Strangeland (1998)

SEPTEMBER 30, 2009


I’ve managed to go over a decade without watching Dee Snider’s Strangeland, a film I have never once heard anything positive about. And now that I have seen it, I wish I had kept my self-imposed moratorium going. It’s no worse than at least half of the nonsense I have watched, but most movies this bad aren’t the creation of a guy I like.

Not that I was ever the biggest Twisted Sister fan, but I enjoy what I’ve heard and enjoy Dee’s theatrics whenever I see him at a Fangoria show or whatever. And he inspired Adam Green to make Hatchet (cool story, look it up), so props to him for that. But my dog is this movie lame. Seemingly made up as it went along, it is constantly switching gears that will often do little more than remind you of better horror movies.

For example, our hero, seeking his kidnapped daughter, finds the killer (Snider) about 40 minutes into the movie. I thought we would then get a movie where the killer traps the hero and the hero has to find a way out and save his daughter and the other folks who are chained up around him. But no, he arrests him and Captain Howdy is put on trial. He then goes to an institution, so I thought we’d get a hospital set movie; a serial killer version of Cuckoo’s Nest. But no, he is just as quickly set free, and seemingly normal (this is the only part of the film I liked, partly due to the creepy sight of Snider made to look meek). But the parents of those he abused/killed catch up to him. “OK, now it’s a Clockwork Orange type deal!” Wrong again, they kill him and then he comes back to life (somehow) and goes after the parents. Nightmare on Elm St now? Nope - after attacking one (not killing him), this subplot is forgotten. Instead the hero’s daughter is kidnapped (again) and he has to go rescue her (again). Then it’s over. In any traditional sense, it would be impossible to write a synopsis about this movie without spoiling things, because it just keeps leading to disappointing climaxes, followed by new plot threads that are resolved just as quickly.

Also, for a movie that is built around mutilation and such, it sure is tame. Our body count is 2. The daughter gets her lips sewn together, but is otherwise unharmed in any way. The hero (Kevin Gage playing a guy named Mike Gage), his wife, his niece who is the only one in town who knows how to use the internet, etc - all escape the movie without as much as a scratch. Hell, even Gage’s partner, a character who should be any movie logic be killed during the 2nd act, never even gets involved in an action scene. Hell, Howdy doesn’t even kill the guy who tried to kill him (Robert Englund, in a clever reversal of his original Nightmare on Elm St role)! It’s a Serial Non-Killer movie. Englund says this is what makes the movie scary, but I wholly disagree. It makes it seem like no one is ever really in any danger whatsoever.

Snider’s dialogue doesn’t help. Awkward attempts at hard-edged cop talk never work, and people either speak in single word phrases or lengthy exposition. When Amy Smart shows the cops how to use a chat room, she stops the scene cold to explain what a “Locator Member Online Search Engine” is, despite the fact that its very name is, if anything, overly self-explanatory. Or it simply makes no goddamn sense - a tech explains that because Howdy used a stolen credit card, they cannot find him, only his screen name (how would they get THAT without an IP trace of some sort?). Gage is also written as the least effective cop in movie history; when he is knocked to the floor, rather than sweep Howdy’s feet from under him or kick him in the balls, which he is in a perfect position to do, he instead rolls over and begins to crawl for his gun. And the entire movie is like that, resulting in a narrative that’s not only weak, but artificially depicted to boot.

Editing/direction is also a major problem, particularly on the computer scenes. We will clearly see Gage typing out his name (“G-A-G-E”), but on-screen it will just say “I am a detective” or something. He then types “K-O-I” (again in close-up), which not only doesn’t match anything on screen, but doesn’t match any common word at all, unless he was discussing Koi fish for some reason. I know the budgets for these movies aren’t high, but come on - would it really take that much effort to have the guy type out what he is actually going to be saying? Why bother inserting the closeup if it doesn’t match the master shot? Later in the same scene, Gage realizes that the killer is nearby due to hearing a dog bark on a recording when there is also a dog barking nearby (clearly, there is only one dog in the town). He begins looking around to find the dog and then deduce where the house is. And in theory that’s fine, but it doesn’t work when Gage keeps turning his head in different directions and yet everything they cut to is the same shot/angle of the dog. It makes it look like he is surrounded by identical dogs.

Oh and there’s a lengthy, pointless sequence that directly steals from Silence of the Lambs, except it’s played for (failed) laughs by ending with an old couple having sex.

Remember in Sphere when they dissect one of the creatures and discover that it has organs but they aren’t connected to anything, that it’s just a half-assed imitation of a living thing? That’s what this movie is like. The creators saw some other movies and made their own, clearly without really knowing how. It would be a grand thing to watch drunk with friends and/or at a midnight screening, but by yourself, it’s almost insulting (moreso when you consider that it somehow managed a theatrical release. And Inside goes direct to DVD?).

And I actually considered whether or not the film was played for laughs, but Dee Snider starts his commentary by saying that it won’t be a funny track because it’s a serious movie. So much for that. He points out a few of the filmmaking errors and admits a few of the films he is copying from, so that’s nice. But he also admits that he doesn’t like to write “slow” (read: character or plot based) scenes, which just proves that he had no business writing the film itself, since these types of films require a few solid characters to give a shit about in order to work. His “plot”, such as it is, probably could have been worked into a decent serial killer film in the hands of someone who could write something besides fun rock songs, so he should have hired a ghost writer instead of tackling it himself. Oh well. He also takes time to slam Scream, and is baffled that critics would like that film and not his. The track closes with an ironic prophecy that in ten years this type of movie would be PG-13 (this being long before the PG-13 invasion) and that everyone would be doing it. Indeed, the torture scenes, light as they may be, and his ‘intelligent villain’ character certainly will remind horror fans of the Saw films at times.

There’s also a music video on there, but I assume it’s a song from the soundtrack and not Twisted’s awesome, underrated cover of “Leader of the Pack”, so I don’t care.

What say you?

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Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990)

SEPTEMBER 29, 2009


And so it ends. It took me something like 17 years (I think I was about 12 when I first saw the original), but I have finally seen all four Psycho movies, now that I’ve given Psycho IV: The Beginning a complete watch. I had seen bits and pieces of it over the years through Sci-Fi channel airings and such, but not even enough to tell you what the movie was about beyond Norman talking to a radio show. And now I know it’s not really about much else.

