Friday, October 24, 2008

AFF '08 Film Review: "The Alphabet Killer" (D)

Ah, yes. The one and only horror movie I saw at this year's Austin Film Festival - of course, with my luck, it was utter crap.

"The Alphabet Killer" is part crime thriller, ridiculous drama, and fucking god-awful horror. It is a genuinely boring, stupid, uninspiring piece of work. I kid you not, I think I fell asleep nearly five times during the movie - I could see people staring at me because my yawns were so loud.

The movie is poorly acted, scripted and directed. If I hadn't been with a friend, I would've walked out possibly in the first five minutes, but I did try to give it some time. One question I couldn't stop thinking about during the entire film: how the hell did they get some of the actors they did to sign on? Was there a collective brainwave of stupidity that forced the actors to sign that contract? Anyway, that doesn't matter. Even with stronger acting, the movie would have still been a lazy mess.

First off, the movie can't decide what it wants to be. It wavers from being truly shitty horror - tossing dead girls into scenes to wander around for a few cheap scares - to dumb drama and even worse crime thriller. You don't necessarily have to make a choice, I suppose, but movies like Silence of the Lambs that combine elements of horror and thriller for truly excellent (or even good) filmmaking come along very rarely. And while I believe that an independent film could do this, it certainly was not what I saw tonight.

Eliza Dushku should stick to anything Joss Whedon writes and that's it. I'm not sure the girl can act as anything other than femme bad-ass. I say that with love, because I honestly do like her. Everyone else in the movie is just forgettable, so I'm just going to ignore them.

And, oh, the ending. That was just ... too awful for words. If you don't have Morgan Freeman in you're movie, you shouldn't be utilizing narration. Period. The end. DON'T DO IT.

I am at a loss to describe the assault on my brain that was "The Alphabet Killer." It wasn't as bad as "Seed," but it comes pretty fucking close. I don't even have the energy to have a longer review.

Friday, September 26, 2008

FF '08 Film Review: "Martyrs" (A+)

I've been tracking French horror seriously since seeing "Haute Tension," although I was not a fan of the film overall. Stylistically, however, I was very impressed and Alexandre Aja quickly became a top favorite on my list of directors to watch. But then I saw "À l'intérieur" ("Inside"). And then I saw "Frontier(s)". Not to mention the smaller films along the way.

Somewhere along that path, I decided any horror director in France was on my list of directors to watch.

"Martyrs" is one of those films that surpasses greatness and is something else altogether. Directed by Pascal Laugier, the film is like a punch to the gut. I didn't think that "Inside" could be topped - certainly not so fucking quickly - but it certainly has been. I have more affection for "Inside," but in terms of everything else - "Martyrs" is brilliant, disturbing, utterly fucked ... but in the best kind of way. And if you thought "Inside" couldn't be beat in terms of gore ... well, it can.

WARNING: Don't read this review if you haven't seen the movie. While I don't give anything away, it will be a much better experience overall if you go in knowing nothing.

The film starts simply - a young girl, Lucie, running and screaming down a back road. We discover she's been locked away, but there's no traces of sexual abuse or reasons for her capture. To make matters worse, Lucie is catatonic and won't speak to anyone except, eventually, for one friend.

The film unfolds from there, although it's important to point out one thing. While the film is on a relatively slow-burn and doesn't operate like many horror movies, this movie is by no means slow. It's seductive, yes, but at the same time it brings the action and straight-up horror like most other movies can't even dream of doing. The gore is even better/more plentiful than "Inside," but as much as there is, it never goes overboard given the context of the story.

This film is utterly gorgeous to watch. The actresses are beautiful in their despair and fantastic in their roles, which were neither easy to cast nor play from what I've heard. Watching their descent into madness and then something else is like running a marathon. Every extreme horror movie you've seen before this, except for perhaps a rare few, were like practice for sitting through this movie. I would guess that being able to make it through the last 30 minutes of the film without hiding your eyes somehow are what will divide the hardcore horror fans from the rest.

There are sure to be some people who hate this movie through and through, which is probably one of the best things about French horror cinema. It doesn't play to what the audience wants, it doesn't play to what it thinks the genre as a whole wants ... and what results is possibly the most organic, real, and oddly inspiring films I've seen in a long time.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

FF '08 Film Review: "The Burrowers"

I have to be honest, I wasn't sure what to make of this going in. I love the idea of mixing two genres like westerns and horror, but I can't claim I was too excited to see this one. However, during Fantastic Fest, I made a concerted effort to see anything that I considered to be tried and true horror.

My one sentence review of the film: I was underwhelmed. It's not bad, but it isn't great either. I love slow-paced horror movies - I think I've demonstrated this in previous reviews - but I felt bored in this one overall. I just didn't connect with the film like I wanted. I may just be one of those people that can't see a mix like horror and western actually working - I would really have to see one that blew me out of the water to convince me this is a match. However, that being said, I do appreciate that it was something different and genuinely original.

Two things that didn't work for me, which I believe was what ended up breaking my entertainment of the movie: the love sub-plot, which just seemed a little too fake. This could be for a couple of reasons - the script, in these sections, seemed weak; the acting also seemed to be very wooden.

The second thing I disliked was the ending, which seemed forced and tacked on. To me, if a western and a horror movie are going to mix - why not make it a slow-paced, fading ending instead of a shot to the gut? This was a chance for the film to end on a beautiful note and take advantage of the rather gorgeous cinematography employed throughout the movie. I always want to scream when horror directors don't play to their strengths and instead play to what they think a genre audience wants. It felt like the last 30 minutes of the movie was deliberately contrived to add in the gore/action factor and the film didn't need it. The creepiness of the people being buried and the burrowers themselves was what they should have stuck with, not a balls to the wall action sequence.

Overall, like I said, I was just completely underwhelmed. However, I do think the film is worth a look, although I'll doubt you'll be able to do so without buying the DVD or pirating it. Hell, Lionsgate wouldn't even give "The Midnight Meat Train" a wide release and that was backed (and originally written in short story format) by genre fave Clive Barker.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Film Review: "Tamara" (C+)

To be honest, this is one of those films that I don't love, but I don't exactly hate either, although that's mainly because I can't muster up enough energy to care either way. It's the same old tired storyline (school outcast gets revenge) twisted until it's part "Carrie," part "I Know What You Did Last Summer." The movie is mildly offensive to me - why is it that the "nerd" always finds herself and her power, only to become evil and super-sexy through that? And to be quite honest, I thought the character was cuter as the nerd. But, that's just a ridiculous side-note.

I'll give this movie props for what it tries to do. It tries to be different, but suffers from lack of a good script to keep it going through the whole movie. The acting is wooden from pretty much everyone except for the lead (Jenna Dewan), who does her best given the script she has and really, is decent as both the mousy nerd and the sex kitten. While the movie did make me laugh a few times ("it's wet" and other sexual innuendos were mildly amusing to me), the movie lacks any sort of driving force after about 45 minutes.

The kill scenes start off great, but fail to deliver the same punch after we see the kid start cutting off his own facial features. I will say, however, that I was absolutely amazed with one sequence which occurs in a bedroom, although I don't want to give away too much. Disregarding any of the negative undercurrents the scene may have, it was shocking enough to me that it woke me up after too many minutes of boredom. The problem is, the film goes right back to being boring and uninspired.

All in all, I have to say, the movie is entertaining enough for one viewing. I didn't hate it and it's far from the worst horror movie I've seen this year (I'm leaning towards "The Happening" getting that dubious honor). I do not, however, get why Lionsgate released this into theaters even if it was just for a limited engagement. If anything, this is a forgettable direct to DVD release trying to pretend it's a bigger production that it actually is, but it's certainly nothing remarkable.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Film Review: "The Happening" (C-)

If there was one film that I've seen so far this year that I pretty much hated and wanted to walk out of, it's this one. And, I have to say, that surprised me, even if I didn't like "Lady in the Water" either. I still went in expecting a quality movie or, at least, an entertaining one. I didn't get either, and unless you're blind and deaf, neither will you.

First things first - M. Night Shyamalan should not be allowed to write his own movies. If he wants to come up with the stories or background, fine. But actual dialogue? Someone should stab him with a pen if he tries to get anywhere near a computer. I think he's a fantastic director, but I also think he takes on too much.

