Saturday, February 25, 2012

Movie Review: Slaughter High (1986)

Slashers from the 80s are more than a little guilty of being way too formulaic and not doing a very good job at getting the formula right. A lot of them do work, though, either because they manage to add in a little something different and exciting to the formula, or because it's just so much fun to ridicule people in 80s movies. The hair is usually enough to get a chuckle out of me. Slaughter High seems like it's kind of trying to be different here, but um... it's really not.

Marty is your typical science nerd with glasses who can't go one day in high school without somebody tormenting him. A group of the popular kids decide to play the ultimate prank on poor Marty, who ends up burned, disfigured, and crazy as a result. Years later, the popular kids return to the school, now abandoned, for a little reunion. What they don't know is that Marty is their host - and this will be a reunion they may not survive.

Right at the beginning, the filmmakers do things all wrong. The prank is played out far too long, for one thing. It does allow the audience to get to know both Marty and the rather large group of friends that torture him lets us see how horrible and cruel their crime was, but we needed to see more scenes of them in the present rather than in the past. We need to see how these people have changed since high school, if at all. That way we can at least have some kind of sympathy for these douchebags. Alas, it seems that when they all get together again, these guys are still rather unlikable and they also don't seem to give a crap about what they did to Marty. Shocking, I know.

So anyway. Carol, Frank, Joe, Stella, Nancy, Skip, Shirley, and later Susan (seriously... too many characters there) show up at the old alma mater for the reunion and soon realize that they are the only ones there. They enter the cobwebby and dirty old building and eventually find a room that's all decked out for the party - complete with all their old lockers, holding an item that they each thought they had lost years ago. Marty's locker is there too. Hmmmm, I wonder what that means. Nothing about this situation seems to bother them - like why no one else was invited to the "reunion," or why a reunion would be held in the high school if it was abandoned in the first place.

The kills aren't that bad and there are a few inventive ones. The first guy gets it when he drinks a beer with acid in it and his stomach explodes outward. Shirley, the Asian chick, gets blood on her from this and when she decides to take a bath (um, a bathtub in a school? Sure. Why not?) and the water suddenly turns to acid too which proceeds to melt her body. She actually tries to turn off the water while still in the tub instead of like, trying to get out, which would have been my first thought. There's also death by lawnmower blades, drowning in a pit of what I can only guess to be poo, and an electrocution while Stella and Frank are enjoying some coitus on a bed in another room (um, a bed in a school? Sure. Why not?). Basically, they all die and you don't care because you don't like any of them and they do all kinds of stupid stuff, so really, they deserve it.

The one cool bit in Slaughter High was the choice of joker/jester mask and hat for Marty the killer. It's actually really freaky looking, and reminds me a bit of a clown, which we all know is the scariest thing on earth. But that's about all that Slaughter High has going for it. The characters are too unlikable and annoying - even Marty, whom we're supposed to have a bit of sympathy for, is just a frustrated dork who goes completely insane. The performances are even worse, with some of the most uninspiring dialogue and delivery I've heard in a long time. The camera work is sloppy and there were several scenes that were almost completely pitch black. Most reviews seem to hope that the prank sequence in the shower was pitch black too. Why do men always have a freak out when they see another man's weenie in a movie? I mean, every time I see boobs, do I go, "Oh gross, another chick's tits! Ew, get it off the screen!" No. You know why? Because I'm more mature than that. And because the human body is beautiful.

Believe it or not, this was a British movie trying to pass itself off as American. And in some places it doesn't translate well at all. All the events of the film take place on the eve of April Fool's Day, and the murders don't start until midnight on the morning on the holiday. Two characters have a conversation about how they only have to survive until noon on April Fool's Day because the jokes stop at noon. Huh? Since when? In America, we'll prank your ass all day, we don't stop at noon. But that seems to be the rule in several countries throughout the world, including the UK.

Anyway, lame movie. I'll check it off my list of culty 80s slasher movies, but it's not my favorite. It could have better if they tried harder - or if some of these guys took an acting class or two - because the story has real potential, although the whole prank-gone-wrong revenge story has been done a couple times before. Nice try. Do better next time.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Horror Short Review: Familiar (2011)

Oh my freaking goodness, I think I just had a goshdarn heart attack.

And if you ever get a chance to see this amazing horror short called Familiar, then I'm pretty sure that you will too. This was literally some of the best twenty minutes of filmmaking that I have seen in a while and I only wish that I had filmed myself watching it. I've always believed that the best horror films are the ones that make you have those unconscious physical reactions to what you are seeing, and hoo doggy, I reacted so hard to this thing that my heart is still palpitating a bit.

At the beginning of this short, the main character reminds me of a much darker version of Kevin Spacey's character from American Beauty. John Dodd's inner monologue is full of loathing for his monotonous and boring life, with a wife he doesn't love anymore and a daughter he can't wait to get rid of so he can have more freedom. But it's only after one life-altering conversation with his wife that John's inner voice suddenly changes to a voice that is not his, but somebody(thing?) else in his head talking to him. And then the fun starts.

