I Know Who Killed Me

JULY 31, 2007


There’s a certain level of endearing idiocy in I Know Who Killed Me that I have never thought possible. For starters, the idiotic title is actually a line of dialogue in the movie. Someone actually says "I Know Who Killed Me". It's things like that that make this movie simultaneously amazing and god awful. Strangely, its faults have almost nothing to do with Lindsay Lohan, who isn’t much of an actress but is still among the least of the movie’s problems.

Despite trying wayyyyyyyy too hard to be an Argento movie (both in the ‘kill’ scenes and the color scheme), the movie is kind of sort of original, in that it pretends to be a psychological thriller about a split personality but turns out to be equal portions much simpler and more complicated than that. I have to respect, albeit begrudgingly, a movie that hinges on an audience buying a ‘rare form of stigmata’ (as opposed to all the garden variety stigmatas that plague many of us?) in order to make the plot work.

To say that this movie is “all over the place” is putting it mildly. In addition to the aforementioned Argento riffs, there’s also some torture porn, a strip club with what appears to be Terry Gilliam extras on staff, some FBI guys who disappear from the movie halfway through, etc. But nothing compares to when the film suddenly becomes American Pie 6: Jim Fucks An Amputee, as a one-armed/one-legged Lohan begins fucking her boyfriend as her mother tries to drown out the sounds by cleaning the kitchen. Later, the dude begins running around asking for condoms (this is a ruse to sneak Lohan out of the house, but still). Tonal shifts? No, these are tonal earthquakes.

What makes the movie such a special kind of awful is that they seem to be thinking they are making a totally legitimate thriller. Perhaps if someone, ANYONE, in the movie seemed to be aware how nonsensical and batshit the movie was, it would work a bit better. But instead, the audience is left to laugh only at it, not with it.

The film also makes the same mistake as The Bone Collector – a whodunit where the killer is obvious simply by omission. In Collector, the killer was played by Leland Orser, a fairly recognizable character actor. He showed up in one scene in the beginning as a repairman for the bed Denzel lays in for the whole movie. Anyone who knows their character actors would know he was the killer halfway through or so, because your brain will tell you “There was no need to have a scene with this guy unless he was going to come back later”. Same problem here. Hilariously, they even expect the audience to remember the guy’s name, as Lohan just says “it was _______” and then they go off to find him. Come on guys, it’s a movie with a Disney starlet stripping with one leg – we’re not here to remember names.

Lohan enthusiasts may be interested in the film since she plays a stripper, but I hate to break it to you: she’s as much of a stripper as Alba in Sin City. Though here, director Chris Sivertson tries to make up for it by editing in shots of actual strippers during Lohan’s awful routines, which are about as enticing as Paris’ striptease in House of Wax (i.e. awkward at best). She also demonstrates an inability to pull off swearing, sounding more like a 12 year old repeating what she heard on TV than the supposedly streetwise tough girl she is supposed to be playing.

Internet rumblings suggest that the film had an hour cut from it. I don’t doubt it. There’s no way anyone can legitimately write a film that goes into so many directions without rhyme or reason, or why actors like Neil McDonough and Gregory Itzin would sign on to play roles that are little more than cameos. Hopefully the DVD will restore some of this so the film can be appreciated for what it truly is: A well shot Argento wannabe that should have been released in 1992. Until then, it works best as an example of how inept and wonderful a film can be in the modern world. Somewhere in heaven, Coleman Francis is in a light plane, smiling down on the 12 or so people who are in theaters watching this thing.

What say you?


I Bury The Living

JULY 30, 2007


I Bury The Living is one of those titles you always hear but probably haven’t seen the film. I’m actually kind of shocked that there hasn’t been a remake of this one, as it’s one of the best ideas for a Twilight Zone style movie I have ever heard, but with a dumb (and not original) ending that betrays the whole thing.

Note I said the story is great. The dialogue and way things develop are not. For example: in the first 20 minutes, about a half dozen people just sort of swing on by the graveyard office. Look, there are only two reasons to ever visit a cemetery: visiting a grave, and fucking someone. I wouldn’t care if it was my own mother working there; I wouldn’t ever pop in to say hi. It’s goddamn creepy. There is also a newlywed couple who go on and on about their inheritance and burial plots and what not. They literally come over to deliver exposition to all of us.

New England fans should get particular enjoyment out of the name of the main character: Bob Kraft. Kraft is of course the jovial and kindly owner of the Patriots, and imagining him sitting around his office putting black pins into the future burial site of, oh, let’s say Peyton Manning or Cato June, could make an excellent sketch (this of course would only work if sports fans were also familiar with obscure 50 year old horror movies, and that isn’t likely).

Like some of the other budget pack movies, this is one I wish I saw on a legitimate release. While not as bad as Bell From Hell or Cathy’s Curse, it has a buzzing noise over the audio and the absolute worst compression I have seen on the set. I don’t know what the exact term is, but careful viewers will notice on some lower quality DVDs that certain elements in a shot will ‘shift’ slightly when the things around them are still (or vice versa). Usually it’s something like a photo on the wall in the background or something small like that. But here, entire portions of the background can be seen shifting around behind the main characters as they walk around. It’s freaky and annoying. Shots of the map in particular suffer from this.

Speaking of the map, the design on it is very particular. If I met a girl with the ‘path’ as a tattoo, I would totally marry her. I’m sure my wife wouldn’t mind.

What say you?


Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed

JULY 29, 2007


Way back in April, I watched the first Ginger Snaps, a film that started off almost unbearable but eventually turned out pretty great. Luckily the sequel, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, has no such problems. Yes, we have here a true rarity, especially in the DTV world: A sequel that improves on the original.

The movie picks up more or less where the original left off, though the mother is MIA and never mentioned. Brigitte, a.k.a. the less hot sister, is now becoming a werewolf, and worse, is haunted by the ghost of her sister. I say worse because since she is a ghost, she doesn’t slut around like she did in the original. Sigh.

