Smash Cut (2009)

MAY 31, 2012


As I've said before, I'm not the world's biggest fan of Herschell Gordon Lewis' films. I like the IDEA of what he does, and the films I've seen have their charms, but they were all "once was enough" affairs at best, and I wouldn't go out of my way to see others beyond daily HMAD requirements. Thus, I'm probably not the target audience for Smash Cut, which is basically a full length homage to his career in splatter movie form, packing in references and even a cameo from the man himself while telling a typically HGL-ian story of a murderous "hero" and the detective trying to nail him for his crimes.

In fact it's apparently close to a remake of HGL's Color Me Blood Red, which I haven't seen. In that film, an artist kills folks for their blood in order to create his masterpieces (thus being a bit of a Bucket Of Blood remake in turn), and here a down on his luck film director (the late David Hess in what appears to be his final film role) seeks realistic body parts for his horror film by using the real thing. So if he needs hands, he kills the screenwriter and uses his, a fresh heart can be found in his producer's bimbo girlfriend, and so on. It's an admittedly fun idea for a movie, and Hess is a perfect choice to play this kind of anti-hero, being that he's the sort of actor you fear on sight thanks to his 70s exploitation work, but also a decent enough actor where he can get you to almost feel sorry for him at times (particularly in the opening scene, where he is openly mocked by audience members attending his newest film as he sits unnoticed in the back of the theater).

But, like HGL's films, it's just too repetitive for my tastes. The detective angle mixes things up a bit, but not nearly enough to overlook that the bulk of the film is just a series of loosely connected sequences in which Hess kills someone who annoyed him (including a film critic!) in order to get some revenge on their personal problem and improve his next film at the same time. But unlike something like Dr. Phibes, the scenes aren't unique or interesting on their own, nor is his motive anywhere near as interesting. And the detective scenes are mostly "I wonder who the killer is" variety, so they fall flat since we already know (luckily, there aren't too many of them, but since they're the only thing breaking up the repetition of the "kill someone and then shoot a scene" cycle of the rest of the movie, it's sort of a shame either way).

However, his fans will likely be in heaven, as it would fit nicely in HGL's oeuvre both on a creative level as well as a technical one. While shot digitally, the garish color scheme apes the look of his (shot on) films quite nicely, and actor Ray Sager (the original Wizard of Gore) is on board for good measure. And according to the commentary, background props, key lines of dialogue, and other bits and pieces are straight out of an HGL film, and it's important to know that none of this stuff distracted me in any way while watching, so you don't NEED a crash course in his films to follow (or even possibly enjoy) this one. That said, it is a bit disheartening to find out that some of the coolest things in this movie (such as a girl who dies blowing a bubble with her gum, which fills up with blood) were just taken from another (The Gore Gore Girls, in that case).

The commentary is one of many extras, and probably the most interesting. Director Lee Demarbre and several cast/crew members (I can't recall them all; the disc menu simply says "director commentary") point out the references, explain why Hess wears a sea captain outfit in one scene, and discuss the usual production stories that commentary fans will expect. Demarbre also heaps praise on adult film actress Sasha Grey, making a rare performance in a non-porn (and keeping her clothes on the entire time), though at times it sounds more like he's in love with her than praising her as an actress; there's a particularly "uh..." bit where he boasts about going to her hotel room and seeing clips from her upcoming movies.

The rest of the stuff is standard fare as well: a whole bunch of deleted scenes that are mostly unnecessary (but thankfully given some "leader" so we know where they would go in the film), a brief but mildly entertaining making of, and some trailers. We also see (part of?) the real killer clown film that Demarbre made on VHS back in the day (it's kind of awesome - I'd love to see one done for real as the clown is a toy, so it could be like Child's Play if done right), and some of Grey's behind the scenes diaries. Needless to say if you dug the film you'd get some value for your DVD purchase, which is all I ask in this day and age with so many low budget films coming along sans any insight into the production at all. Granted, I actually can appreciate not having a lot of extras to wade through on a disc, but most folks don't watch one every day. There are movies I didn't even like much that I got just to enjoy all the supplemental material depicting the work that went into it (i.e. the Star Wars prequels), so keep those extras coming, folks!

What say you?


Spliced (2002)

MAY 30, 2012


It’s cute when movies try to play up their “real world” significance. Usually they just say it’s based on a true story and leave it at that, but others put a little more effort into it, like Poughkeepsie Tapes’ exhaustive attempts to make people believe that the killer was real through viral marketing and such. The folks behind Spliced, however, apparently just used the IMDb trivia page to play up their movie-within-a-movie aspect, using plot points about that fake film (called “The Wisher”) and attributing it to the real one. C for effort!

Then again, maybe they realized this would just confuse people and gave up, because that seems to be the extent of their attempts to make it look like Spliced is some sort of mind-breaking horror film. Thus, people who never bother to watch this thing (but read its IMDb page) will forever think that it was banned in two states and sold out for four weeks at a theater in Canada. However, that’s what happens to “The Wisher”, as it’s apparently like a Sutter Cane novel, in that people who watch it go nuts – yet sadly the movie only focuses how it affects a very small, bland group of pals.

Our main girl is supposedly a huge horror fan, yet she doesn’t seem to be too excited about seeing this amazing horror film (it’s been out for four weeks!), which I find odd – I sure as well wouldn’t leave HMAD to her when I quit; I like to give you guys a review for new releases right away! She also only owns rubbish like The Fear 2, so I question her dedication to the genre. Anyway, the night she finally goes to see it with a few pals, she gets freaked out fairy quickly and walks out. Soon after, people start dying, and after like five such deaths she finally figures out that they died after she made wishes. “I wish she could see how ugly she is!” she says about the school’s head cheerleader (read: bitch), and soon after the girl’s face is slashed up. “I wish she would shut up!” she says about one of her pals, and the girl’s throat is cut.

Of course, WE figure this out a lot sooner than she does, which just makes the explanation scene even more obnoxious. Like the Saw films, we see a bunch of stuff from earlier in the movie all over again in a quick cut montage, but in those movies they trust the audience to be smart enough to figure out the context and just play the original dialogue when applicable. Not here; the girl literally repeats every wish and its accompanying ironic death – I suspect she would have written it out on a wipeboard if not for the fact that she’s in a car at the time.

This is right next to a hilariously awful sequence where they try to find a way to stop The Wisher. See, they walked out of the movie and thus don’t know how it ends, and because they apparently don’t have the IMDb or horror movie websites yet, she does the next logical thing – downloads the movie! One must question the mentality of a screenwriter who has his hero illegally download a movie to save the day, but whatever. This leads to a wonderfully stupid scene where the download keeps slowing down or rebuffering, preventing her from getting the info she needs. Just a theory, but I’m guessing if the movie has been sold out for weeks, she probably knows someone that has seen it and can just ask instead of stealing, but what do I know?