Robert Nolan's portrayal of John is spectacular. He is subdued and almost non-expressive most of the time, but you can tell that there is a lot more going on behind the mask. The best performance of the piece, however, is the voiceover. The writing for this is excellent as well and at first sounds very normal and at times quite funny ("Oh, you're always on time? So are my bowel movements"). As the story progresses, the voice becomes more forceful and commanding, telling John how he should really feel about his wife's pregnancy and talking him into doing some pretty horrific things - like slipping pills into his wife's food to give her an abortion. After awhile the voice starts to sound almost inhuman with its level of craziness, and while John is able to resist it sometimes, it still holds a strong influence over him because deep down he apparently agrees with what it is telling him.

Now what I wasn't expecting here was some severe body horror images that freaked me the fuck out. John discovers one morning these weird bulges that almost look like little egg sacs growing out of his side. Anybody with a fear of death or disease (like me) will most definitely find this part disgusting and horrifying - the fact that something unknown is inside your body and is making freakish physical changes to it that you can't control. In Familiar, this situation only escalates further into John having to perform some hideous self-mutilation - another topic that people with a low tolerance for pain will find almost hard to stand.

The bulges on John's side disappear (all while the voice is telling him to leave it alone) and move down to his upper leg so naturally, John decides it will be a good idea to try to cut whatever is in there out. Using a box cutter, which also freaks me out because that is a tool that I use every day at work, John starts cutting into his leg and... well, I won't completely spoil it here, but let's just say that I almost wanted to cover my eyes and not see what was in there. Can you believe that?! This little horror short turned me into a total horror pussy. It was fantastic.

The special effects are Hollywood-level and quite impressive. Beautiful blood and makeup on John's bulges. The direction and editing are brilliant, and the performances were spot on. I'd also like to make a note about how much I liked the casting of Astrida Auza as John's wife because, and I don't want to sound mean here or anything, she is not particularly hot but rather normal looking, like the people I see every day. She was obviously chosen for her talent, and does a fantastic job.

Director Richard Powell really turned out something awesome here. Apparently this short was actually a sequel to another short film he made called Worm, which is not as graphic but stars John Dodd's brother, Geoffrey, as a man who also has a voice in his head. Would really love to get a look at that one too if it's possible. This is a filmmaker with some real talent who will no doubt bring us more horrific stories to enjoy in the future.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Project Terrible: Evil Weed (2009)

So far I have been lucky this Project Terrible round, and the creator of this whole mess, Mondo Bizarro, may have thought he was torturing me here with Evil Weed - and really, how could he not, given the movie's premise? - but this movie was a huge surprise in how not bad it was. In fact, the movie was not bad enough. Read on to find out what I mean...

A group of rich snobs from the city drive out to a friend's secluded vacation home for the weekend. The boyfriend of one girl brings some wicked bad dope to the party, not knowing that it has somehow been "tainted" in the farm where it was growing in Mexico. Now the weird reactions from the mary jane are turning the group into something definitely not human with the need to kill.

Evil Weed gets the award for being the first movie that I've ever wanted to be worse than it actually was. Seriously, this movie would have been so much better - and frankly a lot more fun - if it just sucked a little more, or was a little more stupid and campy. I mean, what do you expect a movie called Evil Weed to be like? Shitty acting, horrible dialogue, a bad plot, and gore effects with nothing but ketchup and trick knives, right? But in reality, Evil Weed doesn't really have any of these and it's a shame.

Project Terrible movies or those so-bad-it's-good movies are supposed to be fun to make fun of. So I was looking forward to a bunch of slacker dopeheads acting like complete idiots while they deliver the most ridiculous lines of dialogue you've ever heard. Instead, the unknown actors in this piece (some with 10 dollar names like Genevieve Hudson-Price) seem to have really taken this project seriously. I mean, there are no Oscar performances here, but I have seen much, much worse. Aside from the occasional bout of over-acting, these people did a good job. Their reactions are real and believable, surprisingly not over-hysterical, although their decisions about dealing with the situation are half-assed. 

There are only two scenes of people actually smoking the evil weed and the filmmakers tried to make these scenes look all trippy and psychedelic, with the actors wearing these joke glasses and making all these weird camera effects. When they finally "turn" from the effects of the pot, they bleed from the mouth a bit, have these glowy eyes, and grow these claws on their fingers that look like the bark from a tree (?). Then they slink around on all fours like an animal and attack people. That's it. I don't know if this makes sense for the plot of the movie or not because it is never really explained just how the weed got tainted in the first place. There's a scene at the beginning that tries to do this by showing the guys at the pot farm shooting at something off-camera and the blood spatters onto the pot leaves. We don't know what the thing is and the filmmakers never feel the need to flesh that out so that's all we're left with.

