Monday, August 3, 2015

Looking to a More Positive Future...

I know I always apologize for my extended absences from this blog, but this is going to be much more than an apology, and it is going to be the longest and most personal thing I think I have ever written here. The easiest excuse or reason I have for not updating in the past few weeks is that I had a lot of other writing projects going on simultaneously. They all had deadlines or needed to be posted as soon as possible - one of them was also a book review, so you know, I had to actually take time to read the dang book. Nothing on my blog is really timely, I just do it because I enjoy it and it gives me a chance to talk about movies in my own way, but since I don't technically have to update this thing every day or whatever, it often gets thrown to the side while I do other stuff or indulge in various obsessions.

But something has been changing in me over the last few months that has been making me very nervous, and I guess more cautious, about what I put on this blog. I almost feel like a totally different person, or at least one with a much better attitude and point of view on a lot of things. But let me start at the beginning really...

Screencap of the first thing I wrote for Wicked Horror

This year so far has honestly been one of the best years of my life. For one, by the time 2015 rolled around, I had already been writing for a few months at my new horror home on the web, Wicked Horror. We're not quite on the level of Dread Central or Bloody Disgusting just yet, but hopefully we're getting there and hopefully a lot of people are enjoying the content we're putting out. I know that I have really enjoyed writing all of the articles that I have had published on WH, and my managing editor, Tyler, has been so incredibly encouraging and helpful to me, and I cannot thank him enough. The professional and friendly relationship I've made with him and one of the other writers on the site have definitely helped me grow as a writer, and also as a person. I'm very grateful for all of the opportunities that I have had so far working on that site, and I know it's going to lead to bigger and better things in the future. Recently, I did my first interview with somebody who played several roles on my favorite TV show of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and you can imagine what a surreal and amazing experience that was. I also just made the call today to inquire about doing my second interview with somebody that I am incredibly excited and nervous about talking to if the interview happens.

Then in April of this year, I turned 30. Now, as my birthday was approaching, friends and family were all like "Oh, you're turning 30, hitting the big one, getting old" blah blah blah. But I wasn't feeling like that at all. I was excited to turn 30 and to put all the aimless wandering of my 20s behind me. Because for the first time in my life, I felt like I was heading in the right direction of what I wanted to do with my life and the kind of person that I wanted to be. I had spent my whole life thinking that I wanted to be one thing (a writer), then I had gone to college and found this other thing (filmmaking), pursued that, got kicked in the gut once, failed a couple times, and now I'm back to pursuing that thing that I said I wanted to do when I was a child - writing. And I was focused on that and fucking determined to do that, and I still am and I am doing my best to never, ever lose that determination.

Also, my family finally picked up on how important all this horror shit is to me and they threw me an awesome zombie-themed birthday party. Thank you for that!

A couple weeks after my birthday was Texas Frightmare Weekend, the one horror convention that I go to every year. Usually the time leading up to the convention is just full of excitement and jitters, but this year was different because I was sick as a dog for the week and a half just before the convention. I wasn't watching horror movies to get myself psyched, I just wanted to sleep and I didn't have the strength or the energy to remember that this was going to be the best time of my year, you know? I finally figured out that I had a nasty sinus infection and got some drugs, and the day before I left for Texas was when I finally felt like a normal human being again. Even when I was travelling to the convention it didn't seem real, because I wasn't mentally prepared. When I arrived at the hotel and saw some of my "people" there and saw the hotel staff wearing Frightmare t-shirts, it hit me hard. I was back. I was home. So then I went to the convention and of course it was fucking awesome as hell. I saw some great movies, bought some sweet swag, and of course, met some singularly amazing people - Brad Dourif, Alex Vincent, AJ Bowen, Don Coscarelli, not to mention all the other vendors, authors, and fellow attendees that I met and talked to and had wonderful conversations with. It was the best convention experience I've had so far.

But after three days it all comes to an end, and maybe some of you have had this same feeling, but those couple of weeks after a convention are a weird time. You're still flying on the high of all the cool things you got to see and do - but at the same time you're SO FUCKING DEPRESSED that it's over and you have to go back to real life. Seriously, how do they expect us to get over being surrounded by all the stuff that we love for an entire three days and then go back home where we have none of that??? But on the flip side of all this, being that depressed over it made me realize just how much I really do love this world of horror and the community for it that exists. Most importantly, I realized how much I never want to let it go. I have to be involved in horror somehow, and being a real horror journalist would satisfy all that just fine.

So while all this determination and hope was rattling around in my head, I discovered something else that hit me with an emotional wrecking ball. At the convention, the people from Killer POV recorded a live podcast, so I was all, Oh, I'm going to listen to that when I get home. I had never been a podcast person before, but had guested on few of them by this time, and listening to this particular episode of Killer POV (with my man AJ Bowen as a guest host) definitely piqued my curiosity about them more. After some web surfing, I stumbled upon The Movie Crypt podcast with Adam Green and Joe Lynch. I wasn't as familiar with Lynch, but of course I knew Adam because I completely love Frozen and all of the Hatchet movies, so I went to iTunes to check it out. What immediately caught my attention when first looking through their feed was the episode where they had Leigh Whannell as a guest. I LOVE LEIGH WHANNELL. So I honestly listened to that podcast just for him (and he's awesome, by the way, it's a great episode), but perhaps moreso, I found myself falling in love with Adam and Joe. I loved their enthusiasm and their fun personalities, so I knew I had to hear more about what these guys had to say. By that time (May of this year), they were already on episode 105 or something, so I began the daunting task of going all the way back to the beginning to episode 1 and listening to every single minute of the podcast, which averages about 2 hours for each episode, sometimes longer. I've still yet to listen to four episodes because they are all film commentaries and I didn't have access to the films at the time to watch it along with the podcast, but yeah. That was A LOT of The Movie Crypt for those two months where I would listen to as much of it as I could almost every day to get caught up, because they were still putting out new episodes every Monday.