And much like the first one, the film falls into the rare “feminist horror” sub-genre. In fact, it often comes off like Girl, Interrupted, albeit with an occasional werewolf attack. But it never overpowers the narrative, and the film moves along swiftly. The effects are also greatly improved (they used a mechanical/foam werewolf this time, at least I think. I don’t spot any obvious CG at any rate), so kudos!

The only thing I didn’t really dig was the lack of explaining why the hospital orderly guy had a large supply of Monkshood, which is the antidote Brigitte needed to keep from wolfing out. Does he just carry some around, just in case? The film also never bothers identifying the male wolf that comes after Brigitte. It’s SORT OF set up as a mystery (and the first film had a few male characters who may now be wolves), but it’s never resolved. Oh well. It still eats a few folks and that’s all that matters.

There is also a 3rd film, so I will check that one out before year’s end, and thus conclude the first “HMAD Franchise”! Unless I go through the Dark Harvest series quicker than any man should (which is to say, watching all of them before death)

What say you?


Mountaintop Motel Massacre

JULY 28, 2007


Another goddamn slasher. Tomorrow's movie won't be, I swear. I am sort of limited to what I grabbed on my way out the door as I left for Comic Con, but still, I should have been more selective. My apologies, readers who probably didn't notice or care!

Let's move on to the subject at hand, which is: how can a movie with a title like Mountaintop Motel Massacre be so damn boring? And why don’t we ever see the goddamn mountain?

Ripping off films ranging from Psycho to Motel Hell to Funeral Home, and yet never approaching anything as interesting as those films, this one is only (possibly) worth watching solely for the puzzling way in which characters are introduced and killed. For starters, our ‘hero’ shows up some 30 minutes into the film, and is a man who pretends to audition hopeful young singers like our final girl and her cousin in order to nail them. The guy who is ACTUALLY the hero shows up at the beginning and the end, and is never given a name. The kindly young newlyweds who we meet early on are pretty much the first to go. Again, they are ripping off Psycho, so some of this is to be expected, but the problem is it’s never remotely interesting, let alone scary. Kill the whole lot of em for all I care!

For a slasher, they sure don’t follow any of the rules either. The black guy and the sheriff live? The girl who DOESN’T sleep with the record producer guy gets killed*, the slut survives? And the killer is not only a woman, but she doesn’t wear any sort of mask or disguise. Then again, she has no back-story or seeming motive either. Norman was repressed because his mom wouldn’t let him fuck anyone (including her), what the hell is your excuse, Evelyn???

Did you know they had cell phones in 1983??? I sure as hell didn’t. Ordinarily I would chalk it up to anachronistic error, but this was actually MADE in 1983. So either they were real or writer Jim McCullough, Jr. is some sort of Criswell-esque genius. Either way, it belongs to the fake hero, who simultaneously resembles Charles Bronson and a giant bowl of grease.

What say you?

*I should point out that our ‘hero’ tries REALLY HARD to get a 3 way going with a girl and HER COUSIN. Nice.


The Initiation

JULY 27, 2007


What the hell’s with all the slashers? I’m supposed to be evening this out, but this is like four in a row, five if you count Bay of Blood. Still, I shouldn’t complain… beats trying to watch five goddamn anthology movies in a row.

The Initiation is of course one of several (or two) Daphne Zuniga slasher movies that came along long past their time. But it’s marginally better than Dorm that Dripped Blood, mainly due to the fact that it doesn’t bore you to tears from the first scene. No, this one begins with a little girl stabbing her mom’s boyfriend, which inadvertently leads to her dad being horribly burned in a scuffle. Also – third film in a row featuring the death of a father, which is upsetting to me. Oh well.

This one was shot in Texas, which is pretty rare for a slasher, for whatever reason. Maybe Leatherface and the like killed all of the slasher killers. Doesn’t really matter in the end, but it’s nice to see non Canadian/Connecticut locales in an early 80s slasher movie. Even if it IS as stupid as this one.

Actually the main problem with Initiation is the ridiculous amount of subplotting. It’s not enough that we have the back-story about the mom cheating on her husband with Clu Gulager (and really, who could blame her?), but there’s also an escaped mental patient or two, a professor who the mother doesn’t trust, some nonsense about a sorority prank, and in the least pleasant moment, one of the fodder girls discussing how as a 12 year old she was raped by her violin teacher (which she reveals and then immediately fucks a dude in a dept store bed and gets killed less than 5 minutes later). I’ve probably forgotten some others by now, but it seems an awful lot to accept in what should be a straight forward ‘slasher in a mall’ movie.

Actually I shouldn’t say mall, because it is called a store, and is set in a 10 story building, and often just resembles a college library. No idea what’s going on with the set design here, but it adds to the movie’s puzzling tone. There’s also another part where Vera Miles (!!!!) says about a character who has just been killed “He’d forget his head if it wasn’t attached”. This is of course horror movie cliché-speak for a character who has been beheaded, but… the character in question wasn’t. Again, the movie is just odd.

The ending is one of the wackier in slasher history too, as we are suddenly supposed to accept that the killer is the final girl’s heretofore unmentioned twin sister. Since decent split screen effects weren’t quite there yet, this leads us to a poorly edited climax where the two primary characters rarely share the screen, and when they do it is done with a double that looks nothing like Zuniga.

Poor little movie.

What say you?


Penny Dreadful

JULY 26, 2007


Earlier this year, I watched the boring as hell movie Wind Chill, which was about two kids more or less trapped in a car during a snowstorm. A half hour or so into Penny Dreadful, I began having mostly unpleasant flashbacks to that film, as Penny is about just ONE person stuck in a car during a snowstorm. But unlike Chill, this one actually has some stuff fucking HAPPEN from time to time, before similarly just sort of ending with a cinematic shrug.

