Sunday, January 25, 2015

Movie Review: Gutterballs (2008)

 
Sophistication met utter crap the other night when my movie-watching Friday was a mash-up of Liam Neeson in A Walk Among the Tombstones, immediately followed by... Gutterballs. I'm not even really sure what made me add Gutterballs to my queue in the first place, and it almost pains me to admit that I didn't regret it. That much.

(By the way, A Walk Among the Tombstones is really good.)

Two rival bowling teams meet at the alley after hours for a little healthy competition. But things turn bad after one game, when hottie Lisa is brutally gang raped by all four members of the opposing team. The next night, the bowling alley becomes a scene of equally brutal slaughter when a masked killer starts picking off all the players one by one.

This is a movie that I don't really know what to do with. As an extremely trashy, annoying, exploitation movie throwback, Gutterballs definitely succeeds, and almost rises beyond what it needs to do in order to live up to that reputation. Filmmaker Ryan Nicholson takes the typical rape/revenge exploitation plot, adds in the requisite over-the-top villains (the rapists, not the killer), peppers in other airhead characters to be fodder for the killer, and tops it all off with some ridiculously gory and equally exploitative kills. In a lot of ways, this setup worked for me. But there were a few things that took me out of the film's cheesy world that made me not completely love it for what it was.

All of the characters here are just gawd awful, as they should be. I didn't even really like any of the good guys, except maybe for Jamie and Lisa. Really, their stupid costuming was enough to make me not like these people. It's not even that the acting was bad - all of these guys were actually great at what they did and the people they were trying to portray. It's just that all these people are people that I wouldn't be able to stand being around. The true scene-stealers in terms of awfulness are of course Steve, AJ, and Joey - our three douchebaggy rapists. The fourth guy, Patrick, is the reluctant abuser which makes him slightly less douchebaggy than his friends. But only slightly. Steve must have seriously high blood pressure as he has a constant 'roid-rage attitude. Everything he says must be YELLED and every sentence he says must contain at least three uses of the word "fuck." But AJ, however, is just the worst. Again, props to the actor for his commitment, but OH MY GOODNESS. That laugh? That face he makes when he laughs? That popped collar??? I could not wait to see what kind of death this guy got.

Speaking of which. The gore in Gutterballs, I have to admit, was kind of amazing. There are truly some inventive and, like I said before, ridiculous kills, many of them bowling pin related. One person gets the worst eye-gouging I've ever seen with the sharpened end of a pin while another one just gets a pin shoved down their throat. Also with throats, there is a nice slashing and a strangling with the strings of a pair of bowling shoes. I can't even describe the first two deaths because they're just icky and you have to see it for yourself. Probably my favorite kill was the one involving the ball waxing machine (a machine for waxing BOWLING balls, just to be clear). Gutterballs also has what I am now calling the best shotgun death ever. One character gets a blast that hits him in the neck which makes his neck kind of explode, leaving his head to flop over to one side. One thing that was kind of pissing me off at first about these deaths was that all the good people were the ones dying, and that they were getting it just as bad, if not worse, than the rapists do later on. Nevertheless, the gore and effects in Gutterballs is actually really impressive and I quite enjoyed it.

The rape scene confused me a little. Sometimes it is actually shot the way it needs to be - from the victim's point of view, showing the harsh reality of the crime and the savagery of the offenders. But then the other half of the time, it is shot in a manner more along the lines of exploitation. There are many shots of Lisa's exposed, perfect breasts, and her long, slender legs on Steve's shoulders when he rapes her. So they somehow managed to sexualize and exploit the scene, and make it sympathetic at the same time. One really atrocious thing they do in this scene is feature these horrible, non-realistic sound effects for I'm assuming comedic purposes - because it's funny to rape a girl with a bowling pin.

Nevertheless, Gutterballs is pretty much exactly what it wanted to be. A completely crazy and kitschy exploitation film with all the sex, nudity, and gore that you could possibly stand from such a film. It's got real boobs, fake penises, buckets of blood, and according to Wikipedia, 625 uses of the word "fuck." Break out the popcorn and indulge in something truly trashy for your next movie night. And be prepared for Gutterballs 2: Balls Deep, which I believe they are currently working on!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Short and Sweet: "Strange Thing" (2015)

I always try to appreciate and commend good work when I see it, which is why I have to show and tell you all about this wonderful sci-fi/horror short. "Strange Thing" by filmmaker Alrik Bursell is the story of married couple Jake and Kris who one day discover that a door has mysteriously appeared in their living room. What's behind the door and where does it lead? Watch the short below to find out!

