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