as half as good as this.
This one gets 5 out of 5



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Happening



The Happening 2008
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Ashlyn Sanchez, Betty Buckley and Spencer Breslin
I am not the biggest fan of Shyamalan’s films. I stopped seeing them after my horrible experience with the Village. But, I kept hearing good things about The Happening and when I needed another movie to rent one evening I finally rented it and was pleasantly surprised. While not the best film ever made it was definitely an entertaining one. The story is pretty tense and suspenseful and the cast does a solid job. Wahlberg is usually pretty forgettable but he does a decent job in this film. The ending was sort of resolved too quickly but it also had the requisite final scare most modern horror films have now. I think it succeeds much better than some of his other films like Signs. It is a film that has a message about what humans are doing to the planet and what could be a state of revolution by nature on the way we treat it. It is a film that makes you think and that is always a good thing.
The plot basics are this, Eliot Moore (Wahlberg) is a high school science teacher who finds himself thrust into a terrifying experience. It seems a incident at a local park has created widespread panic and now people think that terrorists are attacking. Eliot soon figures out that it is not terrorists but nature attacking humanity for all the sins it metes out on it. So Eliot along with his wife Alma (Deschanel) are on the run and trying to stay one step ahead of the massacre that is occurring. They will be fraught with obstacles both man made and nature made but will they be able to overcome these obstacles?
This is a tense and scary film. Shymalan’s direction is very tight especially during the fear filled scenes. I especially liked the scene where they were trying to get into a house and the actions that follow after they interact with the people in the house. The script is pretty good, it does not try to over explain what is happening, it just lets it happen. There is not much characterization it is much more a plot centric film and that is both a pro and a con. The viewer really doesn’t ever feel too much empathy for the characters so you never really care what happens to them. The cast is pretty decent. Wahlberg does a decent job but sometimes he tries to act like an action hero instead of a math teacher. Deschanel is ok but she is very annoying and you never really like her. Leguizamo gives the best performance in the film and really feels like a harried husband and father and he carries the film during his scenes. There is little or no SFX or make up effects in the film. This is a film that really relies on mood and atmosphere to carry it along and it does that very well. The score by James Newton Howard is very eerie and melancholy and suits the story well. This is a fun scary movie and one that is worth checking out.
This one gets 3 out of 5

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Burning Bright



Burning Bright 2010
Director: Carlos Brooks
Writers: Christine Coyle Johnson and Julie Prendiville Roux
Starring Garret Dillahunt, Briana Evigan, Charlie Tahan and Meatloaf
With the SYFY monster movie of the week they have come out with a lotof killer nature movies and one I remember in particular was Maneater with Gary Busey which was a dead rip off of Jaws with a tiger. When I heard about Burning Bright that is what I thought it was but this is a far superior film to that and a very tense one too. It’s really only a 3 actor film but it does not make you feel slighted in anyway. This is a tense killer tiger movie and the viewer is on the edge of his seat throughout the film. The film starts off slow with some characterization pieces but that really benefits the film and does make you care for the 2 lead characters that will be in jeopardy later. The stepfather character is portrayed as a opportunistic douche bag who really you love to hate. The tiger looks good and primal and you definitely fear for the characters. All in all this is a film that really delivers.
The plot basics are this, right before a major hurricane is going to hit a man (Dillahunt) buys a tiger from another man (Meatloaf). He warns him that this creature is evil but he still wants it to pen up a wild safari show. He has 2 stepchildren Kelly (Evigan) and Tom (Tahan). Kelly is trying to find care for her autistic brother so she can go to college. But the funds that were supposed to be in her bank account are withdrawn by Johnny. She then brings him to the house and confronts him but he says the money is his and so her and Tom stay at the house during the hurricane. Little does she know is that the tiger has gotten loose and is now roaming the house looking for food.
This is a tense and suspenseful film. Brooks’ direction is taut. He starts the film up on a slow burn but once the tiger is let loose it is a thrill ride till the ending. One of the best scenes is where Kelly hides in the laundry chute, that scene is very tense and better done than the same scene was done in Halloween 5. The script is good too. It develops the characters first, so you will care about them when they are in jeopardy. Once the tiger is on the prowl though, the story really gets going. The cast is solid as well. Dillahunt is a douchey antagonist and when he gets what’s coming to him you will cheer. Evigan is a very sympathetic lead and looks quite good as the damsel in distress. Tahan also pulls off the autistic child without being too annoying. The brief performance by Meatloaf is one of the best parts of the film too. The SFX and make up effects are minimal but pulled off really well. The CGI tiger is pulled off really well. The score by Zack Ryan is tense and haunting and really helps the ambience of the film. This is a great nature goes wild horror film and well worth seeing.
This one gets 4 out of 5