I can hardly put into words how much this podcast has affected me. Even just writing that sentence, I had to stop for a good ten minutes to think about what I was going to say. The Movie Crypt contains quite possibly the most inspiring and heartfelt words I have ever heard about what it's like to have big dreams and the struggle to make them a reality. Sure, I've laughed and had fun listening to stories about some of my favorite movies from some of my favorite filmmakers and actors, but goddamn. I have cried so many times listening to this podcast. There was one time that I was listening to it while I was in my living room working out. It was the episode with Pat Healy, who is not only an amazing actor but an amazing human, and something he said really fucked me up in a good way. Pat still has a wonderful outlook on the world despite the cruel hardships he has endured in his career and life. I already had tears in my eyes just from the overall emotion of the episode - not just from Pat, but from Adam and Joe, as well - but then Pat said, in a dead serious and sincere tone, that things will get bad. Things will always get bad, but they will always get better, and quite often they will end up turning out better than before, and you just have to hang on to that hope that it will get better. I was listening to him saying this and really thinking about it in terms of my own situation, and my own past experiences, and where I was and where I wanted to go... and out of almost nowhere, I started SOBBING. Not just tears in my eyes, but full-on sobbing. I had to stop working out, I had to pause the podcast, and I had to just sit there and cry for a few minutes. I cried because I felt frustrated, hopeful, depressed, and determined all at the same time, though that doesn't really sound possible. And it felt awesome to get that out. All the happy tears and sad tears that I've shed over the 200+ hours of listening to The Movie Crypt have been wonderfully needed, and all the words of inspiration have more than fueled my fire to continue pursuing what I want to do.

When I first started listening to the podcast, I had not seen the horror sitcom Adam created, Holliston, yet because I was one of those people who did not have FEARNet when it was still on the air. I of course had heard about because it was Adam Green and because it was a horror sitcom - a horror sitcom, how weird is that, right? But because I didn't get to see it, I eventually just forgot about it. The Movie Crypt was originally created for Adam and Joe to help promote Holliston so the first batch of episodes are pretty Holliston-heavy. I realized I finally had to see it, and ordered the Blu-Rays from Adam's website, (I include the website because you should go there and buy shit), and settled in for an experience I knew I was going to love. Just like with The Movie Crypt, Holliston affected me on a level that I was not expecting at all. Any horror fan who has seen it hopefully appreciates the positive way that Adam portrays horror fans - that we are not gothic freaks sitting in a dark basement jerking off to bloody death scenes. We just talk about and enjoy horror movies in the same way that the guys at work talk about sports or whatever boring shit other people are into (sarcastic voice there, I'm not that big of a bitch). More importantly, though, we do also have hearts and feelings and emotions, and we feel them HARD. So, yeah, there were a lot more tears and feelings while I watched all of Holliston in two days.

(I'm avoiding saying too much about Holliston here because I think I'm going to do a series of reviews on each episode... We'll see...)

All of the things that Adam has created have been deeply personal to him, and he puts himself out there in a way that is so rare for anybody in the entertainment industry. He makes himself very accessible to his fans, and acknowledges how much he loves and appreciates them whenever he can. The personal things he has admitted to and talked about on the podcast are all about him being real and honest, not only because it is probably like therapy for him, but also maybe because he realizes that him saying it, being the public figure that he is, that somebody else will hear it and relate to and hopefully be helped by it. The number of guests that have done the same thing - Darren Bousman, Travis Stevens, Kane Hodder - have also been immensely helpful to me personally, often telling me exactly what I needed to hear, exactly when I needed to hear it.

Maybe you're wondering what is the point of me telling you all this, if anybody is actually still reading. Basically, I feel like I have a totally new outlook now. I've always been aware of the certain amount of negativity that exists in the horror genre - all the trends that everyone is sick of, what is considered "good," what is even considered horror to some people - and I suddenly realized that I'm just over it. I think back on all the snarky things I probably said in my reviews, and I don't want to be like that anymore. I don't want to read about negativity, and I definitely don't want to contribute to it. I've always felt like even my reviews of movies I didn't like were still pretty fair, because it has always been really hard for me to write a bad review (Project Terrible perhaps being the one exception because the movies we talk about there are usually well known and loved because they are bad). People made that thing, and maybe it was the most important thing in the world to them. I know they'll understand that some people may not like it, but there is no reason for them to read anything truly scathing or mean-spirited. That's why I always try to write my reviews in a way where it is very clear that this is what I, and I alone, thought of the movie, and that I'm not making any definitive statements about it. I'll really talk about and explain the things I may have a problem with, but again, hopefully not in a way that will offend or hurt anyone (although one comment on one review showed that I didn't do that very well that one time...), and then I'll try to focus on whatever positives I found with the movie. Or, if I see a movie and don't like it, I just won't talk about it. The Internet is a cesspool of douchebags who say whatever they fuck they want, things they would probably never say to someone's face. And for someone like me, a female horror fan living in the middle of the country, that one convention every year and the Internet is the only place I have to go to if I want to commiserate with other people about the thing I love - horror. And seeing as how horror really is a community made up of some of the nicest, most giving people I have ever met, why would we ever want to bring negativity into it? 