The gore is minimal and not that exciting. One guy gets attacked in the pool with an infected chick slashing away at him with her bark-claws but you don't really see anything. The guy who causes the whole problem - the one who brought the pot - is dispatched of in the most ridiculous way. After he's been infected and hides out in the woods, the blonde girl Emily is walking around all cautious-like with a shovel for a weapon. You think she's ready for some action and is looking to kill him, but when he attacks her, she runs away and then DROPS THE SHOVEL. Oh, but don't worry, when he catches up to her, she finds a much better weapon - a stick. No, seriously. She picks up the thinnest stick ever and somehow manages to impale him through the chest with it. I think I would have much preferred the death by shovel because, oh I don't know... you can't impale somebody with a stick, maybe??!! Then at the end the last infected girl is killed when the survivors run over her with their car. And again, they somehow manage to completely obliterate her body - the aftermath is all severed hands and innards and goop - when they were only driving about 10 mph. 

On the technical side of things, there are definitely places where Evil Weed could be improved upon. In some shots, they use this weird jerky digital effect that I couldn't stand, and since they only use it sporadically the choice is inconsistent and it doesn't make sense just what they were trying achieve with it. Sometimes the shot compositions are absolutely terrible and when they try to shoot in the dark, the outcome is not that professional looking, but I'm thinking that there probably wasn't a huge budget for this movie anyway. I can let that go for now. Male viewers might like the wardrobe because the girls spend the entire movie in their bikinis.

I really thought this movie was going to be worse, and I hope you understand when I say that it probably would have been better if it was worse. I expected to be laughing at stupid dialogue and horrible acting and improbable death scenes (okay, the stick thing counts for that) but I wasn't laughing at all because the movie is a touch too serious. Sure, the whole concept of the tainted pot turning these guys into monsters is ridiculous and funny, but this movie needed more camp - like Return to Sleepaway Camp (pun intended). Did you see that movie? That is what Evil Weed needed to be, but it just doesn't go there. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Project Terrible: Black Heaven (2010)

It's that terrible time of the month yet again! No, not that time of the month... well... oh, you know what I mean! We're doing the Project Terrible thing again. I believe this pick comes to me from the man at Gaming Creatively, and I thank him for this pick actually. Life can get much worse than this. I still need to watch Evil Weed - I think you'll see what I mean.

Black Heaven is a French drama/thriller about a young man named Gaspard who becomes intrigued by a woman after saving her from committing suicide. He follows her into the world of "Black Hole," a dark and mysterious online game, straining his relationship with his girlfriend and friends as he delves deeper into this strange woman's blackness.

Sounds like a load of bullshit right? Sexy woman with a tattoo that says "Heaven" on her ass manages to take complete mental control of an impressionable youth upon their first meeting? However, it was really the online video game part of the movie intrigued me and those turn out to be the only good parts of the movie. The plot is simplistic and while most of the movie does a good job at pulling you into the story, it all ends too abruptly. Maybe the biggest downside is that I don't really "get" the movie. I'm not sure what the point of the story is really supposed to be or if I even understand the message, if in fact there is one to be learned.

Black Heaven is really not a terrible movie at all, and it is actually the kind of movie I like to watch every now and then, but it's not fantastic either. It is shot in a beautiful style and all, but the story is just weird. It says in the Netflix description that Audrey makes people commit suicide after drawing them to her through the game. However, it turns that her avatar in the game is actually her brother, and he uses her to carry out his own agenda, or fantasy, which is that he likes to watch people commit suicide. Huh? Why? He goes into this long monologue to Gaspard at one point where he might explain just why he likes to do this, but I guess I wasn't paying enough attention. Either way, it's a weird thing to have an obsession with, wouldn't you say?

Another problem I have with Black Heaven is this:

This is our main character, Gaspard (the actor's name is Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet if you care), and THIS is the same face he makes throughout the entire movie. Emotionless. Blank. No showing, even in some more dramatic scenes, of any emotion. Not even an eyebrow-raise or upper-lip-twitch for this dude. Sure, when the story is all said and done, he finally breaks down and cries to his girlfriend Marion at the end but it was too little too late. Maybe he's a fine actor and chose to do this to represent his character's... oh, I don't know... feeling of emptiness or whatever. But there's no indication beforehand that Gaspard was at all dissatisfied with his life before he met Audrey.

I did love the animation of the Black Hole video game. It's very cool looking. I guess the game is supposed to be like Sims or something, where you create an avatar for yourself and walk around this virtual city meeting people and, like, doing other stuff. It always seems to be night in this city and all the colors are dark and black with lots of shadows. The avatars get to go to exclusive clubs where the agenda is not exactly clear, and occasionally beat each other up on the street. Anyway, I loved how they let the game tell the story at parts, when Gaspard is playing it, looking for Audrey. This also helps in keeping Audrey's game identity a secret since it is actually her brother playing.

