Demons 2

JUNE 30, 2007


Next time I see my good friend Jeff, I am going to punch him right in his fucking cock. I was going to do that anyway, but now that I have seen Demons 2, at least I’ll have a justified reason.

Let me explain.

Unless you count the incoherent(er) American version of Phenomena (a.k.a. Creepers), Demons was the first Italian horror movie I ever saw, and I love it (it continues to be my favorite of the subgenre). When I inquired about the sequel, Jeff told me not to bother, that it was terrible. And like anyone would, I blindly accepted his opinion. But, as you know, I watch a Horror Mov- oh for Christ’s sake.

Anyway, after finally seeing it for myself, I know for sure he’s a damned fool. This movie is almost as good as the original. While we are given nothing as delightfully ridiculous as the helicopter scene from the original, it still holds true to the Italian horror credo: Lots of people with no skeletons, incoherent character decisions (after failing with a large pipe to break through a wall, a guy throws a plant at it?), a general lackadaisical approach to the way things actually work (people remove entire car seats with one hand), etc. But who cares? If I want to see a movie that makes total sense, I sure as hell wouldn’t watch one with the names Lamberto Bava or Dario Argento in the credits, let alone BOTH of them. If anything, we should be grateful that it’s possible to follow the movie at all.

Since the movie is basically a remake set in a different area (an apartment building instead of a movie theater), I think if you watch this one first you might end up liking it more. Once again, a movie about four kids investigating a spooky area comes to life and everyone turns into a demon. This time, the movie is on TV (and apparently everyone in the fucking place is watching it). Strangely, Bava occasionally cuts to the movie as if it were actually happening, without ever showing a character actually watching it. It's a bit disorienting, but then again so is Italy in general.

But I don't know what the hell Jeff's problem was. It accomplishes what every sequel should: there’s more carnage, a better pace, and most importantly, a total lack of Rick Springfield. However, it’s not perfect. For example, there’s some laziness in the makeup; at one point, a shirtless demon is seen with a green head but the rest of his body is still human colored. But I wouldn’t care if they didn’t bother with putting proper makeup on any of them if it meant more money put into the little gremlin-like demon that runs around an apartment for most of the film’s 3rd act. This thing is quite possibly the most beautiful creation in all animatronics/puppet makeup history. The scenes of it tearing through towels and such are likely the best things you’ll ever see on the day you watch Demons 2.

Likewise, the casting agent was also lazy, hiring Bobby Rhodes to play another character like the one he played in Demons (a “hero” who spends most of the time yelling at people while ordering them to do simple tasks – i.e. he’s amazing), but not the actual same character. He gets his groin ripped out this time though. And the credit creator was obviously phoning it in too, with the bizarre credit “And With” Virginia Bryant. Look, it’s WITH one guy who’s kind of famous and then AND another guy who’s more famous! You can’t combine them, especially when no one knows who the fuck Virginia Bryant is. But these are minor quibbles, and I am likely the only person in the world who gives a shit about that 2nd one.

As fun as the movie is, I advise you all to steer clear of the commentary track. In addition to hearing everything twice (in Italianish and then English), there are also long spells of silence. One scene in particular is quiet anyway, and the moderator suddenly says, after about 3-4 minutes where no one on the track or the film itself has said anything, goes “There isn’t any music in this scene.” Fuckin’ hypocrite! I should record a commentary on the commentary. However, it does reveal that Bava didn’t like the dude playing George, so there’s something. Hopefully a better one will be recorded for when the film is re-released on DVD (I believe the Anchor Bay version I rented, which isn’t even anamorphic, is now out of print).

UPDATE - In a remarkable coincidence, I just learned on Shock that AB has announced a re-release of the first two Demons films, due this September for the reasonable price of 15 bucks each. Yus!

What say you?



JUNE 29, 2007


Despite being one of my favorite filmmakers, it took me over a decade to get around to seeing Guillermo Del Toro’s debut film, Cronos. Why, you may ask (assuming you have any interest in my laziness)? The answer is simple: Fangoria recommended it. Fangoria recommends only movies you’re SUPPOSED to like, and whichever ones make money. If you were to go to the library of horror (no such thing exists) and read a year’s worth of Fangoria editor Tony Timpone’s introductory columns, you’ll see he endlessly talks up just about every movie, and then at the end of the year, he shockingly only ‘likes’ the ones that did well financially. Since Cronos wasn’t exactly a blockbuster, I always assumed it was one of those films that you’re just expected to love if you're a horror fan, like Silence of the Lambs, Seven, and Exorcist (while they are all good, none of those films are anywhere near my top 10).

Shockingly, for Cronos anyway, they were pretty right on: it’s a great movie. It’s a testament to how good a filmmaker Del Toro is that he can take almost comically clichéd story elements (the powerful but dying man seeking a new lease on life, the antique shop that houses a magical device, etc) and make a film that never once seems derivative. Add this to the fact that I have otherwise had my fill of vampire movies lately, and you have a movie that no horror fan should ever pass by.

Even though it’s his first feature film, several of his recurring themes are here: a young child with enough curiosity to kill several cats, insects, a wise old man, Ron Perlman… In short, it in no way feels anything like a debut film. Again, that’s how good the guy is. It’s a damnable shame that his big studio films are often mishandled (it should surprise no one to realize his 3 weakest films are his “American” ones, i.e. Blade II, Hellboy, and Mimic). While perfectly serviceable genre films, they are always missing that dreamlike sense of wonder and discovery that make the others such a delight to watch. And not that Cronos or Pan or Devil’s Backbone (his best film) suffer from a low budget or anything, but I would truly love to see him be given a blank check and no interference, to see what he could come up with.

Also, while we’re on the subject, I’d like to see a guy eat a giant sandwich while trapezing.

What say you?