Psycho IV suffers from the same problems that nearly all prequels do, which is that it’s building toward an ending that we already know about (in this case, Norman killing his mother). And unlike say, the Star Wars prequels or When Harry Met Lloyd, Psycho is a SUSPENSE series, so we have an entry that is nearly devoid of suspense by its own design. The modern day story concerns whether or not Norman will kill his new wife, but even that doesn’t make up for it since we only spend about 47 seconds with the woman, so the scenes of him chasing her aren’t any more compelling than the opening kill of any generic slasher movie. “Who is this person, why should we care about her?” I would stop short of calling the movie pointless, but after the great II and sleazy fun diversion of III, this one just doesn’t even come close to par.

It’s also riddled with puzzling matters. For example, why has Norman been let out after only 4 years? And why is his wife (a nurse at the institution) so willing to accept that a guy coming out of his second hospital stay for multiple homicides is perfect marriage (and father) material? Some have suggested that the film is ignoring II and III, and that he is referring only to his original (only) lockup (which would put him in there for about 30 years), but at one point he mentions that he last killed four years before (Psycho III was 1986, this film is 1990). It’s almost like for every little detail they got right they got another wrong.

And to keep the film “interesting”, Norman’s flashbacks are presented out of order, which allows him to tell the over-arcing story of him and his mother, while giving us a few kill scenes in between. These scenes, of course, occur AFTER his mother’s death, but there is no visual clue or on-screen date card to place these scenes into immediate context. When I’m telling someone a story, I tend not to randomly jump ahead 3 or 4 years to tell a quick anecdote and then go back those few years to proceed with the real story, but that’s exactly what Norman does here. Hell, he even begins one such story by saying "I don't know how I ended up in a car with an older woman..." Yeah, because no one could think of any logical reason for such nonsense so they just skipped it for the sake of adding another kill. But without these largely worthless scenes, the film would only have two kills (at the very end), so Mick Garris and Joe Stefano chose spectacle over structure.

Luckily, the film is saved by another fine Perkins performance. He has to split his screen time with Henry Thomas (also quite good), but it’s not an issue. After all, he’s not front and center for the original film either, and once again, he is toeing the line between crazy and trying to stay sane. The final sequence, where he is trying to escape the burning house and the ghosts of his victims, is easily the film’s highlight, and because Perkins is so good, you are still rooting for him to get out and be OK, even when constantly reminded of the people he has killed.

If anything, the movie could have used a little less time with Perkins and more with the wife. Like I said before, we never really get to know this woman. She marries a committed murderer - is she batshit herself? Hell, why didn’t the movie just take place in the institution and have Norman tell this story to HER instead of some random radio host (one who doesn’t even factor into the film’s climax), intercut with modern day scenes where she is becoming attached to him and we are left to wonder if he will kill her or if she will help him get better? There, I just made a better movie. In my head.

Speaking of the radio show, Garris goes out of his way to show a scene where one of the wife’s co-workers turns on the radio show that Norman is on. Not long after this scene, he identifies himself and announces his plan to kill his wife (to prevent her from having a child and carrying on the Bates legacy - most noble reason for killing one’s wife ever!), yet the co-worker is never seen again. Why bother setting it up?

In the end, it’s a fairly lackluster entry without any real drive or tension to it. Perkins and the rest of the cast give it their all, and casting the eternally hot Olivia Hussey as Mrs. Bates is a stroke of genius (one understands why Norman gets so uncomfortably attached to her - this wouldn’t work if they had gotten some hag), but the story just isn’t up to snuff. Luckily for everyone, the only way to own this movie on DVD is to buy it with the other two, far superior sequels, so I will forevermore consider it a DVD extra: I'll never watch it again, but it adds a bit of value to the main feature.

What say you?

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Albino Farm (2009)

SEPTEMBER 28, 2009


I wish I had a review template to use for breakdown movies that are using their own template. They don’t bother writing anything new, why should I? You don’t even have to watch the first half hour or so of these things anymore - the only minor variations are the characters names, the name of the town where the action takes place, and of course, the title. This one is called Albino Farm, but it could just as easily be Plague Town, The Butcher, Side Sho, Small Town Folk, Plasterhead...

Honestly, though, this one is better than most of those I just mentioned, and had I never seen any of them, I’d probably be giving this one high praise. The makeup effects, for starters, are phenomenal. I haven’t seen so many great (and various) mutants in one of these movies in a while. And there are some truly sick moments involving them, such as when the main female one more or less masturbates as she prepares to (I think) rape the male lead. And there’s another bit later where the mutants sew two of the heroes together (by the arm). It’s not played for squeamish torture (we don’t even see the sewing being done), but rather for a unique obstacle for the two to deal with as they try to escape.

And the acting is largely better than I’m used to in these things. The various “stars” (Chris Jericho, Duane Whitaker, Kevin Spirtas) only appear in a single scene, but the four kids are engaging. Stupid as any of them, sure, but in a way that is more on the line of endearing than grating. I actually liked the requisite asshole of the group, because he was so damn enthusiastic about doing things that were going to get him killed. He also scores the film’s best line; as they pull away from the blind gas station owner, he yells out that he only gave him a five instead of the promised $20 for the tire. I was also tickled by the fact that I couldn’t tell which guy was with which girl. Asshole guy is overly touchy with both girls, and neither of them seem to mind.

But in the story department, Albino Farm simply does nothing new. Christ, in the first 7 minutes we have the "where we are isn't on the map" conversation, the “our cells have no service” explanation, the “swerve to avoid something in the road” scene (which results in the “flat tire” scene), the “crazy redneck at the gas station” scene... why filmmakers can’t come up with anything else to set up their story (which is equally generic) is quite puzzling. How about a bus full of old people is forced off the road when it exceeds the maximum height allowance for an overhead bridge? As for the cells, how about they are stolen by thieves pretending to be good Samaritans? Think outside the box, people!

And the rest of it is just as familiar. Would you believe our group is split up, with two of them getting into hot water while the other two learn some exposition and then have “Hey where are the others? They should have been back by now!” moments? Will the mute little kid turn out to be on the bad guys’ side? You betcha! My cat could probably tell you how the movie was going to play out as soon as the first dentally-challenged character appeared. And he hasn’t even seen Texas Chain Saw yet.

One thing that I COULDN’T have guessed is that the film would contain zero farms and only one Albino (played by non-albino Spirtas, in the film’s final scene). Apparently it’s a real place with a real legend that the film is really not based on at all. In fact the real story sounds a lot more interesting and covers ground not as oft-covered in low budget horror films (ghosts, instead of inbred mutants).