Well, I know that Halloween Resurrection is not worth being the only other movie showing for the citizens of Wisher-ville:

Seriously? They four-walled this movie but left a screening slot open for Halloween Resurrection, of all things? That movie was released in the summer, and most of the movie takes place in school, so it has to be the fall of 2002 by now – they can’t be showing Red Dragon, or The Ring? These poor bastards have to drive out of town to see this because the theater manager decided everyone had yet to have enough Dangertainment in their lives? Nonsense!

Anyway, the movie’s pretty bland. The kills are few and far between, and the out of nowhere whodunit angle is far too undeveloped – I actually forgot who the guy was when they unmasked him. I would have preferred it was actually a supernatural entity; it actually makes more sense than a kid following her around everywhere and making her wishes come true. Or, I’d prefer it was Ron Silver, justifying his otherwise useless (and top-billed) presence in the film as her guidance counselor. I mean, I guess it’s actually kind of novel to NOT have Ron Silver be the bad guy, but since his character serves no other purpose; I have to wonder why they bothered casting him.

Oh and when she looks up articles about other incidents caused by the movie, they’re all riddled with typos and horrendous grammar (I’ll ignore that she is clearly opening all of them from an FTP folder of some sort, not a search engine). What a lazy goddamn movie. Even the teens it is aimed at deserve better. Sold out for four weeks? The DVD would be in the dump bin within a week.

What say you?


The Bat (1926)

MAY 29, 2012


Hey there, Tales Of Terror set! Long time no see (over two years!). I actually forgot that I never “finished” this box, and it was buried in my desk under some other stuff that I have no time for (such as my copy of “The Strain”, which I started reading two years ago, before the 2nd book was even released. The 3rd is probably in paperback by now). But I noticed it while digging around for something else, and noticed that it included The Bat, a movie I wasn’t really interested in before – however it was noted in that slasher book I mentioned yesterday as a film that partially influenced what we know as a slasher film, so I was intrigued.

Well, obviously it’s not REALLY a slasher by any stretch of the imagination. It’s closer to a typical “Old Dark House” movie than anything else, with hidden passageways, an impossibly large cast, and a plot involving money. What makes it a “proto-slasher” is that the villain is masked (as, you guessed it, a bat) and it’s a whodunit of sorts. The movie even begins with a disclaimer asking people not to reveal the Bat’s identity, and even though everyone involved with the film has to be dead by now, I will abide by their wishes. However, it’s not particularly exciting, and you can probably figure it out through process of elimination by the halfway point or so.

Anyway, it’s an enjoyable enough silent movie. You can’t expect much in terms of action or complicated plotting, but it moves along nicely and has some unexpected comedy. The film was based on a stage show, and I suspect these bits were retained from that incarnation, particularly the snappy comebacks of the maid character. I’m less sure about the casual racism, however – there’s a Japanese character who is suspected of everything and referred to as “The Jap” and even “Jappy”. Our great grandparents’ generation sure was made up of a lot of ignorant dipshits, eh?

I was also impressed by the production design; the rooms are huge, with ceilings seemingly 30-40 feet above the characters’ heads (with accompanying giant doors that look too big to open or close by yourself). There are also some fun staircase and passageway shots where the camera is far enough back to appreciate the design – it’s one of the more visually interesting silent films I’ve seen. The Bat FX are also fun, especially when there’s a light trick that HAS TO be what inspired the “Bat signal” in the later Batman comics (Batman was created 13 years after this movie’s release – check out this article about the many other “coincidences”, many of which I didn’t even pick up on).

Now, at the top of the review I mentioned not being interested in the film. It’s not because of the plot, it’s just that it’s a silent film. I didn’t know there was a way to “suck” at watching a particular type of film, but there is, because I completely suck at watching silent films. I never know when they’re going to have a title card with the line, or just assume we could tell from reading their lips (or just skip it because it wasn’t important). So there were several times where I was a bit fuzzy as to what was going on because I neglected to pay closer attention to their lips, assuming I could just read a title card that would never appear.

The film had a sequel, plus a remake starring Vincent Price. I’d love to check out both; Bob Kane apparently admitted that the sequel was an influence on his creation, and of course any movie with Price is worth a look. And they’re presumably less racist, so bonus!

What say you?


Bikini Girls On Ice (2009)

MAY 28, 2012


Today I finished reading a book about slashers titled “The Slasher Movie Book”, which sounds lazy and half-assed, but if you think about it is actually a perfectly fitting title for a tome covering this particular sub-genre. The entire history of slashers (particularly the “Golden Age” which the book covers in great detail) is built around being kind of lazy, copying other movies and working the basic formula down to some sort of science, where a careful viewer can spot the Final Girl even if they’re introduced in a wordless group shot. So after, I was in the mood for a slasher, and thus looked around on Instant until I came across Bikini Girls On Ice.

Right off the bat I kind of loved it, because like the book title, it was remarkably straightforward, promising nothing but what it has to offer. The movie is literally about a group of Bikini Girls who are killed one by one by a killer that puts them On Ice when he’s done. That’s pretty much it; there’s no real backstory or motive, and the non-Bikini Girl victims aren’t around long enough to disrupt the promise of the title.

As a bonus, the Final Girl is instantly set apart in the most obvious way possible – she does not own or even want to try on one of the eponymous bikinis, unlike her pals, who are all too eager to don bikinis (the sluts!), and thus die (on ice) while she escapes. At least, I think she does. The movie has the vaguest ending I’ve seen since Chain Letter; the killer is about to get her when the local creepy old man character returns and tells her to run. She does, the killer turns his attention to him, and then… we flash forward to sometime later. We can assume the killer got the old man because he pops out and lunges at one of the epilogue’s featured characters, but the fate of the Final Girl is left unknown. Did he find her/kill her after fighting the old man? Did she escape? Is she still hiding? DID SHE KEEP HER BIKINI? We may never know.

Now, obviously this is not a very good movie, but I was kind of charmed at how simple it was. Despite the fact that we’re not currently in a slasher revival, this movie seems like it was designed quickly in order to cash in on one. The closest cousin I could think of from the Golden Age would be Final Exam, where the killer had no motive or costume (this guy has a gas station jumpsuit, but he lives/works at one so that doesn’t really count) and the film was probably pitched as “Quick, make a slasher somewhere we haven’t seen too much yet”. So Final Exam became one of the first college set slashers, and this is the rare one set in a gas station. There’s a house nearby, and a field filled with broken down cars, but the primary setting is just one of those out of the way stations with a single pump, the sort of place you’d think wouldn’t be big enough even for a short let alone a 80 minute feature. The recent Exit 33 had all that goofy backstory and a never ending supply of fresh customers to mix it up (plus TWO pumps instead of this film’s single one), but this almost admirably doesn’t try to complicate things.