Wizard Of Gore (2007)

JUNE 28, 2007


The first time I tried to watch the remake of Wizard of Gore, which was a few nights ago, I slept thru 75-80% of it. It was a long day, and it was at midnight. I saw so little of it I couldn't even tell if I liked it or not. As Johnny Depp might say, “The idea of trying to 'review this movie' in any conventional press sense was absurd." So I shrugged it off and watched another movie for HMAD that day. Then I saw the festival was showing the movie again, so I went down to check it out. Since it was starting at an earlier time, I thought maybe this time I’d be able to stay awake, giving the movie the benefit of the doubt. And lo and behold… I fell asleep again. But only for like 10, 15 minutes tops.

Therefore, I now feel confident in saying that the movie is just not that exciting. Though it's not awful by any means. On the plus side of things, the digital video looks pretty good (especially compared to some of the other DV films I’ve seen recently), and director Jeremy Kasten does a good job with the material. The problem is the script, courtesy of Zach Chassler, who's only other genre credit is playing Bathroom Boy #2 in Rock N Roll Frankenstein. Maybe you’re a different person than me, but I tend to like movies with “likeable characters”, a “non-repetitive story” and “sound effects that don’t make me want to gouge my fucking ears out”, none of which are really on display here. Actually, other than an incredibly hot Bijou Philips (with brunette hair – A+), I couldn’t care less about a single person in the movie. Especially the lead character, played by Kip Pardue (a guy whose résumé is literally packed with other annoying indie movies like Thirteen, But I'm A Cheerleader, and Driven). He’s a Matt Damon-lite lameass who wears 1940’s clothing (for no other reason than to appeal to the hipsters who will likely eat this movie up) and says pretentious shit like “the world is my stage, I cast the actors and set the tone” (not a direct quote but close). To me, I think the lead character of a film should be likable, or played by an actor who's charismatic enough to hold your interest in the role. Pardue doesn't fall into either category. Which is a shame, because the story is actually pretty interesting, and had a better actor or a more likable character been used, I'd probably like the movie more.

Worse, the film co-stars (and was possibly financed in part by) Suicide Girls. For those of you who are luckily unfamiliar, SG is a website where girls who might have been attractive once (before they covered a minimum of 25% of their body with bad tattoos and piercings) pose nude for sad folks who buy a membership. Now, for all I know, some are genuinely hot, but none of the ones in this movie are. I would think they would use the pick of the litter if they are trying to drum up business. Which they obviously are – otherwise the girls would use their real names (assuming their parents didn’t threaten to sue them for doing so) instead of nonsense like “Crystal Suicide” or whatever. Bijou should send them a thank you letter; it makes her look even better than usual in comparison.

Crispin Glover plays... Crispin Glover. Again. Maybe some folks aren’t tired of his shtick yet, but for me it’s wearing pretty thin. When the guy wants to, he can genuinely act and play a sympathetic character (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter for example), it’s a shame he lazily just plays ‘the weirdo’ whenever he needs money to pay for his gonzo movies and mysterious briefcases.

Back to the sound effects though – the Kip Pardue character has some sort of curse that is causing his bones to crack or some goddamn nonsense. So every time the fucking guy moves as much as a pinkie finger, we hear the sounds of celery being broken on a foley stage. It gets annoying after 5 minutes; it lasts for nearly the entire film.

Unless you’re a scenester, Glover obsessive, or somehow enjoy the Suicide Girls, the film doesn't really have much else to offer. It's not BAD, but it's just sort of anti-enjoyable. But as always, it must be pointed out that I like some of the most critically reviled films of all time (“My boat.”), so who knows? If you like it, good, but I won’t gain any more sleep out of it.

What say you?


New Year's Evil

JUNE 28, 2007


In my spare time (so, never) I write a cartoon called Fright Reviews. There is a link to my right, your… right, too, I guess, for more information about it. But the gist of it is: these guys host a horror movie review show and every week find themselves in a plot that mirrors one of the movies they are reviewing. Usually, I watch a movie and then figure out how to make it into a serviceable plot. Only once did I come up with an episode idea first (the show premieres and things go wrong) and then look for a movie that would “work” in that context. The movie I found is New Year’s Evil.

In the episode, it is the night the show premieres, and a killer tells them that each time the show premieres in the four time zones; he will kill someone from the show. In this movie, it’s New Year’s Eve, and he is killing someone every time the ball drops. Course, I bought it almost a year ago and just got around to watching it now (this may be even more surprising to anyone who recognizes the Horror Movie A Day “poster”). Who says I need instant gratification?

I thought the film would be a pretty standard slasher movie, but it’s really closer to exploitation than slasher. For starters, we spend more time with the killer than the radio station chick he is taunting. Nor does he wear a mask. Instead, he dresses like a hospital orderly, a swinger, a cop, a... gymnast (?), etc., coming off more like a sort of murderous Fletch than a movie slasher. And our victims (who he says are people ‘close to her’ but as it turns out he means geographically close, not personally) are barely introduced before he does them in. It starts off kind of creepy, but then we meet the girls for his Central Time Zone kill. They are really annoying, and he gets all irritated, turning the film into borderline comedy for a while.

And for a slasher, the kills are pretty bland and gore-less. He just knifes everyone, usually off-screen. Instead of interesting kills, the film gives us endless scenes of New Wave clubbers bobbing their heads to a band called Shadow, who apparently only has one song (called “Midnight”, a song that, including the DVD menu, we will hear 3x before the 10 minute mark). Between that, the fact that the guy picks up two girls by name dropping Erik Estrada, and the very notion that anyone would be listening to a radio on New Year’s Eve, this is the most dated slasher film ever.

I should mention that I watched the film via bootleg, as the film has never been officially released on DVD. I do not condone buying a film that doesn’t net the filmmakers any money, but it’s not my goddamn fault that Columbia has forgotten all about it. I think it would be less fair for their weirdo slasher movie to go forever forgotten by a modern audience who won’t be able to relate to a single goddamn thing in it! As such things go, the quality isn’t too bad, though there is a strange section where the aspect ratio changes from full frame to 1.85:1. Whatever. The DVD mastering is otherwise better than “legit” DVDs like yesterday’s Dark Fields.