Don't get me wrong, there are a few moments in the film that were successful, but overall the film is boring, stupidly sentimental and outright ridiculous. I liked how the film started, especially the scene at the construction site. That thump of the bodies hitting the ground made me flinch and it certainly started the film on the right note (or bad, depending on how you look at it). But while scenes like this make sense, all of the gore in the later areas in the film seem like they were put there for no reason. Now, normally, I'm a fan of any kind of gore - I don't care why it's in the movie. But in this case it seemed like Shyamalan wanted to prove something, wanted to make an R-rated movie and tacked a bunch of scenes on that effected the pacing of the movie. Seriously? The scene where the kids get shot up? POINTLESS. And the scene with the crazy lady being effected by the ... wind? ... was laughable. I won't even get started on the running from the wind sequence, because I believe everyone already realizes how dumb that looked.

I firmly stand by the statement that this is probably both Mark Whalberg and Zooey Deschanel's worst movie (although I can't claim to have seen every single film they've both done). Whalberg sounded like he was always asking questions and that he had somehow been transformed into a human squeaky toy. He sounded asinine. Deschanel looked like a blow-up doll for the entirety of the movie and gave what felt like a half-assed performance. I wouldn't be surprised if Shyamalan told them to act that way, so I'm not sure who deserves most of the blame.

Now, I've got nothing against eco-terror or whatever it's been labeled now, but it just wasn't dealt with effectively here. The movie seems haphazard, awkwardly paced, and where it should be tense and fraught with energy it's simply lame and moronic. A great start, but everything after the first 10 or 15 minutes is forgettable, yet too dumb to forget at the same time.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Film Review: "The Strangers" (B)

I have to say, this was one of the few mainstream horror movies that I've been excited about lately, probably because Liv Tyler is one of my favorite actresses and I was excited to see her in the genre. But, as per usual, one of two things happened: 1) I was underwhelmed, most likely due to my high expectations going in; or 2) I come out hating it. This time, it's number one. SPOILERS follow. Because I just couldn't help myself.

I'll start with what I didn't like first. The big problem with this film is that it gives away the ending in the first 30 seconds - because of this, some of the suspense is immediately taken from the film since you know what the end is going to be. Another problem I had was the masks, except for the Man's, which was at least somewhat creepy. It just seemed a little too "Scream" for me. I know that was part of the film's allure - masked man literally hiding in the shadows - but unless the film is done very well, it just seems cheap to me. And one of the best movies I've seen in recent years featured a home invasion-style plot without any mask wearing (the french flick "Inside"). Also, the whole scene with the friend? When EVERYONE in the movie theater can figure out that sub-plot before it happens, it's just bad. As for the ending ... the last five minutes bugged me for a variety of reasons.

One, why would two seemingly able-bodied young boys be walking their bikes and not riding them if they're not going up a hill? That makes no sense. Two, the Christian pamphlets ... that was too much. Three, they went for the ultimate cheap scare at the very end - which I hate. If you feel you need to do that to scare your audience, you're obviously either in an obviously B-movie or scrambling for an ending. By that point, I was ready for it to be over. Perhaps what ultimately makes this movie sub-par is that it tries to live up to films that have come before it, but just aren't at that level.

However, there ARE good things in the film - I sound like I'm bashing it, but to be honest ... the first half was good, it was just the second half that got lame. In the beginning, we're treated to something you don't often see (except more recently in "Vacancy") where the couple in question is fighting and you don't really know why. Only in contrast to "Vacancy," the two lead actors (Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler) actually have chemistry together and make a very nice start. I was genuinely interested in what was happening between the two of them and the tension already there was a good way to build up to the first encounter with the Strangers. I also really enjoyed the use of the vinyl record - not only was it actually a good soundtrack (although there is no score and surprisingly little dialogue, as well), but the scraping of the record being over is a fantastic way to put the audience on edge. Having a record player myself, I know how creepy that sound is in an otherwise silent house. I felt like the acting was above par for normal horror fare, although I would have liked to see a bit more dialogue between the two leads. I will say this - and I'm surprised at myself, honestly, for liking this - I liked the "i love you" from one character to the other as they were about to die. Usually I hate this cheesy sentimental BS in horror films (because you normally don't really identify with the characters enough to care, anyway), but for some reason it worked for me here.

All in all, this is a fairly entertaining ride for the first 40 minutes. After that, the film tries to do much when it is actually at its best being very simple and silent. I will never understand why so many people in the horror genre don't seem to realize that silence is often scarier than noise.

But hey. At least this wasn't PG-13 or a remake, right? Go see it for at least that reason - perhaps then people will see there is a market for R-rated horror.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Film Review: "The Ruins" (B+)

I should have reviewed this film a long time ago, but I'm a bit behind these days. I actually saw it the night before it came out at a midnight screening (and won the book, which I already had, because no one else knew their trivia), but work and school has taken me hostage.

"The Ruins" would probably have worked more for me if I had not read the book beforehand. I liked the interpretation, but I do think that it was very abrupt and weird changes were made I can't quite understand fully. I'm also pretty damn angry about the ending - what works so well for the book is the bleak outlook and how it doesn't end semi-happily, which the movie does. This is just yet another example that most studios or directors do not have the cojones to close things out like the book does. It does make me wonder, though, what Scott Smith has to say about the movie ending vs. the book ending.

The biggest flaw of "The Ruins" is that it doesn't let itself have a slow-burn. This is one of those rare horror movies that would have been much better had it been 30 minutes longer. I needed more character development, more descent into insanity. That is one of the scariest parts of the story - not the vines, but how the group slowly turns in on itself and the way each character breaks down. This isn't just my opinion, either. After the screening, the friend I went with and I were discussing what actually happens in the book vs. what happens in the movie (I was telling her how they were different from each other, she has not read the novel). She commented (prior to me mentioning anything) that the movie felt like it went too quickly and glossed over the descent into madness by each character. To me, that was the story being told - not the story of the vines. It felt a bit disjointed to me, overall, as if we were bouncing back and forth.

This isn't to say that the movie isn't somewhat effective in making you squirm, although I did feel more prepared because I - at least on some level - knew what happened. The film didn't really need gallons of blood - although there is a fair amount of blood and hey, even a severed limb! Even if I am someone who can stand pretty much anything shown on screen, the sound of those bones being purposefully broken made me wince. I think the scenes in this film will satisfy most horror fans; if you want anymore, go watch "Cannibal Holocaust."

To be fair, I did enjoy the movie. I criticize somewhat harshly mostly because I loved the book, but I respect the film for what it is - a decent interpretation of a fantastic story. It doesn't surpass decent, even if the screenplay was written by the same man who wrote the book in the first place. It's entertaining and creative and certainly a great movie to scare the pants off others, but I needed at least 20 more minutes with the veins for "The Ruins" to be a great experience.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Film Review: "The Car" (A+!)

This film came out of left field and I absolutely loved it. Me and a friend went out to the Drafthouse's Terror Thursday midnight showing of this and promptly had the time of our lives! It is very rare for me and this particular friend to both enjoy a horror film that mixes comedy and horror, especially one that was made in the '70s. Nonetheless, there is nothing in this movie that isn't pure brilliance. Maybe part of it was atmosphere and that we were watching it at my favorite theater with a great audience and having good food, but I really think this movie is perfect entertainment.

To be honest, there isn't much I can say about this film besides remark on how awesome it is. It's such a great example of what every monster movie should try to be. Every moment of this film had me in fits of laughter or seriously enjoying myself. The scene where the James Brolin painting first appeared nearly killed me I laughed so hard and when the painting returned, I had a full-out attack of laughter that left me sore in my ribcage the next day. I want that painting in my living room - I am totally serious.

My life's dream right now is that Josh Brolin does a remake of this. And that someone buys me a poster I can put up immediately.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

... the pot of gold at the end of the blood-stained rainbow? you bet.

You know, every so often a movie comes along that I really want to see ... but I'm not sure I should. More aptly, I feel like a horrible person - not to mention a prime example of a bad feminist - for wanting to watch. I suppose that as a hardcore genre fan I should have gotten over that a long time ago, but some things I just can't kick.

Last year it was "Cannibal Holocaust." It took me quite a bit to work up the courage to actually sit down and watch it, although it took me even longer to find a copy of it. It ended up disturbing the crap out of me and some of the images from it are forever burned in my brain. If you could instill a rage virus in people by showing clips of films, that would be a good place to start.

This year it appears to be Nick Palumbo's "Murder-Set-Pieces." The trailer is below, although it isn't the hardcore version that appears on the website.