So why are they there? Would it surprise you to learn that their bus breaks down en route somewhere far more exciting? It should not. Anyway, while the driver tries to fix the bus, the girls decide to have a car wash right there at the gas station, even though the place seems to be deserted, nor does it seem to be a very busy road. Yet without any advertising, they manage to get a ton of cars, which results in a goofy montage of the girls soaping the cars/each other to raise money for whatever it is they were planning to do (it doesn’t matter so I didn’t pay attention). One girl even manages to convince a customer to drive his car around back so she can fuck the shit out of him, a scene that comes out of nowhere and is seemingly just there to get the obligatory sex scene in the first half. It’s hilariously mercenary.

Some of it was hard to swallow even when factoring in the fact that the movie was mindless junk. At one point the group’s bitchiest (and sadly most attractive) character unplugs a phone because she doesn’t want the team’s mascot (who was in love with her) calling her from his hiding spot. Reverse engineered plot points (in this case, the need to disable the phone) always bug me; I’d rather the phone simply didn’t work, like usual. Also, too many of the kills were of the “swing something toward camera and cut to black” variety – it needed 2 or 3 more on-screen kills, in my opinion.

But there were a few things I genuinely liked, without any irony. For example, it didn’t try to hide its Canadian-ness. Roughly 1200% of all modern horror movies are shot in Canada, but they try to pass themselves off as one of our 50 states, so I was actually surprised when I saw a bunch of Quebec license plates. Even better, there’s a French speaking couple who happens upon the gas station, and of course our Final Girl is the only one who can understand them, because she took French class instead of drinking or fooling around. This also makes the accents less of a bother; if they were trying to claim that this was some Texas or West Virginia back road, it’d be annoying – but if they’re in Quebec, fine. “Aboot” away!

Also, the male character was surprisingly smart and focused. He fixes the bus, he notices something is amiss even before the Final Girl does, and he rebuffs the advances of not one but two of the hot Bikini Girls (before they were On Ice, obviously) so he can focus on the job at hand. It’s like they are perfectly content to follow the slasher template, and he’s all “no, let’s actually try to get the hell out of here before anything bad happens”. It’s endearing, and I was kind of bummed that he got offed. Given the lack of humor and simplistic plotting, I’m guessing the filmmakers never got to the later 80s slashers when it was pretty standard to have a Final Girl AND a Final Guy at the end, so they didn’t know to copy it (or if they had the idea to let him live, assumed that’d be thinking too far out of the box). Oh well. Maybe in the sequel.

Now, keep in mind – this is the exact sort of movie that I’d probably hate if I wasn’t in the right mood. It’s mindless, plot-free, and isn’t notable in any important area (kills, cool motive, iconic killer – though his cackle is pretty fun). But there’s something about how earnestly upfront it was that charmed me, and again, I had just finished a book that celebrated the genre, warts and all. You lucked yourself into a free pass, Bikini Girls On Ice.

What say you?


Closets (2010)

MAY 27, 2012


This weekend I was dismayed to discover that most of the films I hadn’t seen yet on my various Echo Bridge multi-packs (anywhere from 4 to 8 films) weren’t even horror, so they are wholly useless to me – I can’t even get anything for them for tradein at the used DVD store I frequent! Sorry, HMAD screening attendees, you’ll be “winning” a copy of Closets very soon, because the other stuff on the disc doesn’t quite meet HMAD requirements.

Then again the IMDb lists this one simply as a “thriller”, but it’s clearly horror, being that it’s about a vengeful ghost that kidnaps a kid in order to lure other victims to its realm (shades of Insidious, though it was produced before), and even has a couple of bloody murders for good measure. So maybe I should look into the others more carefully; pity the man who trusts the IMDb for any reason. The only reason I looked there is because these films are obscure and thus it’s hard to find out much about any of them without actually sitting down to watch – this movie doesn’t have a single user OR external review listed, for example.

Anyway, it’s surprisingly almost pretty good. The low production value, miscast actors (if you suspect the lead role is played by the film’s producer, you’d be correct!), and horrendous FX kill any chance of it being something I’d actually recommend, but I’ve seen enough of this sort of thing to recognize that they were at least on the right track. The redemption story is interesting, and there’s a twist at the end that I actually didn’t see coming – always something worth lauding, especially after so many of these damn things. With a real actor in the lead (Corbin Bernsen is on hand for a bit role – he would have been a far better fit) and more time/money, this could be a pretty decent flick.

However, the story is a lot like Insidious, and director Charles Peterson is no James Wan. The few attempts at scares are botched, and even though the ghost has a fairly creepy presence, he fails to make it as memorable as Insidious’ old lady or lipstick demons. There’s a cool bit inside a garage where it rips a dude’s ears off, but otherwise it just appears in that tired, J-horror “stuttering” way, and obnoxiously speaking only in rhyme. I don’t know why horror filmmakers think rhymes are inherently scary, but I never found them to be. You know what’s scary? A ghost who can appear out of thin air and kill the shit out of you. Saying something like “Come into the light, so that day is night”? Not so much.

And again, the actors. The lead looks like a Paul Sorvino stunt double, and his attempts at dry sarcasm just sound forced and awkward. But none of his line deliveries are nearly as awful as the image of him sucking on his wife’s face early on (before – spoiler – the ghost kills her and his kid, leading him to become a paranormal investigator), a visual that may induce temporary impotence. The attempts at banter between the folks on his team are also pretty cringe-worthy; his nerdy right hand man’s attempt at scoring a date with the new girl come off as borderline rapey when it’s supposed to be cute.

Final note – free tip for future projects: don’t start your movie off with the worst composite shot ever committed (the correspondent’s backgrounds on The Daily Show look more realistic and those are SUPPOSED to look fake), followed by a title that says “12:05 AM, 19 years ago”. You can’t go from something that specific to something that vague! This starts a chain of laughable titles where we then flash forward 5 years, then 7, then, as the title says “Another 7 years later – the present”. If you have this much backstory, perhaps dole it out in flashbacks throughout the film so we’re not being barraged with exposition before we even know who anyone is or what they are doing.

And hire better actors!

What say you?


