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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

City of the Living Dead (1980) Horror Gates of Hell

City of the Living Dead (1980) Spoilers! All through this review! I have watched a shit ton of movies in my life and have extensively explored the Italian horror genre but somehow I failed to ever see this film. So I was pleasantly surprised when I put this DVD in and saw something new to me. I thought that I had seen it but watching it was a new experience. Part of a three film Blu Ray set called "Gates of Hell Trilogy" put out by the Australian company Cinema Cult it also contains the other two Lucio Fulci Gates films The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery. Whether a problem with the DVD or my player I could not get the special features to play which is a bit disappointing. The film is a wonderful piece of cinema with a great score by Fabio Frizzi and Fulci directing it tells the story of a Gate of Hell being opened by a priest killing himself near it and how the lead characters try to shut it. Dunwich is a small New England town supposedly built on the ruins of Salem where the witch trials took place. A sick looking priest, Father Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine) walks in a cemetery. There is some strange cutting in this film going between the cemetery and a seance in New York City Mary a psychic see Father Thomas hang himself, followed by the sounds of howling and we see the dead rise from a nearby grave. Mary (Catriona MacColl) goes into convulsions seeing this and appears to die. On a gravestone in the cemetery is a saying. "The soul that pines for eternity shall out span death. You Dweller of the twilight void come Dunwich."  While the cops investigate Mary's death, we get some exposition about the book of Enoch a four thousand year old book that tells of the gate or some such thing. There Interrupted by the crying out fireball that appeared out of no where to ad some proof of the supernatural. Teresa (Adelaide Aste) predicts that horrible things are happening in a distant town.  Peter Bell (Christopher George) a reporter shows up in NYC looking for a story. He and Mary end up going to Dunwich to attempt to close the gate to Hell before All Saints Day. Confused that the dead Mary is involved well with Fulci things take turns and her turn is amazing.
   A couple grave diggers having lunch at a cemetery, reporter comes by and they chase him off. Grave of  Mary Woodhouse, Peter is still investigating her death. He watches as she is buried with these great in the coffin shots. She wails in the coffin. Peter hears her but a plane going over head blocks the noise, tension as we wait to see if he is going to go back yo the grave he does but her struggle finally saving her as she screams. The scene is great with cool shots of Mary in the coffin struggle to claw her way out cut with shots of Peter thinking he is hearing her but not sure. After the rescue book of Enoch explanation is a bit much but the shots done in Giallo style close ups of the eyes Mary explains that the Monday the night is the All Saints day and if the gates of hell that have been opened in Dunwich are not closed before then the dead will walk the earth. Peter is prophesied to be the one to do it oh that book just is quite magical. Mary and Peter start the road trip to Dunwich where they will eventual meet the locals there and bring this story to an end.
  Back to Dunwich and an eerie fog is blowing in on a howling wind. A Bob (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) in an abandoned house finds a blow up doll and what looks like a child worm covered rotting corpse. Junie's Lounge in Dunwich when the mirror just breaks all by itself, the two patrons and the bar tender examine it . Ever since Father Thomas hanged himself things have been strange. Then the wall cracks open and they hear sounds, the two patrons run off leaving the bar tender alone. They are the local spice for the town. The main characters are introduced. Sandra (Janet Agren) talking with her psychiatrist, Gerry (Carlo De Mejo), Emily (Antonella Interlenghi) comes in to see Gerry and we get some exposition about the Dunwich group, Salem witch burners are the ancestors of the town people.
With the creepy starting to happen in the town we start getting scenes that are goreliscious. Emily looking for Bob at the abandoned house, snarling sound scare him and he runs away leaving the poor girl alone.  The priest finds her and smears worm goo flesh all over her. She dies of fright her Father Mr. Robins shares that while talking to Gerry. The best set piece of gooey goodness has a couple locals, Tommy and his girl making out in their jeep. She is scared so he turns on the headlights to see the hanging priest in front of them. He appears next to the car the girls eyes start bleeding and her mouth foaming. Tommy goes from frantically trying to start the car to seeing his girls insides spill out of her mouth. Then the priest appears in the jeep and rips out Tommy's skull from behind.
  Hanging himself opened the gates of hell. Funeral for the Robin's. Ghoulish mortician is getting her ready. Mrs Holden died of fear also and we learn that Rose Calvin and Tommy Fisher from the jeep, town folk are blaming Bob who may be a pervert.

  Ghoul mortician tries to steal from the dead and has his hand mangled by the dead old lady. Emily's brother in his bedroom but something is outside the windows. He hears the moaning and the great music build the tension as he nears the shades to see his rotten corpse sister outside.