I know I shouldn't want to watch it, although perhaps want is too strong of a word. I'm morbidly fascinated by it. The trailer looks sick (not in a good way) - it looks like a film that goes as far as it can to mirror snuff. Yet, there's something about it that draws me in - perhaps it's that sense of wanting to challenge my belief that no movie is too hardcore. And I have to mention that the reviews, too, are hilarious. I believe the gold star must go to CBS news, who said:

"4 out of 4 Stars- For slasher film fans, this is the pot of gold at the end of the blood stained rainbow. The most erotically charged, aggressively deranged, unabashedly brutal American horror film EVER made. The perfect date movie-if your date happens to be Charles Manson. An instant-deeply twisted-classic."

This review alone makes me want to see it. Now I just have to get my hands on it - even in Austin, that might be difficult.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Film Review: "Doomsday" (C-)

You know, I was semi-excited about this film, but also very, very nervous. Why? The trailer made it look like a film where a fanboy made an homage to '80s flick with a plot pretty much copied from better virus movies. Well, I was right to be nervous.

There are bits of "Doomsday" that work, but the vast majority of the movie is a mess. The plot seems to be copied (as are entire scenes) and some of the film just doesn't make any sense. Why would an armored tank that supposedly can withstand chemical warfare not have bulletproof glass? How does a Molotov cocktail and a cannibal with ax manage to crack through that glass? How does a woman, although legitimately kick ass, not suffer - at the very least - a dislocated shoulder after knocking a guy off a speeding bike with an ax and not dropping it? Hitting someone while standing stagnant who is going that speed would do serious damage to BOTH parties. These are just two of many examples that the film suffers from more minor details harming overall story. Which there isn't much of.

I loved "The Descent." Sure, these are two very different types of movies, but where "The Descent" is tightly wound and beautifully paced, "Doomsday" is chaotic and at times, boring. It doesn't even seem to be edited right, or perhaps that's on purpose. Whatever it was, it didn't work - the fight scenes were actually annoying rather than exhilarating and fun, which could have been it's saving grace. The different parts of Glasgow - "Mad Max" wannabes vs. a lame Medieval setup - just didn't fit, even if all Marshall was going for was a laugh. I never thought that I would walk into this movie and have moments where I really wanted it to end.

The only thing I liked about this move was killed way too early. To be honest, I didn't like Rhona Mitra's character - she was baffling and her sentimental side made me roll my eyes. Perhaps that's why I wanted to see more of Sol's girlfriend, who I would call a demented cannibal with Maori tattoos . Why was she not in until the end of the movie? She alone could have made some fucking entertaining scenes. Instead of the lame Gladiator-esque matchup between Eden and a guy wrapped in tin foil, there should have been a grand epic battle between the two women.

I feel like "Doomsday" is, at its best, supposed to be a laughable, entertaining movie. The problem is, it is laughable. Just not in the way Marshall wants it to be. I suggest he go back to movies that aren't completely derivative and have actual artistic quality. This will end up going down as a multi-million dollar botched '80s homage and that's just sad.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Film Review: "May" (A+!)

Wow. A character-driven horror movie with a female lead that is brilliant. I was so surprised, this wasn't exactly what I was expecting. I had heard very good things about this movie for a long time, but the DVD cover didn't exactly entice me ... but finally got it through Netflix and watched it. I ended up loving it! It's definitely going onto my list of favorites.

From opening to closing sequence, this movie is startlingly good. It's a slow-paced film that doesn't need a whole lot of extra things added in to make it any better. The characters are written perfectly, which, for this type of movie, is absolutely necessary. You tumble back and forth between really liking May's shy, intriguing weirdness and feeling nothing but empathy for her ... to cringing when she is struggling to connect with anyone, especially a man. Still, though, you find yourself identifying with her need to just have a friend. Who isn't a doll, anyway.

Part of what makes May so easy to connect with is Angela Bettis' portrayal of her, which is excellent and completely top-notch. Having heard her speak at Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, I know how unnatural that sort of high-pitched, slow voice was for her. Not to mention the way she manages to evoke such emotions in anyone watching the film. I have a special place in my heart for these types of movies, so the good acting all around just made it that much better.

Highlights for me have to be the opening sequence, which I was NOT expecting ... and definitely set the tone for a dark and bloody film. Another favorite is when Adam shows his movie, because May's response is a genius line that had me laughing out loud, but also sufficiently weirded out. I find that to be an awesome combination, myself. The ending, which I found to be fantastic, oddly beautiful and fitting, left me wanting to see so much more. And THAT is a mark of a truly great film.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Book Review: "The Ruins" (A+!)

This book has been on my "to read" list for a very long time, but I only recently got to it. I didn't want to see the movie without having read the book first so that was the catalyst for me finally settling down with it. I ended up devouring it all in one go, finishing at 5am ... and well, let's just say it took me five minutes to even set the book down after reading the last line.

There is just something about this book that, much like the vines, crawls underneath your skin and stays with you. Rarely do horror novels stay with me or even scare me, but this one did. When I finished the novel, I had this moment of wondering what I was supposed to do. It felt like I needed a therapy session, especially with the incredibly bleak ending. I don't know what I was expecting, but the ending just completely floored me. Needless to say, it took me awhile to get to sleep and school the next day was a haze.

The thing about this book is, Scott Smith takes a plot that seems vaguely ridiculous and makes it work flawlessly. I have to admit, when I found out that the so-called villain were vines - or at least that's how they are described - my knee-jerk reaction was one of "oh this is gonna suck." I was wrong. It turns out to prey on what I think is genuinely frightening - something invading your body, making you crazy and turn on yourself, as well as everyone else around you.

The book's also not short on blood. Or any kind of violence at all. The characters, crafted and developed so well, are hard to let go of because you feel genuine empathy for them. They aren't even necessarily making stupid decisions, they just don't know any better. (SPOILER) So when one of them is suddenly forced to amputate both of his friends legs, or when one of them is going batshit insane, you really do feel for them. (END SPOILER)

I highly recommend this novel, although if you like your horror fiction just as simple entertainment, this is probably not for you. It is a profoundly disturbing story that even I found hard to read. I also guarantee that from the moment you open the book, you will be swallowed into a Ruins black hole and not reappear for at least four hours. Definitely give yourself the time to read and don't plan anything for awhile. Include an extra hour for recuperation time. And possibly therapy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Short Film: "King in the Box" (B)

Another short film by Adam Green - I just couldn't resist. Saw this one at Fantastic Fest prior to seeing "Spiral" and the entire audience was laughing by the end of it. It's genuinely ridiculous and for some reason amuses the hell out of me. Which seems to be a trademark of Green.

Anyway, you gotta watch it (and love it).

Monday, February 18, 2008

Nightmare Remake?

Surely there is nothing in the horror world that is generating as much controversy and forum arguments other than whether or not remaking "Nightmare on Elm Street" is a good idea. Especially with the recent Rob Zombie remake of "Halloween," this has me shaking in my boots a little bit (for proper explanation of why I don't like the remake, read the review I'll write ... later).

Mr. Disgusting over at B-D wrote down a few ideas why he thinks the remake is something to be excited about. I have to say - I agree with most, if not all, of them. Particularly the bit about wanting to see a prequel of sorts, because I always wanted someone to explore that. Especially since it can be rightfully explored, as opposed to creating a background that doesn't - shouldn't - be created. If my allusion to Rob Zombie's version of Michael Myers isn't that obvious to you, come visit me in Austin so I can beat you with a stick.

My hesitation is exactly like the hesitation I had before the remake of "Halloween" came out. "Nightmare on Elm Street" is another favorite of mine - scared the crap out of me when I was little - so if this gets botched, I'm going to be more than a little upset. I had high hopes for other remakes and have learned not to let a director's name get me too excited. I just don't want the prequel to be explored and be magnificent and then the movie to become a shot-for-shot remake. There's no point in that. There are reasons why the "Dawn of the Dead" remake was great, whereas "The Omen" remake was completely pointless and a waste of money. Also, I'm not sure that Michael Bay producing is a good thing or a bad thing. I'm leaning towards bad.

But, you know what? It's very hard not to get excited when you think about the prospect of more Freddy, who has always been one of my favorite monsters. Given the right casting, Freddy could be just as creepy and sick as Robert Englund's portrayal of him ... although you never can beat the original. Here's hoping for a great cameo. Key term in all of this, however, is GIVEN THE RIGHT CASTING. It'll be nice to see someone else's take (within certain parameters, anyway). Mr. Disgusting also raises a good point that this version will undoubtedly be gorgeous, which excites me to no end.

So I remain cautious, but I am going to keep my eye out for a nice red and green striped sweater so that when the day comes ... I will most definitely be in style.