R-Point (2004)

MAY 26, 2012


Someday I'll see a war-set horror film that never once tries to make the viewer wonder whether or not the strange things that the protagonists are seeing are real or simply due to the psychological toll that the war has taken on them. Until then, movies like R-Point (Korean: Arpointeu) will continue to engage me in some areas, annoy me in others, and gel together in my head so that I have trouble telling them apart down the road when someone asks me a specific question about them.

At least R-Point has a couple of things that will help me remember. One, it's set during the Vietnam war instead of the usual WWII, so there's nothing about the Nazi fascination with the occult, and it carries with it the generally lethargic attitude toward the conflict. Whereas the heroes in WWII set horror films tend to be gung-ho because they know exactly what they're fighting for, Vietnam was a mess that no one really wanted to be involved in, giving it a different dynamic. The heroes here are very laid-back for the film's first half, and not particularly interested in their mission or the war as a whole it seems.

The other difference is that it's a Korean film. US soldiers make a brief appearance (and thus the movie switches to English for a while; it's kind of disorienting at first), but otherwise we're seeing it through the eyes of a South Korean platoon that is ordered to find out what happened to a team that disappeared months ago, after a new transmission is heard from one of the presumed dead. It's always interesting to see a war film from another country's side, particularly in this case as Korean involvement was itself divided (North Korea being on the side of the Communists, South Korea being, like the US, on the anti-Commie team). The backdrop of the war isn't really important to its tale of a vengeful ghost and inner-group distrust, but it's enough to give it a bit of its own identity.

Which is good, because the actual horror part of the movie isn't particularly original, though it does have some novel touches. For example, the US team that visits is later revealed to have been a group of ghosts, as their equipment and bodies are discovered with evidence that they had been dead for months or even years, despite being seen just two days before. But ultimately it's just another war-horror film that takes a page from The Thing, with our protagonists unable to trust each other (there's even a "Who's not who they say they are?" sequence) as the ghost turns them against one another until there's only one guy left to tell the tale (and, presumably, be used to have another team of fresh victims sent out to investigate).

The location is quite nice though - a French plantation in the middle of the jungle. They don't explore as much of the location as I would have liked, but again it helps give the film a bit of unique flavor, as its not the usual bunker or fortress. And I liked that a lot of it was set in the daytime, playing up the dangers of the situation (friendly fire, Vietcong enemies) and allowing them to more closely investigate things that spooked them during the previous night. Kind of like Blair Witch in that way, where when night falls you can instantly feel a sense of dread creeping in, given that even the day stuff wasn't exactly pleasant.

However it was a bit hard to keep track of who was who. We're introduced to them all at the same time, and characterization is pretty thin; one guy wants to take his kid to the zoo and that's pretty much all we learn about him. And they're almost always together in groups of 3 or more, so sometimes it wasn't even clear who was talking if his back was to the camera (or if I was reading the subtitles and thus missing whose mouth was moving), making lines like "Corporal Byung-hoon, where is Corporal Byun?" a bit tricky to flesh out in my head. Granted this might not be a problem for everyone, but I couldn't help but think that I would have been able to have a better handle on things if it was dubbed so I could spend more time looking at the full image and being able to attach faces to names earlier on in the narrative, instead of closer to the end. That or it could have taken a page from Deathwatch and given each character a title over a wordless closeup early on to start the "who's who?" process.

So if you enjoy this sort of thing, there's enough novelty to forgive its rather basic ghost story and thinly drawn characters. I don't think it'll change your mind if you find these movies too maddeningly vague (or if you're likewise burnt out on Asian ghost tales), but if you're a fan of either sub-genre it mostly hits the spot. And it's got one of modern cinema's better poop jokes, so there's something.

What say you?


Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

MAY 25, 2012


If Paranormal Entity actually had credits or an IMDb page when I saw it a couple years back, maybe I would have noticed that the guys behind it were credited with the script (along with producer Oren Peli) for Chernobyl Diaries, which is sadly more interesting than anything in the movie. Is there no better reward for creating an Asylum mockbuster than getting a nice paycheck and big theatrical release alongside the guy whose movie you were mockbusting? Well, probably, but it’s still kind of awesome.

That said, I guess it’s not much of a surprise that Chernobyl often feels like the biggest budgeted Asylum movie ever, in that there’s not a lot of action, the (seemingly improvised) dialogue is atrocious, and it seems as if it may have been shot in 10 days tops. And the plot seems cobbled together from other films, notably The Ruins (tourists going into an area that they shouldn’t, led by a local who should know better) and The Hills Have Eyes (mutants living in a town that has been abandoned due to radiation exposure). There’s also a touch of films like Catacombs and Urban Explorer, with the idea of “off the record” tour groups going into a dangerous place and then panicking when they find themselves in danger.

However, despite the paint by numbers plotting, it actually works for the most part. The location is terrific, with husks of buildings, ferris wheels, and cars littering the overgrown fields and disgusting streams that comprise the town of Pripyat (the residential area next to Chernobyl that was evacuated instantly after the reactor meltdown in 1986). With Paranormal Activity on the brain, it’s easy to get into the same habit of constantly scanning the frame looking for the bad guys lurking in the background or peering out of windows, and the constant threat of entering an area that’s too rich with radiation adds a ton of tension to the chase/panic scenes, as they can’t always simply run in the opposite direction if their Geiger counter starts chirping. Add in the disintegrating bridges and walkways and other elemental dangers, and you have a place that would be pretty terrifying even without any living threats.

But the movie has a bunch of those too; in fact, possibly too many. While there is evidence of a human presence early on (Yuri, the tour guide and the film’s best character, notices the ashes of a recent campfire while the tourists take photos in the next room), the movie doesn’t really show its mutant characters until the 3rd act, and you will never get a good look at them without the aid of a pause button. However, the 2nd act is loaded with animal dangers – dogs and wolves roam the area seeking fresh food while providing the film with its most terrifying sequence (an attack on their van). There’s also another animal that appears out of nowhere and in an unexpected place, which is probably the best jump scare in the movie even though the CGI on said animal is kind of shitty - director Brad Parker is a VFX guy, who what gives? (NOTE - I have been told this was a real bear. It had that weird glossy look to it so I assumed it was CGI. Perhaps a composite? Or just one of the many drawbacks of digital projection? At any rate - my apologies). Honestly, I think the movie would have worked better without the mutants at all – there was enough to generate a good scary movie just with the setting and the animal threats. The mutants just create too many questions, and having a bunch (dozens, it seems) of anonymous mutants doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself from Hills Have Eyes, which had only a few villains, but they were memorable and unique from one another. Even the average zombie film has a couple of “hero” undead, so why Parker and Peli neglected to make even ONE distinct menace is kind of puzzling.