Not helping matters is the abysmal editing and often confusing blocking in any scene that has more than 2 characters. Say there are three people talking as they stand next to each other - the camera angles will cover Guy #1 and Guy #2 in one shot, and then Guy #2 and Guy #3 in the next, instead of a master of all three, or individual close-ups. It often resembles a poor pan & scan job more than actual direction. And editor Dan O'Brien often cuts to reaction shots of characters who aren’t reacting to anything. It’s probably just a way to hide a removed line or a split take (where they use part of take 1 and part of take 2 for a single shot), but it doesn’t make it any less awkward. It gets better near the end (because there aren’t as many characters to cut to), but it’s still a shame. I could have been more forgiving of the generic story if the directing/editing had been on par with the above average acting and effects. It’s odd - the film manages to succeed in the areas that usually plague low budget films (FX and acting), but fail in the things that don’t cost a time (a story, zooming the fuck out and filming everything in a master).

The DVD includes a lively commentary by the directors and producers (four of them, I can’t tell who is who as soon as they are done introducing themselves). They cover all of the usual ground, but like the film itself, it probably plays best to those who have never heard an audio commentary for a “Kids run afoul of inbred mutants” movie before. It’s possibly the first professionally released audio commentary to reference Christian Bale’s freakout on the Terminator set though, so there’s something. There is also a making of that is unique in that it just ends at the 25 minute mark without any sort of closing statements from the crew. It also frequently pauses to put the subject’s name on the screen, even for people who aren’t doing anything (like when they pause on a shot of 4 or 5 people and focus on one of the producers, who is just standing there and is never seen again in the entire piece). In short, kind of annoying, but worth a look for the makeup creation scenes (which deserve their own special feature).

And as this is an MTI release, it features what seems to be a four year old’s first After Effects project as a logo before the DVD menu comes up. It’s sweet that the owners of MTI allow their children to help on mommy and daddy’s big movie projects, but there is a time and place for such nonsense. Go ahead and show their cheap little animations to the family at Christmas time or something, but when it comes to a DVD some people might actually be paying for, maybe they can put something a little less amateur in there? Just a suggestion.

What say you?

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Rough Cut (2009)

SEPTEMBER 27, 2009


The synopsis I read for Rough Cut was far more interesting than what the film was actually about, which is a shame as it took me a while to adjust to the difference. Basically, the one I read sounded like this guy had his wife killed in order to collect insurance money that he would use to fund the horror film he wanted to make. In reality, it’s about a guy who wanted out of his marriage, so he hired a buddy to kill his wife, and gave him some of the insurance money, which allowed the buddy to pay off the debt he had accrued while making a horror movie the year before.

Sure, they are similar, but since the husband (Brian Trimble) wasn’t directly involved with the movie anymore (he was originally slated to be the DP, but dropped out due to suffering from multiple sclerosis), the story isn’t really that much different than hundreds of other stories about guys hiring people to kill their wives, or vice versa. The horror movie stuff is played up, but it’s plain to see that it really had nothing to do with the guy’s decision to kill his wife. They even make a point to tell us that Trimble was the type of guy who wanted to be a doctor one week, then join the Air Force the next, and then be an architect the next (or something, I forget the exact examples), which suggests that working on a movie was one of many impulsive pipe dreams that he never really cared about and would forget about the instant another opportunity presented itself.

In the end, it comes down to the fact that the director of the horror movie (Blaine Norris) was just a disturbed guy who got in over his head making the film and resorted to drastic measures to climb out of debt (NOT make the movie - it was already made and its post production process was nearly complete). Since neither man took part in the making of the documentary, all we know about them is what we hear from family and friends. And on the “family” side of things, we only hear from the family of the deceased woman, so it’s not like they have many positive things to say about them. And the friends are largely the cast/crew from Norris’ film, so they are in an awkward position of knowing that they worked for a murderer but also probably pissed off that they spent all this time making a movie that will probably forever sit in the basement of a police station. A good true crime documentary gives you both sides of the story (Paradise Lost would be a great example; the sequel not so much), but this film never really explores Norris or Trimble beyond the basic fact that they conspired to kill Trimble’s wife. A Dateline report on the story refers to them as best friends - but there is nothing in Rough Cut to suggest they were any more than casual acquaintances (numerous clips from the Trimble wedding are shown, but I can’t recall seeing Norris in any of them).

That aside, it’s still an interesting and sad story. By all accounts, Randi Trimble was a wonderful woman who didn’t have a negative bone in her body, and the Fargo-esque “it was all for nothing” outcome is tragic on several levels. I mean this in no disrespectful way to the deceased, but the fact that the movie will never be released is a real shame, since documentarians Todd Klick and Sean Gaston try to draw parallels with the film to what really happened. For example, the characters’ names are something like Dan, Eric, Amanda, Ted, and Heather - the first letters of each name spell out DEATH (they go further with this - the killer’s name is Samuel, so it would be DEATHS - suggesting that Norris would have killed again had he not been caught, a claim that has zero evidence to support it). The official site for Rough Cut also has script excerpts that make similar parallels. However, we see precious little of the film’s production in the documentary, not even enough to tell what kind of horror movie it is (seems to be some sort of supernatural slasher). Even if it wasn’t truthful, it might have been interesting to see these parallels played out on screen.

In fact, you could probably remove the horror movie angle from the story entirely and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. Norris proved to be a messed up guy with his other behavior, so it’s not like we needed to know he was also a failed filmmaker. For example, he actually planned out not only a detailed alibi (saved on his computer in a word doc, lol) that included the time he spent masturbating and watching Star Wars Episode II (sadly these are not related events), but he also theorized what sort of questions the police and prosecutor might ask him and prepared answers for those. We also eventually discover that he had filled out applications to be a state trooper. Simply telling us he was in debt due to a failed filmmaking enterprise would have been enough, everything else related to the filmmaking turns out to be superfluous, especially when you consider that the guy who put him up to it wasn’t even involved with the movie anymore (and hadn’t been for about eight months before the murder).

Speaking of Trimble, there is interesting stuff about him that never gets explored. Again, the Dateline article points out that he used some of the insurance money to buy a new plasma TV, telling the cops that it was something his wife wouldn’t let him buy. He also supposedly slept with his step-sister (?!?!?!) shortly after the murder, a fact that is mentioned once and never again. Christ, this is the only time it is even mentioned that he HAS a stepsister, so to bring this bit of wackiness up and never explore it just seems strange and makes the film seem unfocused.

Basically, I think the director heard “horror movie” and “murder” in the same news story and thought there was more to it than there really was, and had to try to tie the two together as much as possible to give the film a bit of a hook. By not providing us any real information about the two men’s relationship (they were co-workers - that’s about as much as we learn here), we’re left with what almost seems like two completely different stories (it takes until the 52 minute mark of the 81 minute film to even “reveal” that Norris was the one who killed Trimble’s wife - something that’s part of any plot synopsis). Interesting stories yes, but lacking the compelling nature of similar true crime docs like The Staircase (which has twists that best any horror movie) or again, Paradise Lost, which also did a far better job of exploring how police and prosecutors can use one’s passion for horror movies against them. Incidentally, one of the cops mentions that both men played Dungeons and Dragons - it seems that in itself would be more telling than the rather flimsy horror stuff, since they at least truly shared it in common.