So while Black Heaven is a good looking movie, the main actor is boring and the message of the movie is completely lost on me. Is it a French thing or something? Because I don't get it. And I don't have any other insights right now, so if you think you could get this movie, please watch it and let me know. Black Heaven is a bit of a slow film, but the characters and their relationships are interesting enough to keep you watching until the sadly disappointing ending.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weekly Movie Roundup: 2-5-12 to 2-11-12

The Baby (1973)
So while most everyone else in the world was watching the Super Bowl this past Sunday, I decided to watch this movie. It's an odd little cult classic about a social worker who becomes increasingly interested in a family with 21-year-old son, known only as "Baby," who acts, speaks, and is treated by his family like an infant. Surprisingly, the movie really isn't that bad. I was expecting something much more along the lines of sleazy exploitation film. While the overall concept of the film coupled with its horde of unlikable female family members is enough to give you the willies, the movie actually boasts some pretty good acting from the main women. The ending was supposed to some big shocker, but I actually found it rather sweet - morbid and creepy, yes, but sweet. It's not a movie you're gonna forget any time soon, that's a guarantee.

Wicked Little Things (2006)
Oh, the After Dark Horrorfest. Sometimes I'm just not sure about you. I mean, are these supposed to scary movies, or even good movies, or what?! Wicked Little Things was not overly terrible but it sure as hell wasn't anything special either. It's a cliche ghost story about a mother and her two daughters who move into a new house in the Pennsylvania woods and find out that there are about dozen murderous kids roaming the forest - children who died in a mine accident 100 years ago. Blah. The movie is kind of boring with nothing really new or interesting to see. I will give it props for having the kids be so brutal. They use their pickaxes and shovels and hammers to beat the shit out of people and then they eat their insides like zombies. Some nice gore work here, especially in the scene where the kids attack the teenagers in their car. Otherwise, a forgettable movie.

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Paranormal Activity 3 brings our happy little story of ghosts and demons back to the beginning of when the supernatural occurrences started for Katie and Kristi. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the first two Paranormal Activity films, and though the formula is starting to wear a little thin after this third film, I thought it was okay. The girls playing the younger Katie and Kristi are adorable and really wonderful little actresses. There are several great and unexpected scares - the sheet, Katie bumping into Toby, all the kitchen stuff falling from the ceiling - that were effectively executed with the filmmaking style. The camera on the oscillating fan was a genius way to introduce these scares. One thing I also like about these movies is that no one has to come out explain what is going on with the story. They give you all the pieces to the puzzle in subtle ways, but the story is clear. So like I said, this movie was pretty good but I think any more might be overexposure. And yet, number 4 is on the way. We'll see.

Contagion (2011)
Many of the previews made this infection outbreak movie look like it was going to be all shiny and exciting, but instead Contagion is a slow burn, realistic drama with some of America's current favorite actors. Director Steven Soderbergh uses his same multilinear storytelling technique (which I just figured out is called a "hyperlink narrative" but whatever) to tell the story of different people involved in the outbreak of a new disease - a man whose wife died of it but he is immune, an investigator for the CDC, and a blogger trying to expose possible government conspiracies concerning the epidemic. The movie is not really about how gross they can make the disease look on the poor victims, which I'm sad to say, I was kind of hoping to see. But I liked the approach taken here, even though I'm sick of the post-apocalyptic, mass hysteria and panic, and loss of law and order thing. However, the acting is wonderful by all involved, with each character making their story the most interesting one in each scene. It flows easily despite the hectic editing and multiple characters, and I thought it was beautifully shot. Two thumbs up!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Movie Review: Poltergeist 3 (1988)

My memory of Poltergeist 3 was slightly better than that of part 2. The story was completely lost to me but I had vague recollections of scary mirror people, Carol Anne's pajamas, and Tom Skerritt. That right there should be reason enough to hate this movie, but did the world's biggest Poltergeist fan (me) actually hate this second sequel? Read on to find out...

Carol Anne Freeling has been sent to Chicago to live with her aunt Pat, Pat's husband Bruce, and his daughter Donna. Carol Anne attends a school for gifted children with emotional problems, cared after by a doctor who is convinced that she made up all the stuff about ghosts to explain away the events of the first two films. Meanwhile, the malevolent Henry Kane has once again found a way to get to Carol Anne through the mirrors of her apartment building.

Poltergeist 3 is generally believed to be... well, a huge turd. Its current rating on Rotten Tomatoes is only a meager 14%. Despite all that, I really like this movie! I know! I like it a lot more than Poltergeist 2, and I'm actually very surprised at the across-the-board hate for it. Poltergeist 3 is seriously a pretty good movie, and I'm not just trying to be nice here. There's actually not a lot about the movie that I don't like, which is new territory for me. Again, it's no Poltergeist but it's got some things of its own going for it that at least make the movie visually entertaining.

The only original people back this time are Carol Anne and the ever-dwindling character of Tangina. I like the dynamics amongst Carol Anne and her new family. Nancy Allen plays her Aunt Pat (her mother's sister) who got married only a year prior to Bruce Gardener (Tom Skerritt) and became the stepmother to his teenage daughter Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle). Pat is Carol Anne's real blood relative of this family and yet she is the one who is the most resentful of her and what they have to put with her "crazy ghost stories." Bruce is surprisingly the one who has bonded the most with her and it is his love and trust of her that helps save his family in the end.