Penny was of course one of the "Eight Films To Die For", which, in reality, range from “Not Even Worth A Hangnail For” (Dark Ride) to “Worth Maybe Killing Another Guy For” (Gravedancers). Incidentally, while those two represent the extreme ends of the spectrum, they are the only two that really benefit from a theatrical screening. All of the others are small, often claustrophobic films; the type that play much better at home. Penny is no exception. There are a lot of great little moments throughout the film, and director Richard Brandes does a pretty good job of making the bulk of the film visually interesting, considering what little he has to work with, most of the time. Unfortunately, like many of the others in the series, it would work best as a short film, since the padding and repetition grows tiresome.

For example, for no reason other than to avoid Wind Chill style nothingness, three characters are introduced. We know they are knife fodder, and that’s fine, but they are involved in a pointless subplot about an extra marital affair (even stupider – the guy and girl have their tryst in an old car in the middle of the freezing woods? Y'all never heard of a Denny’s bathroom?). There’s also an overly lengthy and stupid scene of Penny trying to push her car (wedged between two tress) by sticking her leg out the window and pushing the car away from the tree. Even stupider, this actually sort of works.

The ending is a real letdown…. is something I might say if the film actually had an ending. Penny gets out of the car, is chased by the killer, and a kindly motorist picks her up after running the killer over. The killer’s hand twitches as the motorist looks for signs of life. Penny sees this, and then – 2nd unit director names are revealed. Was the killer Penny herself, manifesting a killer, High Tension style? Was it the escaped mental patient who’s name might literally be Red Herring (the radio announcement is shut off literally as the name is about to be revealed, pointlessly)? Maybe just Mimi Rogers’ ghost, making Penny MORE afraid of cars (since she’s a fairly horrible shrink to begin with – the girl is afraid of cars and she tries to help her by driving her around in a beat up old junker with no shocks or rear defroster?)?

However, I would be remiss if I didn’t point that I didn’t really care; I was more or less entertained for 90 minutes and that’s all I ask for out of any After Dark film. And rarely get even that.

On a final note, even though this is actually one of the better AD films, the DVD is entirely lacking in features. While all of the others (to the best of my memory, which is worthless) have had commentary tracks and other extras, all this one has is a 7 min featurette with more than half the running time spent on clips. It’s only truly worth watching for when the titles label the director as “Acclaimed Director Richard Brandes”, despite only having two other movies to his name. Not only that, the two films are ones that even I have never heard of before in all of my Netflix browsing, and both have 3.5 scores on the IMDb to boot. Acclaimed by who, exactly?

And look at the shitty job they did with the menu overlays!

Michael Berryman deserves better you bastards!

What say you?


SL8 N8

JULY 25, 2007


SL8 N8, aka Slaughter Night, was recommended to me on the Rue Morgue (a magazine all horror fans should read btw; it blows Fangoria and Horrorhound right the hell away) boards, after I claimed Hatchet was the greatest slasher in the past 10 years. A replier chastised me for only counting American slashers. Well I am not one to be ignorant (Australia and New Zealand confusion excepted) so I decided to check out this Dutch one out. And… Hatchet is the best slasher movie I have seen in the past 10 years.

However, this one is pretty good. Sometimes it even approaches great. For a slasher, it’s very brutal, and has a nice claustrophobic feel that I always enjoy. However, it is more than a little reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine at times, and the silly Ouija board scenes are overlong, especially when they are providing names that the characters should be able to know before the final letter is given. “B…R….I….A......N? BRIAN???!?!?!” Come on! After “I” it’s pretty obvious, let’s move on (Note – the name in the film isn’t Brian; I just used my own name as a totally self-involved example).

And what’s with the specific angle used to film a ‘surprise’ car crash scene? You know the one – they used it in the Bourne movies and Slither, and again here. As soon as we see it, you know the dude’s gonna die. Time for a change, boys!

The extras were pretty slim, considering it was a Tartan release. There are some unfunny outtakes, a trailer, and a bizarrely edited 20 minute clip compilation that every now and then is interrupted by one of the cast members giving what appears to be a very uninteresting interview or a useless look at some makeup guys working on something.

But look, all I ask of any modern slasher movie, Dutch or not, is that one character I thought would live gets killed, that the gore is sufficient, and that the lead girl is someone who I would totally love to run around in the dark with. SL8 N8 delivers on all fronts, and then some (i.e. her friend is hot too).

Also I learned that “Christ!” in Dutch is “Jesus!” So there, another bonus.

What say you?


Death Row

JULY 24, 2007


I purposely rented this movie knowing it would be bad. A good friend of mine, with a similar appreciation for watching a bad horror movie and laughing at it, sought out the perfect piece of crap to watch before I left for Con. And Death Row certainly fit the bill. For the love of Christ, they actually claim it has a “stellar cast including Joe Estevez, Todd Bridges”, and some other guy I have never heard of and have already forgotten.

And it wasn’t even as good as I expected.

Most of the problems stem from the description on the back of the DVD case. We are told there is a stellar cast, but I already pointed out that that is a damnable lie. We are also told that the killer dispatches everyone in “creative and brutal ways”. In reality, he stabs a few guys and shoots the others. Yes, a slasher who shoots most of his victims. I guess that is technically creative, but it is also technically stupid.

They also tell us we will “keep guessing until the film’s shocking end!” or some such nonsense. Well, the first character we meet is the killer, who does not wear a mask or hide himself from the other characters, so all suspense is immediately tossed aside. So what exactly is shocking about the end, other than it manages to take an hour and forty minutes to arrive? The killer’s motive. It is beyond amazing. I would like not to spoil it, but I feel I must, as it’s the closest thing I will write that will perhaps pique anyone’s interest (other than Joe Estevez completists). The killer, a prison guard, is after the prisoners and other guards because… he was raped by an inmate. In a confusingly edited flashback, we see a prisoner rough him up and then force him into what looks like fellatio, but then they cut to a Ving Rhames-y shot of the guard bent over and crying. It is so fucking ridiculous and out of nowhere that I came thisclose to elevating this thing out of “Crap”.