Note: Head on over to B-D, because they also have an interview with Robert Englund regarding the remake.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Film Review: "Land of the Dead" (B-)

I have to say, this is one Romero flick I'm torn about. It has it's moments, and I love the satire in it, but in terms of straight up horror evaluation ... I wasn't too much of a fan.

I suppose the main reason this film doesn't work for me is that Romero takes a unique concept and runs with it ... but he runs too damn far. The concept is, of course, the idea that zombies can evolve and learn just as humans do. Disregarding the obvious questions - how do they learn if they are, by definition, brain dead? - it could be a pretty ingenious idea when utilized correctly. But I feel Romero goes too far with it, which ultimately is detrimental to the film.

Don't get me wrong, there are several things I really love about the film so I by no means think it's god-awful. For one, the reality of it is pretty startling - we all know that in the event of anything that shatters society (here, zombies) when there is no government, the rich would take over. And that is precisely what happens in "Land of the Dead" and I feel that was portrayed accurately. There are some fun lines, of which my favorite is "zombies, man, they creep me out" which seems to be somewhat moronic, but is actually quite genius in my opinion. To my knowledge, no one on screen in a zombie film has ever acknowledged their fear of them and the way it's expressed here is just perfect in context. I also love Charlie's character for some reason. But I have to say one of my favorite things about "Land of the Dead" is the sequence where the zombies enter and cross the river, which I thought was done very well and is genuinely creepy. But the winner of my favorite scene in the film is one particular zombie attack where a seemingly decapitated body comes at a car, flips his head forward and bites a guy. Now that's creative.

That being said, there are a whole lot of things about this film that grate on my last fucking nerve. The first and most obvious being that I think the zombies "education" was taken way too far. The idea that the lead zombie could swipe guns off guys on motorbikes seemed ridiculous, much less that he actually uses it later in the film. One, there's no way that classic Romero zombies have quick enough reflexes to swipe something off of a moving motorbike. And then learn how to use it? I wasn't buying it, unless we're supposed to understand that the zombie is acting on some sort of gun-toting instinct, which seems to be a more appropriate political commentary coming from Romero. The scene where all the zombies grab tools was cringe-inducing. I get that a zombie could act on residual human instinct and clump - even work - together with other zombies, but the idea that they could each individually evolve enough at the same time to understand that picking up a power tool could help break a window that probably is bullet-proof? Yeah, I wasn't buying that either.

All in all, if you're looking for a quick, somewhat fun, gorey zombie flick, then this is for you. I'm upping the grade of this based on the obvious political allusions of the film, because they are fantastically well-done. If you look deep enough, every scene holds a larger, relevant meaning and I love that. But I did not like the ending, so the grade dropped back down to a low B - 'cause come on, giving the zombies a "place of their own"? That just sounds stupid and didn't come off any better.

One last thing: "Zombies, man, they creep me out" is a pure genius line. Don't try to argue with me on this, just accept it and move on.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Film Review: "Spiral" (A+!)

This is one of those movies that I can't be objective on. I loved this movie through and through - there's no way I can find fault with it. I saw this first at Fantastic Fest, then when it had a limited release and played in Austin (which rocked).

I love how it burns slowly and builds to its shocking ending so perfectly, I love that jazz music is such a strong presence, I love that it isn't a straight up horror film but instead fucks with your head. I love that you get so drawn in with the characters that even when you know something is up, you can't help but love and feel for Mason (Joel David Moore). I love that Adam Green of "Hatchet" fame co-directed this with Joel Moore, also of "Hatchet" fame. Moore, by the way, also co-wrote and produced the film.

This is really more of a dark thriller than a proper horror film, so any genre fan looking for another "Hatchet" will of course end up with a huge surprise. This film really rides on the characters, particularly Mason, which is a huge reason why it works so well. Another reason it is so good is that the twist ("non-twist" as I believe it's been called) is what you think it is (if you pay attention, anyway), but then another twist is truly great. And this isn't the kind of twists that end up forming huge plot-holes or ruining a movie (like the end of "High Tension," which I hated).

The acting is brilliant - I found myself really identifying with Amber (Amber Tamblyn), who is so unique and wonderful and a breath of fresh fucking air when compared to the other sad and stereotypical roles of women in horror. Joel David Moore, who I already loved from "Hatchet," is also fantastic, especially when you consider how far from any previous role this is for him (having usually done comedic roles prior to this). Mason is so strange, so tortured, and even when the end comes, I couldn't help but still sort of like him in an odd, sympathetic manner.

There is one scene for me that stands out and not in an entirely good way. When Mason is in the graveyard to visit his mother's grave, there is a pop-ish song playing and I hated that. The scene itself would have been fine, but the music seemed so out of place when compared to the rest of the jazz-infused scenes. This might just be me, though - I liked that jazz became this secondary character and was so important to Mason. It was an added unique layer to an already great film.

I truly can't wait for the DVD - I've heard it's great. Also very notable is that this film stands up to multiple viewings. I've seen it twice and wasn't disappointed either time. I concede this film isn't for everyone, but it is a stunning change of pace and certainly found itself into my favorites. For me, this is near-perfect independent horror.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Short Film: "The Tiffany Problem" (A-)

Writer/Director Adam Green's annual Halloween Short Film THE TIFFANY PROBLEM stars Joel David Moore and Corri English and features cameos by Zac Levi (Chuck), Marcus Dunstan (Feast, Saw 4), Joel Murray (Hatchet), Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2), Ryan Schifrin (Abominable), and Adam Green (Hatchet). Written by Adam Green. Directed by Adam Green & Ryan Schifrin.

Thought it might be interesting to post this since I caught it off YouTube. I found it greatly amusing. Gotta love Adam Green and his talent for mixing hilarity with the disturbing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Film Review: "Cloverfield" (A)

"Cloverfield" is one of those movies that are genuinely entertaining and you really like, but fall just short of being great. I'd wager that more than a few fans would come at me wielding knives for not stating it's the most amazing thing I've seen in 23246 years but I wasn't blown away, although I did enjoy myself.

The main reason why "Cloverfield" works as well as it does is because it utilizes the first person camera technique so well. Especially since they put the sarcastic, snarky guy behind the camera who is actually quite funny. It also works well because it places the viewer in the movie, as opposed to just being part of the audience. You're drawn into the film and become part of it, which is really part of the overall experience. As is seeing it in a theater to take advantage of huge speakers, because the sounds of the monsters (particularly the main, big one) are excellent.

The only real downside to the film, I feel, is in the beginning. It lends itself well to nice character development, but it lasts too long for me. The movie could have just started at the party and I would have been fine, but this might just be because I was so amped to see the monster and ensuing carnage. I do have to say that when the monster first "appears" ... it is a moment to remember. The statue of liberty's head rolling down the street, a truly unbelievable sequence, is balanced well by touches of reality like everyone running outside (despite the obvious danger, which I would do too) and taking out their cell phones to take a picture. From this point on, the movie truly gets going and never really lets up.

One of the best features is that you never quite know what is going on. You know only what you see, which is restricted to a group of three admirably trying to save one other person. You don't know what's happening with the military, you never find out where this monster came from or what the parasites really are, so everything retains the unique feel. "Cloverfield" escapes the trap that many monster movies fall into, which is trying to explain to much or ruining something by explaining it away. This one doesn't answer any questions and keeps all facts out of the plot, which actually makes it scarier. I, for one, really wanted to find out what happened when people were bitten by the parasite as you only really see an explosion of blood behind a curtain.

In the end, I really enjoyed the film, which was surprising since it's PG-13 and I tend to like my horror with an extra punch of gore and violence. Not everyone will like this film - in fact, some will hate it. I did think the end was a bit corny and I hate that they ended it semi-happily (in a sense), but I try not to let that ruin the rest of the picture. Obviously, if you can't stand a lot of shaking or the camera not staying still, I would stay away from this one, or grin and bear it for at least one showing - it is worth it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Film Review: "Haute Tension" (C)

"Haute Tension," a French slasher flick, is one of those films that you either love or you hate. I don't really think it's possible to be in the middle on this one, unless you don't watch the end or choose to believe the insane plot twist in the closing minutes is just a figment of your imagination.

Now I've seen both versions of the film, both the R-rated and the uncut. I don't see much difference between the two honestly and I really don't care. I had such high hopes for this film and they were completely dashed within the first five minutes of the film. Now that might just be me. You see, that insane plot twist? I figured it out in the first five minutes. I knew what they were going to do, so the entire movie seemed utterly pointless and stupid to me. I also spent most of it trying to figure out the logistics, which makes it very hard to enjoy anything - including the copious violence and disturbing imagery. But that's just me.