 Sandra has a gun smartest one out of the bunch apparently. The old lady from the mortuary is on Sandra's kitchen floor, Mrs Holden They are puzzled. Some social commentary about women having neurosis. More sound and the couple search around the house, when they return to the kitchen the body is gone. Panic sets in for Sandra knows dead Mrs. Holden is in the house. Logical Gerry calms her and she says " I will do whatever you say" Old lady was behind the painting but they don't see her. After the search the lights go out and a window blows in.(Did I mention the wind storm?) The glass blows into the painting and they see blood seeping out.
  There is also one death not caused by the dead, One of the locals finds Bob and thinking he is behind the deaths pushes his head into a industrial drill through the temple all the way through. It is quite the scene and we get great practical effects.
   Things start coming together once Mary and Peter arrive in Dunwich but the film doesn't really have clear main characters. Who are the hero's it seems they are Mary and Peter but we spend so much time away from them learning what's happening in the town that Gerry ans Sandra seem also to be emerging.  Gerry and Sandra arrive at a house the mortuary but no answer. Peter and Mary arrive at the graveyard, they have to find the priests grave and uncover him. Music tells us the tension should be rising and the fog. Gerry also arrives at the cemetery Mr. Logic meets the psychic. Now the four, Peter, Gerry, Sandra and Mary are assaulted by maggots blown in on the wind. Sandra Vomits as the floor is covered by them. It's a pretty amazing scene that ends with a call on the phone from little John-John,  Emily corpse killed her parents and John calls Gerry to tell him. The foursome drives over in the worst of wind storms and the girls look after John while the guys see the butchering of his parents. You don't see anything though this is an off camera murder, and we just get the reactions of the guys when they come out. It's a bit strange considering how much gore has already been in the movie
Plan is the funeral  parlor and then the cemetery to uncover he priest, Sandra takes John to Gerry's office while the other three enter the mortuary. Emily is waiting for Sandra and John-John and rips our the brains out of Sandra. This method is used repeatedly in the film, it like a hair pull but the back of the skull comes off. Pretty cool effect.  Kid runs, Kid in crisis running the dead are after him. Makes his way but the dead keep finding him. Gerry is suddenly there and confronts dead Emily by shutting his eyes. She vanishes and the crisis ends weird.
 Finally heading to the graveyard the three, Gerry, Mary and Peter arrive at night just a short time from midnight, they fail! The film sort of falls apart here a bit. Since they were supposed to close the gate before midnight but don't seem to do so the consequences for the world is the dead would rise. This is not the case though. They enter the family tomb and open his sarcophagus to find its broken out from the other side. They crawl through to check the other side. Dead Sandra is down there and they see her but suddenly she is behind Peter and rips out his brain. They killed Peter WTF! She then stares as Mary until her eyes bleed. Gerry rams a pipe through her and she dies a second time. Mary is okay now but what the fuck are they doing? Great visuals in the tomb of skeletal remains as the now pair move further towards the gates of hell,
They see the gates as the dead start to rise all around them.  The dead are coming for them! Priest guy appears and they are trapped his stare causes her eyes to bleed again. Jerry runs a cross through the priest who promptly burns and the dead are returned to the grave. Now we can call it City of the burning the dead catch magical fire. Wonderful Shame Peter didn't survive. Why the scream when the kid runs towards her to end the film? Must be from the first few scenes? I went back and watched the opening scenes but there is nothing there, So it is a mystery maybe the special features can solve. The music and gore are great in this film and even though it has some flaws this was a great film to finally watch. That last shot will bother me until I know the story behind it. This film is a bit problematic where women are screamy and emotional and the men are the calm ones telling them to get it together. The character Gerry in particular is a bit of a cad. Still the film is great and I definitely recommend this film to you all.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Carnival of Souls (1962) Horror Ghost

Carnival of Souls (1962) - Well not much has been happening with this blog. The business of my work is overwhelming the time I have for it. It's a shame because every now and again I have the time to watch a horror film and would like to talk about it. I decided to watch one of my favorite small low budget horror movies for the first entry of the year. I got the Criterian Collectoin Blu-Ray for Christmas so a nice version I was guaranteed. Carnival of Souls was made by Herk Harvey for a mere $33,000 and with the incredibly eerie organ score by Gene Moore the film builds a wonderfully creepy mood. Written by John Clifford this tightly well constructed story stars Candice Hilligoss as Mary a passenger in a car accident who miraculously survives being submerged in a river for three hours it is a meditation of life and death. She lives in a purgatory unannounced to the audience upon first viewing and the surprise ending is just a great turn. Emerging covered in mud she is a miracle but the story only lingers on that. She quickly recovers and heads to Utah where she has been hired as an organist at a church. She finds herself drawn to an old carnival pavilion she passes on the way. After taking a room she begins to have hallucinatory experience and seeing ghoulish faces, ever more drawn to the carnival. When all is said and done the twist occurs and we see that she has been living in a kind of purgatory being ever drawn back to death.