"Strange Thing" is most impressive because of its fantastic effects work, which apparently involved 20 gallons of black ooze, according to Bursell. It's kind of gross, kind of creepy, and very mysterious - the perfect short. It gives just enough of the story to give you quick satisfaction, but leaves so much more room to grow. Nice work!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Movie Review: City of the Living Dead (1980)

 
It is good to be acquainted with you again, Mr. Fulci. I believe we last visited during my viewing of The Black Cat, which was okay but not necessarily my favorite of your work (thus far, that is). It was certainly no House by the Cemetery, tell you what! I bumped City of the Living Dead up my queue recently because I was jonesing for what I hoped the movie would be.

A priest's suicide in a cemetery in the small town of Dunwich causes the gates of Hell to open, and the recently dead to come back as horrid zombies. At the same time, a psychic in New York named Mary has a vision of these events and together with a newspaper reporter, they travel to Dunwich to close the gates of Hell before All Saints' Day, lest the dead never be free to rest peacefully.

So this is most definitely an odd one. Fulci somehow takes a zombie story and mixes it with elements of the supernatural - which shouldn't actually be that much of a stretch, but it is when you handle it this way. There's the obvious psychic connection to the other world with the character of Mary, but a lot of other random weirdness happens here. A bar is destroyed by something unseen. The living dead disappear and reappear seemingly at will, and seem to have a strange hypnotic power. Oh yes, we will be talking more about THAT element of the story later. Could some of this have to do with the fact that the ancestors of Dunwich burned women accused of witchcraft during the Salem trials? Is it a curse? I don't know, maybe. This is an approach to the zombie genre that I haven't seen before, and I'm not entirely sure if it works or not, in a long term sense. But for this one movie, Fulci at least makes it entertaining, even if there isn't much sense to be had.

It's really all in the presentation, really. The way Fulci introduces the story is at times confusing. Transitions between locations and scenes are often unclear, and new character after new character are introduced with hardly an introduction. Eventually there comes to be a core four that make up the main cast - Peter the reporter, Mary the psychic, and Dunwich residents Gerry and Sandra (he's a psychiatrist, she's his patient). It is up to the audience to figure out that the other people that are randomly introduced are just other people in Dunwich that aren't really that important. Probably the weirdest side character and side plot is that of Bob, who has some kind of bad reputation among the locals because of his relationships with ladies - possibly criminal? Again, I don't know, and it doesn't have anything to do with zombies so who cares.

City of the Living Dead is certainly memorable in the gross-out and kill departments. Of course I almost vomited myself during the scene where a young woman is zombie-hypnotized by the dead priest. She first starts to bleed from her eyes, which was gross enough, but then comes the infamous part where she pukes up her internal organs. As a horror fan, I fucking loved that. Genius. My gag reflex, however, did not enjoy it so much, but that was probably the point, amirite? There are a lot of other great gags in the movie besides this one, too. My favorite was actually Bob's death by a drill through the head. There was really beautiful, seamless effects work on that one, and I loved how they showed it pretty much uncut. Also awesome were the couple of times when zombies would just rip off the backs of peoples' heads, skull and all - pretty effortlessly, I might add. I'm jealous of their hand strength. Strange as it was, the randomness of the maelstrom of maggots that come flying through the window was also... interesting.

Couple other high points: the scene where Peter is freeing Mary from her coffin was hilarious. He had absolutely no regard for how hard he was swinging that pickaxe or where it happened to land on the coffin. Kind of strange, but great for a little tension even though it was comedic. I also dug the makeup on the zombies' faces, all gross flesh and wormy. For the finale, the group heads underground into the priest's crypt, and this was a cool location with awesome set design. During the burning sequence, though, there were a couple of wide shots that I could not figure out how they were possible because of the tightness of the location. Then the low point of the movie comes right at the end, when Mary and Gerry emerge from the crypt and John-John, the brother of a girl who turns into a zombie, comes running at them happily. For some unknown reason, they suddenly get scared and start screaming, and cracks appear on the screen and the movie is over and we are all left confused.