I would argue that the film is actually enjoyable for everyone else until you find out the twist. Before that, there are some genuinely scary moments, most notably the minutes after the killer gets inside the house. Alexandra Aja, the director of the film, knows how to make his audience squirm. I'll give him that. When most directors pull away or have that thing in their head that tells them "don't do that," Aja does it. Which I think is pretty rare in horror today, especially with the flood of remakes and PG-13 bullshit. So when a filmmaker comes along and does something that makes me want to turn away (the dresser scene, for one) or makes something unpleasant to watch as opposed to one solid scare, well I'll give him credit for that.

I'll also give credit to the acting, which I thought was very good. Cecile de France is really the person I'm talking about here as she's on the screen for most of the time. I only wish she had a better script to work with, although prior to this twist I keep mentioning, there aren't too many things I was unhappy with. Although I did feel like the masturbatory scene was completely unnecessary, at least in terms of length. I got the point that she was carrying a lesbian crush after the first 10 seconds, thank you very much.

This isn't a film for everyone. It certainly isn't a film for people who are only passerby fans of the genre. It is one of the most hardcore films I've seen in recent years, but I do think that for most the end will piss you off and make you wish you had stopped the DVD or walked out right before anything else. In fact, do that - just assume everyone dies. When you sense something is going to be revealed, run very far away from the screen. And in that case, I'd give the film a solid A. But since I have to review the entire film, I say view it once and marvel at the violence and forget everything else.

Film Review: "À l'intérieur" (A+!)

Believe it or not, I managed to see this movie a second time. Both times I must thank the Drafthouse and everyone behind it for, because this movie is one of the best horror movies I've ever seen.

Warning: Spoilers! If you plan on ever seeing this, I suggest going in completely blank and knowing nothing. The film experience will be much better that way.

"À l'intérieur" (or "Inside") is brutal, unrelenting and utterly terrifying. There is no ego or horror movie snobbery here, but I do want to preface my review of this by saying that there are very few movies that have made me want to want to leave. If that makes any sense at all. The thing is - this film may be terrifying, it may be gorey and it may be one of the sickest things you see in a long time ... but it's a beautiful piece of work.

One of the scariest things - to me personally, anyway - is people hiding in the shadows or those figures/monsters that just have to stand still and they scare the shit out of you. This is in full force here. There are some genius moments utilizing that here. From the very beginning when we are introduced to the killer (the film never specifies her name), it's just fucking creepy. The glow of the cigarette silhouetting her face, the simple shot to the glass, the quiet discontent and tension that just haunts every scene. The anticipation just builds and builds until you almost can't stand it, so when she puts those scissors in Sarah (Alysson Paradis)'s belly button, you almost want to scream yourself. I sat there in the theater almost in disbelief as the scissors slid in, felt myself react in shock with the character. From then on, this movie is a dark, macabre, emotional roller coaster that never truly lets up.

The acting is amazing. I truly believed in Beatrice Dalle's portrayal of the woman as thinly holding on to what sanity she has left and even then only so she can last the night and steal the baby. Alysson Paradis is also so notable in this film by achieving such a sad vulnerability before the incident takes place, then achieving pure terror and THEN making me believe she was this kick-ass woman who just might win. Simply fantastic acting completely across the board, including the surrounding characters who come and ... die.

Just a note about the gore - the film has buckets of it. I first saw this film at Fantastic Fest at it's second screening. Here I am sitting in a theater at midnight, happily chowing down on some ice cream to fuel me through the next two hours (I had been up for two days straight, thank you very much FFest). As the film was about to start, I looked around and saw that I was maybe one of 3 or 4 women in the theater and I was the only one who wasn't sitting with a man. Not that that's important, but as the film was introduced it was noted that a woman had actually thrown up at the prior screening! At this screening, which was at the Drafthouse Village as part of Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, more women were in the theater (again, I was the only single) and I could have sworn that the two women next to me were either going to die in fright or throw up all over me (and not from the beer they were consuming). Needless to say, I moved over.

The cinematography, the lighting, everything about this movie is nothing short of pure greatness. The music, especially, grated on my nerves, which was exactly what it needed it to do. Everytime that shrieking started, I knew we were in for something and it made me tense up, which of course made me sit there gaping like a fish at the screen. I love horror movies that manage to be perfectly paced with a slow-burning anticipation that explodes into pure chaos. To me, these are the best about the genre and this film is certainly an example. It leaves you feeling open and raw, excited about getting up out of your seat and into your car so you can get back to normalcy.

The script deserves an entire post to itself - it really is that good. One of the great things about "Inside" is that it doesn't really have a monster and a victim, at least I don't think you're meant to take it that way. Both female characters have back stories and reasons for why the way they are and I honestly couldn't take a side. You feel for both of them - one drive to insanity because she lost her baby and the other one paying for causing it by losing her boyfriend and her life, essentially. It's not that you identify with the woman at the end as she cuts open Sarah for her baby (which you see every step of, by the way), you just have to understand there is a reasoning for her being the way she is. Even Sarah feels some mercy towards her, which is probably what ends up being the reason why she loses her life.

This film is just so fucking terrifying. I can't get over it. When the woman is outside the house, you start to think everything is going to be okay ... and then she's in the house and it seems like she's absofuckinglutely everywhere. She blends into the background, her face hidden in the shadows. The directing deserves some sort of accolade, but of course it won't get anything outside of the horror circle (if even that). The scene where Sarah is on the couch and you think the woman is behind her, but then you think she isn't, and then she is - in one of the truly most haunting shots of the entire film.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this film. Of course it has flaws here and there, but overall this movie is one of the greatest experiences I've had in a theater. Definitely one you should see at least once - even if you're feeling scared off by the gore. I saw it twice and I desperately want another viewing already so I can prove to myself that I can sit through it without jumping or squirming in my seat.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Film Review: "The Signal" (A)

I was really pleasantly surprised by this movie, which had a screening at Fangoria Weekend of Horrors. I knew a little bit about it ahead of time, had seen some positive responses, but I went in expecting nothing so that I wouldn't end up being disappointed.

"The Signal" is a great movie about a transmission that fucks everyone who watches/hears it up and makes them have a murder party in the streets. It's a fantastic mix of horror, comedy and even a little sci-fi. The film is broken up into three parts, which I thought was going to be a stupid idea at first, but ultimately it served the film well. Each segment didn't give too much away and it gave you the chance to get to know all the characters well enough that you connected with them, especially Ben and Maya.

I love how the movie started - it had me on the edge of my seat. Most post-apocalyptic movies don't show the actual moment when everything goes wrong, but this one did ... and it handles it very well. Everyone was dying or going fucking nuts and you feel for Maya hiding underneath the table. The great thing about the first transmission is that it is brutal and unrelenting, forcing you to identify with the confusion and general craziness going on. It's a fantastic start to the film - especially since all of the actors are on point and likeable (even Lewis, to an extent).

What's great about the second transition is that it's very comedic. It has some horror elements to it (the way people die), but it lulls you into this false sense of security that the film will slow down. But even when it's technically a bit more comedic than the other two, the action never really stops. The ding dong of the door bell is a great ice-breaker, but it also serves up tension. You, too, are sitting there wondering who the fuck is it behind that door. The actor who plays Lewis is delightfully crazy, while the new guy at the door who is fucking moronic has some hilariously fun lines.

The third transmission is a bit more convoluted and goes back to the serious and more macabre tone of the first. I thought it was a fine way to end the film, particularly since I had a great deal of affection for the character Ben. I also just loved the way they wrapped with a sense of hope, but still retained the dark feel that characterizes the film throughout. I loved the headphones - an emotional touch without being too emotional, which can be a risk. Oftentimes, horror films will try to add a touch of emotion or humanity in a situation that isn't humane. And what happens? It ends up being corny or just plain stupid. This movie escapes many of those regular traps and ends up crafting a story that is not only genuinely entertaining, but also very believable.

"The Signal" is one of the better, if not one of the best, independent horror movies I've seen in awhile. It's great when small horror films like this prove their worth. Given my affection for post-apocalyptic horror anyway, I was insanely pleased to walk out of this one with something awesome to write about. This one definitely has the makings to become a cult classic, although I wish it would garner a wider following than that (although it isn't likely).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Film Review: "Seed" (D)

Part of having a wristband for Fangoria Weekend of Horrors - more on that later - is that I got into a mini film festival (free) at the Alamo Drafthouse Village. Now, I love the Drafthouse ... it's pretty much my second home when I'm in Austin. But I did NOT have a good time in the theater last night, despite Uwe Boll being there to introduce the film and do a Q&A after.