Now, I'm definitely not saying that nobody should ever voice their honest opinion or never write a negative review ever again, or that I'm not going to be as honest as I always have been in my reviews. That's actually the one thing that a lot of people have commented to me about why they like reading my reviews (which still surprises the hell out of me and freaks me out). But there is a respectful way to do that, and even then, I have never taken pleasure in it. Movies are subjective, and everyone has a different opinion about them, which can bring about great discussion, and that's what makes being a movie lover fun. But I am going to try to focus more on the positive than the negative, and revel in the things that I love rather than bitch and moan about the things I hate, because that is just exhausting, and talking about the things I love is way more fun. I've also found out that I want to be a real champion for movies and filmmakers from now on. I want to tell other people about and support the people whose work I enjoy because many of them really deserve it - and because if you support their work, guess what? That means that you just might get more of that work that you enjoy, and horror will continue to grow and expand.

Well, it's been a rant and a half here today, but all of this is something that I really needed to get out, and you fine readers are the recipients of it. I don't even know if I got across what I was trying to say. Basically, I'm more inspired now. I have a deeper appreciation and respect for people in the genre, and I want to start showing that more and supporting them more. I'm going to work harder to achieve my personal goals, and I'm going to have the same kind of excited, infectious attitude that I am drawn to in other people. Things can only get better.

Stay spooky you horror fiends!

- Michele

Friday, July 24, 2015

Some Great Releases from Arrow Video!

Oh, hell yes, I love how all these great movies are finally getting the proper Blu Ray/DVD treatment! I got some great news from MVD Entertainment Group a few days ago about one film in particular that I have been waiting to get my hands on - my favorite giallo film of all, Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key!!! Not only that, the film is being released in conjunction with Lucio Fulci's The Black Cat, seeing as how both films are based on the Poe story The Black Cat. WANT WANT WANT!!!

Here's the press released from MVD with all the important info:

Edgar Allan Poe's Black Cats: Two Adaptations by Sergio Martino & Lucio Fulci
Edgar Allan Poe's celebrated story The Black Cat has provided the inspiration for numerous films over the years. But few adaptations are as stylish as those offered up by the twin Italian titans of terror, Sergio Martino and Lucio Fulci.
In Martino's classic giallo Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, teacher Oliviero (Luigi Pistilli, A Bay of Blood) finds himself under suspicion for murder when one of his students - and mistress - is found brutally murdered. As more bodies start to pile up, the arrival of Oliviero's attractive niece (Edwige Fenech, Five Dolls for an August Moon, All the Colours of the Dark) brings with it complications of its own. 
In The Black Cat, from that "other" Godfather of Gore, Lucio Fulci (Zombie), Scotland Yard Inspector Gorley (David Warbeck, The Beyond) find himself summoned to a sleepy English village to investigate the recent murder of a young couple. With no obvious signs of entry at the murder scene, Gorley is forced to start considering the possibility that his suspect may not be human... 
Finally together on Blu-ray and in stunning new 2K restorations from the original camera negatives, fans can enjoy the double-dose of terror that is Edgar Allan Poe's Black Cats - Italian-style!
-Brand new 2K restorations of the films from the original camera negatives
-High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
-Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
-Newly translated subtitles for the Italian soundtracks
-Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtracks
-Brand new interview with director Sergio Martino
-Dolls of Flesh and Blood: The Gialli of Sergio Martino - a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring -Sergio Martino's unique contributions to the giallo genre
-Stephen Thrower, author of Beyond Terror - The Films of Lucio Fulci, on The Black Cat
-Reversible sleeves featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
-Limited Edition 80-page perfect-bound book featuring new writing on the films, Poe's original story and more, illustrated with archive stills and posters
-Much more to be announced!
Pre-order at Amazon: 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Short and Sweet: "The Darker Matter" (2015)

So this was an interesting video challenge from Vimeo where entrants had just one weekend to create a fake trailer for a web series that doesn't exist. Filmmakers Jon Kobryn and Davron Mananov won the challenge with "The Darker Matter," a trailer about charlatan ghost hunters who keep faking hauntings to keep their viewership up  - but is it all really fake? Dun dun DUN! This is a great short and, really, a great idea for an actual web series. The actors are likable enough to be real hosts and the production value is excellent! What do you guys think? Should "The Darker Matter" be a real web series and would you horror fiends watch it? Tell me in the comments!