   Since this film is so old and such a cult classic most horror aficionados already know the twist and gist of the film. So I will NOT do a spoiler free review here.  In fact the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray  has a wonderful essay on the film by Keir-La Janisse the author of "House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films" If you buy and read that you can certainly skip my novice retelling of the plot. The essay included in the Blu-ray is excellent and far superior to anything I will do here. Instead lets look at the larger themes in it and how they relate to the plot. It supposes that there is a space between life and death. Mary crawls from a river after the car crashed three hours before with no explanation of how she survived in the fast running muddy river. She also crawls out right at the sight of the crash and not downstream as one would imagine. She is seen by the gathered crowd on the bridge and is touched by the officer putting a coat on her shoulder. This implies she is solid in form and not a ghost. She does not remember how she survived and little time is spent with anyone who can explain it.. She is sort of reborn from the river, she has a second chance at life. The next time we see her she is visiting the sight of the crash looking and reflecting on what has happened. This before starting a new life far away. The audience stays with Mary not hearing from anyone else bout what happened. We don't know if she is seen as a miracle or not. We don't see the grieving families of the other girls in the car crash.
  A small scene where we see her play the organ is interesting in that it sort of establishes her as not particularly religious. When the man (Tom McGinnis) who got her the gig in Utah asks her about it, she says that "It's just a job, that she is not becoming part of the church but instead is just playing music. When he asks if she is going to visit her parents before leaving she tightens up and says not she is just going to "drive straight through". Maybe again enforcing her rebirth into a different life. Does the possibility she is less religious indicate that she could not pass on the afterlife? The organ factory boss says she should put her soul into this new job. Does this also play to that theme? She states emphatically that she is never coming back and has to once again travel over the same bridge before getting to Utah.
  Once in the state she can only get eerie organ music on the radio and then she sees the pavilion, and then the face of a man in the passenger side window. This is a passage from her former life into a new realm. I love that Mary is not the easiest person to get along with. After the awkward conversation with the boss of the organ factory she has an equally off beat interaction with her new landlady in the Utah boarding house. After an awkward silence when seeing the room she is less than polite with her comment that the room is certainly what she expected, instead of saying it was nice like a polite person would do. Then again when the Minister (Art Ellison) at the church asks her if she would like to have a welcoming reception with the congregation, she says "Couldn't we just skip that." She is uncomfortable around people. It could be that she is just an anxious person but it could also be that she is not quite able to connect with the living?
  The strange encounters build while she is trying to settle in as the organist for the church. She and the Minister has another prescient interaction with the minister when he takes her to the abandoned pavilion. There is a barrier fence falling down to keep people out but Mary wants very much to go out into the place.The minister explains it isn't safe, but she ask him  "Could you take me out there." he says no because you know laws about trespassing but she says she would very much like to go out to the place. She keeps seeing that strange man with the white pastie face and is disturbed by it.  Also bothered by the other roomer in the house, a fast talking somewhat aggressive warehouse worker. Her wants to see more of her but she only consents when the strangeness of the town and her weird experiences make her too scared to be alone. Awkward with the living but seemingly drawn to the dead her life gets stranger and stranger.
She gets scared after having audio (or lack of) hallucinations where she can not hear anything except her own voice. She tries to interact with people around her but they do not see or hear her. Mary is beginning to cross over out of this world with each experience being more intense than the one before it. This latest one gets her some help from a local doctor (Stan Levitt) who sees her scared in the park. As they talk through her recent traumas he suggest she is having guilt of being the sole survivor of the car crash. She expresses how she does not need the company of others (the living) and resolves that her seeing the pastie face man is her imagination that she is going to face her fear by going out to the pavilion. She does it and it seems to calm her seeing that it is an abandoned park. Sure a couple thing happen to startle her but the big thing is something the audience sees that Mary doesn't. The pastie faced man laying in a pool of water.
  Where this could be a turning point for the better it really isn't. Mary afraid of the night coming agrees to have a date with the slimy roomer John Lindon (Sidney Berger). From the beginning he has been presented an a sleaze obviously looking to get her dress off. Played a bit over the top he is a lower class guy just looking to get with a woman normally out of his reach. Mary has an awful night, at organ practice at the church she is possessed by (?) the spirit of the dead and plays the strange creepy organ music that we have heard throughout the film.While in this playing trance she sees the abandoned park and the dead rising to dance in the dance hall, around and around at unnatural speed to her playing. Only coming out of it as the pastie faced man come towards he hand reaching for her. Interrupted by the Minister she is fired on the spot for playing blasphemous music. After a horrible date with all hand John where she again sees the pastie faced man Mary chases off John and has a frantic night barricading herself in her room, she decides to leave town.
  Of course she is inevitably going to be drawn back to that pavilion and the pastie faced people that inhabit the place. After another hallucination while waiting in her car for a mechanic she is impelled to go back to the but this time as the sun sets. Daylight has been her refuge and now her fate will be met in the dark. Seeing the dead rise once more to dance in the ballroom. She now is one of them in the dance and as dead as they are. We learn the woman vanished into this air, the doctor and the police wondering out loud what could have happened.