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Survival of the Dead



Survival of the Dead 2009
Director: George Romero
Writer: George Romero
Starring Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Kathleen Munroe, Devon Bostick, Richard Fitzpatrick, Athena Karkanis, Stefano DiMatteo, Joris Jarsky and Eric Woolfe
After Diary which to me was quite a disappointment I thought Romero had lost his flair for telling compelling zombie stories and so I was dreading seeing Survival. I am happy to say it succeeded my expectations. It is a compelling story that really is like a western and reminds a lot of the cattle war type of films from the like of John Ford and Howard Hawks. The story is smart and the cast is excellent. The use of CGI effects is done well but not overused which seems to be a problem in most modern horror films. The only complaint I would make is that the story was not fleshed out enough, I could have easily seen another 30 minutes of characterization and it would not have hurt the film in the slightest. This is Romero batting 300 again and I hope to see more zombie opuses like this from him.
The plot basics are this, on a island off the coast of Delaware there is a warring clan of families run by 2 patriarchs (Welsh and Fitzpatrick) who have disputing ideads on how to deal with the uprising zombie epidemic. One of the patriarchs is sent packing off the island but soon returns coming along with a band of errant soldiers who are looking for a place to recoup. Little do they know they are getting drawn into a clan feud that could destroy them all. It seems one side wants to rehabilitate the undead by getting them to eat something other than human flesh, while the other side just wants to put them down. This leads to a escalating clan war where everyone is in the crosshairs.
This is a fine zombie film. Romero’s direction is tight as usual and the cinematography is flawless in the film, it really does look like a zombie western. He stages the action sequences well and I especially loved the swim to the feryy boat that was very tense. The script is very good as well, though some parts could have been expanded on I think. I would have especially liked to have seen how O’Flynn had taken over the dock and how he had dealt with other survivors that he encountered. But, the characterization is tight and I really enjoyed the character of O’Flynn. The cast is excellent too. Sprang was a good lead who seemed embittered and wanting a end to the life of survival. Welsh was amazing as O’Flynn and really carried the film to its climax. I also really enjoyed the performance of Karkanis as Tomboy she was a refreshing character in the film. The SFX and make up effects were quite good, though I think it would have been better if Romero had gotten Nicotero to do them. But the zombies were quite believable and very menacing. The score by Robert Carli definitely had a western feel to it and it really suited the film. This was a giant step up from Diary of the Dead and makes me think Romero still has more to say with his zombie films so I hope to see more.
This one gets 4 out of 5


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The New Daughter




The New Daughter 2009
Director: Luis Berdejo
Writer: John Travis
Starring Kevin Costner, Samantha Mathis, Ivana Baquero, Gattlin Griffith, Noah Taylor, James Gammon and Sandra Ellis Lafferty
When you think horror films you do not really think Kevin Costner but after seeing Mr. Brooks which really surprised me I thought I would give this film a try. The things I heard about it were good like Costner with a shotgun shooting monsters. The only problem with this film it is a very slow burn and takes awhile before anything eerie happens. It does have a great sense of dread throughout though and reminded me a lot of the Shining mixed with Blair Witch Project. The story is very suspenseful and the cast is good. Costner gives a great performance of a single dad who really seems out of his element. A lot of times he just seems befuddled which really helps the story along. This is a old style horror film and it goes through its paces well. This is a film that gives you a sense of something not quite right and it really delivers.
The plot basics are this, John James (Costner) is a single father who recently went through a mess divorce and now has custody of his two children Sam (Griffith) and Louisa (Baquero). He moves to a isolated house off a dirt road in North Carolina with them and notices the house has a strange mound on the property. He soon discovers that it is a ancient Indain burial ground. Soon he hears strange noises at night and the family cat goes missing and then is found mangled and dead. His daughter seems to become affected by the mound and starts becoming a different person. He finds out the previous owner had a issue with his daughter and he ended up burning her alive because she became possessed with evil spirits. John is determined to save his daughter and will go to any means to save her and his family.
This is a tense and suspenseful film. The direction by Bardejo is quite taut. The build up to when you first see the creatures is slow but he makes it work and the viewer definitely wants to stick around to see what arises. The climax underneath the mound is tense and scary and keeps the viewer riveted. The script is tight as well, though it is a little leisurely in setting up the conflict it is still well worth enduring. The cast is excellent. Costner does a excellent job as the haggard father who has no clue what is happening to his daughter. Baquero is great as the resentful daughter who begins to experience personality changes and you really feel for her. Mathis has a thankless supporting role and does what she can with it. Griffith as Sam does a good job and is not annoying like most child actors are. The SFX and make up effects are minimal but done very well. The score by Javier Navarrete is eerie and solemn and really suits the tone of the film and it really keeps the viewer off center with what is happening. This is a eerie and haunting film and well worth seeing if you want a different horror film than the usual ilk that is out there.
This one gets 3 out of 5