But then I recalled the rest of the movie, which takes place in a ‘prison’ that apparently only has 5 cells (and a classroom), and that everyone dies except the killer and the guy who raped him, and there are like 3 instances where the killer makes up these ridiculous excuses for why he was in the room with someone who turned up dead or ‘missing’ rather than just open fire on everyone since he shoots them all one by one anyway, and is supposed to be about them renovating the ‘prison’ but it looks as clean as any community college would look, and Todd Bridges keeps reading an issue of Fangoria with goddamn Cry_Wolf on the cover…. and then realized that only a handful of previous films were MORE deserving of the “Crap” stamp.

Go to hell, Death Row.

What say you?


Bay Of Blood (aka Twitch Of The Death Nerve)

JULY 24, 2007


What do you call it when you’re watching a movie that’s not exciting you that much and you start to wish you were watching another movie from the same director only to find out later that they were both the same movie? There’s gotta be a Sniglet for that.

Such was the case with Mario Bava's Bay of Blood. Once it became clear it wasn’t as great as I heard it was, I began to wish I had rented Twitch of the Death Nerve instead, which I thought was a different movie. Turns out they are the same. In fact, Tim Lucas (who provides those awkward commentaries on the other Bava films I have watched, like Black Sunday) has declared that this film has more titles than any other in history. I don’t doubt it.

I think part of why I was left underwhelmed by the film was due to the god awful presentation it was given on Simitar’s DVD. Not only is it non-anamorphic, it’s not even centered on the screen correctly, so zooming in to make up for the lack of anamorphisity results in some of the top being cropped off and a thin black line still visible on the bottom (sometimes. The film also shifts around on the reel switches). Plus the audio is possibly the worst ever committed to DVD. Even the Mill Creek releases sound better. I had to turn my receiver up to -4 to hear the film. I usually have it around -20, and that’s with the AC going (which was not the case today). And I still had trouble making out some of the dialogue.

And look at this fucking main menu! It looks like it was designed by Miauk. At first I thought the disc had gweeped and was showing me multiple menus at once. Seriously, this disc isn’t worth the urine I sprayed all over it once I finished watching the film. The film may be far from perfect, but it at least deserves a respectable transfer.

The other thing that kept me from loving the movie (I’m guessing it will grow on me, since there was nothing technically BAD about it) was that there was something like 23 killers. For a movie that inspired so many slasher movies (particularly Friday the 13th), I was expecting one or maybe two killers, tops. But I think every character in the film (except for the four random teens who show up and get killed in scenes that were later stolen outright in F13 sequels) kills another one at some point. I kept thinking about that one ending of Clue where Tim Curry reveals himself to be Mr. Body and that everyone else killed the wrong guy.

Gotta love the ending though. The final people (except for a guy named Ventura who just disappears mid-scene) are celebrating their victory, only to be suddenly shot to death by their children, who think it’s all a game. Hahahaha excellent.

Anyway, if you haven’t seen it yet I strongly urge you to wait until a proper DVD release is available. There is no reason anyone should support Simitar by purchasing the piece of shit they released.

What say you?



JULY 23, 2007


Man, I really thought Dark Harvest would have provided me all of the ‘bad actor as lead’ movie watching I could handle this week, but along comes Ezra Godden in Dagon to prove me wrong. Luckily, unlike that disaster, Dagon is good, often even great, and Godden’s abysmal acting isn’t enough to sink it.

The CG effects, on the other hand, come dangerously close to doing just that. For a story that relies heavily on giant storms, sea monsters, etc, the CG budget should have been a lot more than the apparent ten, twelve dollars tops it actually had (maybe they should have stolen some money from the sound dept., since though the surround mix is way above average). Luckily the effects are used sparingly, but that’s also part of the problem, as you get totally immersed in the story and then BLAM! You’re suddenly seeing what should be demo animatics at best. Escape From LA itself didn’t look so bad at times.

OK, yeah it did. Come on. Nothing’s as bad as Escape From LA’s effects.

Godden also commits cinematic sin twice in one scene. After first trying a (broken) light switch three or four times, he goes over to the phone and, not hearing a dial tone, taps the receiver a bunch of times. God fucking dammit, has this EVER worked, in cinematic OR real world history? If the fucking light isn’t on, and you flick the switch, and it still doesn’t come on, then the fucking thing is broken!!! Give up! The most excruciating example is in Halloween 5, when Loomis does it with the butt of his gun, and takes about 30 seconds to do so.

The guy also has the most durable eyeglasses I have ever seen. Through the course of the movie, he fights, dives, runs, falls, jumps, etc. Almost every single time he lands, his glasses go flying off, but they never break! At one point they just disappear, but I bet they are intact.

For a Lovecraft story (the film is NOT based on "Dagon", but "Shadow Over Innsmouth", just to confuse folks), this one moves along rather quickly too. I was expecting long bits of atmospheric walking around and things of that nature. But from the 20, 25 minute mark all the way to the end, it’s almost nonstop action/suspense/ horror/whatever. The hero is constantly on the run, and the one time he really stops is when he gets to 2nd base with a mermaid. Who turns out to be his sister (and then we get this gem: “You are my brother, and you will be my lover.” Hey-o! Between this, Hamiltons, and Captivity, maybe I should make an ‘incest’ genre).

The other day I bemoaned the amount of production logos at the head of Isolation. Well those Irish bastards ain't got NOTHING on the Dagon investors!

OK, two is the norm... that's fine. Let's begin the Dagoning!

OK, now we're in Isolation territory....

Uh..... movie? You there, pal?

Now they're just making companies up!

Oh fuck this, I'm gonna go grab a soda. In Kansas.

Movie on yet? No? OK....

Oh for the love of- Oh wait this is the actual film.

Seriously, movie companies: PUT THIS SHIT AT THE FUCKING END. There is no need for TEN goddamn production logos at the start of a film! Considering the fact that this film obviously did not have a bank-breaking budget, it is beyond ridiculous that so many different companies need to give themselves a pat on the ass before the movie begins. All we need to know at the beginning of the movie is the title and the ONE distribution company (in this case, of course, Lion's Gate) for the format we are watching it on. That is IT. All the rest of this shit can be saved for the end credits. Christ!