Adding to the movie's strange charm is the inherently creepy nature of the relationship between the DJ chick and her son, played by Killer Klowns’ Grant Cramer (!!!). He acts more like a lover than a son, and at one point sniffs, cuts, and then wears one of her stockings on his head for a while. His character doesn’t make the least bit of sense either, he attempts suicide, makes repeated phone calls to his father’s place in Palm Springs even though he knows perfectly well that he’s in LA, and at the end puts on a clown mask and sets himself up to be the killer in New Year’s Evil 2, a surely great film that has thankfully never been made.

It’s also movies like this that make me wish I didn’t live in LA. At one point the killer offs two blondes in a quiet location at “Ventura and Laurel Canyon”. That intersection is in fact one of the busiest in North Hollywood. You wouldn’t be able to get away with killing someone in the open at 3 am, let alone 10 o'clock, especially on a holiday night. Come on man, everyone knows that Moorpark and Hazeltine is the best place to go stabbing!!!

But still, if you always felt that not enough movies featured random (and irrelevant) quotes from Hamlet before the killer falls to his death, this movie is the one for you!

What say you?


Dark Fields

JUNE 27, 2007


Look, I don’t know why I’m not labeling Dark Fields “Crap”. When I think about it, there is nothing in the movie to recommend (other than the killer’s motive, see below, preferably after reading the text above it). Possibly because after seeing my favorite non-horror franchise get its fucking balls cut off (plus part of its cock, and like half its spleen) last night, I am just too broken a man. Dark Ride, now is your chance! I’m dishing out somewhat positive reviews and not apologizing for it!!

However, I am still of a right enough mind to realize the movie is terrible though. The level of technical incompetence is right on par with A Brush With Death, but unlike that film, at least the story makes sense (more or less) and moves along at the expected pace. In fact, things might even move a bit too quickly – as soon as you hit play on the DVD, you are in the middle of a scene. No “LionsGate Presents” credit (or logo), or FBI warning, or anything. We’re watching a girl jog and we're not going back! Actually, the whole DVD is mastered rather stupidly: the main menu consists of “Play” and “Special Features”, which is a submenu featuring the subtitle option (that belongs in “Set Up”) and scene selection (which is not only NOT a special feature, but usually get its own main menu option). Plus it has "Play Movie" in it, leaving the entire “Main Menu” entirely worthless.

But let’s not blame directors/writers/producers/editors Al Randall and Mark McNabb for the DVD, it’s about the only thing they DIDN’T do on the film (far as I know anyway). Neither man has any other credits to their names, and I doubt this film will help matters any, since the technical mistakes on display here are beyond horrendous. I mean, if you’re making a “We’re lost in the middle of nowhere and need a gas station” movie, you would think that you could at least find yourself a road that DIDN’T have a giant fucking Shell station clearly visible in the background as the characters discuss how they have no idea which way to go for gas. It reminded me of that one "Goth Talk" sketch with Rob Lowe where he is in the “Forest of Despair” and there are some jocks playing Frisbee behind him. Later, a girl is instructed to wait “in case a car drives by” and yet does nothing as three or four cars drive by.

There are also some bizarre storytelling problems. For example, how the fuck far away is this concert? They drive for what seems like an hour or so, then when they notice they are almost out of gas the driver says “there’s a service station 45 minutes from here.” Well where the fuck is the concert? I once drove 16 hrs for a show, but I am an idiot (and I took two days to do it). I certainly wouldn’t drive longer than an hour or so for one on a school night. Our characters also split up when they enter a barn. “You two take that door, and we’ll go through this one. I’m sure they meet up again further on.” How the fuck big is this barn??? They approach it as if it were a fucking corn maze. And it must be huge, because a few minutes later someone gets killed and the other people don’t hear the commotion. But they make up for it later when the 2 girls suddenly scream and run from nothing at all. No sound, no falling object, nothing. They just simultaneously get scared and go with it.

It’s the strange little touches like those that make me sort of love this movie (I haven’t even mentioned the guy who has a fake beard for no reason). It’s SO inept that putting it down is almost like hating a kid with downs syndrome for not being able to follow Memento. Brush With Death had shitty sound, a general lack of understanding how a story is told, and not an iota of anything approaching suspense. But here, the script is a standard “Car breaks down” movie, no more or less stupid than any dozen others, but there’s a puzzling sort of charm to watching it unfold alongside the cameraman’s shadow that is visible in every other scene. And in what I believe is a first for a slasher movie, the credits feature a blooper reel (including one 'blooper' of a car driving by in a take, no different than anything in the finished film), before giving us a "ccopyright" date of 2003 (the DVD was released in 2006). Awww, come here, little movie, give us a hug.

And the killer’s motive alone is brilliant enough to declare this movie worth watching. As we find out later in the film, the killer is a survivor of a family who was butchered by gas thieves. So now he seeks revenge on those who would attempt to gas up their car using his pump. If a gas station opened next door (or people weren’t blind to the Shell station), the killer would probably never kill again. After watching something like 40 movies that feature characters who get killed after traveling to some creepy house looking for car assistance, it’s absolutely amazing to see one where they get killed SPECIFICALLY because they tried to get some gas. Maybe that’s why we never see the fate of the first kid, the one who fills up from the killer’s pump. He just completely disappears, so maybe the killer just destroyed that gas stealing prick. Strangely enough, at one point they find the corpse of one of the other guys, one they already knew was killed, and scream as if they are shocked he is dead. Why we find his corpse and not the other guy’s is beyond me, but you can ask him I guess: he posts on the movie’s IMDb board (and he’s pretty hilarious: responding to a guy who said he got the movie for Easter, “Sorry I ruined your holiday.” Hahahahaha)

I should also point out the high level of Canadahol in this movie: it is far more than the legal limit of .08%. “We have to get OAT of here!” is an exclamation I will never tire of hearing. One girl in particular seemingly goes out of her way to mispronounce her “about”s and “without”s. And it’s actually SET in Canada as well, so kudos to Randall and McNabb. Many of their peers have forever damaged the United States’ tourism board by making it look like you can find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere and then killed in just about every state. Dark Fields is here to remind us: Canada has backwoods psychopaths too!

