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.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Film Review: "Slither" (A)

I figured since yesterday I mentioned "Slither" in another movie review, it was time this film got one of its own.

"Slither" is one of those movies that is pretty damn ridiculous. But it's also one of those films where you spend so much time laughing during it, you really just don't give a shit. It's top notch entertainment, great for a night with friends or to watch alone. I, to my everlasting shame, did not see this one in theaters, but it's worth completely worth it to add this one to your own DVD collection.

James Gunn (writer/director) and his band of merry, hilarious actors are fantastic in this. I have to give special nods to Nathan Fillion, who I love from his TV work, but also because he is one of those actors that can take a stupid circumstance/line and make it seem to be the funniest thing in the world. His facial expressions just crack me up. I, for one, will always remember his fight with the deer. Elizabeth Banks, Michael Rooker and Gregg Henry are also too good to be true. I really enjoyed Elizabeth Banks' character, who seems to be the damsel in distress at first, but really is so much more than that. Banks is a natural comedic actress and a perfect choice for this role.

One scene that always sticks out in my mind is when Fillion and Henry's characters end up fighting in the police car over choice of soda. Somehow it works. "Slither" is filled with moments like this. While still being violent and filled with plenty of gore, it remains a comedic movie that's bound to end up as some sort of cult classic. Sure, it's cheesy and sometimes just outright stupid ... there are still moments that make you cringe. For me, that was the bathtub sequence as I was sure the worm thing was going to get inside the girl another way. The point is, this movie is disgusting, funny and has plenty of gore. For me, that's already a decent package.

The only thing that bothers me about this movie is the ending. I loved the song choice - the Yayhoos! - but I felt like the overall ending of the movie was anti-climactic at best. I wanted to see a bit more of "life afterwards." At the very least, I wanted there to be more interaction between the survivors. It seemed like a golden opportunity for more than just a half-hearted joke relating to the deer incident, but it just fades out. I liked how all the bodies were splayed about the town, but I still wanted the movie to be wrapped up neater than that.

A life lesson to be learned from all of this is to always keep a grenade handy. See, you can learn from horror films!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Film Review: "Wrong Turn 2: Dead End" (A-)

You know, a lot of people I know that saw "Wrong Turn" didn't like it. I did, although the idea of a sequel made me nervous. Sequels, with the exception of very few, tend to be pretty bad (in my opinion). But, you know what? I really liked "Wrong Turn 2: Dead End."

The thing about this movie is that it doesn't take itself seriously. It's fun and inventive, with some great gore and I found it fairly witty. It mocks how American media seems to be one gigantic reality TV show by taking it to an extreme and ... well, having most everyone die in some horrible (for me, fun) ways. The gore is deliciously over the top. I especially loved the first kill where the girl was cut entirely half.

What's also great about this movie is that it's a direct to DVD movie that doesn't suck. I wish films like this could get theatrical releases, but not many people nowadays have such great appreciation as I do for throwback films to the 70s and 80s (aka when horror films were genuinely fun to watch and you could tell they were a labor of laughter and love). Also, you don't generally expect the acting in a straight to DVD movie to be of a good caliber, but this one is a surprising exception. Henry Rollins is a comic genius - he had me smiling throughout the movie.

Basically, if you're looking for a genuinely entertaining horror film that really doesn't let up or disappoint, this one is for you. If you want to make a night of it, grab five or six of your favorite friends that have a brain and add in some "Hatchet" and "Slither" and you've got yourself one fucking awesome party/mini-marathon.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Book Review: "I Am Legend" (A+!)

I can sum up this review in one sentence: Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend," is easily one of the best vampire novels ever written.

It's complex, intense, disturbing and it made me want to sit down and write a novel about vampires. Or zombies. Or anything remotely terrifying.

"Robert Neville is the last living man on Earth ... but he is not alone."

Now, after reading just that ONE sentence, how can you not want to sit down and tear into this book? I read it in one sitting. The book is impeccably written, the character of Neville is so well-drawn and thought out. I did not want the story to end. It was just too fucking good. How can you not love a novel with something like this ending a chapter:

"On the phonograph, music played, quiet and unhurried.
Outside, the vampires waited." (117)

One of the best facets of the novel is that Matheson draws on the insanity that comes with solitude. Way back in the day, certain prisons used to do solitary confinement 24/7 as a way to punish criminals. Why did they stop it? Because the criminals couldn't take it and would kill themselves and/or go completely crazy. Robert Neville manages to keep a hold on some sanity through his tasks during the day, but at night often falls prey to the temptations of liquor. He's shown as fallible, despite being able to fight off hordes of vampires, and isn't painted as some sort of reluctant superhero. He isn't happy to be alive, he simply exists. He finds himself battling lust just as furiously as he battles the vampires. The novel is centered around vampirism, yes, but is so much more than that. It's about the fragility of humans, how we adapt to extreme situations, and, in the end, how one man becomes a legend.