Otherwise, I can't recommend this one enough. Stuart Gordon is always hit or miss, but this one was still a pleasant surprise. Maybe for the 25th anniversary of the film, George Lucas can buy it and have his wizards fix the effects to his liking. I doubt he will have the technology to improve Godden’s hilariously bad performance, but at least then he can be pretty much the only flaw in an otherwise pretty f-ing good movie.

What say you?



JULY 22, 2007


Why does every single movie about a priest who goes around disproving miracles have to begin with him in some third world country? Don’t folks in big cities make shit up too? Stigmata follows suit, but at least we are spared the “This is fake, I am going home to get a new assignment that will turn out to be a genuine miracle” sequence of events. He finds the real one right away!

It is in this sequence (before the most annoying credit sequence in cinematic history, which is like a music video edited on a broken Avid) that we see a quick photograph that apparently is meaningless. But since one of the people in the photo is Rade Sherbedgia, character actor extraordinaire and archenemy of spell check, you know that the photo is foreshadowing something bad.

But that’s part of the problem with this movie: Rade finally shows up with like 15 minutes left to go. Oddly, the film was directed by Rupert Wainwright (how amazing would it be if it was actually Rufus Wainwright? The "Hallelujah" usage alone would be worth every cent of the budget), who did the same thing with Rade in The Fog. It should be a rule that any actor who never appears in a film prior to the halfway point should not be billed at the beginning. I had the same problem with Saw. It was obvious the film was just about over, and there was still no sign of the promised Tobin Bell. It’s a distraction, and it sort of condemns you for actually reading the credits.

So when the guy with all the explanations and ties to the ‘villain’ doesn’t show up until the last reel, what the hell comes before it, you might ask? Simple: lots and lots of the same types of scenes, repeating over and over. Patricia Arquette goes about her normal business, Gabriel Byrne goes about his, suddenly Arquette screams and blood begins to pour from her (feet, hands, head, or back), and Byrne comes to her rescue. We watch over an hour of this before the story itself actually kicks in, almost as an afterthought.

Luckily, Wainwright can actually direct (or gives enough trust to DP Jeff Kimball), so the film is at least interesting to look at. But therein lays the problem with almost all religious based horror movies: they are so interested in supplying the viewer with striking imagery that they forget to put a story in. There should be another rule: for every Dutch angled shot of a crucifix, we get a line or two about what the fuck is going on.

And while we’re at it, how about a third rule: No film should cast Patrick Muldoon unless a giant “Brain Bug” brutally kills his character and then sucks his brain out.

The DVD has a theoretical nice set of features, including an alternate ending (one you can use the oft-maligned ‘seamless’ branching option to watch along with the rest of the movie). But the difference is obvious (she lives in the theatrical ending, so…), and doesn’t really change the meaning of the story (which is actually pretty damn interesting, when it's actually being implemented), so you can probably skip it. There’s also some other deleteds that are also mostly useless, except for a great discarded opening, and a thoroughly boring commentary.

All in all, not a bad film, just an overlong one. With the worst soundtrack ever recorded/assembled. But with Byrne as the least likely-to-be-a-child-molester priest in cinematic history, it makes a great double feature with End of Days.

What say you?


Dark Harvest (2004)

JULY 21, 2007


The hit streak is over!!!

Actually it was intentional that I watched a movie of Dark Harvest’s caliber. While I love seeing a good movie as much as the next guy, writing good reviews isn’t all that fun. It’s infinitely more enjoyable to mock ineptly made garbage, right? And where is a guaranteed source of shit? That’s right, direct to video movies distributed by Lion’s Gate!

Actually this one was ‘recommended’ by a HMAD reader, so I thank you. I was starting to think I was turning soft, what with all the positive reviews of late. But any fears I had were quickly diminished as soon as the film began, as the production logo was missing the actual name of the company (and was bizarrely framed at 2.35:1 when the film was 1.78:1.

Our hero is without a doubt the worst, and LAZIEST actor I have ever seen in a film. Some actors make their faults more apparent by trying really really hard, but this guy settles for not even making an attempt at anything like emotion, involvement, likeability…

And, yes, he can’t even get his fucking hair right. Those shots are taken from the same scene. He stands up and suddenly his hair is not only bushy and unkempt, but frosted. That’s not a continuity error, that’s a continuity holocaust.

Oddly, the film is a LOT like A Brush With Death, only it makes slightly more sense and is roughly 4% more professional. Everything else is pretty much the same: unappealing actors, bizarre editing that never shows the character speaking in some scenes, a total lack of suspense, a ridiculous pace (our first death occurs at the 50 min mark of a 1:15 movie), etc. Sadly, the script itself is actually decent enough for this type of thing; no one wants Shakespeare out of a killer scarecrow movie. And the writer has a bit of a mean streak, as the hero’s girlfriend not only dies, but gets it worse than just about anyone else. But the production value, acting, and directing completely destroy whatever promise was on the page, so it doesn’t matter at all. Christ, even a brief lesbian scene failed to interest me.

The most hilarious thing about this movie is that there is a blooper reel during the end credits (again, like Brush With Death. Or was that Dark Fields? I can’t even tell these fucking things apart any more). But where those were genuine bloopers, these are just sort of ‘things that happened.’ The movie itself is so inept, how the fuck are we supposed to know the difference between a flubbed take or not? Some of the bloopers are actually just shots of the crew putting out a fire, or the main kid attacking one of the scarecrows with results that are in no way different than what’s in the finished product, which includes bizarrely and obviously zoomed in shots, a guy who can’t walk because he got stabbed in the shoulder, and dialogue like “If these spirits, or whatever the fuck they are, do come, seeking retribution!” (Say it aloud). Plus the film has what may be the lamest one-liner to a bad guy before killing him in cinematic history. "My name's not Baker! It's Connell!" The fact that it's incredibly weak isn't even the stupidest part: he says it to a fucking scarecrow that never spoke anything, let alone his birth name.