The disc has a few OK extras. One is a rather touching piece about Randi, featuring stories from a few friends who are not in the film. There’s also a piece about Blaine Norris, which also gets into his psyche a bit more (but again, it was Trimble that we never got a grasp on, which is like doing a movie about Tonya Harding and focusing most of the film on Shane Stant). Then there is a brief Q&A session from the film’s Phoenix Film Festival premiere that you can skip.

Without knowing more about Trimble, or seeing the movie Norris made (he was 90% done with his cut when he was arrested), it’s hard to tell if the filmmakers did a lousy job telling the story or if there just wasn’t enough there for a full film on the matter. It’s an interesting and certainly tragic case - but it seems like the real interesting aspects of the story are glossed over in favor of attention grabbing “horror movie people are crazy” excuses. Wait for the book.

On a side note, I doubt Through Hike (awful title by the way) is any worse than half of the HMAD entries that got the “Crap” tag, and wouldn’t mind watching it if it ever gets released. At least I would know why the director didn’t provide a commentary track. I also have started wondering how many of said Crap films were directed by murderers. I’m sure at least one of the guys who made those Dark Harvest movies must have snapped by now.

What say you?

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Book Of Blood (2008)

SEPTEMBER 26, 2009


I think there should be a law that states if you spend more than 10 million on a movie, it A. has one interesting lead character and B. plays in theaters. Book Of Blood (based on Clive Barker material) can claim neither, and while the latter is more the fault of the distributing studio (anyone want to guess which one?), the former is one of the main problems with the film - the characters (and the actors playing them) are simply boring.

As it is based on a short story (which is really just a wrap-around “story” for the entire 6 volume “Books of Blood” series), I can forgive some of (keyword: SOME) the padding, but not the fact that there are really only three people in the main part of the movie and they’re all dull as dirt. Jonas Armstrong is the poor man’s Jim Sturgess, and Sophie Ward is too matronly to come across as a believable object of lust (or eventual villain). Then there’s another guy who is sort of a schlub. He’s fine.

Worse, writer/director John Harrison failed to make either of these characters very compelling. By their original design, they are simply a means to tell the other stories, so to draw them a little thin in the source material is perfectly acceptable - they’re not really IN the narrative. But if you’re going to make a whole movie about them, then we need something a little more interesting to keep our attention, and tired haunted house gags don’t count.

And it’s simply not a feature-worthy story. A Masters Of Horror episode would be pushing it, so giving it a full 100 minutes should be a punishable offense. Didn’t anyone realize that an entire movie about a guy whose body becomes living paper for the dead to tell their stories wouldn’t be anywhere near as interesting as those actual stories? Hell, even if you don’t know the source material (those “stories” include the original tales for Candyman, Midnight Meat Train, etc), you might wish to hear at least ONE of the stories that are being written on this poor sod’s skin, but the film never offers any such thing. Why the film wasn’t an anthology, with some of the shorter "Books of Blood" stories (ones that couldn’t be easily expanded into a feature) making the bulk of the film with this stuff as a wraparound (you know, like it ACTUALLY IS) is beyond me.

Making matters more baffling, the film has its own wraparound, based on Barker’s story On Jerusalem Street, which was the sort of epilogue/finale to the “Books of Blood” print series (you still with me? I’m not). These parts are actually a bit more interesting, so it’s a shame they are confined to the first ten and final five minutes of the film. Not only does it feature the closest thing to an interesting character that the film offers (Wyburd,, played by Ray Winstone lookalike Clive Russell), but it also has the most upsetting part of the film, which is Armstrong’s character trying to eat as he bleeds into his food.

There are a few isolated moments to enjoy, however. One scene finds Ward’s character being pushed around by a ghostly force, and the visual effects of a hand pressing hard against her mouth and back are quite good/eerie. And as someone with a fear of any insect larger than a baby ant, the occasional dragonflies grossed me out a tad. And Hellraiser fans should enjoy the little homage to the first film, with two moving men carrying a bed up a flight of stairs. But, moments do not make a movie worthwhile, and this one is simply too long and too un-involving to warrant a look to anyone but the most die-hardiest of die-hard Barker fans.

And the DVD certainly doesn’t help matters, offering only a textbook generic 20 minute behind the scenes piece that limits Barker’s thoughts to about 30 seconds. A pair of trailers are also included, one of which is slightly interesting due to the fact that it focuses more on the framing sequence than the film proper (not that I blame them). Then again, not counting some of the Hellraiser and Candyman sequels, this is the weakest film version of Barker material I can recall, so maybe it’s for the best that they tossed it under the rug rather than provide commentaries and extra scenes and such to try to defend it. Let it be.

What say you?

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Pandorum (2009)

SEPTEMBER 25, 2009


Coffee. Most movie theaters around here serve it. Even the New Bev, which doesn’t even have a credit card machine and will sometimes go without butter for the popcorn for a week straight, has coffee. So why doesn’t the AMC Burbank 16, the only theater in my vicinity that shows movies around 11 am on a weekday, serve it? Worse, why the fuck won’t they let me in with one I bought elsewhere? The whole purpose of not allowing outside food in is because it cuts in on their snack sales (for things they actually sell - i.e. candy, soda). But it’s 11 am - I don’t want a goddamn Coke. I might have actually bought a snack from them to enjoy with my coffee, but instead they piss me off and I have to toss out half my cup (can’t really chug it when its piping hot) so I can get into the theater for Pandorum, and they get nothing (and I won’t bother going there again unless I have no other option). So go fuck yourself, AMC Burbank 16.

As for the movie, it’s OK. It’s got a lot of stuff to like, but it never quite gels together into a really engrossing experience. I experienced a lot of Déjà vu during the film; everything from Resident Evil (main character wakes up with amnesia after a catastrophic event, trapped inside a location with mutated beings), Alien (duh), Sunshine (ship on mission to continue humanity), Event Horizon... hell the final twist even reminded me of a certain landmark genre film, though to say which would be sort of spoiler-y and it was one of the two twists I didn’t see coming.

The other one I did though, and I hereby declare that we need to put an end to this particular twist style. I won’t spoil it (it involves Cam Gigandet’s character), but it’s not the first genre film this year to be weakened by it. Let’s cut this nonsense out.