So after the introduction of this movie's family unit and the ginormous high-rise building they all live in, we're introduced to Carol Anne's psychologist at school, Dr. Seaton. Frankly, this guy is a complete quack and an idiot and whatever school gave him his doctor degree should be ashamed. He has this convoluted idea that Carol Anne has the power of mass hypnosis and is able to make people see whatever she imagines. In one scene where he sees, through a mirror, a hand coming out of his desk and throw a coffee cup at the mirror and breaking it, he is so delusional about his theory that he tries to tell the people behind the mirror that Carol Anne made him see it and made the other woman break the mirror. Whuh? The dude playing the doctor is also the worst actor of the whole bunch. Every line he utters is unbelievably cheesy and fake sounding, it's a wonder his whole performance didn't end up on the cutting room floor.

One thing I like about Poltergeist 3 is that is quite fast-paced, as it all takes place over the course of one day and night. The elaborate effects are a big help in this department, and most of them are very convincing and well done. I loved all the bits with the stuff happening in the mirrors, which keeps you one your toes because you're always watching the reflections, waiting to see what they're going to do next. The one bit that I remembered the most clearly before I rewatched the film is when Donna and her beau Scott meet up in the hallway. They laugh, then they kiss, then Scott rips off Donna's cheek before they walk down the mirrored hallway, only appearing in the mirror. I still kinda like that.

The other effects are quite inventive and thankfully there is nothing as stupid as the braces attack in Poltergeist 2. I liked all the mirror and ice imagery - there's an okay scene where Bruce and Pat encounter frozen chickens and pigs and then possessed frozen cars in the parking garage - which kept the effects consistent and nothing seems too far out of left field, even for a Poltergeist movie. The gross-out scene comes when Donna's evil mirror-self claws her way out of dead Tangina's body, a scene that is kind of the opposite of my favorite scene from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2 when dead Mary Lou punches her way out of alive Vicky's body. Anyway. Suffice to say that I like all the effects in Poltergeist 3 because they are inventive and crazy like a Poltergeist movie should be and they are well executed.

The weird thing about the whole movie, though, is that the villain is Kane again, trying to find Carol Anne so she can lead him into the light, but he's not really in the movie that much. You hear his voice calling for Carol Anne and he appears a lot in the mirrors but that's about it. His only real scene is at the end, when Donna confronts him to get her family back and Tangina leads him into the light instead. He's not as creepy as he was in the second film and he obviously wasn't that important either. Oh, and speaking of the ending, why did everybody suddenly forget about poor Scott? Bruce, Donna, and Carol Anne come back from The Other Side but they leave Scott, who is now going to have to live in the same limbo that pissed Kane off for so many years? Nice. Real nice, people.

So I'm going to have to be the dissenting opinion here and say that Poltergeist 3 is actually not a huge turd in my book. O'Rourke, Skerritt, Allen, and Boyle all give convincing performances in a movie where the high-dollar effects would usually overshadow everyone. These effects keep the plot moving and give us some cool things to look at along the way. Thumbs up, I say.

Red footie pajamas for the win!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Movie Review: Poltergeist 2: The Other Side (1986)

Poltergeist is my bestest horror movie bud. All-time favorite, you know. The memories of the sequels to this awesome haunted house movie were buried somewhere in my mind, mostly lost and forgotten. I finally relented and rewatched both Poltergeist 2 and 3, though I was sure that it would only muddle the beautiful feelings I have for the original. But... the second one wasn't so bad. Wasn't so great, either, but it has it's moments.

The Freeling family is back (well, minus one due to horrific real-life circumstances) and now living with Diane's mother because their house sort of disappeared into thin air. They are once again thrust into the realm of the supernatural when an reverend named Henry Kane starts following Carol Anne around. The psychic Tangina sends the family a Native American shaman, Taylor, to help them fight the assault from the relentless Kane.

Do I like Poltergeist 2? Eh, it's a toss-up. I like that it has the original cast members, and that it still has that touch of humor that made the first one so charming, and that it introduced one uber-creepy villain, but it's just not the same. The light shows and strange happenings seem like they were trying too hard to make this sequel more exciting visually instead of focusing on creating a compelling story that makes sense. The movie is entertaining enough, and it hurts to constantly feel like I have to compare it to the first Poltergeist, but seriously. Do you really expect me not to considering the fact that Poltergeist is like, my favorite horror movie EVER?

The best thing about Poltergeist 2 is the acting. JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, and even little Heather O'Rourke are just as likable and lovable as they were before. Zelda Rubenstein's Tangina is hardly around at all, which is a disappointment (and she was nominated for a Razzie for this role - ouch). Heather gets a chance to show some real acting chops here and she's practically perfect. Nelson is funny as always, especially in his hilariously charming moments with the wonderful Will Sampson, who plays Taylor. And Nelson is great in the scene where he's possessed by the tequila worm - delightfully uncomfortable.