Another thing I loved about the book was that it doesn't conform to existing models of vampires (or what existed in 1954, when it was originally written). It takes a much different route, forces the reader to think about what is most terrifying to human beings. In my opinion, humans are mostly afraid of our capability of darkness, for our ability to change into something we don't recognize. Vampires are an extreme representation of that and that's exactly why they are so fucking scary.

I could go on about this book for days. The only bad thing about the book is that it seems short. At around 150 pages, it just does not seem like enough, although it is perfectly paced. So my wanting it to be longer is really just a desire for more, rather than anything Matheson actually does wrong. I definitely recommend it, even to those who aren't necessarily fans of vampires or interested in vampire lore.

Note: If the recent movie remake had been done with proper respect to the novel and with an R rating, it probably would have been one of the best horror films of the year.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

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

Every so often, a horror movie comes along that makes me want to jump up and down with pure joy and a healthy bit of fear, which is an interesting mix.

One of the downsides of being a tried and true fan of the genre is that you can figure out the entire plot of many horror films in the first 5 minutes. The scares are predictable and the gore is never enough (it's still never enough, in my opinion). One of the fantastic things about this film is that it really did disturb me and make me squirm. It's been a long time since I've actually jumped in a theater. And I admit, I may have jumped and said "oh shit!"

A group of friends go caving and meet up with some scary creatures who are delighted to see and tear into them. The film takes this very simple plot and makes it work so well it's kind of amazing considering the other crappy "scary monster in a cave" movies out there. There are few horror films that can say they are simple, as most try to be far more complex than they need to be. There are sub-plots in "The Descent," but they only add to the film and make it that much better. Neil Marshall, who wrote the film, is a genius.

For starters, "The Descent" is paced wonderfully. The into lulls you into a false sense of security, before a serious car crash and an eerie hospital remind you of what movie you're in. One of the best scares is when Sarah is at the window and the spike hits her in the head. I jump at that every single time I watch this movie (and once I even tried to time it so I wouldn't).

The shots of the cave are spectacular. It's all perfectly lit, with wonderful cinematography, and the sense of claustrophobia gets to even those who aren't afraid of small spaces. I felt decidedly uncomfortable when Sarah was stuck in one of the tunnels and found myself shifting in my seat as if I were the one inside the cave. This film forces you to think about the terror of being trapped and identify with the increasing paranoia. Then, just when you think things are going to settle a little bit, out pop the evil molemen who like the taste of human flesh. The entrance of these creatures, despite guessing ahead of time when and where, made me jump what felt like a few feet out of my chair.

This is where the film gets bloody and it never lets up. And oh, it is bloody. My inner gorehound loved this movie. The fight sequences are fucking awesomely choreographed and there are moments where my mouth dropped open in awe. Even when blood was going everywhere and creatures and humans alike were snarling, the film remained pretty to look at (a major achievement in my book). I love gore anyway it's done, but I especially love it when special care is taken to make everything look good (even in moments of sheer chaos). One of the best scenes is at the end, where Sarah and Juno are the last ones left and end up puncturing eyes and biting off ears. And I can't not give honorable mention to Sarah taking Juno's knee out. That's what you get when you sleep with another woman's husband - a caving tool to the knee!

It was, of course, also nice to see a film where there was no nudity. I love horror and I don't particularly mind naked people on screen (it's never bothered me), but once you've seen 34264 boobs, it's nice to get a break. There were also no ridiculous sexual encounters. I'm tired of seeing people fall into each other's arms as if an orgasm will prevent them from whatever psycho is waiting.

I can't recommend "The Descent" enough. It's so nice to get a break from the same old thing. This is a truly unique film, with a great cast, a great script, a great director ... hell, a great everything. Definitely one of my favorites and it never gets old. I've seen it multiple times. Get the DVD so you can see both endings. I tend to favor the alternate ending (the one the U.S. didn't get), but I also love the one where Sarah takes that deep breath of fresh air and promptly goes nuts. Both seem remarkably realistic to me.

The last thing I'll say is I hope they don't fuck up the planned sequel. I almost with they wouldn't make it because nothing can ever top the original.