  Back in Kansas they have finally found the car, with surprise all three girls dead inside of it. Closing poor Mary's time in purgatory and ending the film. I love this film even with all its pushy men roles, the lecherous John Lindon in the rooming house, the pushy Minister who wants to save Mary's soul, and the boss at the organ factory, none really recognizes her as a person with her own drives but instead try to influence her into their ideas about what is good for her. She is a complex character played well by Hilligoss. A character that is disconnected to those around her and most probably still in shock from her trauma but one with a mind of her own. As someone who gets tired of religion infiltrating everything in our world it is refreshing to see a film where the main character limits that effect in her thinking. I still marvel that this script was written in just a month and produced for so little money and I am truly glad it exists.

Friday, December 30, 2016

End of Year movies binge!

  Finally have a bit of time to catch up on some movie watching. Christmas holidays have me getting a few days to kick back and relax. That means I have been checking out some of the films I have missed while I was so busy all year long. Binging means I will not give full reviews but at least here you can see what caught my fancy.
  For Christmas the family and I watched Gremlins (1984) a classic romp of Christmas disaster. The film sits in the eighties in its approach to the world but is timeless in its setting of small town America. This film is so much fun and really a dark little treat for the holiday season.
Train to Busan (2016) is an exceptional film. Set in an epidemic of zombie like behavior, the fast kind, it is really the story of a little girl wanting the attention of her Father. Mixed into the high speed train ride where passengers are struggling to survive is some nifty social commentary on work and its effects on society. Wonderfully executed with characters to cheer for, heroes and cowards it is a survival story built on people. Excellent action and thrills and the dread of being infected make this an great watch. Director Sang-ho Yeon really bring a tight and self written script to life in possible the best horror film I saw this year.   The Eyes of My Mother (2016) is a terrifying exploration of how untreated trauma can grow into a sick obsession and a whole lot of crazy. Spanning years in the life of Francisca a girl traumatized but the murder of her Mother and the subsequent strange behavior  by her father in the matter. She is spirals out of control and her need for someone anyone to have an emotional connection to has lasting consequences to those unfortunate few to cross paths with her. As a first film for by Nicolas Pesce is a driven mood peace with style and raw character driven edge.The lead Kika Magalhaes is great at capturing the insanity of the character.

Green Room (2015) This was an evil little movie of a punk band really being in the wrong  place at the wrong time. Heroin and Nazis are the factors in them not getting out alive but you know kids can be resilient. It is a tense edge of your seat struggle for the whole 80 or so minutes. Very satisfying in it's execution by Director Jeremy Saulnier. even the cleverly written way the survivors turn the tables.
  The Wailing (2016) - The comedic beginning of this film certainly makes it a strange gem of a film. For 40 minutes I was thinking this was a light comedy of errors with quite a bit of gore. Then there was a shift to a strange and scary ghost / demon story that was gruesome and compelling and the film gets deadly serious. Running more than two and a half hours it will challenge those with short attention spans but from where I sit it is worth the effort. The last forty minutes are great and knowing who is good and bad gets blurred all the way to the end of the film. Director Hong-jin Na did another great film Chaser (2008) which also delivered in suspense. I will continue to watch to see what he has coming out.
31 (2016)  I question why I watch Rob Zombie movies, I really don't connect with them at all. Again I gave it a go with yet another mean spirited piece of sleaze. This film is again is the basic Zombie theme, that there are wolves and there are sheep in the world and the sheep are there for slaughtering. I suppose the attempted twist should be given a bit of credit. Renown for mean unlikable characters he starts with introducing us to them, a group of lowlife carnies. Then in a twist they are not the lowlife murderers, instead they are the victims. There is also some statement in there about the wealthy using the poor for entertainment but that is lost in the survival game the poor carnies are put through. It's called 31 and they just have to survive 31 hours to win the game all the while being hunted by psychos with better weapons. You can guess how it goes, and know in the end that same mean spirited brain that thought up the plot thought up the ending.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) This was a wonderfully surprising film that goes from small town procedural to bat shit crazy horror in a mere hour and a half. Excellent acting by Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox as a father / son coroner team attempting to find out the cause of death for Jane Doe (Olwen Catherine Kelly), a body found at a mass murder that did not fit with the deaths in that incident. As this autopsy starts to be interrupted by unexplained seeming supernatural events the two find themselves facing more serious threats as they attempt to find Jane Doe's secret.
They're Watching (2016)  Possibly the strangest film I watched in that tonally it was not really consistent. A story of a television show crew "International Home Hunters" that is doing a follow up segment in Moldova at the home of potter who bought a house there on an earlier episode of the show. It seems it is going to be about ugly American and their real disrespect for foreign cultures, sticking their cameras where they don't belong and getting a local mad at them. Somewhere though it shifts from the menacing locals to a real life witch wanting her story of death and destruction told. The insane final sequence is both weirdly entertaining and comically out of character with the rest of the film. Maybe if the crew was more likable this would be more recommended but the cliche loud disrespectful American is just so used up at this point. Depth in those characters instead would have made this better.