There are two other issues that must be addressed, though only one really bugged me personally. Despite the trailer’s focus on the film’s (very few) video-shot scenes and the title, which makes no sense within the film (whose diaries, exactly? The movie is not anyone’s account of an event, nor is there a diary shown in the film), this is NOT a found footage film – it’s just shot like one, with an exclusively hand-held approach and a general lack of grace to the cinematography. There are even major scenes that happen off camera, as if there was an unseen 7th tourist filming everything and constantly sticking with Devin Kelley’s character (not that I’d blame him). At one point Yuri and one of the other characters head off to check something out, leaving the rest of them in the van as the camera just swooshes around looking out the window, where we can’t see a damn thing, instead of following the others who are actually doing something interesting. I assume the point is to put us in Kelley’s shoes throughout the runtime, but when the film is marketed as a found footage film, and written by the guy responsible for the sub-genre’s newfound popularity, it can be a bit disorienting. There were two or three moments (including the one described above) where I momentarily wondered who was currently filming, only to remind myself that the camera operator was not a character in the film.

The other issue didn’t bug me as much, but I can see how it might be a major problem for the intended audience – almost nothing happens in the first hour. One could argue that the Paranormal films are guilty of this as well, but they always had some really great, unnerving scares to guide us along, not to mention slightly less idiotic protagonists. The folks here are all pretty dumb (for example, the mutants destroy a certain car part, which they are able to locate in another car later, but no one takes into account that they also killed the battery and have no means of jump-starting it), and the setting/situation doesn’t lend itself to the “this could happen to me!” feeling that the Paranormal films excel at. I might someday find myself besieged by a ghost in my own home, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never be on the run from mutants in a radiated city (mostly because I’m lazy). So there’s a lack of built-in familiarity with the situation, and given today’s audiences’ short attention span, they might not have the patience to make it until the first kill before they start texting and ruining the experience for everyone else in the theater (luckily, mine was close to empty). And that’s not even mentioning the interminable first reel (hah! “Reel”), consisting of all the “character development” and rather flimsy chain of events that gets them into the town without permission. One character plans to propose to his girlfriend, a stock horror movie subplot made even more groan-inducing by the dialogue, as the guy checks to make sure his girlfriend isn’t looking before showing the ring to his brother, and then adding “I haven’t asked her yet.” Well no shit you haven’t, asshole, that’s why the ring’s in your pocket instead of on her finger. Sadly that’s not even the most eye-rolling example.

And even when the mutants DO show up, there’s not a lot of on-screen action of note, and that’s where I’ll warn you that there are SPOILERS AHEAD!!! Of the seven deaths in the film, only two of them actually occur on-screen, with all of the others being a variant of “they are pulled away and never seen again”. There’s also a lack of a satisfying fight back; even in movies where all of the characters die (such as the Texas Chainsaw prequel), there’s a moment of triumph for the heroes, but this movie never has one. I think one mutant gets kicked away, but that’s about it, with the final five minutes seemingly setting up a sequel (or prequel) and being so vague and poorly constructed that it might change the mind of even someone who loved it until that point. The movie’s rich atmosphere and admirable restraint (be it creative or budgetary) bought it a lot of goodwill with me, but I’ll probably be in the minority, and I think disappointment with the final 5 minutes will be fairly unanimous.

As I noted on Twitter, this is like the best January horror movie ever released in the summer. Every January the studios put out a couple of mildly entertaining, mostly disposable horror flicks that would have no chance of competing in the summer against the big budget stuff, or in October with the most prestigious horror fare (i.e. Paranormal Activity sequels). I’m not sure why Warner thought going up against Avengers, Battleship, and Men In Black 3 (not to mention their own Dark Shadows, which I assume they thought would be making far more money still given its 150 million budget) would be the best idea; granted the film couldn’t have cost much, but it still seems a shoe-in to be crushed by the competition, especially when it’s such a shrug of a movie. My guess: this way they’ll be able to have it on DVD for the Halloween season, which is just as well – it’s the most average horror film of the year and thus perfect rental fodder.

What say you?


Trilogy Of Terror (1975)

MAY 24, 2012


As with Lemora, Trilogy Of Terror is among the few movies featured on a documentary I’m editing that I hadn’t already seen, so I was eager to check it out. But I was puzzled after watching the interviews pertaining to the film, as no one had anything to say about the first two parts of this three story film – they only wanted to talk about one with the Zuni doll. I then realized that over the past 20 years or so (whenever I started paying attention to horror that existed before I was born), NO ONE had ever talked about the other two tales – in fact I still didn’t even know what their basic premises were.

Well, now that I’ve seen the film, I can understand why – they suck. Even the Zuni one isn’t that great, but it’s got a good villain, some surprising violence, and a terrific closing shot, giving people with vague memories something to latch onto. And those things make it easy to forget that it starts off just as bad as the other two stories, focusing on Karen Black talking on the phone to her mother, offering up more exposition than you’d find in an entire season of 24, including the directions for the Zuni doll. As if a woman old enough to be Karen Black’s mother would have the slightest bit of interest in the method of unleashing the power of a murderous fetish toy? That we don’t hear the mother utter a word doesn’t help, but at least it fits in with the next few minutes, where Black just walks around talking to herself. She seems shocked when the doll comes to life, but I don’t understand why – she was asking it questions and seemingly carrying on a full conversation with the damn thing just moments before.

But then the doll attacks, and it’s pretty awesome. Full body shots of the thing in motion are scarce, but the closeups are great, and I loved its voice – sort of a Gremlin meets Donald Duck. And he’s no pushover – he bites and stabs the hell out of Black (and her furniture), and doesn’t go down easy, either. She drowns him, traps him in a suitcase, smashes him into a lamp, and finally immolates him, yet he still keeps coming. That’s the benefit of a “genuine” Zuni fetish doll (she stresses “genuine” when explaining her purchase to her mother, as if there were a bunch of cheap knockoff Zuni fetish dolls in the market), I guess.

As for the others, I’m already forgetting chunks of them. In the first, a douchey college student suddenly becomes obsessed with his teacher (Black again – she’s in every story), and convinces her to go on a date to the movies, where he drugs her. He then takes photos of her in lewd poses and uses them to blackmail her to… uh, hang out and listen to music with him. Seriously, I have no idea what his end-game was here; if he just wanted to bang her, why not do it while she was drugged? Or does he cross the line there despite not having a single positive trait to his name? Well, joke’s on him – she put a spell on him, which is why he became so obsessed with her (no shit!), and now she’s bored with him so she drugs/kills him. Then we learn he’s just the latest in a long line of students she’s “seduced” and then killed, something I guess the authorities never noticed.