The Darker Matter | Series Trailer from Jon Kobryn on Vimeo.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Movie Review: Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007)

Sometimes you've got to tell yourself to get your head out of your own ass. For years now, I have thought and spoken ill of Wrong Turn 2: Dead End for no other discernible reason than the fact that it was totally different from the first one. I've mentioned before that I've been listening to The Movie Crypt podcast (almost two months later and I'm FINALLY caught up on over 100 episodes), and one of the hosts of that show is Joe Lynch, the director of Wrong Turn 2. Every time he or Adam Green mentioned that movie on the podcast, I would cringe a little inside because I felt so bad for not liking it. But I honestly had not seen the whole movie in a long time, and after thoroughly loving Joe's latest output, Everly, I knew I would be visiting Wrong Turn 2 again to see if my mind had changed.

In the back country of West Virginia, a group of people enter the woods to film a reality television show about ultimate survival called "The Apocalypse." The contestants and crew soon find themselves in a real-life survival situation when they realize they've entered the territory of an inbred family of mutant cannibals who hunt and butcher humans like animals.

So after catching up with Wrong Turn 2 today, I've concluded that I'm an asshole. There was NO reason for me to hate this movie as much as I have. My initial aversion to it was based on my undying love for the first film, which was a solid, gory, serious film and one of the best horrors of the 2000s. And because of its respectability, when I first saw the sequel, I was really taken aback and almost angry at how quickly the series went the stupid comedy route. But it doesn't. At all. Wrong Turn 2 has a campy vibe reminiscent of 80s splatter films, but it never goes full comedy, and keeps a serious tone throughout.

The cast of characters is diverse, and though you can look at some of them as being cliché, most are very likable. There are the douchebags and jerks in characters like Jonesy and Michael - or as he likes to be called, "M" - and the bitches and stand-offish females like Elena and Amber. Mara, the skittish TV producer, is the red herring final girl who brings out the best in our real final girl, Nina. Henry Rollins plays the host of the reality show, Dale, and he's... well, he's Henry Rollins. Tough and intense, but with a lot of heart. Jake (played by someone with the awesome name of Texas Battle) is also one of the nice, good guys whom you are rooting for to survive. Nina is just the best, though. She starts out the film a little bitchy but grows into your favorite character. She's hot and tough and more than contributes to the demises of the mutants like an awesome final girl should.

The mutant family is an entirely new group from the ones that were introduced in the first Wrong Turn film, indicating that this is like a fucked-up extended family and that there are many more of them out there. The Stan Winston effects work on the mutants in the original really brought those characters to life, and helped differentiate between them. Here, the mutants all look pretty much the same, and their deformities are not nearly as extreme - just some cleft lips and bulbous facial tumors. They also actually speak in this movie, and there is more of a family dynamic with Ma and Pa Mutant and Brother and Sister Mutant, and apparently Three Finger is in here too but I didn't recognize him as easily. It's actually nice to see one other character return from the first film, and the slight expansion of his involvement with the mutants. All of the mutants are still disgusting and unrelentingly brutal in their kills, and that's really what we want to see with the Wrong Turn sequel.

The gore in Wrong Turn 2 is just great. I always remembered the film mostly for Kimberly Caldwell's death in the beginning where she gets split in half height-wise. Right off the bat this establishes the kind of movie this is going to be - maybe when I first saw it, I didn't have the same level of appreciation for these films like I unabashedly do now. There's a nasty mutant birthing scene, an even nastier mutant incest sex scene, and many other scenes that are just full of intestines and tons of blood and it's all awesome. The only disappointing thing is when certain characters die that you don't want to - like, how the hell can you kill Henry Rollins? Especially when he becomes the deus ex machina and saves Nina and Jake's lives? Ugh, that sucked. Really wanted Rollins to live. Otherwise, there are lots of nice deaths with arrows, knives, and of course the absolute best part at the end with the huge grinding machine thing - Wiki says it's a tree debarker, so that's cool. There's also dynamite. And people getting blown up with the dynamite. That's tits.

So hopefully this review serves as a good apology for any shit-talking I have done about Wrong Turn 2. It doesn't suck! It doesn't suck at all, and I don't know what I saw all those years ago that made me think that. Joe Lynch, I am so, so sorry. The movie is great, and I'm glad I gave it another chance, something I should have done a long while ago.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Movie Review: Hellraiser [V]: Inferno (2000)

Dudes, I really dig Craig Sheffer and I don't know why. Is it because he was in Nightbreed and that's awesome? Is it because he looks like David Boreanaz's long-lost brother? Whatever it is, I was really happy to see that he was in Hellraiser: Inferno, the fifth installment in the franchise. Inferno is a movie that seems to come way out of left field in the Hellraiser universe and still manages to work really, really well. It's definitely one of my favorite sequels so far, after the first one (the first sequel, that is, Hellraiser 2). Oh! Craig was also in a movie that I previously reviewed for Project Terrible - SyFy's Battledogs - and that was actually kinda awesome, so there's another reason to like him.

Detective Joseph Thorne (Sheffer) is a guy with a good heart, but bad habits. He avoids his family, cheats on his wife with prostitutes, and snorts coke. He comes upon the infamous puzzle box at a gruesome crime scene and when he unwittingly opens it like everyone else in this series does, he opens the door to a nightmarish world of crazy dream sequences and visits from otherworldly monsters, on top of several real-life murders for which he seems to be the prime suspect.