Demon (2016) - Wow what a sad film. Piotr (Itay Tiran) is a groom coming to Poland to marry the girl he fell in love with in London. While working alone on her ancestral home he accidentally uncovers an unmarked grave. Later on a rainy night he falls into the grave, its the eve of his wedding and so most of the film is about a Polish Wedding. Lots of drinking and dancing and singing. As the wedding night goes on something is not right with and slowly it is revealed Piotr is possessed by the spirit of the woman in the grave. Mixed in is lost of commentary on Polish defeatism and burying the past for the sake of the present. Ending in the saddest possible way this film pulls the heart strings and leaves the watcher in silence.
  I feel like I have made a good effort to catch up on what I missed sure there are some others out there but really this is just finally having some viewing time. To me it seems like a pretty good year particularly for small independent horror films. So many people out there have lists this time of year ranking the films so I will avoid that here. Happy New Year to all my readers. Leave comment if you wish they are always welcome.  --Eddie

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Incarnate (2016) Horror Exorcism

Incarnate (2016) - In theaters now! I listened to some heavy rotation advertising for this film on the Shock Waves podcast and seeing the Blumhouse logo at the beginning of the film I understood why since they are the company that also owns the podcast and (distributes?) the movie I can see why they would push it. The early show on a Friday afternoon (4:40pm) was a quiet show. In fact I was the only one seeing the movie in the audience. Its a mixed blessing since I hate noisy rooms when watching movies but on the other hand you only have your own reactions to judge the film by. Wondering who this film is being geared towards? Maybe the previews can give an indication. Split, XXX: Return of Zander Case, Annabelle 2, Underworld: Blood Wars, Assasins Creed, Sleight, and The Belko Experiment tell me that this is geared to a young audience but that seems appropriate.
    The film is definitely in the new screenwriting school of thought where the acts are clearly defined the breadcrumbs dropped and paid off later and there is a clear character arc for the main character. I say new screenwriting school, it has got to be twenty years since the screenwriting has firmed up the approach to film. Whether that be better more structured teaching of screenwriting or smarter choosing of scripts by executives there is a marked pattern in the structure of script that is quite identifiable and this film is in that category. The judgement is neither good or bad of this approach, on one hand the script is tighter and there is less extraneous material to sort through. Plot points and backstory are introduced and later developed further with just enough early information to make it work. On the other hand the structure is more predictable and less surprising, experimental and creative. Still overall it's a sign of a more professional approach that generally works more than it does not.
  The story by writer Ronnie Christensen centers around Dr. Seth Ember (Aaron Eckhart) who years before lost his wife and daughter in a car accident caused by a drunk driver who happened to be possessed by a demon. This demon called Maggie has been become the single focus of his life. Maggie also for some reason really wants to taunt Ember sensing his ability even though he has spent years trying to hide it. He is  gifted in the magical ability to sort of sense what people are thinking. He as a doctor has developed a drug that allows him to enter the mind of a possessed individual and attempt to break the possession by getting the possessed to choose to leave the fantasy world the demon has trapped them in.  He has had some connection to the Vatican but has a different approach to possession than they. Where they look through the Christian lens seeing a struggle against the corrupting evil, Ember sees the demon as a parasite which can be interrupted in the dreamworld it creates in the host.
  For a film that is advertised as a new approach to a possession film it jumps through hoops to gloss over the thing it claims makes it different. Ember's thinking that possession demons are just parasite approaches their removal through science but the science is weak. A drug that allows him to enter the mind of the victim, some mumbo jumbo about auras and ions and near death experiments might put a clock on Embers encounters but overall there is not much there, in fact where it starts with the idea that he has a magical gift nullifies the science completely. Also countering the idea is the principle of choice on the part of victim, if the demon is a parasite, choosing to not have it should not be an option. All the machines and computer displays are a ruse to sell the audience but it is really still just a possession film.
  The case at hand is one where a boy, actor David Mazouz has been possessed by the Maggie demon and the Church has not been able to free the boy. His Mother (Carice van Houten, Game of Thrones) will do anything to get her kid back, and the Church goes to Ember and offers him a suitcase full of money to take the job. The plots and subplots are Ember wanting to settle his personal score, one about demons wanting to infiltrate the church, and the story of a Mother wanting to save her son are all compelling enough to move the story forward even if all of it does not hold up the science premise. There is an interesting mix of concepts in this films that are reminiscent of other films. Entering another mind and manipulating from the inside Inception, passing on demon possession through touch Fallen, exorcism and science Exorcist 2 as well as the classic demon possession scenes and for the most part it works but is not particularly exciting. Still all in all the film works for what it is. The beginning, middle and end are well structured and everything setup early is paid off. Even the final little twist where they flip the expectation around saving Ember is well done. I have this horrible aversions to scenes where someone gets brought back from the dead and the scene in the ambulance where this happens to Ember had me writing notes "Damn it! Fucking happy fucking ending, Fuck!" but the twist pulled me out of this rage and that was appreciated. It at least gave a real reason to have Catalina Sandino Moreno (besides being incredibly talented and beautiful) in the film since her role as church liaison was a bit weak.