Oddly, the weakest aspect of the movie is the flat-out horror stuff. I’m all for mutants killing people, but the compact cast keeps the body count to a surprising minimum (most of the 5 or 6 deaths occur in the film’s final 10 minutes), so it gets a bit tiresome to have scenes of mutants scrambling toward our heroes and then they either escape just in time, or team up to fight/kill one, and then run from the rest of the mutants who are now approaching. The film works much better when it sticks to the psychological aspects.

For starters, nearly all of our characters have amnesia, and part of the fun is seeing them figure out their purpose and try to understand why they were on the ship in the first place. They also might be suffering from the titular sickness, which is a cooler version of Armageddon’s “Space Dementia” (cooler because you might really go nuts and kill your friends, instead of just making Dr. Strangelove references). And Foster has fragmented flashes of his super-hot wife, who may or may not be on the ship. Had director Christian Alvart, who wrote with Travis Milloy stuck to these more mystery-based elements more than the mutant stuff, I think the film as a whole would have worked better. They’re stuck in space, they don’t know who they are, and they might be going crazy. Isn’t that scary enough? Why bring on things that look like the love children of LOTR’s Orcs and the things from The Descent (more of that Déjà vu I mentioned earlier)? I guess there’s a reason "Psychological Action Sci-Fi Horror Thriller" isn’t a more popular genre.

Their Orc-like costumes do have a hilariously ironic payoff though - one of them is actually killed by a spike that he had on his shoulder armor. Had he not taken the time to craft some armor to protect himself (despite the fact that the mutants had no reason to believe they had any enemies on board), he might be alive today.

I was also disappointed that Dennis Quaid’s character spent the entire movie in a control room. He never even really sees a mutant! I love Quaid, and was looking forward to seeing him kick some ass, but it’s only in the film’s final moments that he springs into action. The rest of the time he’s merely looking at monitors and talking to Foster over an intercom. Between this and G.I. Joe, I’ve just about had it with people wasting the awesomeness of Dennis Quaid. He better kick some ass in Legion.

Ultimately, the best way to look at the film is as a video game adaptation for a game you simply haven’t played yet. Waking up with amnesia (and subsequently having to figure out how to get out of a locked room) is a video game standard, and one can’t help but think of Dead Space (which was released around the time this film was shooting, so it couldn’t be an influence unless producer Paul WS Anderson played his Resident Evil card and got it early) as Foster runs around the ship trying to restart reactors while fighting off enemies with a laser gun. Hell, there’s even a couple of platforming sequences, and at least two occasions where you want to keep going with the run n’ gunning but have to stop to listen to a character deliver 5 pages’ worth of exposition. Essentially, you are the Foster character, Antje Traue (I love this woman by the way) is your largely useless AI partner, and Quaid is the big name voice actor (in a game this would usually be Lance Henriksen or Keith David) who makes a few appearances in the game but never really interacts with your character in any memorable way. I’m actually kind of baffled that there isn’t a tie-in game in the works (or already on shelves). Christ, they made games for Charlie’s Angels 2 and Wayne’s World, why not the action packed sci-fi monster movie?

In the end, it’s not a bad film, just one that never finds its focus. I wasn’t bored or anything, but I kept waiting for it to kick into higher gear and add something fresh. Everything here has been done before, and Pandorum doesn’t do it better (or worse) than those movies (well, better than Resident Evil I guess). Any one scene in the film is good - there’s no bad acting, very few lulls in the pacing, exceptional production value, etc. But when you put them all together you’ll see that it brings nothing new to the table; the genre film equivalent of a TGIFriday’s sampler - offering mild satisfaction on several levels instead of full satisfaction on one.

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The Shuttered Room (1966)

SEPTEMBER 24, 2009


Leave it to me to get the one Lovecraft-based movie without any goddamn monsters. The Shuttered Room features some typical HPL elements (seaside Massachusetts town, something in an attic, etc) but there is nothing supernatural or even psychological about it. It’s just a crazy girl chained in the attic. There is talk of a death curse and such, but again, it’s not like an actual curse, best as I can tell. The characters in the movie don't seem cursed, merely so dumb that it’s a wonder they haven’t gotten themselves killed long before any of the events in this story.

For the life of me I cannot tell what it is that makes our hero couple want to stay in this town. Their house seems to be “cursed”, the locals are constantly picking fights with the hero (Gig Young) and trying to rape the heroine (Carol Lynley), and, according to one local, they don’t even have any use for magazines there (our hero is a magazine editor). Oddly enough, just last night I re-watched Funny Farm for the first time in years, and in that film (which also features a city couple moving to a small town full of weirdos), whenever something really bad happens, the filmmakers provide a moment of joy that gives Chevy Chase and his wife a reason to stay there. Even if it’s a rather flimsy one, it’s SOMETHING, but this movie offers no such explanation. It’s an island, but one that is only a few miles (if that) from the mainland - if they wanted to leave they could.

But if you ignore that, and the lack of a monster, you will find yourself with a pretty good little British chiller. I never figured out the twist, which is always a plus with me, and the gothic mansion is a great setting. It’s also largely set during the day, something that I find eerie. And Oliver Reed is in it, so you know there are some wonderfully batshit moments (the best of which, naturally, revolves around his finding a bottle of some sort of alcohol on the floor, and then sort of sneaking up on it to drink it).

There are also a couple of great little setpieces. Early on in the film, they establish that Young's car horn is malfunctioning, causing it to go off and stay blaring. And by the time you forget this little factoid, it comes into play. It goes off in the middle of the night (one of the very few night scenes), and Young investigates, which drowns out the sound of an attack inside the house. Good stuff.

I was often reminded of Straw Dogs, which is odd because I’ve never seen that film. But I know enough about it to see many plot similarities, and since Dogs came along a few years after this film (as did the source novel) , I wonder if it was an influence. And when I double checked the dates to be sure, I discovered that Shuttered Room was apparently only based on some of Lovecraft’s notes, which a guy named August Derleth cobbled together and made cash-in stories from (allegedly). So I guess I can forgive the lack of a monster.

The only thing I really didn’t like is the jazz score (2nd movie in as many weeks to have an ill-fitting jazz score!). Again, it’s not that I don’t like jazz, and I don’t, but it just doesn’t fit with what’s going on most of the time. It’s more successful a pairing than Haxan’s, but it’s still very jarring. I don’t buy into that “the best score is the one you don’t notice” nonsense - instead I believe that there’s a difference between memorable (Jaws, Halloween) and distracting (this). Especially for a film that is built around atmosphere; I can’t really get that “you are there” feeling when all I can hear is a detached “tiss-tss, tiss-tss-tiss” sound of a drum cymbal followed by some improvised sax.