Like I said, Inferno is definitely the strangest of the Hellraiser movies so far, because it doesn't really feel like a part of the franchise's mythos directly. It has feelings of a movie like Seven, or just about any other movie about a grizzled city police detective who gets in too deep in the dark side of life and descends into madness. There are tie-ins to the universe of Hellraiser with the puzzle box, the Cenobites, and Pinhead, who sadly is only in the movie for a very short time close to the end. The tie-ins are loose but not exactly forced, because the movie is really only about Joseph, which is awesome and a great story. Pinhead, and Joseph's hellish experiences with the Cenobites, are used more as metaphors for the movie's underlying theme.

The filmmaking style from director Scott Derrickson, who also co-wrote the movie with Paul Harris Boardman, and who would go on to make kick-ass movies like The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister, is greatly appreciated for a movie like Inferno, because he had the perfect idea for what this movie should look and feel like. There are no big set pieces or action sequences, no amazingly elaborate deaths that Hellraiser has come to be known for - and that's all okay. After a short time, I was able to stop wondering where Pinhead was and just focus on what they were showing me, and enjoying the message they were trying to deliver.

And what they were trying to say with this movie was actually very well thought and poignant. The child's fingers that are found at each crime scene, the strange child's room that Joseph keeps visiting in his dreams, the child's voice calling out to him for help - the audience slowly finds out that that was all Joseph. The final set up where Joseph is confronted with Pinhead (who was disguising himself as a psychiatrist - kinda weird, but I'll go with it) reveals that this is all about him being in his own personal hell, where he is slowly cutting away at his soul, because of his life choices and the people he has hurt. I like that. I especially like how at the end, he actually doesn't get a second chance to change things. It harkens back to Joseph's conversation with his partner Tony earlier in the movie about palindromes - the movie ends the same way it begins, with Joseph still in the hell of the life he has created for himself.

Of course, one could argue with me that all of this sucks because this is not what Pinhead and the Cenobites do in the Hellraiser world. Joseph opened the box, but instead of killing him, they just decide to mess with him? And okay, Pinhead only wants to torture people who want it, but I would say that subconsciously or more likely consciously, Joseph felt that he did need to be punished for what he has done in life and he hates the person he has become. And that is what Pinhead uses to bring him to hell - his own personal hell. Because of this, it's not hard to say that Inferno is a really good movie, and not just a good movie "for a Hellraiser sequel."

I guess I could go on longer and talk about the acting, the effects (which are also really good), the filming style (which completely sells the movie), and those freaky sexy Wire Twin Cenobites and the Half-Chatterer, but the story is really the highlight of Hellraiser: Inferno and is what makes the movie successful to me and one of my favorites of the franchise so far. This is stepping up the game for the rest you Hellraiser sequels, so you better follow through!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Movie Review: All American Bully (2015)

I suppose in this day and age, I should consider myself lucky that I was never the victim of bullying when I was in school. I got along with everybody and was friends with people on both ends of the social spectrum, so to speak. I never even really witnessed any kind of bullying that I can remember, though I have no doubt that it occurred. This has become a very serious issue of late, and this film, All American Bully, takes a very respectful and smart approach to the issue.

Devon, Garrett, and Becky are three close high school friends who enjoy their own little world of video games and comic books. One day Devon is attacked by a bully, and when coaxed by Becky, reluctantly decides to fight back. But their plan for blackmail goes downhill immediately, and finally culminates in a series of violent events where it's hard to tell who is the real victim.

All American Bully was presented to me as a film with a rare appearance by Adrienne King, the famous final girl from Friday the 13th. She plays the high school principal with some personal issues that prevent her from being totally sympathetic to our main characters, and she does a fine job with the role. However, it is a small role that isn't fully fleshed out, so while it's nice to see her in this movie and supporting an indie like this, she's not really the biggest selling point of the film. The story ends up shining a lot more than I expected it to, and went to far more serious places than I saw it going.

I would say that the most important component to a story like this is the characters. All American Bully checks this box on both sides of the issue: the victim and the bully. The victim, Devon, is a kid that I probably would have hung out with in high school. He has close friends but is still very shy and insecure, which partly stems from the non-support that he gets from his father. Devon's father thinks he is helping Devon by suggesting he be a little more "normal" and go out for sports. He knows that being into video games and comic books will bring his son ridicule, and I truly believe that he was just trying to protect his feelings, but that kind of advice never helps. At all.

Another person who tries to be helpful but really is not at all when you think about it is that one sympathetic teacher, Mr. Taylor. He is nice and encouraging to Devon about his artwork. But I still have a problem with his character. He keeps telling Devon to stand up and fight back, maybe not physically, but be smart about it and don't let them get to you. Sounds like sage advice. But my problem with this whole type of situation is the chastising of the victim and not so much the bully or bullies. Sure, he yells at the class when they laugh at Devon and punishes them with a pop quiz. Seriously, fuck that. Instead of teaching victims to stand up for themselves, why not teach bullies NOT TO BULLY? There are also some bad vibes between Taylor and the principal, too, and I was a bit disappointed that this wasn't explored further than it could have been.