  I have a feeling that it will not pull very big numbers at the box office mostly because in the end we have all seen this film before. Sure it has some newer ideas not used normally with this kind of film but it misses key features we want in a movie about possession. The first is we don't care about the victim he literally has one scene before possessed and then all of his backstory is framed through the experiences of his mother or father. Next by taking the religion out of the story the imperative for his soul is blunted, he does not seem like the imperiled one instead that is shifted to Ember who after the accident is in a wheelchair and he is the soul at risk. In fact the best scene in the film was when he goes back to his friend, Felix (Tomas Arana) to find him possessed by a demon. The struggle of a handicapped man against a walking demon was well executed by Director Brad Peyton but much of the rest of the conflict with the demon Maggie was dull taking place in the victims fantasy. Playing off this idea the last failure is that this movie is really not scary, the just mentions scene and the first possession scene are good but most of the movie is about dropping breadcrumbs and back story but not frightening. I wanted more of a nervous growing dread but did not get that. Still its well structured and there is enough to reluctantly recommend this film to others. I left it feeling like I was entertained even though it did not knock my socks off.
  As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. (Not really expecting that though) It really is an experiment and where I love the horror community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people involved in it.  I am now following over 239 people while the followers is only 35 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Alien Predators (1985) Horror Aliens

Alien Predators (1985) - (based on original screenplay "Massacre at R.V. Park" as Noah Blogh )  Well its been awhile, with work being so crazily busy that looking at a computer screen any other time is just too much of a hassle. So a long break it has been and while I hate that I am not keeping a decent schedule it just has to be that way. Today though is a new day, my birthday (53) and I am spending the morning watching Alien Predators (1985) on VHS. The film was made in 1985 but was not released in the United States until 1987. It starts by letting the audience know that the reason for Skylab was so the US government could do experiments that were illegal on earth. Then explains it fell back into the atmosphere in 1979 in Duarte Spain. Now anyone as old as I am knows that Skylab fell to the ground in pieces over western Australia but of course we can let this fact go for the sake of storytelling.  After the establishing shot of US officials in airtight suits looking over the remains of the lab the story shifts to a bull wandering around but progressively seen as more bloody and sick until it finally collapses. When the dogs come to feast on the carcass on is pulled inside the bull with growls that are not of this world. So now we know something has killed the bull from the inside and survived the crashing of Skylab.
 Needing to establish the main players the first three being some American students on Holiday in Spain, Damon (Dennis Christopher), Michael (Martin Hewitt) and Samantha (Lynn-Holly Johnson). Riding in an RV and pulling their sweet dune buggy these are just young people out to travel and have a good time. When Michael almost hits the bull in the road he gets out to investigate finding guts and goop everywhere. The goofy writing in establishing these character suggests comedy. They pull into an RV park for the night and in the morning Michael's blood covered shirt is disposed of outside in a barrel,  The "RV park" consists of two trailers on a Spanish hillside. The neighbors a horrible characterization of an Indian family leaves this more modern version of a man cringing at the stereotype. Our group literally bumps into Dr. W. Tracer, (Luis Prendes) NASA who may be responsible for the creature now free in the countryside. He and Capt. J.J.Wells (J.O. Bosso) go to examine the body of another investigator who has a quite disgusting alien growth on the side of his neck. Apparently NASA has a free run on this town because they have a base in an old stone fort with multiple levels below the ground. It's a giant facility and the implications that the Spanish government allows this is just a bit of a stretch. Apollo 14 apparently found dormant microbes on the moon and wakened them on Skylab and lost control. Thinking they would burn up on reentry they did not and now earth is threatened with a contagion that could end humanity. Of course instead of sending everyone to the area to try to contain the issue only a couple guys are sent to try to keep it secret.
  Things start going crazy as the town folk are infected with the alien virus and start acting aggressively towards the tourists. At first the trio is played for comedy and you think that they are just unwanted Americans but when Tracer kidnaps Samantha in the dune buggy and makes her drive him to a working phone we learn the seriousness of the situation and the comedy is less frequent. The CB radio in the dune buggy lets the guys know that Samantha is in trouble and they get on the road to try to and eventually find Tracer and Sam. Tracer shows them that the last road out of the town is being blocked and that they are trapped in the town with the alien parasite. It works where the alien uses the DNA of the host human to grow causing psychosis and then death. Tracer is going to work on the antidote for the plague but the four must survive until they have it. The continued jousting between the boys for the affections of Sam is a real strange thing to have continue while in crisis mode. In fact all the character non nonchalance of the young people takes away from the seriousness of the situation. Like when Michael goes for the canister from Skylab that tracer left in the lab. He drive through the streets singing. It is just weird and really pulls the watcher from the story itself.