The important thing that's missing from the whole movie, though, is the connection of the family. They are still a great and loving family, but there doesn't seem to be any real emotion there. Their desperation and breakdown about getting Carol Anne back was beautiful in the first movie, as well as their reluctant acceptance of the supernatural. Now their attitude is just "oh not this shit again" and it doesn't seem as serious.

But of course the big star of the movie is Henry Kane, played by Julian Beck. His skeletal frame, wispy white hair, and straight, yellow teeth combine to give Kane an insanely scary look - one that any child, or adult for that matter, would run away from on the street (even though Carol Anne didn't, but I think Kane used his demony hypnotic powers on her with the song and all). His voice and speech patterns are also unsettling, with that undefinable accent. His whole character is somewhat cliche in how exaggerated he is, but the actor is good enough to pull it off here.

I understand the need for strange supernatural experiences in a movie like this, but did they really have to include a scene where poor Robbie is attacked by his freaking BRACES? I didn't like that scene at all. Stephen vomiting up the worm monster was a little better. The effects are really awesome in that scene and I was no doubt very grossed out by the imagery. The thing morphing into an armless, skinless ball of jelly? Ewww. Then it slithers out of the room, grows all these tentacles and attacks Stephen. But sadly the big "fight" scene with this monster was boring and over too quickly.

Likewise the climax was also rather hurried and boring, despite the big light show when the whole freaking family went to "the other side." That was hokey as hell... but really, what did I expect them to make the other side look like? Like most of the rest of the movie, this ending seems to be there just to show off the visual effects. It's nice but less meaningful than the first film.

So yeah, I'm on the fence about Poltergeist 2. It's alright I guess, but it's no Poltergeist. The comparison between the two is almost not there and it's obvious which one is better. The sequel has some good elements and the acting is pretty good, but the story is what is most lacking and the connection between the characters.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Horror Short Review: The Code (2011)

I don't know why I don't watch more shorts, considering the fact that my attention span is somewhat short itself. I keep getting emails with links to them and often forget about them (I heartily apologize to anybody to has sent me stuff and not gotten a response from me... I'm a bad person... or just lazy). So I finally decided to  watch one of them. Yay for me!

In "The Code," a young couple is enjoying an evening date in the park when they are suddenly set upon by a group of zombies... then a masked killer with a weed-eater... then a vampire... then Bigfoot. Seems there has been some confusion among the various monsters about whose night it is to kill people.

If you've got about six minutes to spare, then you should give "The Code" a look. For a short, it was quite funny and entertaining with some great actors playing the head zombie ("Shaun" haha) and the vampire. All the talk about how they had switched nights for the killings and the Google Calendar stuff is hilarious. The makeup and effects are pretty good, although there really isn't anything that involved going on. I only wish Vanna Helsing would have put a little more "oomph" into her killing scenes! She looked a little sleepy and unenthusiastic. Anyway, jump on over to the link below on and watch "The Code"!

Watch it now! I mean it! Clicken here.

"The Code" was made for the Splatterfest Festival in Houston, Texas. It won all these awards, so you know it's gotta be good:
Best Film
Best Director
Best Screenplay
Best Editing
Best Kill
Best Splatter
Best Special Effects
Audience Favorite Film
Audience Favorite Story
Audience Favorite Kill
Audience Favorite Makeup

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Weekly Movie Roundup: 1-29-12 to 2-4-12

Boot Camp (2008)
I'm not sure what made me put this movie in my queue to begin with, but it was actually not all that bad. Mila Kunis plays an out-of-control teen who is sent away to one of those rehabilitation boot camps on one of the islands of Fiji. It was first billed on Netflix as a horror film, but in reality is more of a psychological drama, not only about these kids' problems but also about the effectiveness of this "tough love" program that has been set up by a doctor with a shady past. The severity of what happens to the kids is probably overly dramatized, but places like this have and do exist so it does feel very real. Plus, the island setting is very interesting and the movie is actually quite well shot, acted, and edited. Much, much better than I expected.

It's been a couple of days since I watched The Violent Kind and I still don't know what it is exactly that I saw. On the surface, this movie was at times a really good, gory horror film. The blood is beautiful, both the guys and the girls are hot (especially the Megan Fox-wannabe), and the first half of the story is somewhat interesting. But when we get to the climax, everything just all of the sudden stops making sense. What starts out at something about demonic possession or Satan worshippers mixed with zombie-type dead people suddenly turns into something that could be about aliens and/or alien abduction. Whuhhhh? And they don't explain any of it AT ALL. Gah! So annoying. Aside from that, I was still mildly impressed with this movie. The actors are very good, especially the infamous "rockabillies" and they play their parts well, which is more than we usually get with these types of movies. I just wish I knew what the hell was going on! I love the title, too.