Devon and those closest to him, especially Becky, are innocent victims in more ways than one when it comes to the bully of the movie, John. I love what the filmmakers did with this character. John is not your typical one-dimensional high school jock who bullies the nerd just because he can. There is a deep, dark story behind John's tough demeanor, and he and Devon were actually friends when they were younger. Becky uses something from this old friendship to get back at John for beating up Devon, even though Devon is incredibly reluctant to blackmail him. This was another thing that I liked, where even the victim of the bullying had some reservations about why the bully was taking out his anger on somebody else. And though John does some completely reprehensible things in the movie, there is still that side of you that understands that he is a victim, too.

Speaking of completely reprehensible acts, we do need to talk about something there. To spoil everything that I just alluded to in the previous paragraph, John was sexually abused by his mother. He admits that (it's a secret that he's never shared - not the thing that Becky and Devon try to use to blackmail him), and then is goaded into raping Becky to prove that he is not a "momma's boy." The rape scene is tough and brutal and in-your-face real, especially because of the way it was shot. It's hard to watch, and goes on way longer than some people might be able to handle, but it is that penultimate moment where everything becomes very real and very serious. It makes you realize that none of the stuff that happens in this movie, or any movie like it, should be taken lightly because this is what can (and does) happen.

All American Bully is a movie with a good story, and well-developed characters with their well-developed backstories that actually has something interesting and poignant to say about the topic of bullying.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Project Terrible: 2012: Doomsday (2008)

This is it, folks, my last Project Terrible movie for this round of badness! I was actually inspired to choose Natural Disaster films for my picks from the other bloggers after watching Into the Storm recently and being massively disappointed. It was Twister kicked up ten notches, but with not as good a story or characters which is what really brought it down. But I thought for sure that there had to be tons of other movie about natural disasters that were way worse. This movie was assigned to me by the newest addition to our PT family, Christian who runs the blog A Life in 24 fps (cool title, by the way). Welcome to the fold, Christian!

My mind hit a blank wall trying to write my own synopsis for the movie, so I'm just going to steal the one written by Faith Films (SHIT, why didn't I pay more attention to that when I first watched it? I could've figured out much faster where the movie was going). Anyway, this is what the movie is about: On December 21, 2012 four strangers on a journey of faith are drawn to an ancient temple in the heart of Mexico. For the Mayans it is the last recorded day. For NASA scientists it is a cataclysmic polar shift. For the rest of us, it is Doomsday.

So I was a little excited for 2012: Doomsday at first because Dale Midkiff's name popped up in the opening credits. Midkiff, as some of you may know, was Louis Creed in one of the greatest movies ever, Pet Sematary, and I LOVE that dude and wish I could see him in a lot more stuff besides one random Lifetime movie years ago. He doesn't exactly help 2012: Doomsday all that much, but it's not his fault at all. Ami Dolenz, whom I really liked in Witchboard 2, goes a bit downhill here. Her performance is a touch forced and exaggerated, and not sympathetic enough. Under different circumstances, maybe this movie could have been good.

The main problem with Doomsday is that the movie does not give the story enough room to breathe. Every plot point comes along one right after the other - boom, boom, boom, boom. Character introductions are quick and barely scratch the surface of who these people are other than their relation to the immediate plot. How then are we supposed to believe or go along with the fact that all of these people are somehow drawn to this Chichen-Itza temple and go there for no reason? Of course, the whole mythos of the story is religious in nature, but all of our characters come from different backgrounds of belief. Sarah is a missionary working in Mexico, Susan is a stout non-believing EMT, Lloyd (Cliff De Young) is a scientist, etc. At one point, the religious shit gets really wacky and comes completely out of nowhere when Susan and Lloyd are helped in their journey to Chichen-Itza by guardian angels or some crap.

A couple other things are a bit annoying. All of our characters start off the film in different parts of the world, and we are informed of this by that overused, typewriter-style, location-identifying text on the bottom of the screen. Normally, a movie would just need to do this once or twice for the audience to remember where everyone is. Oh, but not Doomsday. Every single time the scene changes to a different character, that fucking text pops up. And with it there has to be a countdown to "Doomsday" even though there is not a palpable enough threat from the environment to make this seem all that important. Sure, there are earthquakes and a couple people get killed (one by a giant ball of hail that impales him in the chest through a car window - supposed to be heart-breaking but ends up being HILARIOUS) but nothing really that screams DOOMSDAY IS UPON US, you know?

2012: Doomsday is too much driven by plot and not character like it should be. Dialogue is weak and not performed to the best of these actors' abilities, who are basically just phoning in their performances for the paycheck. The small amount of special effects are rocky and not worth the wait if that's what you're looking for to keep you interested in the movie.

Natural Disasters might not be fun in real life, but they can sure be a hoot when they are the main focus of a bad b-movie. It's been fun, Project Terrible! See you next round!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Project Terrible: Meteor Apocalypse (2010)

I'm almost inclined to give Meteor Apocalypse a bad review just because the way the title and the cover lied to me. Look at that poster! Looks kind of awesome right? Not so much. Meteor Apocalypse is my first non-snow-related Project Terrible movie, and it was assigned to me Maynard of Maynard's Horror Movie Diary.