  Written and Directed by Deran Sarafian appears to have built a career as primarily a television director, after some earlier film credits like Death Warrant (1990) and Terminal Velocity (1994) does a good job on the plot side making the threat real and the alien encounters scary. As noted above the interpersonal dialog does not fit as well taking a more playful approach in the dead serious plotting. I would have liked more of the strange psychotic behavior of the inhabitants of the village to build and threaten before going full steam into the finding of a cure. Noticing Michael's multiple exposures to the alien goop it leaves me thinking either that this will need to be a race time to save him or that he is the immune key to a cure.
  He successfully retrieves the canister in a heart pounding race against time as the station self destructs and he escapes in the nick of time. Then with upbeat 80's music Michael races another car, aggressive townspeople through the streets needing to lose the other car before returning to the RV. Again it is a duel the film takes way too lightly making it cartoon-ish even though we have a decent survival story going on. Then ending with Samantha kissing him even though he has been contaminated repeatedly. So how are the towns people all infected but the new comers are not even though exposed over and over again to the alien stuff?
  After each gets a shot of the antidote they realize that Tracer has sacrificed himself so the three of them can get the antibodies they want to save him but the man meets a horrible end in the streets of the building. The three flee as jets (F-14s) fly overhead a sign that the village will be destroyed. Again seems like the US is really running the show here. They race out through the barricade on the bridge being chased by crazies in a truck. Naturally they make it out in the nick of time. Their hope is to make it to Madrid but we see Damon Driving and close with blood dripping from his nose, a sign he is infected.
  Filmed entirely in Spain so we can guess that maybe they really used Duarte Spain as the location. Looking around on google maps I did not see anything I could recognize from the film. Overall I think this film is a mixed bag where there is some good stuff with infection could have made it like The Crazies (1973) dark and dangerous. Certainly the best parts of this film is when it is firmly on this ground. Then there is mixed in the lighthearted competition for the affections of Samantha and the even stranger musical chooses when the young people are doing this or that. It pulls the user right out of the film every time this stuff was interjected. It is like Night of the Comet (1984) without the satire. Still I have to say this piece of VHS madness was sort of fun so if pushed I would recommend it as a piece of mid-eighties sci-fi/horror film making.
As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. (Not really expecting that though) It really is an experiment and where I love the horror community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people involved in it.  I am now following over 210 people while the followers is only 34 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Blair Witch (2016) - Horror

Blair Witch (2016) - Originally I was not very excited about this film, the Original The Blair Witch Project (1999) although a real game changer for how small budget horror could be made and marketed, it was not the best of films. Most people remember the tent scene and the final scene in the abandon house but forget that most of that movie is about people lost in the woods making incredibly stupid hiking decisions. They may also forget that in the end we really don't seen anything, nothing about the demise of the characters is shown on screen. I remember being in the Kenmore movie theater when the film opened, obvious a victim of the advertising and the lights came up. I was wondering what all the fuss was about. Sure the film can be a marker for the rise of the found footage era and it made a shit load of money with its clever marketing campaign with the spreading of B roll and creation of the mythology documentary. Still there was something missing from that movie, a villain and I don't mean a villain like the piss poor judgement of the characters. It was missing the killer the one we want to despise and fear, instead there was this origin story but the villain never really materializes.
   I did start getting excited for this film when I saw they (the studio) had brought on the writing, directing team of Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard. Barrett a talented, successful writer, if not financially at least with respect to his body of work, Dead Birds (2004), A Horrible Way to Die (2010), You're Next (2011), The Guest (2014) all are good solid films and his writing compelling. Wingard worked with him as director on those last three films mentioned and is a real talent in his own right. I really love both You're Next and The Guest and when I saw the team attached to this project my interest level went way up. So it was with a bit of excitement that I went off to see this film and that my friends does not happen often to this 50+ year old horror veteran.
  Going to the first show of opening day is not the best way to catch the reaction of the general public but it does ensure that a bunch of noisy teens won't be present. The film is definitely being pushed as a big weekend movie, with seven previews before that actual film started rolling. Incarnate , Doctor Strange with Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachael McAdamsOuija: Origin of Evil still looks very entertaining from the previews. Annabelle 2 , Resident Evil: The Final Chapter looks to be just that. I don't know if anyone is still looking forward to those films. If not maybe they will with Resident Evil: A New Beginning. Then there were a couple previews of films the studios feel they really have to sell to make hits. Deepwater Horizon and Hacksaw Ridge the first pisses me off in principle making the second greatest ecological disaster (the Chernobyl disaster is only greater) in the history of the world being turned into a hero story for those responsible for keeping it from happening. Hacksaw Ridge the latest reclamation project for anti-Semitic director Mel Gibson is about a soldier in WWII who refused to carry a gun but saves a bunch of his fellow soldiers to regain respect is Gibson's way to do the same.