Like I said in the It! review, this disc is worth owning if you find it cheap enough. It’s the barest of barebones (not even a chapter selection screen), but you get two 60s British horror films that aren’t from Hammer (itself a rarity) and despite some plot elements that might be shared with other films (moreso in It! than Shuttered), neither of them feel like movies you’ve seen a million times already. And coming from me, I do believe that is saying something.

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Class Of Nuke 'Em High (1986)

SEPTEMBER 23, 2009


With the awesome title, I expected Class Of Nuke ‘Em High to be one of the more crass Troma entries, but unfortunately it seems to be their idea of a ‘commercial’ film. It still has that Troma feel (at times anyway), but it’s lacking the kitchen sink, un-PC attitude that makes something like Terror Firmer such a classic. But it’s still a Troma movie, so it’s also lacking the production value and decent acting that would allow it to keep pace with the competition. So no one wins.

It’s not a total loss though. When the goddamn monster finally shows up (with 15 minutes left) it’s a grand old time, with its tentacles grabbing people and tearing off heads and such. And whenever I started getting bored, there would be an out of nowhere lesbian kiss or random alley fight to get my attention back on track.

Speaking of that alley fight - why do the hero’s powers go away? He smokes a toxic joint and starts to deform and gain super strength, but then he’s fine again for the rest of the movie (if this was explained, it must have been when I got up to throw a pizza into the microwave). I was hoping he would “Hulk out” and take on the monster appropriately for the finale, but instead he shoots a laser at it, which causes the film to turn colors and the school to blow up.

It’s also strangely lacking action. The opening scene has a character drink toxic water from the bubbler (that’s what we call water fountains in New England), and he begins to foam at the mouth, then he goes crazy and dives out a window. I was thinking “Nice, now the other kids drink from it and the school is overrun with crazies!”, but no, the fountain is never brought up again, and it’s another half hour or so before anything else happens. And even then it never really gets chaotic like Poultrygeist or whatever - until the monster shows up the film doesn’t even have a real body count. Hell, we never even get the stock car flip/crash that usually makes its way into every Troma film.

As it was their "commercial" movie, it’s a bit more professional than some of the others. According to the IMDb, the budget was two million, which is about 10x as much as any of their recent features. The acting is still amateur, but the effects are good and they use quite a bit of the school for locations. It also has a reasonably decent score and a few songs on the soundtrack that you might actually recognize (The Smithereens, Biohazard). In short, it’s the closest I’ve seen to a legit Troma movie, but I don’t WANT a legit troma movie. Christ, I don’t even think the movie has any bodily fluids excessively spraying on someone’s face (unless you count alka-seltzer foam).

The DVD still has the usual Troma approach, albeit on the worst designed DVD I’ve ever seen. You think that Nightmare on Elm St bonus disc was a pain in the ass? None of the extra menus have a back button, the commentary is only accessible by switching the audio track while the movie is on, the chapter selection only shows up once the movie is done, and despite the two menus for Class-related extras and generic Troma ones, the Class menu is still largely Troma-centric. Apart from Lloyd’s commentary (which is more fun than the movie), the only extras pertaining to the movie are a handful of deleted scenes, which are presented out of order and without context, and a still gallery.

As for the Troma stuff, we get all the usual promos and trailers, but there’s a spot called “Tromaville Café” that is worth a look, if only for the sight of a young James Gunn horsing around with an equally young, hot as always Tiffany Shepis. There’s also an interactive tour of the Troma production building, which I didn’t have time to go through in its entirety but what I did watch was amusing. Oh, and they plug Lloyd’s book, possibly out of habit.

From what I understand, the sequels are better. I will check them out in time, but for this one, I think it was done in by their attempts to be a bit more commercial. It’s not without merit, but I think it works better as a curiosity for die-hard Troma fans than anything else.

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Dark Country (2009)

SEPTEMBER 22, 2009


“Flying in!”

That was Ryan Rotten’s text response at this past spring’s Fangoria convention when I alerted him to the awesomeness he was missing at the Mutant Chronicles panel featuring a quite "animated" Tom Jane. Since Rotten was there to chat directly with filmmakers in order to get scoops for his site, he wasn’t often sitting in the panels, but the power of Jane compelled him. Likewise, I’m pretty sure he jumped at the chance to talk to Jane for his new film Dark Country, as I did (which is why I got the DVD - I find it’s much easier to talk to talent about their films when you’ve actually seen them, which is part of why I hate interviewing people at Comic Con). Jane rules.

I’ve been a fan of the guy for over a decade now, and it bums me out that he never really hit it as a marquee star. I hope Hung is doing well (don’t have HBO), because the guy deserves more than starring in junk like, well, Mutant Chronicles, and seeing his ambitious efforts like Dark Country going direct to DVD.

Even worse, the film is supposed to be in 3D, and no one is likely to ever see it that way. The Sin City-esque green-screen visuals have a unique look to them (since 80% of the movie takes place in a moving car, it probably would have been shot green-screen anyway - might as well make it part of the visual motif), and I can’t help but wonder how cool it would have looked in 3D. And Sony has effectively buried this aspect of the production on the DVD, it’s not mentioned in the making of, and the commentary goes noticeably silent whenever the talk turns technical (most telling, Jane begins to say “Not only was I starring and directing, but- (30 seconds of obvious silence) - So we shot this in Albuquerque...” (they did miss one brief mention of the 3D camera though, and the end credits still list all of the various 3D wizards and companies whose work will never be seen).

As for the movie itself, well, it’s OK. Like most 3D movies that are DESIGNED for 3D, you’ll sort of feel like you’re missing something. Jane and Lauren German are a just married couple who accidentally hit a guy with their car, and the rest of the film deals with the consequences and bickering you’ve come to expect from any other “Uh oh we hit someone let’s cover it up” storyline. The requisite twist won’t blow your mind if you’re paying attention (or have seen any other twist movies in the past decade), but it’s well played all the same.

Jane is a surprisingly good director - his style and sensibilities elevate the fairly predictable script. It might take you a few minutes to get used to the noir style (especially with a pretty laughable voiceover starting things off), but it was a great choice, and even when you see the whole plot coming, the visuals will keep you interested. I only wish he hadn’t gone for the whole “let’s make everything look like it’s the 50s” thing - it’s been overplayed (and with a cell phone and modern police cars, it’s not even consistent) and probably takes time/money out of the production. Yeah, it’s fine to give your hero a cool 1950s (or 60s, I’m not very good at cars) automobile - but did they need to design/produce a retro looking soda and machine and have everyone wear fedoras?