Monday, August 30, 2010

Don't Look Up




Don’t Look Up 2009
Director: Fruit Chan
Writers: Brian Cox and Hiroshi Takahashi
Starring Racheal Murphy, Reshad Strik, Eli Roth, Henry Thomas, Carmen Chaplin, Ben DiGregorio, Kevin Corrigan, Alyssa Sutherland, Luthaire Blouateau and Daniela Sea
This is the latest in a long line of Japanese horror film remakes and this film succeeds in some parts but fails in some others. The premise is good and at first is executed well until it takes a 360 degree turn at the end that totally kills the feel of the film. It has a unique feel, a very cool gothic atmosphere that really works and they just do not use that enough. The film is quite gory too and with a story like this you shouldn’t need gore to push the story ahead but this one does. It has a sotry that reminds me a lot of The Hills Run Red which was a far superior film. The cast was good though, with a nice cameo role by Eli Roth. I also really enjoyed Henry Thomas I the piece. The director is a great Japanese horror director, who did the excellent segment in 3 Extremes called Dumplings, but none of that genius is on display here. This is a film that probably looked good on paper but was a wash when it was filmed.
The plot basics are this, the film opens in Romania where a horror film is being filmed but something bizarre happens and the film is never finished. Flash forward to the present and we meet Marcus Reed (Strik) a director with some personal problems with a ailing ex girlfriend. It seems Marcus sees apparitions and is having mental issues but he receives a phone call from a movie producer (Thomas) to film a new version of this film that was never finished in the 20’s. He heads to Romania and the location is a run down farmhouse and soon strange accidents begin happening. It seems there was some old gypsy curse that plagued the girl the story is based on and it seems to be in full effect here. This leads to a confrontation with the vengeful spirit and Marcus that just ends strangely.
This is just a bizarre film that does not make a lot of sense. Chan’s direction is good, he has a good sense of what works in a gothic horror film. It just seems the film is far too bloody for the type of story it is, its like two halves that just do not fit. The script is not much better, it jumps all over the place and you never get much depth into Marcus’ character which really would have helped the story. The cast is good though. Strik is a good lead who makes you feel his anxiety throughout the film. Thomas is a good counterpoint in the film. I really enjoyed Roth’s bit role in the film. Sea as Tami was very alluring and had a femme fatale feeling to her which I really liked. The SFX and make up effects were great if I feel very unnecessary for a film like this. The score had a very ambient gothic feel that would feel right at home in a Corman Poe film, but just did not work here. This is just a film that failed on many levels as it tried to be like The Grudge but just did not have the right feeling to it.
This one gets 2 out of 5


Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Flashbacks: Body Bags




Body Bags 1993
Directors: John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper and Larry Sulkis
Writers: Billy Brown and Dan Angel
Starring John Carpenter, Tom Arnold, Tobe Hooper, Robert Carradine, Alex Datcher, Peter Jason, David Naughton, Stacy Keach, David Warner, Sheena Easton, Deborah Harry, Mark Hamill, Twiggy and John Agar
Horror anthology films are always fun to watch and Body Bags is no exception. A film that I think was setup to give Showtime its own chance at a show like Tales From the Crypt but it never came to fruition. It is a shame as this is a great vehicle for short horror stories and has a great resume of directors and cast. The film has a light E.C. comics feel to it until the grim and final story in the film. It also has a great narrator and host in the persona of Carpenter. He is really the highlight of the film. All 3 stories are solid, though the middle one “Hair” is the standout. This is one of those films it is just great to put on when nothings going on and you want some good horror entertainment. I would have definitely watched this every week if it had been picked up as a series.
The plot basics are this, in a morgue we mett someone who seems to be a coroner there (Carpenter) and he goes over the bodies and begins to tell stories of what happened to the ones lying there. The first story is about a woman (Datcher) stuck at a secluded gas station while a serial killer is running amok. The 2nd tale is about a man (Keach) who is losing his hair and will do anything to keep from going bald. The final story is about a baseball player (Hamill) who loses his eye and gets a transplant from a unlikely source and how it begins to affect him. This all leads to a ending when you find the Coroner is not who he appears to be.
This is a solid and entertaining anthology. Carpenter’s direction is tight. “The Gas Station” is a solid slasher piece that would fit into any horror comic from the 50’s. While “Hair” is out and out dark comedy that works on every level. Hooper’s segment “The Eye” on the other hand is very dark, grim and unrelenting. The script is very good, the banter that it gives the Coroner is very funny and the writing in “Hair” is golden. While “The Eye” is very dark and depressing, and yet it still somehow works. The film has a solid cast. I especially liked Keach who I think gave one of his best performances as the man who cannot live without his hair. Hamill was good too as the brain addled baseball player who feels he is being taken over by a murderer. Carpenter was really great though as the macabre host and I wanted to see more of him. The SFX and makeup effects in the film are top notch. I especially liked the prosthetics in “Hair”, they were quite bizarre and creepy. The score by Carpenter and Jon Lang has a very creepy and campy feel and is in tone with the film. This is a great anthology film and definitely worth checking out.
This one gets 4 out of 5


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thirst



Thirst 2008
Director: Jeffery Scott Lando
Writers: Kurt Volkan and Joel Newman
Starring Lacey Chabert, Mercedes McNab, Tygh Runyan and Brandon Quinn
There are many wilderness survival horror films of late with films like Open Water and Thirst is definitely one of those. It has a very small cast of characters and one central location, a very dry and desolate desert. The director uses both the actors and the scenery very well. Films like this hinge usually on the stupidity of the characters and this one is no different, you do not go into a desert location with only 2 bottles of water that is just plain stupid. The main character in the film is characterized very well and the writing really makes you care for her, not so much for the other characters they just seem like fodder for the story. The use of the ghost wolf in the film is a little strange too, as if they were not sold that the situation that these people find them in would be enough to keep the viewer emotionally vested into the film. I think that is a mistake and is one reason why this film while entertaining is not great like a film like Open Water.
The plot basics are this, two couples are on their way to a secluded desert for a photos hoot as one of the women (McNab) is a model and her boyfriend (Quinn) is her photographer. The other couple (Chabert and Runyan) is along for the ride and having some relationship issues. Their car crashes in the desert and the one girl (Mcnab) receives a concussion and their cell phones seem to have no service and they are stuck in the desolate desert. They eventually decide to try to walk back to civilization which is at least 50 miles behind them. They face many obstacles in their trek for survival not the least being their fighting among themselves and their lack of water to keep them alive.
This is a pretty tense film. Lando’s direction is pretty solid. He sets up the character conflicts pretty well and makes it pretty obvious from the beginning that something is up with Noelle’s character from the get go. The scenes with the wolf and the surgery scene on McNab’s character are done very well and that scene in particular is hard to watch. The script is pretty good as well, you have a solid story arc for Noelle’s character and you totally sympathize with her throughout the film. The rest of the characters are pretty much cannon fodder and they feel that way. The cast does a great job. Chabert portrays a good conflicted heroine and you suffer along with her as you watch the film. McNab is good as Atheria and she is the first casualty in the film and pulls that part off well. The 2 male leads are decent but nothing noteworthy. The SFX in the film are minimal but the scene with the cranial surgery is done very well and painful to watch. The score by Chris Nickel is very haunting and spiritual and definitely has a Native American sound to the piece. This is a solid wilderness survival horror film and well worth a peek.
This one gets 3 out of 5