In closing, I would like to leave you with this bit of trivia. The original title of the film was “Study Hell”, which brings to mind a high school set horror movie. However, only one scene in the film is set in school, and it’s a doozy. As the scene begins, our lead drops her books for no reason, then sits down. The teacher the enters and asks the class to begin by diagramming a short story (?). We then immediately cut to a random girl we never see again, then the teacher smiling, and then… the bell rings. Total classroom time: maybe 23 seconds. There are no fades or shots of the clock or anything to denote any time has actually passed. Further hilariating matters, someone off-screen says “I thought this class would NEVER end.” Christ, have some fucking patience!

What say you?


Nosferatu: Phantom Der Nacht

JUNE 26, 2007


In the past 6-7 months, I have seen like half a dozen versions of the same goddamn story: Not counting spinoffs like Dracula 3000 and Dracula II, I have watched Dracula (1931), Spanish Dracula (1931), original Nosferatu, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and now this, the 1979 Werner Herzog version of Nosferatu: Phantom Der Nacht. They all have their differences, but in the end, it's the same damn movie. Look, there’s only so many ways I can see the scene of Harker giving him the real estate forms before I reach my breaking point!

Luckily, Herzog presents an almost entirely unique version of the story, as possibly only he could do. While the general story is the same as always, it could never be mistaken for one of the others. The pacing is slow and deliberate (Drac doesn’t even appear until we’re about 30 minutes or so into it), and there are times where one might think they are watching one of his documentaries. It makes you wish he had tackled other horror classics; I bet he could do an AMAZING version of Frankenstein.

The oddball touches make the film one of my favorite Dracula movies ever. There’s the world’s worst violin player, minute long shots of clouds, etc. And in my personal favorite, there’s a scene where Dracula is running around a room. He passes by a crucifix, and Klaus Kinski (possibly the only actor who is more menacing in real life than he is playing a bloodsucking immortal) lets out this little whiny yelp that is as hilarious as it is sort of touching. For a second or two, you actually feel bad for Dracula.

I also like that this may be the only Dracula film that finds Van Helsing about to be arrested for killing Dracula. I bet if that awful Hugh Jackman movie ended with some folks throwing him into a police car, Holy Grail style, that movie would be nowhere NEAR as hated as it is. Probably would have made another 30 million or so too. You blew it, Sommers!

Sadly, the DVD is non anamorphic, but the subtitles run in the black, so if you're like me and have a widescreen TV, your options are either watch it windowboxed, or zoom in and watch the English version (most of the film was reshot with the actors speaking English). Either way it's not optimal. Hopefully a better edition will come along, maybe as a tie-in release the next time someone makes their own version of the Dracula story? One must be on the way, it's been... minutes.

What say you?


Trigger Man (2007)

JUNE 25, 2007


Tonight I checked out the new film from Ti West, Trigger Man. I guess I could save you, me, and the Google index caching service some time and just copy/paste my review for The Roost, because all of the problems I had with that film were just as evident here.

Having apparently learning nothing about pacing and editing from his previous effort, West once again gives us a 20 minute film stretched into an interminable 80 minutes. Why he continues to do this is beyond me. From an editing standpoint, even Uwe Boll improved from House of the Dead to Alone in the Dark. At the Q&A, he said that the project was made quickly, and was more or less an experiment that he did to pass time while waiting for other projects to come together. And I must laud him for that (notice I do not consider the movie Crap); the ‘let’s make a movie’ attitude is one I cannot disdain. I’d much rather see a bad film from a guy who genuinely loves making films than an OK one made by people who are clearly out to make money. It’s great that he has that much enthusiasm for the process, but unfortunately that enthusiasm doesn't seem to be translating into an equally impressive film.

A few weeks back I watched a delightfully terrible movie called Devil Times Five. When that movie was first shot, the editor came up with a cut that lasted like 40 minutes. I kept thinking about that as I watched Trigger Man, because like his previous film, West serves as his own “Editor” here. But I don’t think the movie was ‘edited’ so much as it was ‘assembled’. What the hell could he have possibly cut? 90% of the “scenes” (read: endless shots of one to three characters silently walking through the woods) are shot in one master, with the camera whipping around Blair Witch style rather than, I dunno, CUTTING from one character to another. Some scenes (shots) last 3 minutes long and serve no narrative function whatsoever. The character development is next to zero, and half the time the three leads aren’t even talking to one another. All we learn is that they have the ability to walk near trees for long periods of time, something that doesn’t really pay off. One could assume West was trying to lull you into a calm before the brutal attacks (which ARE quite striking, as they come out of nowhere), but he continues to do the same thing even in the ‘action’ scenes. Had another editor come in, I am sure his cut would last no longer than a half hour, so long as he had any sense in his head. What could have been a great and terrifying (the two things I fear most: spiders and snipers) short film is now an 80 minute endurance exercise. Maybe if he makes another film like it, some bright spark can edit the three down to their appropriate 20-30 min lengths and make a nice little anthology. Until then, both films are best used for drinking games:

*Every time a shot lasts longer than one minute with nothing going on in it, drink.
*Every time a character actually talks, drink twice.
*Every time you say to yourself “OK, something will happen in this next shot” and it doesn’t, drink as much as you like.
*Every time the camera zooms in and out for no reason whatsoever, take a shot AND an aspirin.
*Every time you leave the room to pee or something, and you come back and it’s still on the same shot, cry.

But at least this movie doesn’t have a segment where a narrator tells us that a scene sucks and rewinds the film so he can ‘redo’ it. So there’s something.

What say you?


The Last Winter

JUNE 24, 2007


The Last Winter was written, directed, and edited by Larry Fessenden. He also produced The Roost (hey, that rhymes!), but I tried not to hold that against him. Producing and writing/directing are two different things (unless you’re Jerry Bruckheimer) and besides, I am forever looking for a good snowbound horror movie. But, like Wind Chill, The Last Winter is not it. Along with Iced and Shredder (two of the worst slasher movies ever made), maybe I just have to accept that snow and horror movies do not mix. Maybe 30 Days of Night will pull it off. But I must admit I am not comfortable with pinning my hopes (for anything) on a Josh Hartnett movie.

