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

Franchise 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!