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Collector




The Collector 2009
Director: Marcus Dunstan
Writers: Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan
Starring Josh Stewart, Michael Reilly Burke, Andrea Roth, Juan Fernandez, Karley Scott Collins, Daniella Alonso and Madeline Zima
The moniker “torture porn” seems to be bandied around a lot with modern horror movies. Films like the Saw and Hostel films are prime examples of this genre and I think The Collector falls into this category. Though in my opinion a horror film is just a horror film and this film really delivers a good one. This is a film that combines elements from both The People under the Stairs and Saw and does it splendidly. This film creates some unique traps and a great horror villain and I think it is great that you never discover who the collector is and why he is doing this. The film is genuinely bloody and mean and I really appreciate that in my horror films. The suspense in the film is palatable and grueling and the director is able to hold the tenseness throughout the film and the viewer never knows what to expect throughout the entire film. The film also gives us a great sympathetic hero in Arkin. This is definitely a horror film that delivers and one I will definitely revisit; it has the requisite gore, some nice T and A and a great set up.
The plot basics are this, Arkin (Stewart) is hired to fix the windows at the Chase house in a secluded house in the middle of nowhere in Detroit. Arkin has problems his wife owes money to some loan sharks and desperately needs his help. He wants to help but his payment for the week is not enough. So, he decides to rob the safe of Michael Chase (Burke) to pay off these debts. When he arrives at the house he discovers a twisted maniac has captured the family and set grisly traps all over the house. Now Arkin just wants to find a way out of the house in one piece but discovers their daughter (Collins) needs his help, so he will risk his life to save her and to escape from this house of madness.
This is a fantastic horror film. Dunstan’s direction is solid, he sets up the tension of the house filled with traps really well. The cinematography of the film is flawless and I really loved the scene that used the bear traps to bloody effect. The script is solid as well; you really feel for Arkin’s character and want him to succeed. Even though he is a bad guy he has a good side that you cannot help but root for. The Collector is very mysterious and you never know much about him or why he is doing this and I like that. The cast is quite good. Stewart is a great lead and carries the heroic role very well. Fernandez as The Collector is great too; he never utters a line but really conveys his part with his body language. He reminded me a lot of Kane Hodder’s work as Jason. The brief role by Zima is great too; she is very sexy and very charismatic. The SFX and make up effects in the film are outstanding. I especially loved the bear trap scene; it is by far one of my favorite kills in recent horror films. The score by Jerome Dillon is very dark and gothic and really suits the piece. This is a great horror film and definitely going to make my top list of best horror I have seen this year.
This one gets 5 out of 5


Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Stepfather



The Stepfather 2009
Director: Nelson McCormick
Writer: J.S. Cardone
Starring Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward, Penn Badgely, Amber Heard, Sherry Stringfield, Paige Turco, Jon Tenney and Nancy Linehan Charles
This is yet another remake of a 80’s horror classic and while enjoyable it odes not hold a shine next to the original’s impact. While Walsh is a good villain he really goes bonkers when he loses his composure he just does not have the looniness of Terry O’Quinn. The film is pretty much a play by play remake not counting the lackluster ending. The film really needed a better climax and it really should have used that hand saw in a better and bloody way. I think the best thing about the film is Amber Heard, she is enjoyable to watch and is alos a damn good actress. I also think he should have killed more people and the film took a very leisurely pace and then tried to cram everything in at the end and that just does not work. This is just a remake that does not work on too many levels but it still has some enjoyable moments.
The plot basics are this, David Harris (Walsh) is a man with issues. He is trying to find the perfect family and when he does not succeed he kills the family and moves on to the next one. He finds a new potential wife (Ward) and quickly bonds with her and her family and moves in with her. She has a son, Michael (Badgely) who has just come back from a private school after having some issues and he quickly feels that something is not right with David. He begins to investigate along with his girlfriend (Heard) and sees things that do not add up. Soon, David knows things are not working out and makes his plans to wipe out the family. It is now up to Michael to save his family before something tragic happens.
This is a well done film. McCormick’s direction is solid and he builds the suspense really well. Such as the scene when Michael and Kelly are looking through David’s things and he returns. That was very nerve-wracking. The few kills in the film are done very well too and one of the brighter parts of the film. He also pushes the climax too fast and the whole final act of the film just feels rushed. The script has some problems too, characters are not developed real well and it seems there are a lot of things that happen that are there for no reason other than to move the story along and that is weak writing. The cast is good. Walsh makes a very good stepfather and is great when he goes crazy. Heard is also great as Kelly and is the shining point of the movie for me. It also does not hurt that she is in a bikini for most of the film. The rest of the cast is adequate and keeps the story going. The SFX and make up effects in the film are done well, even though this is mostly a bloodless film. The score is mostly forgettable, like most of this film it does not leave an impression on you. This is a film that is good to while away 90 minutes but I would say stick with the original.
This one gets 3 out of 5