The next story is even more obnoxiously obvious from the start. Black plays twins (as if the promise of her in every story wasn’t enough, now they’re doubling down?), one who is meek and spiritual, the other a loud mouthed broad. The two hate each other, and explain as much to their doctor (George Gaynes!), and finally the meek one decides to kill the other. But it’s not the primitive FX that keeps the two from ever sharing a scene together, it’s (SPOILER!) the fact that they are in fact the same person! Wow, I bet you didn’t see that one coming… is something I might say to a person who was inexplicably making Trilogy Of Terror the first movie they ever saw. For a while I wondered if we were SUPPOSED to be aware that they were the same and make it a “twist” of sorts that there were indeed two of them, but then I remembered that this was a TV movie from 1975 and thus they probably didn’t think it would be necessary to be that clever.

But that’s the problem with both of these first two entries – they’re entirely built on twists that are kind of obvious to begin with. The guy in the first story literally says “All of a sudden I just want to see her naked!” (or something equally awkward), so the fact that he’s being manipulated is obvious before he even acts on it. Likewise, in the second story, Gaynes is clearly just humoring her when he asks about her “sister”, and the story takes place entirely in their house, which makes the fact that they don’t share a scene blatantly apparent. The third works because it’s a straightforward tale – a doll comes to life and tries to kill its owner. Done. Then they spring the little epilogue (with Black now possessed with the Zuni spirit) on us, and it totally works – it wasn’t the story’s sole reason for existing.

And it’s a bummer, because while the movie was produced/directed by Dan Curtis (who I have yet to see anything I really like from, though I’m sure Night Stalker would be up my alley if I ever get around to it), the stories were all written by Richard Matheson, a writer I like quite a bit. I think the 2nd one would work better on the page, because any number of narrative structures could obscure the fact that the two sisters never converse (first person diary accounts, for example). I have no theories as to how the first one could ever work though, it’s just a completely stupid premise.

Curtis made a sequel in 1996; the Zuni doll returned for the final story, with the first being about giant rats, and the middle story being a remake of “Bobby” from Dead Of Night (which was the best story in that one). So the movie is essentially 2/3s rehashed - clearly there were only creative motivations behind this endeavor. Somehow I doubt I’ll get around to seeing it before I wrap things up.

What say you?

P.S. Oddly enough when I went to search for the ToT trailer I found a spot that the director of the documentary put together a while back (before I was on board as editor, but I had shot a segment as one of the subjects - look for me!), so here's that instead.


Jack's Back (1988)

MAY 23, 2012


True story – when I was like 9 I saw a commercial for Jack’s Back’s upcoming premiere on HBO (or Cinemax) and thought it was a sequel to Jack The Ripper, the TV miniseries that I had taped and never finished on account of being 9 and thus not old enough to understand the damn thing. So I never saw Jack’s Back, either - I was starting to get to that age where I didn't want to watch a sequel until I saw the original. Now it's 20+ years later and I know better, but I had actually forgotten all about the movie until I saw it on the Netflix horror page. Apparently it’s never even been released on DVD in this region – always charmed by such titles on Netflix Instant. Remember when they were a DVD company?

Anyway, it’s not a particularly good movie. Right off the bad you can sense something is amiss, because there’s a killer recreating the Jack murders in modern day (1988) Los Angeles, and he’s almost done when the film begins – the cops are working to catch him before he gets his final victim. James Spader figures out who the victim will be and races over, only to discover he’s too late and that a guy he works in the medical office with is the killer (OR IS HE?), and after a decent car chase, Spader is killed and assumed to be the murderer by the police.

From then on the movie is little more than a typical 80s thriller, with Spader (as the dead character’s twin brother – yep, one of those) trying to clear his brother’s name while protecting Cynthia Gibb from the real killer. But the guy is done! All he wanted to do was recreate Jack’s murders, and he did that, so there’s no tension whatsoever. The “clear his brother’s name” plot isn’t nearly enough to sustain the rest of the movie (more than an hour!), and without any sort of countdown built into the plot, the movie is just sort of hanging out with itself until Spader figures out who the real killer is, resulting in a quick, scare-free climax.

It baffles me that they didn’t start the movie on the penultimate crime, so that the rest of the movie could concern the living Spader’s attempt to prove that his brother was innocent by preventing the 5th and final murder in time (while some local murders are occasionally credited to The Ripper, only 5 were proven to be his doing). This could solve both of the movie’s major problems with one quick rewrite, and for the life of me I can’t figure out what benefit they thought they’d have by removing the copycat element from the majority of the movie. I guess it works as a nice first act twist, but writer/director Rowdy Herrington doesn’t do a damn thing with it. And people bitch about his film Striking Distance! At least that one had some tension and that awesome boat/car chase. And Willis.

It’s also never clear why the presumed murderer kills the first Spader, since as we learn later (and was pretty obvious anyway) he wasn’t the killer. The real killer (spoiler) was their boss, so maybe we’re supposed to figure that they were working together or something, but it’s never explained and thus quite obnoxious. The only successful thing about this “whodunit” approach is that it seems like Robert Picardo’s character is going to be revealed as the real killer, so when we learn it’s someone else it’s a decent surprise. Sadly, the other guy was a dull character most folks would have forgotten about by then, so again, it’s a waste of an intriguing plot idea.

The only real entertainment I got out of the movie (besides marveling at how much Gibb resembles Emma Watson) was the 80s-ness of the thing, with pretty much every cliché of the decade represented. An angry black police captain? Check. A scene set in a porn shop/strip club for no reason? Check. Lots of jazzy sax? Check. Then we have some “oh, the 80s” details, like a guy in a hideous pink and blue pastel shirt giving our hero some grief, and people smoking inside the mall… it’s possible that the only way to enjoy anything about this movie is if you have an appreciation for how silly the 80s were. There is one bit that I loved though – Spader goes into a bar and, like all movie characters before him, simply says “a beer” when prompted for an order. However, for once, the waitress does not consider this specific enough and demands to know which kind. Yes! (Gibb was smart enough to order a Bass, for the record.)

I hope someday I’ll see another good Jack the Ripper movie. I remember From Hell being decent whenever Heather Graham wasn’t on-screen (which wasn’t often enough), and Edge of Sanity was OK but lacked a third act. The only one I’ve really liked is Hammer’s Hands Of The Ripper, which was pretty great but also not really about Jack and/or his victims, but about his daughter inheriting his penchant for killing women. Come on, there’s gotta be a way to crack this one!

What say you?