Things start off real (and too) slow, as Ron Perlman arrives at a remote Alaskan drilling station of some sort in order to re-assess the situation with some environmental types (James LeGros and that Rainn Wilson-y guy from Kingdom Hospital). It seems that the weather is too warm to risk hauling heavy equipment across the permafrost. Perlman is all “fuck the owls, people need oil so they can drive to the corner store!” and LeGros is all “The owls and trees are more important than people being able to drive to work!” There’s the usual motley crew – a nurse/cook, a mechanic, etc., and like The Thing, you get the impression that cabin fever is starting to sink in. After a while, people begin acting strange, and means of escape/rescue are repeatedly thwarted. We’ve seen it all before, but that wouldn’t be a problem if there were enough interesting additions to the ‘people stuck somewhere’ template to keep your interest. And in fact, the backstory that is set up is quite interesting (global warming is thawing the tundra, releasing some sort of prehistoric gas that is causing mass hypnosis/paranoia) but the movie takes far too long to get going, and then when it does, it more or less ramps back down again after 20 minutes or so, finally just sort of petering out.

Part of the problem is, the horror elements are barely present, and the film has very few moments of actual suspense. One character is murdered by another, and the ensuing ‘panic’ is so half-assed and quickly resolved, you gotta wonder why they bothered implementing it at all. And I wouldn’t mind if more was done with the ‘environment striking back’ plot but that doesn’t happen either. If you took a quick trip to the bathroom you might miss the one scene where it’s mentioned and spend the rest of the movie wondering what the fuck was going on and why. It’s not enough to come up with a good idea: you gotta DEVELOP the goddamn thing to. Maybe in The Next To Last Winter?

Earlier this year, I saw Wind Chill, a not very good movie which probably would have been better if either of the characters were remotely likeable (or if the ending made any goddamn sense). The Last Winter falls into the same trap. While the characters are slightly more likeable (due more to appreciation of the actors themselves than their characters – how can you NOT like Kevin Corrigan or Ron Perlman?), they’re still no one you will really CARE about. The only remotely sympathetic character is a guy named Maxwell, who’s played by the kid from Friday Night Lights. He’s a young kid who is the first to go apeshit and spends his final scene talking to himself, naked, in the middle of a snowy field. Poor sod.

There are some great bits and setpieces here and there, but it’s still too slow for its own good, and worse, has a conclusion that fails to resolve anything or even up the ante. Other than an odd (and obviously under-budgeted) post-apocalyptic epilogue, nothing happens in the climax that hasn’t already happened 2-3 times before in the film; namely, some ghostly buffalo-ish things kill someone for some reason. You can ASSUME they want revenge for destroying their land, but then why kill the environmental guy who was trying to stop them? And we are given the impression that the ghost-buffalos don’t want anyone to leave/rescue to arrive, so how does the survivor end up in a hospital in a regular metropolitan city?

And why, in a movie that obviously wants to deliver a point on the dangers of global warming, is there a seemingly anti-health care ad in the final moments? We see a sign that says “Health Care is a privilege, not a right.” Well that’s comforting, thanks. So poor people who can’t afford/are not offered health insurance shouldn’t worry about it and instead save their money for an electric car? Gotcha.

What say you?


Black Sunday (aka La Maschera Del Demonio)

JUNE 23, 2007


It must have been great to be around in 1960 when Black Sunday was first released (under the title Mask of Satan). Nowadays, “gore” is something to be expected, but back then, when folks died they did so without blood (or off camera entirely). This was one of the first films to show the graphic outcome of certain actions, such as hammering a mask full of interior spikes into someone’s face.

Not that the movie is a gorefest. It’s mainly about some folks running around a castle/graveyard/other typical horror settings trying to stop a witch from killing everyone. Much like Bava’s Kill Baby Kill, the story isn’t extremely engaging or anything, but the atmosphere is thick enough to enjoy the proceedings nonetheless. Bava was a master at maximizing the situations and imagery that we take for granted 40 or so years later: the castle basement filled with coffins; the fog-filled forest at night; etc. The black and white cinematography is nice, though given the genre’s usual rich palette, I wouldn’t have minded if it was done in color.

Like many non-zombie Italian films, your level of enjoyment will more than likely depend on whether or not you appreciate slower paces and an emphasis on atmosphere. I usually have to be in the mood for them, and find I enjoy them more on repeat viewings. But after all the fucking garbage I watched this week, this was like watching Halloween or Dawn of the Dead for the first time.

The Bava set is criminally underpriced at many outlets as well, I’ve seen it marked down to 20 bucks. I paid more than that for fucking H20. And while I am bummed it does not include Shock, it’s still highly recommended if you are a fan.

What say you?


Dracula 3000

JUNE 22, 2007


The last week or so has been extremely trying here at Horror Movie A Day. A Brush With Death, Drive-Thru, and now Dracula 3000 are among the absolute worst films I have seen since I began HMAD. To say Dracula is the best of those would be saying exactly nothing at all. It would also be a damnable lie, since Drive Thru comes out on top due to the fact that it has actual production value.

But while Brush's crew just had to find themselves an old house and a nice house, the folks behind this cinematic masterpiece had to set their film on a spaceship, and occasionally show outer space. Now to be fair, the exterior shots of the ship actually aren't too bad. They are entirely CG shots and look just as good as Firefly or whatever. Considering the rest of the film, I suspect they are stock footage.

However, the INTERIOR of the ship is without a doubt the worst ever seen in an outer space movie. It's a giant ship that apparently is 95% rusty corridor. Apart from a tiny comm room (with a few waveform monitors and a computer that looks out of date for our time, let alone a thousand years later), a rec room (complete with a standard pool table and CD rack - THE FUTURE!!!) and a coffin room (with... coffins), we never see anything else on the ship besides endless corridors. No engine room, no flight deck, not even a cafeteria. Just corridors and other corridors. Hilariously, they are all rusted out and badly painted... as if a ship from 2950 is 'ancient' compared to the (unseen) 3000 technology?