First, I want to preface this by saying I am not one of those Uwe Boll haters - I actually think he's very intelligent and funny. While I've never sat through one of his films and thought it was the best thing ever or even close to it, I don't unfairly criticize directors just because of who they are. I respect him for fighting back against his critics, especially since the vast majority of them seem to hate Boll films even before seeing them.

However, I did not enjoy "Seed." Not even a little. I was bored, I winced at some of the plot-holes and general stupidity in the script and the acting was ... cringe inducing (Michael Pare was alright). I thought Boll's assertion the film was a treatment of how people treat people was ... a bit pretentious and going overboard. The film is a bad slasher flick and it doesn't even have the fun feel that movies like this need in order to work. Boll said the movie is supposed to be bitter and dark, not fun, and I get that ... I honestly do. But someone needs to step up and tell him he has to choose between one sub-genre and the other, at least for a movie of this caliber with a not so stellar cast and a not so stellar script (consequence of writing this movie the same time as "Postal"?).

Warning: I pretty much give away the entire plot of the movie here. I don't usually post SPOILERS, but ... I feel I should warn people to keep their $8 and see something else.

My first big what the fuck moment occurred when only 5 cops were sent to take down Sam Seed, a serial killer we're supposed to believe killed 666 people in 6 years. That was just stupid. The fight sequence leading to Seed's capture was lame. The kills were lame. I was bored. I sat there drinking my water with lime, swirling it around and picking out seeds I was so goddamn bored. Then there were a few, smaller, moments that seriously bugged me, but then the "hammer sequence" occurred. It was too long. Long to the point that it ceased being disturbing and got ridiculous, especially since it didn't look that real after a point. I thought the beginning of that sequence had potential, but it just ended up being silly.

The end was too convoluted. It didn't make any sense at all. Assuming that someone actually managed to survive three shocks of that magnitude in an electric chair, there is no way that they'd have any brain power to do anything but sit and drool. How the fuck, then, are we supposed to connect with the storyline and believe that Seed can kill enough people to get out of the prison (which is on an island) and fucking SWIM to get to mainland? And if that wasn't enough bullshit, then he KNOWS THE ADDRESS of the detective who captured him.

This is where things start to seriously spin out of control - as if it could get worse. Uwe Boll said that Seed is supposed to be like a lifeless, killing machine. That really doesn't make sense when he's doing things like taking the family of the detective or forcing people (and hey, a baby) to starve to death in a basement. And further, we're supposed to understand that all of this is some grand scheme to make the detective kill himself? Which he does. Okay. So then Seed puts the daughter in the same room as her dead dad's body with a saw? And that's the end? WHAT?

Boll said in the Q&A that the end is supposed to mean that the daughter is supposed to cut up her dad and eat him for nourishment so she won't starve. No one in the theater got that - Will Sanderson who played Seed and was at the Q&A didn't even get that until Boll explained it.

The movie was just bad all around. I wish I could get that 90 minutes back. If I knew that was the mess I was going to be seeing, I fucking would have gone AND PAID to see "Cloverfield"!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Film Review: "Teeth" (B+)

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending an early screening of "Teeth" with the director (and screenwriter), Mitchell Lichtenstein, in attendance. I went into in the film thinking it was either going to be very good or very bad, but I actually fell somewhere in the middle. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either.

I enjoyed the film for the most part. I thought it was provocative and dark, while still retaining some wry humor. There is also pervasive use of some sly imagery that was pretty humorous (ex. sonic advertising a 99 cent banana split after a certain incident). I thought Lichtenstein, overall, did a pretty damn good job considering it's an awfully tough plot to pull off. Who knew a movie centering around the vagina dentata myth could be so amusing?

The main good thing about this film is the acting - it takes a brave soul to play someone who has a toothed vagina. Jess Weixler (Dawn) deserves some serious kudos for some of the things she had to do on screen - I'm not sure I would have been able to pretend I was fighting a gyno with four (!) fingers up my virginal and very angry monster vagina. I also liked the screenplay for the most part, but sometimes it did feel a bit repetitive. And there is a reason for that.

The thing is, this movie only has one thing going for it and that's the toothed vagina, which you never even see, but that's probably a good thing since it would have been detrimental to the film as a whole. There's the sub-plot of the characters being very pro-abstinence, which was interesting but kind of boring since it took up quite a bit of time. And I admit, I also really just couldn't connect with any of that since I am so turned off by people who espouse that BS.

The movie is pretty slow-paced, which is fine, but there's also not much to look forward to after the first ... I don't even know what to call it. Penis eating scene? My point is, it happens pretty early on in the film and then it happens twice more so it isn't that surprising. There are some funny lines to go along with how it happens, but a screaming man and a chopped off penis get kind of old. Also, I didn't entirely enjoy how the film ended - I just didn't quite believe that this girl was going to be some sort of superhero with a toothed vagina ridding the world of sexual predators.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the movie because it was clever and funny, as well as really fucking disturbing at times. I found myself squirming and crossing my legs at one point. It's certainly going to cause some serious controversy, even if it doesn't get a wider release.

I've got to start taking my camera to these things so I can post pictures from the Q&A sessions. I wish I'd brought it with me tonight, I could have recorded some funny bits that happened. Lichtenstein is quite the funny guy and Harry Knowles always has something interesting to say.

Also, YAY for filming in Austin (although you really can't tell from the movie itself).

Friday, January 11, 2008

Film Review: "Grindhouse" (A+!)

Originally, I was going to review everything about "Grindhouse" separately (films, trailers, overall experience), but I decided to keep it all together as that's how I believe it's meant to be seen.

Now I understand intellectually why "Grindhouse" didn't do well in theaters, but my horror fan heart just doesn't quite get it. I've been told many reasons why it didn't do well (too long, too much exploitation and gore) but ... well, I'm in fucking disbelief that this movie didn't make millions upon millions of dollars. Still. I saw this the midnight before it opened and I enjoyed coming out of the theater after 3am, so perhaps I am not the best judge but I don't fucking care.

Anyone who merely rents these movies on DVD is missing out. Truly. Half of the greatness of "Grindhouse" is the experience of sitting in the theater with other people and enjoying it en masse. Laughing at certain trailers, groaning in disappointment at the joke missing reels, having a crush on Zoe Bell ('cause we all did). I admit - I'm fully in love with that woman. Anyone that isn't doesn't have eyes or a brain. Also, somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind there is a fantasy involving Rob Zombie and Eli Roth (add in Josh Brolin and that equals my dream orgy). Both of their trailers were pieces of genius, although Eli Roth holds a large piece of my heart for making me cross my legs in the theater and yell ouch as if it had been me knifed in the vagina (... scary thought). Fuck, that's gross but only he would film something in such a way that makes me STILL laugh out loud and cringe at the same time when I think about it.

The movies were both fantastic - I refuse to admit anything else. I am one of the few who favor "Death Proof" over "Planet Terror," but I enjoyed both immensely. The movies are very different from each other, one being basically a slasher flick except the weapon is a car ("Death Proof") and the other a 90 minute zombie gorefest complete with testicles in a jar ("Planet Terror"). Because they're so different, I find it hard to compare the two and instead simply admit that I tend to like Tarantino's style more.

"Planet Terror" is like your basic zombie movie. On acid. Like I said, there are testicles in a jar ... and that's got to do with humans, not even zombies. Since I'm a stickler about what's a zombie and isn't, I suppose these aren't technically zombies using information we're told, but they sure seem close enough. And they operate the same as a zombie would.

Anyway, there are an awful lot of faces that everyone should recognize and all of them are fucking fantastic. Tom Savini is perhaps one of the funniest horror comedy actors out there ... and should really be in more movies. Josh Brolin, of course, sort of amazes me for his ability to pack so much in his expressions. I could go through everyone in the cast and list how awesome they are, but the point is everyone is on point. However, I was not such a fan of Rose McGowan, mostly because I can never seem to connect with any character she plays. Oh, I liked her well enough, but I was much more a fan of Marley Shelton's character. Overall, "Planet Terror" is a fucking great time and genuinely entertaining.

Now, "Death Proof" ... sort of blew me away. I have such admiration for Quentin Tarantino as a filmmaker. Incidentally, also as an actor, because I found myself liking him in "From Dusk Till Dawn" ... in which he played a sex offender. But that's beside the point.