Also, more on the credits: they are the slowest and tiniest credits known to man (^ see?). Without the bloopers, they run about 4 minutes, for a movie with like 14 people in the cast and maybe 50 on the crew. And it’s not even a complete credit sequence, as it ends after the Special Thanks list. No song titles, no film stock information, no MPAA number, hell, not even a goddamn copyright or “this is based on fiction, nothing was based on real people or events…” thing! Does this mean the film is legally OK to reproduce or distribute for exhibition personal or private? Would anyone actually want to watch it again anyway? These are the questions that have plagued mankind for centuries (or to be more truthful: me, since I shut the DVD off).

What say you, seeking retribution?


Isolation (2005)

JULY 20, 2007


Back in October of 06, I sat down to watch Isolation as part of the LA Screamfest (which also featured Gravedancers, Behind the Mask, and HATCHET, a film I already declared my favorite of '07). After a few minutes, I walked out. Not that it was bad, but because it had the strangest projection errors I had ever seen in a film. Basically, it looked like it was cropped to a 1.33:1 ratio, but then stretched and cropped on the top and bottom to fit a 2.35:1 screen? It seems you would actually have to go out of your way to make something so wrong.

But finally, on DVD, I can watch the film properly. And I’m almost glad I didn’t see it in theaters, because it is a small, atmospheric film; the type that always plays better at home. In a theater, where I am unable to remove my pants, grab whatever form of beer or soda I choose, occasionally tease my cat, etc. I may have found the first half hour of the film unbearable. There’s a difference between setting mood and suspense, and just making a movie that isn’t quite horror. In fact I was beginning to wonder if the film was in fact just a farm training video, as we see pretty much the entire process of checking a cow for diseases and then birthing a calf.

Luckily, soon after the calf is born, the horror begins. Seems the calf itself is pregnant with some little bony monster things, the result of botched experimental drugs. Soon the little fuckers are slithering about and killing folks. Nothing wrong with that.

It’s nice to see a monster movie that forgoes “big action and thrills!” and instead focuses on atmosphere and a sense of impending dread. Like I said, definitely a film that plays better at home. It’s also nice to see an Irish horror movie. Just be patient with it, and you’ll enjoy yourself.

Patience is extremely important right from the start, as we are treated to FOUR animated production logos. I wish movies were like TV shows, where the production companies are credited at the END of the film. I’m all for giving credit where credit is due, but come on. Other than the company directly responsible for putting it into the theater (or DVD), there is no need for everyone to be acknowledged before we see frame 1 of what they are so proud of in the first place. Especially on THIS particular movie, where the real credits are incomplete! After the cast and title, they simply stop. The DP, composer, writer, etc. are not credited until the end. That's gotta be a first. Usually it's one or the other. Isolation went with... half? Prob some drunk Irishman doing the titles...

What say you?


Right At Your Door (2007)

JULY 19, 2007


Four in a row! Woooo!!

Unfortunately Right At Your Door isn’t REALLY a horror movie, at least not in the traditional sense (despite the press notes doing their best to make us think otherwise, stating the film was rated R for strong gory violence throughout, language, nudity, and drug use – only ONE of those things was true and you can probably guess which one). However, if actually scaring the audience was the only requisite for a horror film, this movie would be the most qualifying of all the 160 or so Horror Movie A Day entries thus far.

The plot is simple: dirty bombs are set off around LA, and carry with them an airborne chemical of unknown origin. All we know: it’s bad. Rory Cochrane and Mary McCormack (!!) are a married couple named Brad and Lexi who just moved to the area. As the bombs go off, she is outside, he is inside. Taking the advice of the radio and a random handyman who essentially breaks into his home, they seal all windows and doors to keep the gas from getting in, assuming that Lexi is safe somewhere.

Well, if she was, the movie would be pretty boring. Instead, she shows up, coughing and covered in the chemical dust. Brad doesn’t let her in. The rest of the film is about the rising paranoia, the very real possibility that she may die waiting for help, etc. It could almost be a play.

It’s a great film, and terrifying as hell. The film proposes that since the bombs were set off in LA proper (LAX, Beverly Hills, and downtown), the Valley would be safe due to the mountains surrounding it, and thus everyone flees to the area to stay safe. And as a Valley resident, trust me, there is nothing more terrifying than the prospect of swarms of hipster and art douchebags from Echo Park invading my street. The bombs and terrorists would be the least of my concerns.

It’s also shot on the increasingly rare format of 16mm. When blown up to 35, this particular film stock looks amazing, and I wish more directors would take advantage of it. A film like 28 Days Later (poorly shot with digital video) would have benefited immensely from the look it provides. This is, of course, meaningless to folks who don't give a shit (or even notice) how a film was filmed, but that's the kind of gal I am.

The film also contains what may be my favorite line of dialog in a movie since “Her Adam’s Apple was as big as her balls.” (40 Year Old Virgin). Cochrane and McCormack are sitting on the floor, separated by a giant sheet of plastic that is secured with an entire roll of duct tape. And suddenly, McCormack goes “I thought you said duct tape was stupid.” I would actually self-finance a prequel that details the situation in which someone would actually express specific disdain for duct tape. What the fuck could possibly happen to a guy to make him hate the world’s leading source of industrial strength adhesive? Amazing.

The film comes out in August, probably in limited release, so if you can, I urge you to check it out. Tell em I sent you. It won’t matter at all, but maybe they’ll get confused and you can sneak in some outside food.

What say you?


Perfect Creature

JULY 18, 2007


Man, if I was the slightest bit limber, I would kick myself for not checking out a theatrical screening of Perfect Creature a week or so ago. I saw the invite, and my response was “Why would I want to go see a direct to video movie in a theater?” (This was only the response in my head. I was much more professional in reality: I just deleted the email without replying at all). And now that I watched it at home, my thoughts are the exact opposite: this movie SHOULD have been theatrically released.