As for the rest of it, City of the Living Dead is a pretty badass outing from Fulci. I liked the different approach to the typical zombie story, and the gore was freaking amazing. This is one for fans not to miss, for sure.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Movie Review: Puppet Master [8]: The Legacy (2003)

 
WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK. What kind of bullshit shenanigans are they playing with us here, with Puppet Master: "The Legacy"? Well at least I could get some other stuff done while watching this movie because 95% of it was archival footage from all the previous Puppet Master films. I feel like there should have been some warning about that.

The present day story of this movie has the new Puppet Master, Hertz (the child that Andre Toulon saved from the Nazis in Puppet Master 3: Toulon's Revenge), being confronted by some serious military chick with a gun claiming that she wants the secret formula. Then they just sort of waste time with each other going over all the events of all the previous movies.

How in the world am I supposed to write a review for this movie? There is really no reason for this movie to even exist, and all it does is spit on whatever "legacy" that the series has earned for itself thus far. I love the Puppet Master movies, and while some have been mildly disappointing in their own ways, this is the first one to just be a total suckfest. I mean, did they really expect any other reaction to this laziness? I guess I will say that the one thing that this installment does right is to use the best parts of all the previous movies during the archived footage scenes. It was nice to see the stuff from Toulon's Revenge again, for instance, which is still the best out of the entire series. Also, the old footage is much better quality in this movie, so that's another very small, minor plus.

I can't give Puppet Master: The Legacy too much more positive feedback. All the new footage, save for one small scene at the beginning, consists of the chick and Hertz in one room of the Bodega Bay Inn, even though you would have never guessed that they were there if they hadn't told you. Also, the chick's name is apparently Maclain (according to wiki) but I don't remember anybody ever saying that. The actors are okay enough, but that's not much of a compliment since they don't really do anything. I really missed Toulon this time around - I'm sorry, I mean anything NEW involving Toulon. There was plenty of shit that I've already seen in the seven movies before this. Only Toulon's voice from the tape recorder is in this movie, and it's not even Guy Rolfe's voice so fuck that, seriously. Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Tunneler, and Six Shooter only really appear as background observers here and don't get to do anything, so fuck that too.

Just fuck this whole movie. I've already given it more attention than it deserves. Next one, please.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Movie Review: What Have You Done to Solange? (1972)

 
So, where are all the bad giallos? I honestly don't think I've come across one yet that I have not thoroughly enjoyed. I might have found this film eventually, but mostly it was added to my queue because of the involvement of one Camille Keaton, who plays the titular character of Solange. The only slight warning here is that you do have to wait quite a long time to actually see her.

Enrico, a professor at a girls Catholic school is out having an affair with one of his students when the two become a part of the scene of a brutal killing of another young girl. More deaths soon follow, and though Enrico is initially a suspect, he becomes determined to find out who is committing these acts and why.

Okay, let me just get this out of the way. The movie was a bit more graphic than I was expecting when it came to the murders. With the first murder by the river bank - the one witnessed by pervy Enrico and his school girl fling Elizabeth - we see the girl running through the trees from the killer... and then comes the money shot. The girl's knees are parted and the black-gloved killer stabs her between the legs with a knife. That was bad enough. But later on, the police - for some ridiculous reason - show the pictures of the corpse to all the professors at Enrico's school, so I had to see that shit yet again. Oh but wait! For some other ridiculous reason, the police decide to show the girl's father the X-ray of his daughter's pelvis with the 7-inch knife all the way up her body. Seriously. I GET IT. Please stop showing me this stuff. I'm not saying it was unnecessary or anything, and at the end we find out why it is symbolic, but my lady parts hurt just thinking about it.

Traumatic female wounding aside, What Have You Done to Solange? is a pretty great giallo film. The plot definitely takes some more twists and turns than previous films I've seen, and it becomes more than just a simple murder mystery. Similar to something like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, the main character starts out wanting to solve the murders in order to clear himself from suspicion, but that changes when the circumstances become more personal. From the title, we all know that this has to do with someone named Solange. However, that name is not even mentioned until 1 hour and 15 minutes into the movie. It's a bit frustrating but effective in making sure that you keep watching until the very end to find out just what was done to Solange and what it has to do with the murders.