I would argue that most people liked "Planet Terror" better than "Death Proof" for two reasons. One, his film came last and by that point, I'm sure people were getting antsy in their seats (not me). Two, his film-making is inherently different from Robert Rodriguez's. Tarantino spends much more time developing his characters and making you feel for them. His films also tend to be dialogue heavy. And let me just say this now - the dialogue is fucking genius. There are several exchanges that had me in some sort of fit of pure joy. The first is between Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) and "Butterfly" (Vanessa Ferlito) outside of Guerro's Taco Bar. The second is between Kim (Traci Thoms) and Zoe (...herself) when they are discussing doing a particular stunt. The acting is way above anything I expected, with Traci Thoms and Zoe Bell among my favorites. And Sydney Poitier. And even Eli Roth, whose character just tries to get laid. Kurt Russell is always amazing, so I expected that.

Still, when Tarantino brings the action ... he certainly brings it with all he's got because the car chases in this film are fucking fantastic (although I can't pretend to be an authority on car chases). And Zoe Bell made me want to ride on the hood of a car. This movie builds and builds, until the anticipation explodes into Stuntman Mike getting his ass royally kicked. I literally wanted to stand up and do some sort of dance or perhaps form some sort of cult honoring Tarantino, but I didn't. I still might do the latter. Especially since he somehow made a slasher flick with a car and made two of the female leads so fucking bad-ass (which isn't entirely typical for slasher films).

Like I said, I'm not going to give the films individual grades - I loved them both, but for different reasons. Yes, both films have flaws. "Planet Terror" is, at times, burdened by the weight of all the sub-plots (lesbian girlfriend, biological warfare, sad go-go girl, etc.), while "Death Proof" has two totally separate sets of characters that you have to get to know first (equaling lots of dialogue), which was the main point of contention from the friend I saw it with. However, the entire experience is more than worth it. The flaws just seem to disappear when you're having that much fun. And as a native Austinite, it's nice to see your city so appreciated on screen.

I only wish they would come out with a boxed collector's set DVD with both films and the trailers, as well as extras. It's annoying to have to buy the films separately and it's VERY annoying not to have the trailers.

Here's to Eli Roth having a hand in Grindhouse 2! I think that's all rumor, but a girl can hope, can't she?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Film Review: "28 Days Later" (A+!)

This is one of those perfect horror films that comes across ... well, it feels like once in a lifetime. If I could give it a higher grade than A+, I certainly would. I was completely blown away. Actually, I still am.

First off, I just want to point out that this isn't really a zombie movie. Now some people would argue that I'm being overly technical, but the infected aren't dead. We're told that the infected are just that ... infected. It's a contagious virus, not something that killed and then re-animated the corpses. I make this distinction because I think it's important, particularly when people start comparing Danny Boyle (director) to George Romero, when I consider them as operating in two different mediums. I respect both as filmmakers, but I'm not going to name this a zombie film. IT ISN'T. I hate that the poster calls it a zombie film - I think that was mainly to find a way to market it, but whatever.

Now that I've got that off my shoulders, I'll explain why I love "28 Days Later." First, it's excellently made. Some of the shots that were done ... I still can't quite figure out how they managed, especially when you realize they shot in highly populated areas like Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street (among others). I read that the scenes on the M1 motorway were done by having traffic slow down for a very limited period of time in which the shot was taken. Considering the fact that this move is independent without a high budget like we see in the U.S., I find this amazing. Some scenes were shot on a digital video camera, which is one of the best features of the film as it gives it a much more personal look and forces you to believe in what's happened a little bit more. It's touches like these that set this film apart from other post-apocalyptic horror movies.

The infected are scary as shit. It's as simple as that. The one scene where they jump through the window terrified me the first time I saw it (I admit, it kinda still does). People keep comparing them to Romero's zombies and priding Boyle's decision to make them move faster, but I really don't agree with that. Again, not zombies, so it makes sense that not being a re-animated corpse and not decomposing as you go would naturally make you move around easier and faster. We're still dealing with humans, here! People keep ignoring this fact, but it's actually scarier to think that your family or friends or whoever gets the virus isn't dead. Technically, there could be a cure - how would you deal if you woke up from being infected? Or how would you respond to that person being cured?

The acting is top-notch. A scene that always stands out in my mind is when Frank (Brendon Gleeson) gets infected and forces Hannah (Megan Burns) away from him. It breaks my heart every damn time. All of the actors really connect with the screen, particularly Naomie Harris as Selena. Her stubborn, cold ways in the beginning hesitantly grow into something warmer, battling tragedy seemingly every second. It's wonderful to watch a transition - very realistic, too, when you think about it. Cillian Murphy is also very good, particularly at the end. It's fantastic because it is almost as if Selena and Jim switch places. By the end of the film, she's more compassionate (especially towards Hannah) and still kicks ass, whereas he turns into something dark and vicious - at least partially. Christopher Eccleston, who I love, is just downright fucking creepy in this movie. His answer to infection? Let them starve to death, while forcing young Hannah and Selena into sexual slavery in order to re-populate the planet.

What is greatest about this movie is that there is a great sense of realism throughout. The movie works better when not thought of as a zombie flick, because the idea of infection, what with biochemical warfare and all, is a more realistic (and therefore scary) scenario. Major Henry West (Christopher Eccleston) has a great quote when he comments that the world is in a state of normality because even before the infection set in, people were already killing people. Now it's just moved onto something more extreme. Maybe I'm a very dark and cynical person, but I can very much see something like this happening.

There are a few flaws in this movie, but none really harm anything overall. Off the top of my head I'd ask why didn't the infected eat everything - why did we only see them attack humans? If they are infused with a sort of rage virus, you'd think they'd just tear anything and everything into pieces. However, I do think that not spelling everything out is a conscious choice of Boyle's. If no one on screen knows what the hell is going on, why should we know? We're identifying with Jim and Selene and having our own what the fuck moments and are terrified right along with them.

This movie kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. I didn't feel safe or normal when he went out in daylight - even then I thought for sure someone was gonna get fucked up. The intro builds slowly and perfectly and the scene in the church is a perfect key into the ignition of a very fucked up, hopeless film. A fact which I loved - if this had ended on a hopeful note, I would have ended up not liking it. I love the sense of desperation. Definitely can't recommend this enough. It's bound to be a classic of some sort, although there will be debates about exactly what it's a classic of (zombies? post-apocalyptic horror?).

However, I can say with some measure of certainty that this is probably the best British horror film. Ever. Except for maybe "The Descent." God help me if someone forces me to choose. It's like my own fucking sophie's choice of horror - post-apocalyptic vs. feminist horror.

Note: If you watch the DVD, there are three alternate endings which ... aren't really that alternate since the same thing happens. But still, it's enjoyable to see the process - especially the one drawn up in storyboards. Definitely worth the money to rent or even buy right-out.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Magazine Review: "Gorezone Dec. '07" (B-)

I missed posting yesterday (no access to Internet), so I'm posting twice tonight to make up for it.

The second review I'm posting tonight is different from the usual array of random film reviews. I'm going to review a UK horror magazine called Gorezone, which I didn't even know existed until I caught the title out of the corner of my eye in a Barnes & Noble. To be specific, I picked up and am now reviewing the Dec. '07 issue.

Now, I am a connoisseur of horror magazines. I will read most anything, but horror magazines (or e-zines, etc.) hold a special place in my heart. I'd love to write for one in the future. I don't claim to know much about magazine publications or their process or anything like that, but I know what I like as a reader and as a fan of the genre.

What I liked most about Gorezone (besides the title) is the "First News" section, which gave me some nice and humorous bits about what is going on currently with the genre. I learned a couple of things, a few that seriously scare me. One, David Hasselhoff is going to be in an Anaconda movie. Um, why? The last one was one of the worst things I've ever seen. While it's amusing to think of him trying to kill a gigantic snake when he can't even eat a hamburger, it isn't something that's going to do well. I'm assuming it's going to end up straight to DVD. I also learned that Britney Spears, everyone's favorite mommie dearest cokewhore, is supposedly gearing up to play a vampire. That doesn't even deserve a comment from me, the little horror blogger that could. I'd rather cut myself, thank you very much. Anyway, there was a nice array of news and even a little classifieds section for the genre. If anyone is interested, "Terror Toons 3" is (still, lol) seeking a cast. It's a wonder films with those kinds of titles get made.

It's hard to compete with magazines like Rue Morgue, who always seem to have interviews with big leaguers like John Carpenter. However, I like reading about most anyone in the genre (especially women), so it was quite nice to see an interview with Raine Brown. She even had a pretty awesome answer for a question about gender and the genre. Several, larger reviews followed hers. I have to say that my problem with this is that the longer interviews really should be a little shorter. A format that generally works for magazines is a couple of long articles or what have you and several shorter pieces. It gets a little tiring to read interview after interview that are quite long. I liked the length (and content) of the interview with Mike Mendez, the writer/director of "The Gravedancers." Interesting stuff.