It’s no masterpiece, but it’s certainly a cut above what you would expect for a DTV vampire movie (starring Dougray Scott no less! Fuckin Ian, like you could ever compete with Mike). And it is in fact pretty damn good. Fans of films like Equilibrium and V for Vendetta should certainly appreciate the production design, which looks like a combination of 19th century London, 1940’s Germany, and a modern New York slum. I’m a sucker for alternate reality meshes of time and setting.

The plot’s not too shabby either. Vampires and humans peacefully co-exist, until the requisite evil vampire threatens that. His brother and two human cops reluctantly join together to stop him. But it’s not as silly as it sounds; in fact the film is deadly serious, and it's the better for it. It’s also refreshingly light on boring battles, a la Underworld or whatever passes for a modern vampire movie. Going against expectations is definitely one of writer/director Glenn Standring’s goals, and he often achieves them.

Plus Saffron Burrows is in it. Horror fans may remember her as the girl who needlessly stripped down to her underwear in Deep Blue Sea and then got badly edited out of the final scene because everyone realized that no one would like her character. She’s much more likeable here, and still hot. I can’t believe that movie came out 8 years ago already. Seems like just yesterday I was watching it back to back with a 2nd viewing of Blair Witch Project. Ah the good ol’ days, when horror movies were financially successful and good enough to pay to see a 2nd time.

Ironically, despite looking much better and more professional than any DTV film I have ever seen (except maybe Theodore Rex), the only real problem I have with the film is that it feels severely under-produced at times. It’s also very short (89 minutes), and it feels like they had to cut parts out due to a lack of resources. Or, I dunno, maybe they intended it to be the first of a trilogy or something. The head vampire (Stuart Wilson) character, for example, just disappears at the beginning of the 3rd act. There was a point where I switched my DVD display on to see how much was left, assuming there was like 40 minutes or so, only to discover there wasn’t even half that.

Still though, highly recommended, especially if you are like me (or in fact are me) and sick of typical vampire movies.

And is this a Horror Movie A Day record? I liked 3 movies in a row? And the one I’m seeing tomorrow stars Mary McCormack, so it’s already safe from the ‘crap’ basket.

What say you?


Deadtime Stories (1986)

JULY 17, 2007


I had really strong déjá vu when watching Deadtime Stories. I must have seen it as a kid. But it seems I would have remembered a movie where a kid named Brian (a name eerily similar to my own) is terrorized by his demented uncle and then killed by the goofiest looking closet monster in cinematic history.

What WOULDN’T have impressed me as a young lad was the amazing opening credits song. Holy shit! This song is almost on a Shocker soundtrack level of amazingness. A sample lyric: “Both buckets of gore, were spilled ages before, George Romero, Hitchcock or De Palma!”. Now, being a normal human being (of sorts), I cannot begin to tell you what the fuck sense that makes (since when did Hitchcock have more than a drop or two of blood? And who the hell compares Romero to those two?), but it’s amazing either way. I simply must obtain a copy. Or copy it off the DVD somehow. That is a song I would like to blast out the window as I drive around the rough streets of Sherman Oaks.

Sadly, the song ends, and the movie begins proper. And what a doozy it is. Starring an inordinate amount of men with perms, it starts off as simply bad and slowly becomes more and more hilarious until it becomes a full blown farce in the 3rd story.

This sets the tone perfectly for this story.

Like the other stories, it is a modern take on an old fairy tale, in this case Goldilocks and the Three Bears. But here, the Bears are a family of robbers (two of whom are in the aforepictured institution) and Goldilocks is a murdering whore with telekinesis. There are also a couple of dueling cops, a Laraine Newman-ish reporter, and a whole lot of random and silly sound effects (personal favorite, the two cops are punching each other and we hear what sounds like a gym class rubber ball bouncing off the bleachers). It also has what is strangely becoming a Budget Pack staple: a retarded man being seduced by a hot chick (though at least here he knows what’s going on). Where the first two stories(poorly) attempted to be somewhat scary, with just a few fleeting odd bits (like the ‘alternate ending’ of the first story), this one is just off the map ridiculous. And great.

The 2nd story is actually kind of good, in a budget pack sort of way anyway. A werewolf who gets sleeping pills from the pharmacy (while in human form) to keep himself from going nuts is pretty cool. Beats running around a wax museum and giving Christina Ricci the finger anyway. And he knows obscure Bible characters!

Back to the uncle though: What the fuck is wrong with this guy? He tells a little kid stories about whores, drug dealers, robbers, himbo priests… what kind of asshole uncle is this? Can't he just diddle the kid like a normal uncle? He doesn’t even get his comeuppance at the end, as the filmmakers choose to murder the little kid instead of him. Nice.

I think I love this movie.

What say you?


Infection (Kansen)

JULY 16, 2007


The very first J-Horror film I ever watched was called Parasite Eve (Parasaito Ivu), which I didn’t care for, due to the film’s severe lack of light RPG battles and weapon upgrading. And even though I couldn’t remember a goddamn thing about it, I had severe déjà vu when watching Infection. A quick check of the IMDb revealed that, huzzah! Same director (Masayuki Ochiai)! Man likes his hospitals.

This one’s a lot better though. In fact it’s probably one of my favorite of the sub-genre. For starters, there is only ONE spooky little kid in the whole movie, and he’s not a ghost or anything, he just has a penchant for wearing a mask of that beckoning cat’s face. Also, while it doesn’t make any sense in the traditional way, it’s never entirely incoherent, nor do I feel stupid after watching it (like I did after Tale of Two Sisters).

The concept of a virus that spreads with guilt is an intriguing one, and one almost wishes the film had gotten remade, as the American version would likely explore the this notion in greater detail. Some of the back story relies a bit too much on coincidence, but that’s easily forgivable.