Ju-Rei: The Uncanny (2004)

MAY 22, 2012


Hey now! I understood this J-horror flick! I’m not dumb after all! Or maybe the movie itself is dumb. Either way, despite a potentially disastrous approach and a murky transfer that made it hard to tell some of the younger characters apart in the early scenes, Ju-Rei: The Uncanny (Japan: Ju-rei: Gekijô-ban - Kuro-ju-rei) was pretty coherent once the film’s MO became clear, and was short enough to forgive its flaws.

The main flaw being that it’s kind of a ripoff of Ju-On, with the angry ghosts, a back-story involving a murder in a dysfunctional family, and a “chain” of victims, presented in non-chronological order. It’s also 1.33 like the original (2000) Ju-On film, and shot on video – if someone caught a scene out of context they’d be forgiven for mistaking one for the other. But it’s much easier to follow, and not to mention more action-packed – someone dies every few minutes!

Or, at the end of every chapter. The movie is told backwards, not unlike Memento, so the first thing we see (“Chapter 10”) would be a typical “setting things up for a sequel” scene that’s not really connected to the others as strongly. Then Chapter 9 shows what happened to the girl that the girls in Chapter 10 were talking about, and it ends with her finding the corpse of her father – who is the focus of Chapter 8. And so on, building all the way back to the original murder that spawned the ghosts who do the killings in the first few chapters. It took until Chapter 8 or 7 to fully wrap my head around it (mainly, again, due to the confusion about who was who thanks to the underlit photography coupled with the constant looking at the bottom of the screen instead of the faces), but once I did I found it refreshingly easy to track.

It’s also well written, with little tidbits being dropped into the narrative that won’t be important until “later”. Like Memento, watching the film in sequence wouldn’t work at all (ever try that feature on the DVD? It becomes the boringest movie ever), because halfway through you’d be hearing the vague news report about a killing that you already saw, and it would basically be an aimless movie about a bunch of people dying due to their Kevin Bacon-y connections to the person who dies in Chapter 1. It might be an interesting experiment to watch it in order, but it would ruin the fun and suspense of the film.

Especially because even watching the “right” way it gets a bit repetitious, since it doesn’t take long to realize that whoever we’re following will be dead by the end of their chapter. Thus, you’re always watching “dead men walking”, with the only element of surprise being WHEN they die – I loved that one chapter (3?) was only like 90 seconds long as the person got offed pretty quickly (most chapters run around 7 minutes). And by the end (the beginning) you’re watching characters that you’ve never met for the most part, so it doesn’t really have a “big climax” like a normal movie would – the pacing is pretty level from start to finish. Also, unlike Memento, what we learn at the end of the film doesn’t give much new insight to what we saw before – think about how heartbreaking Teddy’s murder at the beginning is when you discover how Leonard got on his trail to begin with at the end of the film. There’s nothing like that here, which is a drawback of not really having a main character.

The ghosts are cool, however – they’re basically blurry people standing around in the background more often than not, but it gives the viewer a Paranormal Activity-esque desire to constantly be scanning the frame to see where they might appear. There isn’t much actual violence in the film - most segments end with the ghost moving in for the kill, but it has a creepy vibe that should work on those who found even the US Grudge films to be terrifying. And again, it’s only 70 minutes long – people wait longer in line to go on a 3 minute roller coaster.

The disc doesn’t really have any extras; the trailer is there but it lacks any English options (the film itself is only available subtitled, no dub track – sorry, non-readers!), and manages to make the movie look even more like a soap opera or home movie than it already did. Then there’s “production credits” which just shows a few “other titles” (this film among them) along with the names of the disc’s producers. In other words, they might as well have just made this bare-bones and used up that little extra bit of disc space to improve the transfer. Just my opinion.

What say you?


The Dead Undead (2010)

MAY 21, 2012


Rather than review The Dead Undead in a traditional manner, I thought I’d once again just offer up some tips for these filmmakers and others who may find themselves in their situation. Said situation, per the commentary by co-directors Eddie Conna and Matt Anderson (which wasn’t advertised on the back of the DVD) and some of the bonus features, can be summed up by “not enough money to do anything correctly”, though I’m sure some questionable filmmaking skill was also a factor.

Tip #1 – If you can barely afford the parts of the movie that matter, get rid of the ones that don’t. Midway through the film, we’re suddenly treated to a scene of a character (who just died) fighting in a sun-drenched forest, wearing chainmail and wielding a sword. At first I thought this was just the guy’s version of heaven, which would be kind of hilarious (I’m a firm believer in the “Heaven is what you want it to be” concept), but as it went on I started wondering if the DVD had glitched and perhaps we were just seeing an unrelated short film about two of the actors going on a LARPing session, since everything was so phony. But then I finally realized, this was his “origin” as a vampire, and we were supposed to be flashing back to the Middle Ages and seeing how this guy – who, again, is now dead – was turned into a vampire and joined the other hunters. There are others, too – one in Vietnam and another in the Old West. Both have about as much authenticity as a bunch of kids grabbing their dad’s camera and trying to remake Predator or something in their backyard, and none of it is essential. Who cares how they were turned? Can’t they just say so in a few lines of dialogue? Why spend time and money filming this stuff when it’s just going to be laughed at?

Tip #2 – Don’t hire yourself to play badass vampire hunters. Both Conna and Anderson appear as part of the team of vampires who now hunt the “ZVs” (zombie vampires) that serve as the film’s villains, and neither of them can act. Granted, almost NO ONE in the film can act, but perhaps if they weren’t distracted by their performances, they could have done a better job directing or rewriting the script to accommodate their lack of a proper budget. It’s not like they were any good in the roles, so literally ANY other two people in the world would have been just as good, with a chance of being better.

Tip #3 – When it comes to “cool” action, quantity is not better than quality. There are three major shootout/fight scenes in the movie, with some other little ones sprinkled in between, and they’re all pretty much the same. Lots of shots of our hunters firing their guns over and over or swinging a melee weapon, mixed with shots of ZVs getting riddled with bullets and/or being hurled back from the force of whatever they were hit with. The first time or two we see a zombie go flying through the air, it’s kind of awesome. By the 50th, its either laughable or boring, depending on the circumstances. At one point Luke Goss kicks one and it goes flying 30 feet away – this should have been a major highlight, but it’s literally the 5th time we’ve seen one do the same thing from some sort of “hit” (a bullet, a sword, etc) in the past 20 seconds, so there’s no impact whatsoever. Ditto the air mortar that launches zombies into the air – it’s cool at first, but after a while any sane audience member will just start wondering why the damn things keep launching themselves up onto the roof of the same car. At least MOVE your mortar, fellas.