The plot feels very well paced, and there don't seem to be any scenes are actually aren't important to the next turn of the storyline. There is just the right amount of suspects and red herrings to keep the audience guessing, with new possible suspects and motives being revealed all the time as the mystery unfolded. The film is not terribly exciting in terms of action or suspense really, not even in the murder scenes, but I never minded that. I loved the characters and trying to figure out their secrets, and was never hoping for anything more than what I was given. The murder scenes are sometimes beautiful and very stylized in their execution, usually from the point of view of the killer and never really shows much of their body, so it could be either male or female. The film is bloodless in a beautiful way, able to show the brutality of each act without getting overly graphic. The female nudity - and there's quite a bit - also does not feel that graphic, but rather natural and normal for each situation that it shows up in.

Mostly what I was interested in with What Have You Done to Solange? was the character relationships, and the way they were handled. Most interesting, and somewhat baffling, was the marriage of Enrico and Herta. Enrico doesn't do that great of a job covering up his pervert affair with his student Elizabeth (he even has a sort of fuck pad for the two of them) and it all seems to be the wife's fault because she's introduced as a bitch from the start. Who knows, but to me it kinda sound like she had a reason to be that way. Then, after (spoiler alert) Elizabeth's death, Herta finds out that the girl was still a virgin and suddenly all is forgiven when it comes to Enrico, and the two of them spend the rest of the movie solving the mystery together. Yes, it is a very small relief that he never actually did the teenager, but let's not forget the scene where the two of them were obviously doing some naked sexy things with each other. Every marriage is different, but some things should not be forgiven so easily, I think.

Ah, another awesome giallo experience! There are still plenty more where What Have You Done to Solange? comes from, and though I've enjoyed all my giallos thus far, this is definitely not one to forget. It has wonderful acting from all involved, and a compelling story that makes sure that you stick around for the end. I just hope I never see another knife in a vagina again. Seriously...



Saturday, January 10, 2015

Movie Review: Retro Puppet Master (1999)

 
Though I've had to take a bit of a break from the Puppet Master series, I sure haven't forgotten about it. We have now arrived to film number seven, which means that there are still three more sequels to go (I think I'm going to forgo covering the crossover films, at least for now). I was sort of excited for Retro Puppet Master because, as the title and synopsis told me, the plot was going back in time again to focus on Toulon and his beginnings as the Puppet Master. It's not completely satisfying, though.

Back in Cairo, a sorcerer is being chased by followers of Sutekh because he has stolen the secret of life, he dispels of the bad guys and escapes to Paris, while Sutekh raises three mummies to chase him. In 1902 Paris, a young Andre Toulon is doing puppet shows at a local theater, and a pretty girl named Elsa (his future wife) becomes interested in him. Elsa and Toulon save the sorcerer from two goons, and as he lays dying, he teaches Toulon the secret of life.

Damnit, not this Sutekh bitch again. I thought we were done with him. I don't like this guy, not sure why, but at least there are none of those stupid little spiny demons this time around. I do like Toulon, even though he's younger and has an annoying accent and is not Guy Rolfe. Anywho, the movie is set up like a frame story where the older Toulon is still in hiding from the Nazis and he comes upon a piece from one of his older puppets, and starts to reminisce to Blade and the others about his beginnings.

One problem with this is that the method for bringing about life is entirely different from how previous films established it. There's no glowing green liquid that is injected into the puppets, but more of a ritual with a simple incantation and poof! Living puppets. This all actually makes way more sense for the secret's ancient Egyptian origins, actually, so this didn't really bother me. What did bother was kind of how pointless this movie was. I mean, we pretty knew all this stuff already, right? And what little details we didn't know don't end up being all that interesting so there was no point. Seeing Elsa and Toulon being all cute together was nice, though.

The action doesn't really pick up until the 45-minute mark, when the mummies come after the sorcerer and end up killing all of Toulon's puppeteers. After that, the film is sort of like Puppet Master 3, where Toulon - using the souls of his dead puppeteer friends to animate the retro puppets - goes all revenge-y on the Sutekh mummies. Their first encounter with them is not at all that exciting, though a little amusing because of how lame it is. And when the mummies have been defeated, Sutekh just raises them again anyway. Bullshit! It's not until they kidnap Elsa that Toulon finally gets rid of them in another terribly disappointing fight sequence - on a train of all places, too!