Monday, August 16, 2010

Sorority Row




Sorority Row 2009
Director: Stewart Hendler
Writers: Josh Stolberg, Pete Goldfinger and Mark Rosman
Starring Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, Audrina Patridge, Julian Morris, Margo Harshman, Carrie Fisher and Matt O’Leary
This is the latest in the perpetual lines of horror remakes. Now the original House on Sorority Row is one I have not seen, so I cannot compare this to the original, I can just judge it on its own merits, and I think it really succeeds as a solid slasher film. Though it does seem to crib a lot of its plot points from Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, it does it creatively enough that I was pleasantly surprised and entertained with this film. The use of a tire iron as a murder weapon is quite ingenious and is something I had not seen before. The kills were quite creative and bloody too, which I always appreciate. It has a solid cast of beautiful women that really carry the film well, not to mention a great supporting turn by Carrie Fisher that makes the film. This is a fun slasher film that most fans will enjoy, I will just say don’t think about it too much or it may cause your brain to rot. It is just a silly slasher film after all.
The plot basics are this, during a party at the Theta Phi sorority house Megan (Patridge) plays a prank on her cheating boyfriend Garrett (O’Leary). This prank goes awry and Megan’s boyfriend and friends end up killing her and dumping her body in a mine shaft vowing to keep this heinous crime a secret. Flash forward a year later and all the girls are getting ready to graduate and they receive a creepy message via their cell phones that someone knows about what they did with Megan. Soon one by one the girls are getting killed off and now they have to put aside their petty differences and team up if they are going to survive the night and find out who is killing their sisters.
This is a fun and suspenseful slasher film. Hendler’s direction is taut and suspenseful and he keeps the secret of who the killer is well hidden till the very end. He stages the kill sequences very well; I especially liked the scene where Chugs is killed, my personal favorite kill in the film. The script is pretty simple and straight forward with maybe a little too much leaning on the plot tropes of Scream, but it still somehow works. All the characters are all pretty stereotypical and that works in the films favor. The cast is quite good; Evigan is a good lead and very charismatic. Willis as the brainy girl was also quite good. Pipes as the bitchy one was quite believable and you really hated her and could not wait for her to die. My favorite performance though, has to be Carrie Fisher with a shotgun that was a delight to see. The SFX and make up effects were done very well. The film was very bloody and graphic. The blood really flew and that is always a pleasure to see. The score by Lucian Pane was perfect for a slasher film and fit the film really well. It really amped up the tension and suspense in the film. This is not the greatest slasher film ever made, but a damn fun one.
This one gets 4 out of 5



Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Flashbacks: They Live




They Live 1988
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: John Carpenter
Starring Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster, Buck Flowers, Peter Jason and Raymond St. Jaques
This is one of Carpenter’s most enjoyable films, with a lead that really relishes the role like his work with Kurt Russell. It is a film that takes a sharp jab at the 80’s Reagan era of “me” and it can still be applied to viewers watching it today. This is a film that moves at a rapid click and never slows down. It is a action film at its heart that plays with some social commentary very knowing. The cast is excellent; Piper is the perfect choice for this film. He has a great chemistry with David and their fight in the alley is legendary and one of my favorite fight scenes in all of films. This is a smart film that makes you think as well as make you jump with all the fun this film entails.
The plot basics are this, John Nada (Piper) is a drifter who lost his job in his hometown and is drifting along looking for work. He finds a job and things are going well till one day he finds a pair of sunglasses. He puts them on and it changes his world. It seems a alien race is using subliminal messages to subvert the human race into doing what they want. Nada finds a underground group of people that know of this uprising and joins them in their plan to topple the aliens. The aliens are 2 steps ahead of them every step of the way. It is up to Nada to find a way to beat his alien oppressors.
This is a awesome film. Carpenter’s direction is tight. The fight sequence in the alley is amazing as well as the finale on the rooftop. The film also has a wicked sense of humor that really plays up the social commentary very well. The script is smart and witty. It really plays up the elitist sense of the aliens and the plight of the down trodden workers. For instance, the mane Nada brings forth connotations of being a nobody. The cast is excellent. Piper is a hard edged and funny hero and has some great line delivery in the film. David is a great foil to him as well, especially during the alley fight. Foster is a nice heroine and romantic lead, and she is very stunning with those green eyes of hers. The SFX and make up in the film is done very well. I especially like the prosthetic look of the aliens with their skull like visage. Carpenter does the score as usual and hits it out of the park. It has a droning effect and kind of beats you down sort of like the alien oppressors in the film. This is a great sf action film and a must see film.
This one gets 5 out of 5