Tip #4 Don’t immolate an old man that we love. At first I was a bit confused as to how they had a cameo by Forrest J. Ackerman, since he died in 2008, but according to the commentary, they lost Luke Goss at a certain point in the production because he had to go overseas to shoot Hellboy II, which was shot in the summer/fall of 2007. Anyway, Uncle Forry shows up out of nowhere as a zombie, which is awesome in theory, but he’s in his wheelchair (at this time his health was already failing), and he’s only on-screen for a few seconds before someone sets him on fire. It would be incredibly disturbing to watch even if he WASN’T no longer with us, so I have no idea what they were thinking here.

Tip #5 The script DOES matter. On one of the 7 featurettes, they explain that their budget forced them to change parts of the script to accommodate their locations and such. And that’s fine, it happens all the time. But they go overboard, explaining that the crew would point out script inconsistencies on the set and they’d say “Don’t worry about it, the script isn’t set in stone, none of it matters.” Um, yes it does. See, if you had any sense, you’d spend a few days revising your script once you realized what you had to work with in terms of money and sets (especially considering the entire movie was shot in one location). You certainly don’t show up on set with a script with elements that are no longer possible to film. Budgetary limitations can certainly compromise the original vision for a movie, but good filmmakers are able to work around them and still make something worthwhile.

Tip #6 Action is only interesting when it changes. The directors stress that this is an “action movie with horror”, but don’t seem to realize that it fails more miserably as an action movie than as a horror. Again, all of the action is repetitive, and there’s no real plot here – the vampire hunters want to kill the ZVs, and that’s about it. There’s no master villain, there’s no cure to seek or anything – it’s just an endless series of poorly edited shootouts; you can take the big shootout from the end of the movie and swap it with the one at the beginning and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. Action movies succeed by mixing things up – take The Rock, for example. There’s the theft of the VX gas, the big car chase in San Francisco, the initial takeover of Alcatraz, the big bathroom massacre, the chase for the final rocket, the mine car shootout… there’s a variety! Now take this movie. There’s the shootout in the junkyard, the shootout in front of the hotel, and… another shootout in the junkyard. And the enemies are all the same; anonymous, badly madeup zombies that run en masse from out of nowhere but are often standing still when they cut to them a second before they are dispatched. We also see the same ones die over and over; at one point one of them is taken down and then in the very next shot we see her running toward the group again. Individual gags and stunts are impressive, but the sequences themselves are simply not exciting in any way.

Tip #7 Don’t lie to me on your DVD cover. This is probably not the fault of the filmmakers, but after 5 years they probably could have designed a cover that accurately depicted their film and saved the distributor (Phase 4, in this case) some time and effort making one that was total bullshit. We get a burning city, super impressive skull faced zombies, a collapsed bridge… the movie offers an old motel and a junkyard. Oh and the Old West town! Can’t forget that.

Following even a couple of these tips on your next project will yield a far more successful film, I can almost guarantee it. Sadly, considering it took 5 years for this one to hit shelves, I’ll most likely be done with Horror Movie A Day-ing by the time your next movie is released, so it doesn’t matter. Good luck though.

What say you?


Epitaph (2007)

MAY 20, 2012


Remember when Homer watched Twin Peaks and he was like “Brilliant... I have absolutely no idea what's going on...”? That’s sort of how I feel whenever I watch most Korean horror films, and Epitaph (Korean: Gidam) is no exception. I enjoyed my 100 minutes watching it, I even got scared a time or two, but if I had to provide a summary of its events, or even answer true or false questions about its plot points, I’d fail miserably. Ideally, I’d go back and watch it again before writing my review, but time does not allow for that. And if you think I’m joking – I haven’t even touched Skyrim in 6 weeks!

Let’s talk about what I DO know. I know it’s a period piece (even the “present day” framing scenes take place over 30 years ago), which is unusual for these things, at least the ones I’ve seen (since many are about haunting some sort of device). It’s mostly set inside a hospital, so apart from the lack of high tech equipment it’s hard to tell the difference, but those exteriors with cable cars and such, as well as the style of non-doctor clothing, are nice to see in the context of an Eastern horror film – I wish they’d make more of them (or, again, if this is just my ignorance, I wish more of them were readily available here). Period horror in general seems to be a smart idea; nowadays there are just too many variables to allow for the old clichés to work – kids getting lost or unable to call for help? GPS! Cell phones! Etc. Unless it has to for that particular plot, no horror film should take place past 1994 or so.

I also liked the loose anthology structure, in that it tells three mostly separate stories that entwine in certain ways. Again, I was a bit hazy on certain things, including the order in which they occurred (seems like there’s some back and forth), but it gave each segment a bit of flavor – the first was a traditional ghost story, the middle was a flashback driven tale about a little girl whose parents were killed, and the final was a serial killer mystery. The hospital and a few key characters are present in all, but the gist of each one was its own thing; sort of like Kingdom Hospital in a way, which had “case of the week” tales built into the overall story of this bizarre place. It actually gave me hope at the start of each tale – “Maybe I’ll totally make sense out of this one!” (never did; if anything it just got more confusing).

But if you want scares, it delivers. There’s a lot of fun surrounding a morgue and its storage cabinets (you ever notice that there are always 9 drawers and that the person we’re interested in is always in the exact center?), and even a few shock gory murders that I wasn’t expecting. But the best came in the first story, as a woman with blood dripping down her face/mouth first began making little squeals and yelps, and then just started speaking in tongues while making crazy eyes – it’s seriously chilling and creepy.

And it’s also kind of sad; all of the stories deal with someone who lost a loved one and how they deal with their grief – one guy becomes obsessed with a corpse, another becomes catatonic, etc. It’s the mental anguish stemming from these losses that usually results in the horror-centric things that follow, so throughout the movie you can’t help but feel sorry for pretty much everyone. There are no real “villains” per se, just a lot of broken hearts (and minds), unusual for a horror film in any genre.

There’s a lot of repetition though, and I don’t mean “we have to watch people going down the same corridor over and over” type of repetition. I mean we literally watch certain scenes twice, often without any real difference or discernible reason to show the whole thing again. Sure, some of that feeling might be due to the fact that I didn’t fully understand the movie, but do we need to see the entire bus accident a second time? We know the outcome, and we know what led up to it, so it seems unnecessary to show entire scenes over again. If someone could “Phantom Edit” this movie in chronological order and remove the padding, I’d totally make time to watch it.

But that’s why I’m excited about ending HMAD next year. There will be time for such things (re-watching movies that might require a second viewing, I mean, not re-editing them), and if I STILL don’t get a movie I watch, I don’t have to worry about trying to write up a review and letting you guys know how dumb I am. I can hide my shame!

What say you?


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