But as un-futuristic as the ship is, nothing will prepare you for the sight of Dracula himself. Now, the title more or less implies that this is a futuristic Dracula, perhaps one who works as a computer virus, or is part alien, or something. Even the cover of the DVD seems to say as much, as it features a Giger type alien with fangs. Well guess what? Dracula is.... a 1930's Universal reject. Complete with giant collar. When he first appeared I shut the movie off for a while. It was too much to take.

One of the stupider aspects of the film is that Casper Van Dien plays a descendant of the original Van Helsing. So even though the vampire's name in the film is Orlock, we are given a subplot that the whole reason they are in this mess is Dracula getting revenge. Again, fine, but here's the problem: The vampire in the film comes from the planet of Transylvania (write your own Frank N Furter joke) and is the "last of his kind". So, apparently, this movie would have you (not me) believe that the original Dracula from the Stoker novel came from outer space, and then, after the real Van Helsing killed him, went BACK to his home planet, and hung out for 1100 years hoping one of VH's descendants would come into space so he could kill him? Huh. You know, usually when I come up with an idea that stupid*, I laugh it off before even writing it down, let alone spending what looks like hundreds of dollars filming it.

Basically, there is absolutely no reason for this film to be set in space. The only time they ever even remotely use the space setting for any sort of narrative function (other than the idiotic "Dracula is from another planet" stuff) is when they decide to kill the vampires by flying near the sun. Not that the ship of corridors has any windows we ever see that would allow the vampires to be exposed to sunlight, but it doesn't matter: the ship just explodes when they get sort of close to the sun, and the movie ends immediately afterwards. Everyone dies. But again, the movie could have been set on a boat and they could have blown that up, since the sun really didn't do anything that a few grenades or a standard movie self-destruct button couldn't have done.

And much like yesterday's House by the Cemetery, the guy in charge of dubbing the footsteps is clearly a moron. They are entirely out of sync and sound nothing like a human being walking around. Next time you're walking, take note of the sound of your footsteps. Then take the nearest bowling ball and repeatedly whack it onto a manhole cover. One of those is exactly what the footsteps in this movie sound like.

I suppose anyone who carefully looks at the DVD case should know exactly what they are in for. In addition to the cast full of B-movie regulars (Coolio, Casper Van Dien, Ereka Elaniak), the director is none other than Darrell Roodt, who was also responsible for the asstacular Prey. Though again, at least there all he needed to tell his story was a jeep and some lions. Much easier to find than "The Carpathian System" or whatever the fuck. Hell, even the goddamn tagline for the movie doesn't even approach common sense logic: In space the sun never rises. Uh, no shit, because the fucking thing is out all the goddamn time! Jesus asschristing fuck, does anyone reread the shit they write down? There's also a scene where they are shocked to see a crucifix (one guy calls it a "plus sign", the movie's only intentional laugh, provided that you are watching the movie at 3 am like I did), as they were banned "twenty years ago". Hey, asshole, the ship you're on is from fifty years ago! And we know that because you said it yourself in the same fucking scene! Christ!

Still, it doesn't approach the idiocy and basic confusion that comes with this line: Our two survivors shut a door that Drac is trying to get through, severing his left arm (which turns into his right on a closeup). One then says to the other "If I've told you once, I've told you twice: ALWAYS put out the do not disturb sign." Your guess is as good as mine. Actually, it might be better, since I hope you haven't seen this movie and thus aren't as stupid as I now am.

What say you?

*I once had an idea for a sequel to Armageddon that picks up where the original left off. NASA gets radio contact from Willis, who has survived the blast and is now living inside the Armadillo. The survivors return to space to rescue him, and many things go wrong. Yep. I pictured that Willis survived, even though he was more or less sitting on the nuclear bomb.


House By The Cemetery (aka Quella Villa Accanto Al Cimitero)

JUNE 21, 2007


Reward: One (1) new copy of this Lance Henriksen movie called The Garden (I won it from a contest and they sent me two) to anyone who can explain what the fuck is going on at any point during House By The Cemetery. Not since The Demon has a Horror Movie A Day movie baffled AND borderline bored me so much, sometimes even simultaneously.

First off, before the ranting, I must give props to Lucio Fulci. Unlike most directors, including Americans, he chose NOT to fake Massachusetts in North Carolina or Canada, and instead actually filmed IN Massachusetts! Boston and Concord to be precise. I recognized it immediately, and even if I had any doubt, there’s a shot of route 62, an obscure Mass route that no one would know to put in (as opposed to routes 95 or 93, which everyone knows) if they were faking my beloved home-state. Bravo, Fulci!

He also delivers on the title right from the start. Many “House” movies are borderline lying when it comes to their title: House of 1000 Corpses is more like Tunnel Of A Dozen Or So Corpses; that show House is usually at a hospital, and House of the Dead (Boll) doesn’t even HAVE a house! But Fulci delivers in the first scene of the film. We see a House, and it is indeed By a Cemetery. Sadly, the cemetery never factors into the movie. Much like, well, come to think of it, almost nothing in the movie factors into the movie.

No one goes into a Fulci (or any Italian horror) movie expecting 100% coherency. I myself usually only expect around 70% tops. But even by those standards, this movie is fucking baffling. I kept thinking my DVD “remaining time” display was broken, because there was apparently only 2 minutes to go and none of the many plot threads had been resolved. Indeed, some of them never even got really started, just sort of hinted at and then forgotten entirely. The suicide of the professor? The fact that everyone in town seems to remember our “hero”, Norman, living there before with a daughter? The real estate agent giving him and his wife the cold shoulder when they see her in town? The blood-filled mannequin that looks like the useless babysitter character? Why no one seems to notice any signs of a struggle after every “blood spraying everywhere” style death? How a character can drive up to the house when no one’s home, get killed, and not leave her car behind for the owners to discover? The entire conclusion? If you want answers to any of these Microsoft grammar check hating questions, you best look elsewhere. Good luck.