The article by Suzi was really enjoyable. Loved that - it's one of the best things about the magazines, actually. If I had the funds, I'd buy a plane ticket to NYC and go to Chiller Theatre without even thinking about it. Emily Booth's reviews were also a hit with me, although that might be because she said exactly what I would have said about the "Ginger Snaps" trilogy.

Pretty much standard format for reviews, although I would have liked an actual grade of some sort at the end. Otherwise it seems a little like guesswork - many fans have problems with movies, but would still recommend seeing it. Also, the section claims to be reviewing the new movies, but they seemed a little out-dated to me. And if they're going to review books, they need to do more than one - that seemed haphazard. The SFX "monthly class" was a neat idea, but it takes up too much space for what it is. They could have done that in half a page and the magazine would have been better for it.

My big criticism is it featured too much Hammer Horror stuff. I know it's a UK magazine and all that, but two huge articles on the same subject? If you split that into two issues, that'd be fine - I like reading set diaries, but I don't like reading them right after you've already done something on the same subject. There also seemed to be a lot of advertising going on, which might be because they need funds but I have no idea about that. Still, better placement should be considered ... a half-page near the reviews was given to some stupid classifieds. These should really be at the end of the magazine.

I enjoyed flipping through the magazine, but Rue Morgue still wins over all competition. We'll see how I feel when I pick this up next month.

Note: The picture above is not of the December '07 issue. Couldn't find a usable picture of that cover.

Film Review: "The Gravedancers" (B+)

"The Gravedancers" asks the question of what happens when you disturb spirits by dancing on their graves. Well, I'll tell you - one gigantic ghost bitchslap, that's what.

I'll cop to the fact that I mainly watched this one because it had Dominic Purcell in it and I was hungry for some eye-candy. That man has hands that could crush my skull, which is oddly arousing. That, however, is beside the point. I had heard that most, if not all, of the Horrorfest films had been utter crap (*cough* "Unrest" *cough*) so I settled down to watch this one with only the hope Purcell would take off his shirt to fuel me.

One of my favorite things about the film is that it isn't centered around teenagers. I tire of hearing the stereotypical conversations about sex, drugs and whateverthefuck, so it's always nice to sit down and watch a horror movie about adults. Everything seems a bit more layered and complex and the characters are realistically written. And I actually liked them, as opposed to sitting down and wondering when the next one was going to die.

The fight scenes in this movie are very well done. The entire scene, actually, in the house at the end of the film was fucking awesome. It had me jumping a couple of times, as well as wincing in reaction to what went on ... which I think is a sign of a pretty damn good movie. The only thing about the end that I didn't enjoy as much was the finale. The effects seemed a bit too cheesy, but that really didn't put me off at all. It's just not how I would have chosen to end the movie.

I was pleasantly surprised, I have to say. The acting was far better than what you would normally get in most indie horror movies. I wasn't expecting the best out of Purcell, but I felt he did really well throughout the film as the character around which most everything centers. Claire Kramer (previously fantastic as Glory on "Buffy") is also worth mentioning - I hope I see her do more horror movies.

In the end, what I thought to be a pretty stupid plot actually ended up working and I enjoyed myself through most of the film. I thought it derailed a little at the end, but I still think this one is definitely worth a look. Not all will enjoy it, but I think if you keep an open mind you'll end up seeing this is one of those independent horror movies that really shines.

Sidenote: I did not see this film at Horrorfest, because I refused to attend it after they pulled "Frontier(s)" from their line-up. I instead watched most of the films off DVD. Seriously, how could they possibly deprive me of a film that involves French neo-Nazi cannibals?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Film Review: "Solstice" (D-)

I am so, so very tired of PG-13 teen angst movies adding in a ghost and calling themselves horror films. What "Solstice" does is basically take a bunch of teens who belong (or actually have been) on a silly WB show, adds in a plot that could be a bad episode of "Supernatural," some drunken, preppy, hard to like characters and mixes until you want to punch most everyone in the movie in the face.

This movie is just stupid. The characters are stupid. The plot is stupid. The screenplay is something I would give to my dog to tear up. There is no gore or blood to speak of, the scares are something anyone with one brain cell could see coming, and I wish I could have killed both male main characters within 20 minutes of this movie starting. I am so disappointed Sid Haig was in this film. He really wasn't all that bad in it, but he wasn't given much to work with and he just doesn't belong in films that are PG-13.

It IS possible to make a horror movie that centers around teens, involves the regular angst and shenanigans without traveling down the just plain fucking dumb route this one takes. You just have to look to "Ginger Snaps" (admittedly more complex than just teen angst) or "Carrie," among many others to see this. You can have an intelligent horror movie about teens. I swear to whatever you need me to that you can. It just isn't this.

The voodoo elements of the film were absurdly done, not handled well at all, and quite frankly made me laugh (especially the scene in the water). I honestly wanted some sort of vengeful sea creature to rise up and eat all of the characters so I would be saved from watching the rest of the movie. Sadly, that did not happen and I wasted roughly 90 minutes of my life just so I wouldn't feel bad about writing a review of a movie I hadn't seen all of.

I do not recommend this movie at all (unless you are 12 and having a slumber party). I feel ashamed just for having watched it.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Film Review: "Vacancy" (C)

I'm not sure what it is about this movie that just didn't make me like it, but I was not impressed in the slightest.

To me, this movie just didn't make the cut. First off, I didn't think Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale had any real chemistry. Even when they were fighting, I was bored. I just didn't believe it - I didn't really believe anything about this movie. It all seemed too predictable and staged. I had pretty high hopes for this movie (I like both actors), but I was disappointed.

Another big point of contention for me was the actor who played the manager of the hotel. I spend most of the movie annoyed at him, rather than genuinely disturbed. I didn't find him scary at all. Now, you put someone like Sid Haig in that role ... maybe I would feel differently. And the masked killers were lame. Scary? I think not. Laughable? Damn straight.

My main reason for disliking this movie is that it isn't horror. It's marketed as such, but there is no gore and the snuff films aren't that disturbing. Perhaps that's because I'm seriously fucked up, but I really didn't see how they were that creepy. There were a couple moments where one of the bad guys was in the shadow and I thought "well, that's a good shot," but that's pretty much the only reaction I had. Oh, I thought it was entertaining enough - especially if this had been marketed as a thriller - but I was expecting something else. For fuck's sake, it's RATED R and there's NO gore? It isn't even that bloody! You have got to be kidding me.

Then there's the ending. The ending sucked. It was just fucking awful. It was too unrealistic and then it fell into utter stupidity at a certain point. I'd say where, but I don't like giving out major spoilers on here in case someone does happen to read this.

I'd really only recommend this movie to people who aren't hardcore horror fans and want something to entertain them. The fact that it's halfway entertaining is the only reason I gave it a C. Who knows - it might even be truly scary to some of the people who do watch it.

I did like the poster, though. Kudos to the studios for coming up with a fucking awesome poster.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Film Review: "Blair Witch Project" (C-)

This movie is a weird one for me to review, as I liked it when I first saw it but mostly hold hatred for it now. I think mostly my affection for it came from having seen it with one of my best friends and we'd been having a good night and I would have liked anything we put in the DVD player. Truth be told, I've only seen the movie once since then and the repeated watching ended with me wondering how sane I was for liking it the first time around.

This movie was doomed to failure as soon as the studios started to ridiculously over-hype it. Everytime I fucking turned around, a promo was showing or someone was mocking "I'm so scared" or I was hearing how terrifying it was. The only part of the film that is remotely creepy is the end in the house where the friend is standing stock-still in the corner. And even that's not scary - it's more like a really anti-climactic end to a bumpy as shit ride. The anticipation before seeing the movie, plus the anticipation during the movie itself all built up into ... nothing.

Even when this movie was attempting to be scary, it was more laughable than anything else. I read that the actors improved this movie and I give them credit since I would have sucked even worse doing that. Still, the acting felt stilted and lame at best.

This isn't one of those horror movies that you watch because it's really that good. It's more one of those movies that you sit around with a bunch of friends and laugh at, with one person in the group actually getting scared but pretending not to be. It's really an inadvertent horror comedy, which is sad because I had high hopes for it when it came out.

More than anything, I hate being disappointed by a horror film like I was with this one. If you do decide to watch it (or even re-watch it), go into it with no expectations.

And possibly some sort of hard liquor.