Oh, and those mummies - holy shit, are they annoying. First of all, they don't actually look like mummies, for those of you that might have been excited about that. They are disguised as just some regular dudes with suits, hats, and glasses and their voices have a strange reverb thing going on. Also, for some stupid ass reason, they all have to repeat each other's lines of dialogue whenever possible.

As for the retro versions of the puppets... eh, I didn't really like them. Puppets that get the retro treatment are Blade, Pinhead, Six Shooter, and two new ones, Dr. Death and Cyclops. Retro Tunneler is given the name of Drill Sergeant which is, I'm sorry, a WAY better name than Tunneler. The designs on all of them were cool, and I liked the subtle differences that were made. The retro versions might even be better designed than the modern versions of the puppets - but things just aren't the same. These puppets have the souls of different people and you can tell that they have different personalities than the previous films.

All in all, I was somehow more bored than usual with this installment. It's good, but feels a bit unnecessary most of the time. I don't like Sutekh. I think the last few films have to do with the Nazi involvement and that sounds so much more interesting. Here's hoping (as usual)!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Movie Review: Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (2014)

 
Oh my gosh gory goodness, you guys, I am not even done watching Dead Snow 2 yet and I am already so fucking in love with it, quite possibly even more than the first one. I knew this movie would deliver for me with the red stuff but not quite as high on the awesome scale as this. Okay, pee break is over, I gotta get back to the movie...

Oh, this is amazing. I never thought I would be able to use the "Nazi zombies in the snow" tag again. There's less snow this time around, but there's still the Nazi zombies and they are awesome. Dead Snow 2 picks up exactly where the first film left off. Martin thinks he's escaped the Nazi zombies after giving them the last piece of gold, but apparently this wasn't the army's only mission. Now Martin has recruited the Zombie Squad from America to help him stop Colonel Herzog and his army of dead soldiers.

I was a bit confused when I started the movie and heard English instead of Norwegian. Thinking I had something on the wrong setting, I went into the setup to change the audio, only to find out that there wasn't anything wrong. Apparently, scenes for the film were shot in both Norwegian and English. Though I'm never bothered by subtitles (and in fact use them for pretty much everything I watch) this is a cool option to have. I just wish I had been able to see the Norwegian version first because I like hearing the language.

But of course it wasn't the language I was really looking forward to in Dead Snow 2. The sequel is in the same vein as the first film in that it is an outrageous zom-com that more than delivers in both genres. These kinds of movies always seem to come to me at just the right times, when I really need something good and gory to rediscover my love for these types of movies. I love the way the movie came up with some new stuff for the zombie genre. After being bitten by the zombies in the first film, Martin cuts his own arm off with a chain saw. In the ensuing car chase during Martin's escape, the zombie Herzog loses his arm as well. But the doctors at the hospital and the Nazi zombie doctor switch the two arms and Martin ends up with Herzog's arm, Herzog with Martin's. In addition, Herzog as the leader is able to create new zombies under his control to make his army bigger, and Martin also gains this power when he gets Herzog's arm.

Did they really come up with a whole new genre, as the Zombie Squad leader suggests? Not really. As the character himself says, the idea of a master controlling the zombies he creates is more along the lines of the voodoo version of a zombie, so this is not exactly that original. But this plot point brings about a great turn of events in the story when Martin uses his power to resurrect a buried Russian army to fight the Nazi zombies. I don't think I've ever seen a full-on zombie vs. zombie fight before, has this been done before? Who cares, it was bitchin'.

With Dead Snow 2, the gore and the gags go hand-in-hand in some of the craziest ways possible. I found myself laughing out loud many times at the over-the-top gore, sometimes out of shock of what I was seeing. The wonderful and the horrible thing about the carnage in Dead Snow 2 is that nobody is safe from the zombies. There are many on-screen deaths of not just random innocent people, but several children as well. Babies! Babies are blown up in this movie! In a scene at the hospital, Martin's zombie arm throws a 12-year-old boy out the window and then crushes his chest while trying to resuscitate him. And goshdarnit, it was funny! They got away with it! There are so many amazing gore gags in Dead Snow 2 that I'd be hard-pressed to remember them all - intestine-pulling, head-exploding, random bludgeoning with various instruments... I was almost on gore overload and I loved it.