But nothing in the film is as confusing as whether or not the main character is a boy or a girl. Its name is “Bob”, so we can assume it’s a boy, but it is dubbed by what sounds like a teenaged British girl. It is, without a doubt, the worst voice in a movie (dubbed or not), ever. Every time the little bastard speaks, you will want to kill him. I’m not joking. And not that I expect any award winning dubbing when I watch an early 80s Italian movie, but come on! It sounds absolutely nothing like a child, a boy, or even a human being at times. He also has longer hair than most females.

Keeping with the theme(s) of the alleged storyline, none of the post sound editing makes any sense. A shot of Norman calmly walking around the house has heavy stomping (and out of sync) sounds accompanying it. A character is dragged down a flight of stairs and each time their head hits a step we hear what sounds like a shovel being whacked against a large piece of sheet metal. The music is OK though, and there are occasional lines of dialogue that make the whole thing worthwhile, such as "Mommy said you're not dead. Is that true?"

But even Fulci seems to be phoning it in. His direction seemingly consisted of “Just keep zooming in and out”. Worse, no one is on the receiving end of ocular damage. There are a couple of throat slashings and a totally ridiculous bat attack, but that’s about it. Oh there’s also a kill at the beginning (like every other scene in the movie, it has little or nothing to do with the other scenes) where a knife goes in the back of a girl’s head at a 45 degree angle and comes straight out of her mouth. Fine.

Way back, when I reviewed Dario Argento’s Opera, I said that I had seen very few Fulci movies, and that I liked them all, so I was afraid to see more because I was bound to eventually be disappointed. Well, here it is.

What say you?


The Funhouse (1981)

JUNE 20, 2007


I don’t know if I have ever mentioned it, but I really fucking hate Dark Ride. There are many reasons why, and I am sure by the time I completely run out of movies to watch I will have divulged them all. But one reason in particular is that it was a pale imitation of Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse, which itself was not very good to begin with. If you’re going to rip off a movie, make it better!

But my opinion was based on a TV version I had seen when I was like 13. So I decided I owed it to myself, and… well, just myself I guess, to watch it again. But 13 year old me was right: it’s really not that good. After a mildly clever opening that homages Halloween and Psycho, there is absolutely NOTHING going on in this movie for about an hour. And not in the ‘build suspense’ type of way – there is not even a hint of danger. In Halloween (which this movie apes in more ways than two), Michael was constantly around, taunting his victims, freaking Laurie out… here, if you cut the last 30 minutes or so out of the movie, you wouldn’t even know what the fuck genre it was. For the bulk of the running time, it’s just scene after scene of four painfully generic kids hanging out in a carnival. Well, technically three kids and one guy (the stupidly named Cooper Huckabee, playing a character with the even stupider name of Buzz Klemmet) who’s at least 30. “Let’s go see the magician!” they say, and go there. Nothing happens. Then they go to a strip show. Nothing happens. And so on. Finally, as almost sort of an afterthought, a deformed freak kills a couple of them.

And this clown never really appears.

I place the blame entirely on Larry Block. In fact, I tend to blame him for a lot of things, but here at least it makes sense: he wrote it (and his only other screenwriting credit is the 1990 Captain America movie. You know, the one with the Italian Red Skull). Hooper’s direction is inspired (there’s a great crane shot from the funhouse going up to the whole carnival, and some nice use of the 2.35:1 frame throughout) and the actors aren’t all that bad. And Gunther is certainly a memorable entry in the deformed slasher canon due to the horrifying makeup (and unlike Cropsy or Ben Willis 2.0, we actually SEE his makeup for most of his scenes). But the script just plain sucks. You know something’s up when the writer of the novelization (a guy by the name of Owen West, who you might know by his pseudonym of Dean Koontz) had to add a ton of backstory and flesh out everything just to make it worth his while. Some folks believe the movie is actually based on his book, since the movie appears to be a stripped down version of it. It also makes more sense that a movie would be based on a Dean Koontz novel than it does that Dean Koontz wrote a novelization for a shitty Tobe Hooper movie.

The editing also leaves much to be desired. A character gets impaled through the belly, but he’s framed in such a way that we can’t see that. Nor have we seen the sword. And they just hold on him going “ughhhhhhhhhhh” for about 20 seconds before they finally cut in a shot of the sword protruding from his gut. Other scenes are almost all master shots, and several other scares are totally botched because they don’t cut to reactions or anything, instead they just hold forever on the same shot for like 30 seconds or so. It makes Unbreakable look like a Michael Bay film.

It’s not a total loss. Along with the aforementioned highlights, there is a 5-10 minute chunk where this movie is everything it should be. One of the guys, a clone of Halloween’s Bob, gets killed (finally) and the other three go running off. Then they stop, and suddenly one of the funhouse cars starts rolling toward them with someone inside. It’s creepy as hell. Then Buzz swings an ax at the figure in the car, and it turns out it’s the Bob clone! It would have been better if he wasn’t actually dead yet, but oh well. Then there’s a nice little chase that leaves the Lynda clone dead. But after that it’s back to fairly stupid nonsense, like when Final Girl refuses to back the fuck away from the not-really-dead killer, giving him a wide open window for his usual final attack.

And the funhouse is WAY too extravagant for a traveling carnival. Two floors, multiple rooms, an office… how the fuck are they going to pack this thing back up when it’s time to move on to Shelbyville? Granted, one of the REAL traveling carnival funhouses would be impossible to film in, since they are the size of a trailer and feature nothing of interest. There’s a fantastic Simpsons gag where Lisa and Bart ride on one and at one point a skeleton drops down and makes a mooing sound. It’s the most accurate funhouse of its kind ever depicted on-screen.

However I must give Block SOME credit: there are some nice deviations from standard slasher rules, especially for ones of the period (1981). Final Girl (Elizabeth Berridge, who resembles the lovechild of Jessica Harper and Allyson Hannigan), while still displaying some of the usual ‘bad feelings’ and some mousiness, still manages to find time to smoke pot AND show her breasts. Then again Laurie Strode smoked pot too, and maybe Hooper just told Berridge to take her top off (they’re just making out anyway) so maybe Block doesn’t deserve credit after all.