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Crazies



The Crazies 2010
Director: Brock Eisner
Writers: Scott Kosar and Ray Wright
Starring Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Joe Anderson, Danielle Panabaker, Christie Lynn Smith, Brett Rickaby, Preston Bailey and John Aylward
Romero is a benchmark name in horror films so it is always with trepidation I see a remake of one of his films. Luckily, The Crazies is one of his lesser known works that could have benefited by an updating, as the original is a sluggish and very leisurely paced film. With Eisner directing I was not sure how it would turn out though since his last film Sahara was not the greatest film I had seen. But after watching The Crazies it seems he has a really deft hand when it comes to making horror and suspense films. This is a film that combines 2 types of films, the horror film with the road picture and does it effortlessly well. This is a film that knows where it is going and it has a sense of what it takes to scare and unnerve the viewers. It has some great scares and a excellent cast that propels the film at a rapid click. This definitely is a good horror film that uses the topic of viral outbreaks really well.
The plot basics are this, in a small town a plane crashes with a viral agent that infects the water. This viral agent is a hybrid form of rabies that causes anyone to ingest it to go mad dog insane. The sheriff (Olyphant) of this small town investigates and soon the whole town is under quarantine and his wife (Mitchell) is taken into custody. So, along with his deputy (Anderson) he goes and breaks her out and tries to get to a safe point out of the town away from the outbreak. Along the way they have to deal with dangers springing up all around them and within each other if they hope to survive in one piece.
This is a taut and suspenseful film. The direction by Eisner is tight. I especially liked the scene in the car wash that was both creepy and suspenseful. He also elevated the tension and the suspense during the diner scene at the end of the film. He has a very good feel for what works in a horror film and shoots it beautifully. The script is simple and fluid. The story takes no time in getting started and once the action begins to fly it does not let up till the climax. The cast is superb too, Olyphant is a great heroic protagonist and you are always pulling for him. Mitchell is a great co lead and one of my favorite genre actresses today. Anderson as the deputy is quite good too and I like how he slowly but surely unravels. He plays a unhinged personality very well. The SFX and make up effects in the film are quite good and bloody. The scene with the knife in the throat is done very well. The score and music used in the film really plays up the sense of desolation and despair in the film. It really makes you feel that there is little or no hope for the characters. This is a superior remake and far better than Romero’s original film.
This one gets 4 out of 5



Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Wolfman (Unrated Cut)