The script definitely has highlights though. Apparently it was written a while ago (the film was shot in 2007), so I can forgive some of the familiarity anyway, but some of the dialogue snaps (when burying a body, Jane says “We need to make the hole longer.” German’s response is “Can’t we just make him shorter?”). I also love the bit where the pair clean each other of blood/dirt with a handful of rest stop napkins. And while I may be tired of this particular twist, it’s at least set up in a way that can make a 2nd viewing enjoyable, which is more than I can say for some of the others.

Also there’s a scene where Jane suspects German might have been taken and he stumbles upon a grave. Digging it up a bit, he discovers that it’s not her but another woman. Not only is this creepy, but it gave me a funny idea for a scene where a guy goes out to the desert to bury a body (a hooker he accidentally killed, or maybe his domineering mother), and after he digs the hole the mob comes out to bury some snitch, and offers our guy some money to use his hole so they can get back to town quicker. If you’re a screenwriter, please don’t steal my idea. It’s one of the only two good ones I’ve had recently.

They might have denied us the 3D, but Sony/Stage 6 at least gave us some extras instead of the usual barebones approach to long-delayed and eventually DTV movies. Unfortunately I’ve already mentioned them (the featurette and the commentary) so I don’t have much more to say on the matter. It is interesting that while Jane provides the commentary, he doesn’t appear in the making of, despite the presence of the other 2 principal actors, a few of the producers, the storyboard artist, etc. There is also a bonus feature of sorts on the DVD cover, which features some sort of robotic, green-eyed version of Tom Jane instead of anything resembling the real guy. Maybe it looks correct in 3D.

Oh, one final note. The box advertises Ron Perlman (and strangely lists him as being from Hellboy II, which Universal put out, instead of Hellboy I, which was Sony’s entry), but he’s only in the final 10 minutes or so. In fact, touting his appearance is sort of a spoiler (the film has no opening credits), so if you watch it, do so without looking at the DVD cover or reading this review.

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Live Animals (2008)

SEPTEMBER 21, 2009


While it is there to attract people, I was wary of Live Animals’ DVD cover’s “Fans of ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel’ Will Cheer!” blurb, because I suspected that meant that the film was a bunch of torture scenes. No one ever brings Saw to mind when they see a clever mystery, or Hostel when they see a legitimately suspenseful modern horror movie. Thanks to ignorant critics and ripoffs, the two films are forever burdened with inspiring a wave of films that copied their least interesting elements, and then (worse), being accused of being just as bad.

Luckily, Live Animals has a bit more going for it than the Keepsakes and Captivitys of the world. For starters, it actually starts out as a slasher movie, with a guy in a clown mask and everything. Not a particularly great slasher movie, mind you, but I’ll take it over the umpteenth xenophobic “Tourists run afoul of ____” setup, or having them wake up in a dungeon without any memory of how they got there. Interestingly, there’s about 20 minutes worth of deleted scenes on the DVD, and most of them take place in this “slasher” section of the film, building the characters a bit and adding more traditional slasher movie elements (hiding in closets and such). I can’t help but wonder if they were left intact if people would be duped into thinking they were watching a traditional slasher, and have the real meat of the story come as a surprise. Hell, it might even have worked on me since I never read the back of the DVDs anymore (just the runtime and if time is a factor, the number of bonus features); if the quote on the front was just “It’s a horror movie!” I would have picked it up anyway and gotten a surprise.

The Hostel-y stuff isn’t very original - folks are kidnapped, “broken” like animals, and then sold as presumably willing slaves/whores. I’m sure it’s not far from the truth of what really goes on in certain areas of the world, so to Americanize it feels a bit more chilling. Thanks to the movies I am now convinced that wherever I go in the world someone will kidnap me and take my organs, or torture me for the hell of it, but in America? I only fear running afoul of backwoods cannibals or the occasional Blair Witch. This is scary!

For all my jokes though, it works better than most. For one thing, it’s grim as fuck. You know my old complaint about these movies (“Why are THESE characters the first to escape when their captors have been at it for so long?”), so I was happy to see an ending that felt correct. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say it’s somewhere between the endings of the two Platinum Dunes versions of Texas Chainsaw.

I also like that screenwriter Jeremy Benson (who also directed) seems to have seen just as many of these things as I do, and while he isn’t really re-inventing the formula in any significant way, he is comfortable enough to play with certain elements of it. Again I don’t want to spoil (I’m really weird with what I will and won’t spoil, huh? Big studio movies that I see early - spoiled. DTV movies no one will see anyway - not spoiled), but if you are annoyed by the constant singing of the requisite “crazy prisoner”, there’s a nice little payoff to make up for it.

It’s also better than average on a technical level (and the music is quite good), but one thing bugged me - the 2.35:1 image. The movie was shot on HD and then downconverted to SD (if I am understanding the visual effects guy correctly), so the image itself isn’t the best (this could be the result of a poor DVD transfer too - Echo Bridge never really knocks anything out of the park in this department), but the “professional” scope image calls attention to it. At the 1.78 ratio, it wouldn’t even be noticeable - by now, I just accept that no one in the independent world uses film anymore and that the movies look lousy. But it seems they made the film 2.35 to give it that “bigger” feel, but all it does is make you realize how poor the image is in comparison to good ol’ fashioned film. Stick to your native HD aspect, leave ours alone!

The hour’s worth of bonus features are also worth a look. I already mentioned the deleted scenes (which are poorly edited - couldn’t they at least trim the cuts between shots so that we didn’t hear excess dialogue?), but the behind the scenes piece is interesting, as they discuss their no budget approach to certain plot elements (the “mask” that gets put on one of the characters was created out of random shit from Home Depot) and other matters. And I loved the approach for explaining the visual effects; the FX guy walks you through things like boom mic removal and green-screen compositing, showing us how each layer is broken down and how they fit together. It could have benefited from the usual sort of “here’s the entire shot as it was filmed, here’s how it looks before we fix anything, here’s how it looks in the final film” visual example at the end of the explanation, but it’s still a unique and far more educational approach to a standard DVD extra.

It’s actually a shame that because of companies like Echo Bridge and Lionsgate I will never run out of movies to watch. They release anything and everything, and movies like this that are actually worth a look and are made by people who possess some talent end up getting lumped in with shit like Dark Harvest and The Butcher. It may not have what it takes to compete with anything in theaters right now, but there should be some sort of in between arena for those films that aren’t good enough for multiplexes (in the general sense - this is better than Whiteout, but you know what I mean) but better than the usual piece of shit lining the shelves at Blockbuster. Ideally, there would be an independent multiplex that catered specifically to independent American narratives, instead of the usual imports and documentaries. That would be nice.