Final Destination (2000)
After watching the disappointment that was Final Destination 5, I wanted to get reacquainted with the one that started it all because I hadn't seen it in a while. I still believe that Final Destination 2 is the best of the series (I freaking love that pile-up sequence, I'm tellin' you!) but this one is just as good. One thing I never really liked about it though was Kerr Smith's character Carter. He's so annoyingly angry at Alex (Devon Sawa) throughout the whole movie, and his unmotivated outbursts get irritating after a while. However, FD was a great jumping off point for a series of movies that was so much different than any horror film at the time. It's such a great concept. There's a freak-inducing plane crash, excellent death scenes, and Tony Todd. It's almost a perfect movie.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Movie Review: Trollhunter (2010)

Before watching Trollhunter, I didn't know that it was one of those found footage movies that seem to be cropping up everywhere. So when I started the movie and realized this, I admit I was a little annoyed. I was watching this movie in close proximity to two other found footage movies and was a bit sick of the device for the moment. But I gave Trollhunter a shot, and holy crap, it practically blew me away.

Thomas, Johanna, and Kalle are college documentarians who are investigating a possible bear poacher in the Norwegian woods. When they catch up to the man, Hans, they find out that he is actually not a poacher but a somewhat "assassin" hired by the government to control the troll population in Norway. The kids start following Hans, as he kills trolls and tries to find out why so many of them have been acting up lately.

Not being Norwegian or knowing anything at all really about Norway or its history, I didn't know that trolls were such a big part of the country's folklore. However, this story is easily translated and understood by people from different cultures and is a great jumping-off point for Americans to learn about another country's traditions and stories. All the stuff about the troll mythology that the film brings up was very interesting to watch - the fact that they can smell a Christian person's blood; that they either explode or turn to stone when exposed to sunlight (or as Hans uses as a weapon - a large UVB light); and the several different types of trolls that roam the mountains and countryside. Makes me more interested to look into these Norwegian troll fairy tales!

Many reviewers have commented on the film's humorous side, but when I watched Trollhunter, I took it totally seriously, as if trolls actually existed! The film definitely has subtle humor throughout, especially the fact that the whole concept should be ludicrous and absurd, but the handling of the material was smartly done and made for a story that was believable and quite gripping. The only funny thing I managed to catch on to was in the scene where Hans is going to try to extract a blood sample from one of the trolls. Hans ties three goats on top of a bridge as bait to lure the troll out. I was watching this scene for a good three or four minutes before I suddenly burst out laughing because I finally got the joke. It's a reference to The Three Billy Goats Gruff, duh! *smacks forehead*

The actor playing Hans, Otto Jespersen, is also apparently a well-known Norwegian comedian but I would have never guessed that based on his performance. He plays Hans as a very serious man and exactly the way the character describes himself - one who has a shit job that he's sick of doing for no compensation or recognition. But he's also very good at his job and sees it as his duty to keep doing it, often doing crazy and suicidal things to kill the trolls. The other actors are also believable in their roles and do well at first thinking that Hans is funny for believing in trolls, then getting excited when they actually see one for the first time, and then getting scared when they realize the dangerousness of their situation of getting so close to the trolls.

The action lags a little in the middle after the first troll is killed but each scene introduces new evidence and information about the trolls themselves and the lengths the Norwegian government has gone to to hide their existence from the population. The veterinarian who works with Hans and brings up scientific explanations for the trolls' behavior, the power lines that serve as fences for the trolls' territory, etc. are all great ideas that give the story depth and scope and make it seem all the more real.

The effects are a big part of the film's success. They were quite simply amazing. All of the different trolls are shown to the audience literally as big as life and were incredibly detailed and seamless with the background and actors. Each troll the team encounters is different from the last one - from one with three heads to hairy ones with huge noses to a giant over 200 feet tall. These are not the squat, cute trolls of American fairy tales. They may be stupid and eat rocks, but they are also rampaging beasts that you probably want to stay far away from. Trollhunter has a lot in common with movies like Cloverfield and Jurassic Park (which the director says was his biggest inspiration) in how it films these gigantic creatures and gives the audience exactly what they want to see when they are on screen.

The mockumentary filmmaking style is never too much of a burden. I have to say that though the Norwegian fjords and mountains are absolutely beautiful and just beg to be filmed, there a was a little overabundance of "car pointing out the window while driving" shots. Otherwise, the technique is utilized very well and manages to show us all the action and keeps up the suspense in certain key scenes. Loved the tidbit where the thing that looks like a tree trunk is suddenly revealed to be one of the troll's legs that is only a few feet from the cameraman! One thing I also have to point out is that the female videographer that they bring into the story later, Malica, actually turns out to be a much more skilled videographer than Kalle was. Haha, girls are better than boys!

Of the newer movies that I have watched recently, Trollhunter was a very pleasant surprise and by far one of the best I've seen in a while. It's also one of the best examples of the found footage/mockumentary subgenre - I'd probably rank it up there in the top five simply for its use of trolls as the monsters.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Movie Review: The Woman (2011)

Hey, bloggers! It's February again and in the horror world, that means it is Women in Horror Month! How apropos is it that the post I had scheduled to run today would actually fit into this? Freaky!