The Wolfman (The Unrated Cut) 2010
Director: Joe Johnston
Writers: Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self
Starring Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, Michael Cronin, David Sterne and Jessica Manley
I am a big werewolf fan and I was really looking forward to this new take on a seminal horror classic. This one did not disappoint, I liked how it stayed true to its Victorian era and did not try to update it. With a film like this you expect them to tone it down too and they did not do that. This is quite a bloody affair and it suits the tone of the tale, This is by far the best werewolf film I have seen since Dog Soldiers. The film is shot beautifully and I truly loved the transformation sequences that combined practical effects with CGI seamlessly. Another great thing about the film was that it had genuine actors in the film and they all brought their A game to the material. I never saw the theatrical cut and I have heard it had problems but in the unrated cut I saw I did not see any problems with the film. In fact, what I saw was a flawlessly tracing horror film that really does hearken back to the classic days of Universal horror films. This is a film that takes its time to develop the story and you do not actually see the first transformation to well almost an hour into the film and this time it takes is a nice change from most modern horror films. This is what makes this film such a pleasure to watch it really takes its time and lets you enjoy the characters before the horror begins to envelop them, so you actually sympathize with them.
The plot basics are this, it is 1891 and Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro) is a famed actor in America when his brother’s fiancĂ©e Gwen (Blunt) comes to seek his help as his brother has vanished. So, he returns to his ancestral home in England to find his brother has been killed by some kind of wild beast. Lawrence is reunited with his estranged father and hunts down the beast who attacked his brother and is himself attacked. He soon discovers that he has been attacked by a werewolf and when the full moon comes he will also transform and attack people with a bloodthirsty ferocity. He will soon find the dark secret his father is hiding and Lawrence will have to fight his dark urges and try to put a stop once and for all the monstrosity that is laying siege upon his homeland.
This is a dark and gritty and atmospheric horror film. Johnston’s direction of the piece is very intense and really suits the tone of the film. The visuals of the film are amazing and suits the film well. The chase scenes of the Wolfman are phenomenal and I love how he bounded from building to building while the Inspector chased him. The script is very masterfully done too. The viewer really delves into the characters of Lawrence and his father and you really sympathize with Lawrence and his dilemma and you also feel the budding relationship between him and Gwen. The cast is phenomenal. Del Toro really inhabits the role of Lawrence and I especially loved the scene where he was on display for all the doctors to witness. Hopkins plays oily evil as splendidly as he always does and is a delight to watch. Blunt is a great romantic interest and carries her role with weight. Weaving as Inspector Aberdline is a great foil to the werewolf and is a delight to watch as well. The SFX and make up effects in the film are amazing. The transformation sequences by Rick Baker are amazing to watch and the Wolfman is terrifying to look upon. The score by Danny Elfman is very dark and gothic and suits the material well. His music during the chase sequences is very operatic and fitting. This is destined to be a classic werewolf film and stands impressively next to the original Wolfman film as a true epic horror film.
This one gets 5 out of 5


Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Flashbacks: Hellraiser




Hellraiser 1987
Director: Clive barker
Writer: Clive Barker
Starring Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence, Sean Chapman, Oliver Smith, Robert Hines, Doug Bradley and Grae Kirby
When you think masters of modern horror two names immediately spring to mind, Stephen King and Clive Barker. Hellraiser is Barker’s most famous and still the best of all his cinematic creations. It is still a sick and depraved film to this day and that is why it has stood the test of time and spawned so many sequels. This is a film that uses the philosophy sex equals death to the nth degree. Everything that happens in this film has horrendous actions and nothing good ever comes out of any of it. This is a pulpy and blood drenched film that is a delight to watch on all levels. From the direction, the visuals, the acting and the fantastic gore effects. What is really astonishing is with so very few scenes Pinhead just owns this film. Sometimes the adage “less is more” is the way to go. It is a film that really plays with the S/M motif and it works quite well. This is a film that does not shy away from the naughty bits; in fact it makes you leer at them like you are looking at a passing car wreck.
The plot basics are this, a man (Robinson) and his wife (Higgins) move into a old house. The wife finds a hideous creature upstairs who it is reveled to be her husband’s brother who she had a illicit affair with. It seems he lost his body to a trio of demons but has found a way back and he needs her to bring peole so he can kill them and rebuild his body. The daughter, Kirsty (Laurence) of the husband does not trust her and soon discovers what she has been doing and discovers this puzzle box that started the whole nightmare. She opens the box and makes a deal with the demons that appear that she will help them get Frank back if she leaves her and her father alone. Kirsty will need all of her wits if she is going to survive both her demonic uncle and the demons on her heel.
This is a groundbreaking horror film. The direction by Barker is visually arresting. The scene where Frank first appears and reassembles himself is disgusting but you are forced to watch it. He really creates a dark tone for the film and really plays with the dysfunctional family dynamic. The script is dark and smart. Kirsty is a smart heroine that you cannot help but root for and Pinhead is one of the most original horror creations created in the last 20 years. The cast is superb. Robinson is a great lead and is especially great when he makes the turn to the dark side. Higgins is great too; she is somehow menacing, sexy and repulsive at the same time, a hard act to pull off. Laurence is a great heroine and the one character you sympathize throughout in the film. Bradley as Pinhead though really steals the show with the brief scenes he is in. When you think back on the film you think he is involved far more than he actually is. The SFX and make up effects are phenomenal. I especially like it when Frank is torn apart at the film’ climax. That is a scene I can replay again and again. The score by Christopher Young is both haunting and sexy, 2 things this film accomplishes very well. This is not a film for everyone, but those who love the dark side of horror will have a real treat on their hands when they seek it out.
This one gets 5 out of 5