The movie opens with all the nuclear warheads in the world heading toward a giant meteor slowly approaching Earth. They blast the shit out of it, but somehow screw that up and now all these tiny meteors are going to crash into us instead. But that's not even the real problem - the meteor pieces fall into bodies of water and contaminate the water supply in the area, causing seizures and death. The movie follows a man on a journey from Las Vegas to Los Angeles in search of his wife and daughter who were taken during a quarantine.

So Meteor Apocalypse is honestly not that bad. It sure as hell was not what I was expecting it to be based on the title. "Meteor Apocalypse." You would think that the movie would be all action-heavy, full of big, falling space rocks causing all kinds of fire and explosions and shit, right? Well, you would only be partly right. Like 10% right. That's about as much action as you're going to find here, because they chose the "post-apocalyptic" feel for this story, making it a bit more subdued and serious. And boring. And disappointing. But still not really bad. It's a competent film with okay actors and characters, but the story is too mapped out and clichéd. You've seen all this before.

Our main character is David, who gets separated from his wife Kate and 12-year-old daughter Allison. Allison unfortunately ingested the contaminated water, so there's that plot point. David is also afraid of heights - also a plot point. Somewhere along the way in David avoiding the authorities and wandering around the desert, he comes upon this hot chick named Lynn who also drank the bad water. He saves her, and the two of them spend the rest of the movie getting into trouble together while looking for Kate and Allison. At the same time, some head honchos in Washington D.C. do... some stuff. I didn't really see the point of this whole side plot so that's all I'm going to say about that.

It's really kind of weird to me that someone would have a movie called Meteor Apocalypse, and then have the meteors not be the main threat in the film. Granted, the meteors are the thing that cause the sickness from the water that actually is the main threat in the film, but it's still unexpected and doesn't make for a very exciting night with the movies. I started to really sick of bottled water while watching this. Seeing as how our two mains spend a lot of the movie wandering in the desert on foot (how the fuck they know where they're going is anybody's guess), they always need clean water. They're always thirsty. Always looking for water. Oh, a water bottle! Happy day! There's even a scene where they get in the middle of firefight with two criminals and two FBI agents, right next to a box truck full of bottled water. It's fate! The universe wants them to succeed.

Which, of course, they do. You know the ending way before the movie gets us there. David will randomly run into his wife and daughter; his daughter will be almost dead (remember, she drank the bad water); but David will be able to use his last vial of the antidote (yeah, somewhere along the way he and Lynn find his friend who has the antidote and he takes two doses) and save her, and then right after that, the whole family will be rescued. And that's exactly what happens. Well, what I didn't really see coming was Lynn dying - SPOILER - but I think she kind of needed to die because she was starting to become a homewrecker.

Technically, "Meteor Apocalypse" is a totally appropriate title for this movie - because the meteors sort of start a mini-apocalypse... well maybe calling it an "apocalypse" already is jumping the gun but anyway - but it really does make you think that you are going to be watching a completely different movie than what you end up with. Yes, there are some bad effects shots of fiery meteor balls hurtling dangerously towards our characters (don't worry, they of course get out of the way JUST in time... usually) throughout the movie, but most of Meteor Apocalypse is character stuff. Which is a good thing! This is not a crappy Asylum movie with tongue firmly planted in cheek. It's well made and the characters are fine and the story works for the most part. So what's my last Natural Disaster movie? Another end of the world thing? Goody.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Project Terrible: 100 Below Zero (2013)

One of the characters in 100 Below Zero (I don't know how to get the degree symbol, I'm stupid and don't want to figure it out) has a line that he says twice over the course of the movie: "I don't engage in hyperbole." As the movie went on, I realized what a funny line this is, especially in a movie called 100 Below Zero that never once gets as exciting or exaggerated the title might imply. This is my second Project Terrible movie, and comes to me courtesy of Bob, who will be posting his reviews on Alec's site, Mondo Bizarro.

Brother and sister pair Ryan and Taryn are in Paris awaiting the arrival of their father, Steve, and his new girlfriend, Lacey, from England. Mother Nature makes that rendezvous a little difficult, though, when a series of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions around Europe causes a massive ash cloud to block out the sun. The temperatures drop and the snow starts falling, but the family doesn't give up on their task to be reunited.

So this is another Asylum movie. I feel bad having to preface a review with that statement again, but it is kinda needed. Actually, 100 Below Zero is not as bad as my previous PT film, Age of Ice. The biggest reason for this is that 100 Below Zero has a bit more tongue-in-cheek comedic moments, sometimes very subtle, that shows that the characters and actors know that they are in a ridiculous movie but don't seem to care and just go with it. And I appreciate that. The production value is still just like the same old Asylum, though slightly elevated this time around - they actually filmed in Paris! Also in Budapest, which is not Paris, but at least it's not some poorly reconstructed version of Paris on a soundstage in California.

The plot of 100 Below Zero is a lot less schizophrenic and makes a helluva lot more sense than Age of Ice did. They even add in a nice touch to the plot where this isn't just some freak occurrence that will go away soon - the new European ice age will only get worse over the next two years which is why our characters have to get out as soon as they can. There's even a time limit on them as Steve, an ex-Air Force pilot, gets in contact with one of his old war buddies who promises them a seat on a plane that is evacuating to Australia, and they have ten hours to get there. Our characters - mostly Ryan and Taryn - get into some pretty strange mishaps along the way. One of them is almost brained by soccer ball-sized hail; they are trapped in a collapsing building; one of them is electrocuted by elevator cables; someone pulls a gun on them; and they are mugged when some dudes take their bicycles.