It's been a heck of a long wait for this one, bloggers! I had totally forgotten about The Woman until I saw it at the video store the other day (yeah, a video store! They still have those!). The Jack Ketchum book of the same name that this movie is based off of is a true masterpiece in horror, as it is one of the most horrific tales I have ever read - in a good and a bad way, if that is possible. Ketchum is known for his balls-out horror yarns that pull no punches, and this adaptation is no exception. (Psst, you can read my review of the book here.)

As established in the previous film Offspring (which by the way is an okay little horror flick despite its bad actors and low budget - I also reviewed that movie here - am I a shameless self-promoter or what?!) and the books, the titular character The Woman is the last of a clan of feral cannibals who once savaged the woods and caves where they lived. When lawyer Chris Cleek, a.k.a. The Worst Father/Husband/Man in the History of the World, stumbles upon The Woman while out hunting, he decides to capture her and keep her locked in his cellar in an attempt to teach her how to act more civilized. His brow-beaten wife and daughter and his douchebag son are brought along for the ride. 

The Woman is an interesting little concoction because the book and the screenplay were written simultaneously by author Jack Ketchum and director Lucky McKee. This is probably the reason why the book and film follow each other so closely, except for the fact that the movie sets a much different tone than the book. Ketchum's The Woman was a very dark, gory, and disturbing look not just into what Chris does to The Woman but into the dynamics of this intensely screwed up family. Though The Woman herself no doubt has a gross, cannibalistic, and brutal nature, that doesn't even seem to compare to the atrocities committed by Chris Cleek alone. His power over the people around him is so severe that you find yourself hating every character at one point or another because they can't take down this one little man.

Lucky McKee's film, as aforementioned, has a slightly different tone, and one that I was not too happy about at first. In all these scenes that were supposed to be nasty and dirty, there was this banging, upbeat soundtrack behind it that too often took away from the seriousness and utter horror of the situation (well, except the end, which ROCKED). When Chris first sees The Woman bathing in the creek, the music started up again and gave the scene that feeling like, "Holy shit! This is great! I'm watching a naked chick take a bath!" instead of what the scene was really about - Chris zeroing in on his prey, another woman he can possibly brutalize and control. I understand that the soundtrack was used to lighten the mood of a movie that would otherwise be so freaking depressing you would want to kill yourself after watching it, and for some scenes the soundtrack was used really well (loved the song playing when Peg is on the field at school), but to me this shouldn't be a "light" story at all.

The mood and tone of the film is also set by Sean Bridgers, who gives an exceptionally eerie portrayal of Chris. The way he plays this man who is so completely evil and callous makes the audience angry and upset. After punching his wife in the gut, he can casually tell his daughter (whom he's been raping) to go get a cloth for her, as if she just had a little headache or something. Bridgers's performance is probably best described as one that is actually quite funny - but the most uncomfortable funny you've ever experienced. You can laugh or chuckle at the calm and almost likable way he delivers his lines - if what he was talking about wasn't so damn awful! I was very impressed by this man's performance and the commitment he gave to a role that nobody in their right mind would ever want to play.

And I'll be damned if Pollyana McIntosh (what a name, eh?) doesn't deliver with every fiber of her being in her portrayal of The Woman. She gave a standout performance in the same role in Offspring, especially in one of those last moments where she starts eating a guy's brains out of his head, so it's great that the filmmakers had the foresight to keep her character around and center another story around The Woman. One thing I wish Lucky and crew would have done was to include subtitles for The Woman's strange made-up language. I mean, mostly you get the gist of what she's saying from her expression and gestures but especially in the part where she asks Peg for help from her father, calling her "Mother" because she is somehow able to sense that Peg is pregnant, I think it would have helped to have the subtitles to show early on the connection formed between Peg and The Woman.

There is a smidge of Ketchum's famous gore throughout the movie but you have to make it to the ending for the really good stuff. Chris has finally gone too far when he kills Peg's teacher by feeding her to the dogs, and Peg finally sets The Woman free from the cellar to have her fun. Oh, it's glorious. Face-biting, body-throwing, body-hacking, heart-ripping, and heart-eating - all the bad guys in the movie finally get their comeuppance and it is bloody fantastic, if you'll pardon the pun. The gore effects are really well done here and as in Offspring, the filmmakers leave nothing to the imagination and show the audience these kills with all the blood and intestines and organs in their arsenal.

I think The Woman is looked at as a "love it or hate it" movie (or an "understand it or don't understand it" movie) and it may not be for everyone (especially this guy) but I'm one of the ones that loved it. It is probably the best adaptation of Ketchum's work so far, and though the handling of the material at some parts is not to my liking, the performances, editing, and effects more than make up for it.

P.S. Jack Ketchum rules!