In fact, no, I know he doesn’t, because he still wrote a movie with a fucking Italian Red Skull.

What say you?


Sisters Of Death

JUNE 19, 2007


None of the transfers on my budget pack look better than a duped VHS tape, and by now I am pretty used to it. But Sisters Of Death was seemingly transferred with a special sort of blur filter that allows the film to look OK enough but to render the credits entirely unreadable:

That’s not even the worst one. Another one, swear to Jebus, just looks like a red line made with Microsoft Paint.

The movie itself is a decent enough piece of 70’s cheese. We have a lame cult (the full on blue robed girls are initiated by ‘surviving’ a round of Russian Roulette, yet when one actually dies, they seemingly disband and become sorority girls?) reuniting under mysterious circumstances, as they are all invited Ten Little Indians style to some mansion in the middle of nowhere. But the movie blows it’s wad by not only revealing who is behind the invites, but also WHY, like 20 minutes in. It’s the dad of the girl who got killed. He thinks one of them killed her on purpose. Also along for the ride are two typically 70s guys, one of whom is played by Nat from the Peach Pit. Instead of his usual credited name of Joe E. Tata, he is simply Joe Tata, playing a character titled Joe, who everyone calls Joey. Has your head exploded? Mine has.

Because of the blurry credits, I cannot discern who composed this masterpiece (nor is it listed on the IMDb), so perhaps it IS Harry Manfredini composing the film, but if not, he ripped him off blind when he composed the Friday the 13th score a few years later. It’s almost identical. Like, Bloody Birthday identical.

While you’re on the subject, I’d like to point out that this film would probably work better as a solely audible experience. The music is great, and the sound editing is something of a national treasure. Scenes of our 5 heroines talking at an equal level, overlapping one another, result in what may be considered virtual schizophrenia. There’s also a hefty dose of inane dialogue. At one point, the grieving father delivers this haunting bit: “And then you calmly watched while her head, her beautiful head, was broken into a hundred fragments!” There’s also a yoga-y type guru who offers what sounds more like a riddle than any sort of meaningful advice: “There is no true anywhere; the true is nowhere to be seen. If you think that you have seen seen the true, then your seeing is not a true one.” Deep, man... DEEP.

The audio track more than makes up for the inept picture. Clearly the cameraman, DP, etc were more interesting in being 70s than paying the fuck attention. Because, much like the credits, the picture leaves much to be desired. Some examples:

Hey there Mike!

Where the fuck are our heads?

But nothing compares to this unintentionally hilarious bit of editing. There’s an electric fence around the mansion, keeping them from escaping. Joey is being chased and he runs into it, electrocuting himself to death. We then immediately cut to another character, who yells “Joey found a power source!” Hahahahaha, oh man, it’s fucking beautiful.

What say you?


Oasis Of The Zombies (aka L'Abîme Des Morts Vivants)

JUNE 18, 2007


Oasis Of The Zombies may very well be the worst Italian zombie I have ever seen. I didn’t think it was possible to botch NAZI ZOMBIES, but Jesus (Jess) Franco accomplished just that.

Before I begin my trademark ranting, I will say that the zombie makeup is very good (hence: no "Crap" deeming). Like Fulci’s zombies, they actually LOOK like they have been dead for awhile, unlike the “theyre human, just green” look of Romero’s undead. Nice work.

But that’s about all I can positively say about it. The rest is as boring as a dog’s ass, save for some occasional unintentional hilarity. There’s a love scene (one that lasts longer than any zombie attack scene) where the guy suddenly just goes “I’ve got to get back to the others… I hate to leave you like this.” And it’s not like his alarm goes off or someone says “Hey, let’s go!” He just randomly says it out of the blue. I don’t even know if he came!

There’s also this dialogue exchange:

Omar Sharif-y guy: “Did you find what you were looking for?”
Hero: “I mainly found myself.”
Omar: (nods, as if this meant a goddamn thing at all, then) “Let me take you back."

We then cut to a scene of the hero driving a jeep and Omar on a camel, not really “taking” anyone anywhere. And they are traveling roughly 1 MPH. You can see the actor having trouble driving the jeep so slowly.

There’s barely any zombie action in the film either. Even when there is, it is usually devoid of excitement. In the first zombie attack, he pops out of the ground and grabs a girl’s ankles. But she doesn’t struggle, and the zombie doesn’t seem to be trying to pull her anywhere. She just stands there and screams and we cut away. Again, these are NAZI ZOMBIES. They cut to a swastika some 900 times over the course of the film. OK, WE GET IT! Evil! And, due to the constant reminder that they are Nazis, I’m expecting them to be the most vicious zombies ever on film. But... they’re not. Ed at the end of Shaun of the Dead is more bloodthirsty. Half of the shots of zombies in this are close-ups, where you can’t tell if they are even MOVING, let alone attacking. Lame. At least the sound of approaching zombies (I think that’s what it is anyway) is worth hearing (again, not for the reason intended): it sounds like that thing from Lost crossed with a squeaky spring door and a dying frog. Nothing more terrifying than assorted household noises!

Speaking of the soundtrack, it would be nice if it wasn’t at odds with itself. As the film is dubbed, they could have had the actors say anything. So why are they saying things like “It’s so quiet” and “Just enjoy the silence” when we can clearly hear at least three separate birds making nonstop annoying bird noises? And the bird sounds themselves are clearly library effects; as are the other assorted things we hear during the “silence”. I half expected to hear the Wilhelm Scream thrown in there for good measure.

I also take issue with the film’s full frame transfer. Even though the film is originally only 1.66:1 (which amounts to very little visual information lost, like less than 10%), there is a cropped credit (“sistant Director”) at the beginning of the film. Which is all the more a shame when you consider that there are no end credits at all. The score suddenly cuts out and we see THE END and then the disc stops. Of course, this IS from my 50 Chilling Movies budget pack, so I’m not expecting a Criterion transfer, but still, end credits shouldn’t be cut out. Some people work upwards of 20 minutes a day making end credit sequences.

What say you?


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