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Blood Creek (2009)

SEPTEMBER 20, 2009


I try really hard to like Lionsgate, but their behavior is so goddamn appalling sometimes it’s a wonder I bother. Blood Creek (aka Creek, aka Town Creek) is the latest in their seemingly never-ending line of films that are dumped unceremoniously into budget theaters, sans any sort of marketing (is there even a poster for this goddamn thing?) or even notice to the press - it wasn’t until Friday that any of the sites were aware the film was even opening. When I told Mr. Disgusting that the film was pretty good, he was baffled how I even saw it at all.

No, it’s not going to make the Academy give a 2nd thought to how they treat horror films (which is identical to how Lionsgate treats them - i.e. like shit), but it’s an enjoyable, marginally original, and fast-paced tale, with a franchise-ready villain and some truly entertaining setpieces. Add to that a setup for a sequel that doesn’t feel shoe-horned in (and actually suggests a wider-reaching and potentially more interesting followup), and you have a film that deserves far better than the treatment it has received.

I mean Christ, the Norwalk theater that me and IconsOfFright’s RobG went to see it (one of only two within a 50 mile radius of Los Angeles that was playing it) was behind a closed store (which itself was behind a plaza), part of a shopping complex with the least user-friendly parking lot I have ever seen. The theater itself couldn’t even afford to keep the ticket booth open, instead you walk right by that (smashed) window to the concession stand to buy your tickets (in theory it’s actually a good idea - but if you get to the theater a few minutes late, you don’t want to be waiting behind the guy who can’t decide between Starburst and Sour Patch Kids). The tickets were only 2.75 - which is awesome if you have cash or a sweet tooth, but for me and Rob, we only had our debit cards and had just eaten, this meant one of us had to buy the other one’s ticket, due to the “5.00 minimum for debit/credit” rule (kind of hilarious that spending under 10 dollars would even be an issue at a Los Angeles-area movie theater). But the real evidence that we were in a slightly under-the-radar place came with the trailers. Lionsgate attached Saw VI of course, but the theater tossed in “upcoming” movies like Halloween II and Orphan (the Orphan trailer was so old it was actually missing chunks - but not the “An orphan will never be loved as much as a real child” line that was pulled from the trailer everywhere else in the world but this pathetic little theater). Surround sound? Forget it. I was amazed the seats actually had cupholders.

Again - the movie deserved better than this. It starts off a bit troublesome, with a frenetic pace that seemed to suggest studio re-editing, but as soon as the villain (an immortal Nazi who has been trapped in a family farm since World War II) is unleashed, it’s top notch entertainment. You get the legit scares and suspense (the villain can resurrect people and put them under his control) and laugh out loud nonsense (he can do the same for horses), but either way the film is entertaining; and the frenetic pace that was originally annoying plays to its benefit. Even during the obligatory exposition scenes, there is still an urgency to them - the film never really slows down.

This does cause some problems though. One is that we never really get to know Henry Cavill’s character, who drops everything instantly to aid his brother (Dominic Purcell - who is essentially playing his Prison Break character) who has escaped from the Nazi after two years and wants instant revenge. We know he feels a bit guilty, but that’s about the extent of his character development. Maybe BECAUSE of the similarities with Prison Break (one brother risking everything to help the other) it feels like we are getting short-changed. Purcell’s character was never as well-rounded as Wentworth Miller’s on Break, so I think I was expecting Cavill to similarly take charge.

The other problem is with those exposition scenes. Our sympathetic female lead (Emma Booth) explains why the Nazi guy is trapped there, why they have been torturing people, etc - but she says it so fast (and while the place is under attack) that I actually missed some of what she was saying (the theater’s terrible sound system didn’t help). Because of that, you might find the movie full of plot holes, as this one line explains why she and her family have been feeding people to the guy, despite the fact that they are seemingly trying to destroy him. In short - pay attention, maybe use the subtitles or your rewind button to make sure you got everything.

I was surprised how dark the film was. The film was directed by Joel Schumacher, who managed to turn Burton’s version of Gotham into a glorified Las Vegas (he probably would have made Batman’s costume pink and green if he could). The whole movie takes place at night, but even the interior scenes (with source lighting) feel like they have been underexposed. Maybe he took all of the Batman criticism to heart and has decided to go in the complete opposite direction. Lighting aside, it’s a surprisingly low-key directorial effort from this once A-list, big budget/high concept director. It’s funny, earlier in the day Joe Lynch polled his twitter followers on what their favorite Schumacher films were, and I struggled to pick a 3rd after Falling Down and Lost Boys. I opened his IMDb page to see what I was forgetting (Flatliners) and was surprised to see how many of his films I thoroughly dislike (Phantom of the Opera, his Batman entries, 8MM, hell he even made Bad Company, one of the few Bruckheimer films I never wanted to re-watch). So it’s ironic that this, a film that’s release wasn’t even reported on BoxOfficeMojo, is actually one of his best films, doubly so when you consider that you’d probably never guess he had anything to do with it.

I’ve now watched two movies in the past week that reminded me of The Unborn. It! had the Jewish background stuff, and this also deals with Nazi experiments. Seems there are nine keystones that hold power (all of which were located in farms in or around Virginia), and Hitler sent out guys to investigate them. It’s not really Nazi heavy - all references to Hitler, Third Reich, etc are pretty much just limited to the first and final scenes, but it’s an interesting and unique backdrop for a horror movie, one I am surprised isn’t used more often. First of all, Hitler REALLY DID delve into the occult, which should lay the groundwork for a hundred movies. Secondly - what could be more terrifying than an immortal Nazi (especially this particular one, who is about seven feet tall, has superpowers, and looks like a Cenobite)? I can only assume that once you bring up Hitler, you have a “character” that people hate more than your actual villain, but that’s a weak excuse.

Interestingly, the character is played by Michael Fassbender, who is currently in far more and far better theaters as Archie in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Dude likes playing Nazis I guess.

I really wonder why Lionsgate didn’t at least put this into one of the slots for the After Dark festival. Maybe it’s not as marketable as Saw (now that Prison Break is off the air it can’t even boast a “star”), but it deserves at least some semblance of a real release, with an actual marketing campaign and such. But then again, maybe because of the way it was tossed out into the world, my expectations were far lower than they would be had it gotten a regular release (or if I had seen it prior to its dumping, as I did for Midnight Meat Train, Burrowers, and Repo). In the end, it’s a solid B-movie that will have to struggle to find its audience on DVD, where it will be lost among the hundreds of shitty horror movies that deserved their shared fate. But hey, look on the bright side - there will be 5 more Tyler Perry movies from now until the next one they dump (Daybreakers, perhaps?). Yay?

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