The character dynamic in the movie is that Steve's wife, Taryn and Ryan's mother, has left him and Lacey is the new, younger model. Ryan's okay with it, but Taryn has reservations. Also, Steve and his military friend Dillard, have a deep history where Steve saved his life, but that history is kind of ruined when Dillard explains what happened. Something about how a plane they were flying ran into a flock of geese that got sucked in their engine - which is more hilarious than it is horrible. None of this character stuff really ends up affecting the plot at all, though, which was probably a good choice. It would have made the movie look like it was trying too hard to be serious, and that is definitely not the point of a movie like this. We are talking about a movie that at the end has an ice cyclone - WHATEVER THE FUCK THAT IS - destroy the Eiffel Tower and most of Paris. Oh! There's also a quick, almost throwaway part where a random character is introduced and then almost immediately killed by a large falling icicle. Huge laugh from that moment!

The really disappointing thing about 100 Below Zero is what I mentioned earlier, that the weather never gets as devastatingly bad as the title and DVD cover lead us to believe it will. The characters continuously say that things will definitely get worse and worse, which gives the plot some immediacy but at the same time distracts the viewer from the fact that all of this is just beginning and that it basically looks like a regular winter's day out there (the ice cyclone doesn't show up until the very end). Two of the female characters spend the movie running around in either a short sequined dressed or a skimpy t-shirt, so things can't really be that bad.

100 Below Zero isn't the greatest, but it is good brainless fun for an hour and a half, and that thankfully goes by pretty fast. Look for the only recognizable face in the cast - John Rhys-Davies a.k.a. Sallah from the Indiana Jones movies! Two more PT films to go now, and luckily no more with snow. I'm definitely over that plot device already.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Project Terrible: Age of Ice (2014)

Hello, my horror fiends, and welcome to another round of Project Terrible! This is the thing where a bunch of us bloggers get together and make each other watch and review terrible movies. This round is sorta special because we have new member joining us this time (Welcome, Christian!) and we're doing things a little different - each blogger chose a theme for what types of movies they wanted to receive this time. For instance, I chose films about Natural Disasters, because there's a good guarantee that there are a lot of bad ones out there. Alec from Mondo Bizarro gave me this gem called Age of Ice.

An American family is expecting to have an exciting (and hot) vacation visiting the pyramids of ancient Egypt. But Mother Nature has other plans in store for them when seismic activity somehow leads to a freak snowstorm with below freezing temperatures! Will the family make it to the extraction point before they freeze to death? Will this plot ever make sense???

So let me just say two words to begin my review: The Asylum. Many of you are probably now going, "Ohhhh, okay, I get what kind of movie this is now." And you're right. It's that kind of movie. It almost doesn't feel right to give this movie the Project Terrible review treatment because it's TOO FUCKING EASY. I seriously doubt Age of Ice was meant to be anything other than what it is, which is frustratingly bad. From the stilted acting and lack of real characters, to the implausible plot, to the fact that it never once looks at all like the characters are in Egypt... Age of Ice is a masterpiece, you guys.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around where all this snow in Egypt came from in the first place. They try to explain it a few times but it never really works, or I didn't care enough to really pay attention and comprehend it. Could be either one. There's even a great line from the character of the teenage daughter, Amber, where she says something like "Okay, so there's lava, and a cold front, and shifting plates..." and that's pretty much the whole explanation for the sudden winter storm in the desert. Oh, but it's only in certain circular areas around the Red Sea, and not at all near the beach where the characters end up at the conclusion, even though it only seems to be less than a mile away from where they previously were that was full of snow. Once again, it's The Asylum. Just go with it and don't hurt your head trying to make sense out of it. On the other hand, I'm not a weather person. This could all be totally plausible.

This is ANOTHER one of those movies where I have something to say about literally every scene. There's the increasing embarrassment of the actors as they pile on mismatched blankets, scarves, and clothing for warmth. The way the parents don't seem the least bit concerned when their young son falls off a moving train. The way the parents don't seem the least bit concerned when their young son falls hundreds of feet down the side of a pyramid. Yes, the son causes a lot of problems in the movie and is very annoying. So's the daughter. And the mom. And the dad. Everybody sucks. Back to the plot, though... There is just a ton of stuff to talk about. How does anybody know where the fuck they are or where they are going in this snow-covered landscape with no location markers? And don't tell me that it's because of the maps on their phone, because that is bullshit. What about that camel farm - yes, camel farm - that they stumble across? Or the random group of people that are nearby when their plane crashes? I'm actually quite amazed at this movie's writer and how he came up with all this stuff to fit into one movie.

Okay, I've got to move on from this. There are still three more movies to do and I know they are going to be just as bad as this one. Actually, a fun part about doing this review was Googling pictures for Age of Ice and coming up with all these adorable screenshots for Ice Age. Sort of softened the blow of the badness of watching the movie. Anyway, more Natural Disaster fun to come!