I'm not sold on the ending, though it was strangely cute and nice. It slogged down the great tone the movie had set up for itself in the beginning. But one bad ending doesn't disparage the rest of a movie. Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead is a delightfully gory picture that I have been waiting five years to see. It's always awesome when a sequel more than lives up to the expectations from the original, and this couldn't be more true for this film.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Some Stuff I've Been Writing at WickedHorror.com

It's been a bit difficult juggling my writing duties for Wicked Horror and my blog lately! Even though I've noticed the lack of interest in my blog over the last few months, I'm still going to keep trucking and try to make it something that you all will want to read again.

All of the writers at Wicked Horror are putting out some great articles every week, and it has given me the opportunity (and the challenge) of coming up with and writing about topics that are not just straightforward reviews, although I have done a few of those over there. So for anyone that might be interested, here are some links to the articles I've published at Wicked Horror!

Noteworthy Performances in Horror: Piper Laurie in Carrie - AHHHHOHMYGOD Piper Laurie is the best ever! I have two favorite all-time performances in film - Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear, and Piper Laurie in Carrie. In this article, I finally get to show my love for this deserving lady!

How Final Destination 2 Outdid the Original in Almost Every Way - Oh yeah, sometimes sequels are BETTER than the originals. I said it. FD2 is a great example of this.

Defining the Creature Feature and Its Importance to the Horror Genre - This is something that's been banging around in my head for a long time and I love the way the article turned out.

Why Hostel Part II is More Appealing to Female Horror Fans Than the Original - This was going to just be an article on how Hostel Part II is better than the original (like the FD2 piece) but I discovered while writing that the real reason I liked the film more was because it was more appealing to me as a female horror fan.

Noteworthy Heroines of Horror: Kyle from Child's Play 2 - The new recurring feature I'm working on, highlighting some of my favorite horror heroines - those that are usually forgotten or otherwise unsung.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Movie Review: Housebound (2014)

 
The good word of a few fellow and respected horror fans was all I needed to make sure that the movie Housebound would be on my radar. People's year-end best-of lists are popping up (something that I have never, ever been able to do because I suck and don't watch this year's movies until next year) and I've seen Housebound on more than one of them. Does it deserve to be on those lists? Yes. Yes, it does.

After getting pinched for robbery, Kylie is sentenced to house arrest and forced to move back into her childhood home with her mother, Miriam. The two have an antagonistic relationship, which becomes even more strained when Kylie finds out that her mother thinks that the house is haunted. But when Kylie herself starts to experience strange occurrences in the large house, she soon believes that her mother is right.

That description is merely a rough sketch of what Housebound has to offer viewers. The film is really so much more - a beautiful combination of comedy and horror that gives fans exactly what they want on both ends of the spectrum. I had almost forgotten how funny ghost movies could be, and Housebound gave me what I feel like I have been missing recently. Despite the film's somewhat longish runtime, I hardly noticed it. I was completely intrigued the whole time, as the movie took me around every turn in the plot. Indeed, when you first start Housebound, you are probably never going to guess where the movie ends up by the conclusion.

When Kylie and the other characters are still in the discovery phase of the story, the movie keeps the perfect balance of horror and comedy. There are some really nice jump moments (Jesus under the sheet definitely got my heart beating a little faster), but there are also some well orchestrated sequences mixed in with them. I especially loved the inclusion of the Teddy Ruxpin-like toy bear, which serves as something that is both insanely creepy and completely ridiculous at the same time. Towards the end of the film, when the action picks up, the tone is much more heavily on the comedy side. There is a lot of situational comedy moments in this part, which detracts a bit more than it should from the actual horror of the situation. It almost becomes a farce, but pulls back from that at just the right second most of the time to give the audience another scare. The ending is unexpected and gleefully welcome after the mostly bloodless rest of the film.

Most of Housebound's comedy during the meat of the story come from the characters. Lead girl Kylie, played by Morgana O'Reilly, is the perfect angry, punk young girl with a sarcastic and biting mouth that she's not afraid to use on her mother or the cops. Her mother (Rima Te Wiata) was equally interesting and hilarious - her attitude reminded me a bit of Shaun's mom from Shaun of the Dead actually. Amos, the security guard in charge of monitoring Kylie's ankle bracelet, is an adorable, sweet goof who spends much of the movie bumbling around and you can't help but love him.