More importantly, it’s actually pretty unnerving. Of course, hospitals are naturally terrifying, what with the knowledge that you’re probably in the same room where someone has died, not to mention the possibility that Michael Moore may be nearby, ready to film you and then re-edit it to fit his purposes. But Ochiai one ups the inherent terror by proving himself to be a master of misdirection, with creepy goings on appearing in the corners of the frame (despite a 1.85:1 ratio, this film would definitely suffer on a pan and scan version), and editing away from a scene before the “corner monsters” do something cheesy (or get discovered by the protagonists). Despite my love of Jerry Bruckheimer, Jim Steinman, and the Shocker soundtrack, I am actually a big fan of subtlety when it comes to horror movies, and it’s nice to see an attempt at one that actually succeeds (unlike, say, Wind Chill, which couldn’t even manage to climb its way UP to subtlety).

There’s also a scene with a nurse, who has gone crazy from the virus, reaches into a bucket full of discarded medical supplies, claiming they were still usable. As she pulls some out, we see two or three needles have gotten stuck in her arm in the process. Much like Saw II, this is an incredibly unnerving sequence, but the difference is, where Bousman’s film had a giant fucking PIT full of the things, Ochiai manages the same effect on the viewer with just a handful.

The only real flaw in the film was the music editing. Several cues are simply (and jarringly) silenced as the scene switches to another. It occurs several times over the course of the film. Maybe that’s how you Asians like your music, but here in America, we are supporters of the fade out!!!

Otherwise, speaking as someone who generally has little appreciation for Japanese horror films, I wholeheartedly recommend this one. So, if you like J-Horror, you’ll probably think it stinks. I dunno

What say you?



JULY 15, 2007


It’s almost sad that Captivity has finally been released, as it means we will never get another missed release date. Driving around LA, one will see about 900 posters for the film, most of them with the correct release date, but there are a few with the older dates (May 18th, and June 22nd), with the final “Friday the 13th: July 13th”. But as it turns out, there isn’t a date on the calendar that would have been the ‘best’ time to release this god awful piece of shit.

Whereas Saw and Hostel are technically sound films that do indeed have actual stories, Captivity actually IS what a lot of folks mistakenly dismiss those other films as: shallow and pointless. Sure, the other films have extended torture scenes, but there is a genuine story behind the films and some sort of justification for what we are seeing. But at no point in Captivity does it ever make any fucking sense that the killer makes Elisha Cuthbert drink a blended mix of body parts. Or pretend to melt her face. Or, in the film’s worst moment, shoot her poor little dog close range with a shotgun (which caused a couple walkouts in my screening).

Killing a dog is of course, the easy way to make an audience hate the bad guy without remorse, and usually I can deal with it, but here, there are many problems with this scenario. First of all, the dog is killed to spare the life of someone we do not like. Cuthbert, playing a Paris Hilton-type model/actress, isn’t given any character development other than letting us know she doesn’t want to go to a charity event. Charming. Why exactly do we want this woman to live? You’re practically rooting for the villain, let alone the dog. Second, the villain is so one dimensional, we don’t feel anything toward him whether he kills the dog or not. Christ, the dog’s practically the only lifeform in the entire movie that has any sort of character arc.

Halfway through the film or so, we are given a ‘twist’ that you’d have to be dead not to see coming: the guy she’s trapped with is actually the brains behind the whole operation. In addition to rendering more than a couple of his scenes totally pointless (why does he lash out and give his ‘captor’ the FUCK YOU, STOP! speech when she isn’t around to hear it?), this also makes the film as a whole even more worthless than it already was. Like The Village, the twist seemingly justifies the scenario, rather than the other way around. But since it’s so obvious, you spend all the time leading up to it wondering why they even bothered trying to hide it at all. Let us quote Hitchcock on such matters (if for no other reason than to provide perhaps the only review of Captivity that mentions Hitchcock):

Hitchcock: There is a distinct difference between "suspense" and "surprise," and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I'll explain what I mean.

We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let's suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, "Boom!" There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o'clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: "You shouldn't be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!"
Here, they should have shown the bomb first, so to speak. Just flat out say he’s the bad guy, then make the scenes of them bonding and eventually fucking at least somewhat creepy. Or at least more hilarious.

Instead, we get about 40 nonstop minutes of the same 3 scenes repeated over and over: Cuthbert sees something that might help her escape and uses it to get to another room; Cuthbert is caught and gassed or otherwise rendered unconscious; Cuthbert is “tortured” (I put that in quotes because at the end of the film she doesn’t have a scratch on her. She goes through more genuine torture in any season two episode of 24 than she does here). Then the tables are turned and we spend the rest of the movie marveling at what an inept mastermind this guy is (pretending to escape with her, he leaves her alone in a room with a television on that shows him actually going off to clean up after himself).

It’s all the more disappointing when you consider writer Larry Cohen and director Roland Joffe (not to mention cinematographer Daniel Pearl) are actually quite talented filmmakers. Just last week, I watched Cohen’s Uncle Sam, and there was more intelligence and even occasional wit in any 5 minutes of that film than the whole of this piece of shit. He (and co-writer Joseph Tura) couldn’t even be bothered to give the villain any sort of motive or reason for his doings. There’s a flashback that alludes to him being molested by his mom (hey-o!!!) but why that inspired him to drape someone in plaster of paris and then bash their head in with a sledgehammer is beyond me. Christ, I learned more about his back-story watching his interview on Bloody-Disgusting than I did in the film.

Incidentally, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the original version of the film contained none of the “torture” scenes (or even the poor dog – yes, they added in scenes of a lovable little Bichon being blown apart by a shotgun blast to ‘improve’ the film), and instead was a bit more focused on character, and featured a number of scenes with two cops who are looking for Cuthbert. The twists (and in fact the entire last half hour) are the same, but the first hour is pretty much entirely different. Perhaps this cut will surface on DVD, as it is slightly better. Not GOOD, but better. But they opted to release the “pointless torture scenes” version, and that’s the one I paid for, so that’s the one I’m reviewing. Just because there once was at least SOME validity to it doesn’t make it OK. So fuck this movie.

For once I am glad a horror movie tanked at the box office. It’s shit like this that is precisely why almost every horror movie this year has underperformed. Even gorehounds and teenagers know worthless garbage when they see it. The existence of this movie might prevent a somewhat decent one from being properly released, and that’s the only scary thing about it.

What say you?


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