The setting in Housebound becomes important as the story goes on, and they did a wonderful job dressing this big, isolated house. I always love when it really looks like someone has been living in a house for 20 years like the film says, with all the useless junk in the drawers, cabinets, and cupboards. Basements are of course always scary, and stone basements are even worse. The one in this film was perfect for being creepy and mysterious, with all the walls and corners available for something to appear around, not to mention all the miscellaneous bric-a-brac that could jump out at our characters (Jesus under the sheet... SERIOUSLY).

So if you've seen the movie Housebound mentioned a lot lately as one of the best horror films of 2014, I would tell you that that's a very fair assessment. As the first horror film I watched in 2015, I really couldn't have asked for anything better. It is beyond words awesome with its beautiful filming, dead-on acting, and perfectly planned plot twists. See this one soon.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Movie Review: Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)

 
Apparently taking a cue from another famous horror film franchise that claimed to have a "final chapter," this sixth Puppet Master film, Curse of the Puppet Master, may have brought the series back to life but it really didn't do a good job of it. Once again, I'm left hoping that there are still better things to come.

Andre Toulon's puppets have a new master named Dr. Magrew, who owns runs a roadside attraction called Magrew's Marvels (Wikipedia says it's the House of Marvels, but the sign totally says Magrew's Marvels so I'm just going with that) with his daughter Jane. After finding out that a local boy named Robert has a gift for woodcarving, Magrew hires him to help him create a puppet of his own - one that he will try to bring to life just like Toulon's puppets.

Looking back, Curse of the Puppet Master isn't really all that bad - it just has a much different feel from the rest of the films, and at times feels a bit out of place from the series as a whole. Magrew became the new puppet master by accident basically when he purchased Blade and Co. from an auction. And it becomes pretty clear as the movie goes on that he is not really a worthy master, as his intentions are much more sinister than just showing the puppets off as sideshow freaks for profit. Jane also seems to love and care for the puppets, especially Pinhead, but at times she treats and talks to them like pets rather than the people they actually are. It was a little annoying sometimes.

Robert, nicknamed "Tank" because of his size, is a bit like Lennie from Of Mice and Men - he's far too trusting of others, and simple-minded, but physically strong. This becomes important when he and Jane have to deal with the requisite band of town hooligans who threaten them because they have nothing better to do with their lives. In turn, Magrew has to deal with the local asshole sheriff who is just beyond annoying with his smug demeanor. So when you know that Puppet Master movies don't usually have that many deaths, you can at least count on the fact that jackholes like this will probably be on that short list.

And indeed, Curse of the Puppet Master has one of the best kills scenes of the franchise thus far. Hooligan crew leader Joey (who gets extra hatred points by threatening to rape Jane) is working out his buff bod on the bench press when Magrew sends Blade and Tunneler in after him. Aww, yeah. After listening to Joey talk smack to absolutely nobody, Blade shuts him up by slashing at this face, and then Tunneler of course does his tunneling thing - STRAIGHT INTO JOEY'S CROTCH. Fantastic. Later on, Blade and Jester team up to slash the shit out of the sheriff's face, which is also pretty fantastic, and Tunneler takes care of that other cop guy who isn't important enough for a name.

Curse of the Puppet Master actually manages to get pretty dark at times. The movie opens with Magrew apologizing to the puppets and saying something to them about how it'll be different next time, and then he's taking a cage covered in cloth to the woods and burning it - and faint screams of pain can be heard from the cage. Hmmmm. The dreams that Robert has where parts of his body have been replaced by wooden puppet parts are also clues as to what is going on. Well, it seems that Magrew is trying the whole "putting a human soul into the puppets to give them life" thing but he really sucks at it. The little guy in the cage at the beginning was Magrew's old assistant Matt and apparently his puppet transformation didn't go so well. It's pretty horrific when daughter Jane finally figures out what daddy is up to and finds the half-burned doll body in the woods - and the poor guy is still alive in there and obviously in a lot of pain. Then the ending gets all kinds of messed with Robert and Magrew... damn, Puppet Master. You're not supposed to end movies like that.

The story in Curse of the Puppet Master (WTF, that title doesn't even really make that much sense) is an okay one, but it's too individualized, and works mostly as a stand-alone film than one that is really a part of the series. The next Puppet Master takes us back to near the beginning... can't wait!