  Blair Witch is the sequel to 1999's The Blair Witch Project. In that film a crew of three are making a documentary about the Blair Witch a fabled spirit of Burkittsville MD and her (the Witch) creating a child killer in the same woods years later adding to the story of the forest's bad mojo. They get in the forest and very quickly show their incompetence at navigating through the woods. They can't read a map or use a compass so they are lost before they actually are. Lost and on each others nerves the ante is upped with rock cairns appearing outside their tents and noises in the night.  It was a great bit of myth making back in the day and an amazing buzz creating advertising campaign. It was also an excellent take on what you can do with video by passing big movie making for a more personal hand held approach. Eventually Heather the lead character is alone and find the house where the serial child killer did his work under the witches influence. The ending was tense but you never saw anything it was a whole bunch about creating in the audiences mind what they imagine to happened. That disappointment took away a lot of what was built for that film.
  The new film written by Simon Barrett ups the ante all around and with great effect. The film picks up the story 14 years after the first film. James (James Allen McCune) is the little brother of Heather from the original. He has been haunted by her disappearance when he was just four years old. He has come across a video on the internet that he believes is the last piece of video showing her in the house in the woods outside Burkittsville. Filming him is Lisa (Callie Hernandez) who is doing her school film project on his search for what happened to his sister. His and her mutual interpersonal interest in each other is hinted at but not exercised. This seems a bit of trend as the love interest has become passe in film these days. They with friends Ashley (Corbin Reid) and Peter (Brandon Scott) are going to head out to the woods to try to find what they can and maybe James can find peace with his sister's demise. They head out to meet the people who claim to have found the video Lane (Wes Robinson) and Talia (Valorie Curry) who proceed to force their way into the adventure. So already we have upped the ante by having twice as many characters as the original film. They are going to show the group where they found the video and James hopes that by doing so he may find some clues of what happened to his sister.
  Upping the ante also means using modern technology on the trip to record the proceedings. We get a exposition laden run down of the gear. Ear cameras, with GPS, a handheld GPS  Cameras, walkie talkies, and a drone camera. No simple map and compass on this trip. No just wandering into the forest and getting lost and throwing away the map. Since the technology is better there also has to be an upgrade in what the woods can do. Sure we are going to get the expected stick figures and rock cairns, and loud noises in the night we also get a forest that creates time shifts and magically nullifies the ability of GPS to work properly. Not only is the forest upgraded but we get a couple characters who are outside the group in Talia and Lane. The story line for them are a nice counter to the supportive groups the four friends are. Without giving anything away let's say the addition of the couple adds a element of uncertainty for the rest of the group. Finally the upping of the ante in the ending where we do get the main thing missing from the first film makes this so much more superior.  Outside of the in story improvements I also enjoyed the improved camera quality of the film. I am a person who feels the found footage film is a bit played out. In particular I feel the purposeful making a shot look shitty so it can be a security camera or whatever is just intolerable in today's age of digital imagery. I am still paying the same price for a ticket so I want the film to look good. This film I think shot in 35mm looks good all the time and is appreciated. I also appreciated the use of not overly popular actors who were all competent but not so recognizable that it was distracting.
  Things in the woods go as you would expect in a Blair Witch film and it is not long before people are hearing noises and losing each other and finding stick figures. Time is lost and the way out can't be found.  The modern technology is suddenly useless with the GPS on the fritz and the drone just as frustrating for the users as it was for the audience. It is used to help in the demise if a character but also we feel the characters frustration that the new toy is not helping. Such is the way with new technology but why have the drone and all the cameras if they are not going to be used in an interesting way to drive the story forward? Literally the drone flew up a couple times but showed nothing that would do anything for the group. When lost it played a small part but other than that the cool factor was all that it was for. So those things all hit the right notes. With an injured friend James, Lisa and the rest are stuck only heading further into trouble with little hope of getting out. At first I was a bit annoyed with the jump scares where a loud noise was used to make the audience jump. Since it was also what was scaring the characters though I just had to let that prejudice slide and just understand we are all in it together. The conflict in the group was a little obvious of a setup with both Talia and Lane being obvious Blair Witch conspiracy theorists. The juxtaposition of having Peter countering the obvious craziness was some good writing.  The classic rain storm at the climax is always so wonderful tension builder. I remember the first time I noticed the technique when watching 12 Angry Men and thought how ingenious it was. Most of all in this film we get the villain and the mythology of the Blair Witch goes to the next level. It is so wonderfully done that the stunted ending of the first film is replaced with an ending that makes a lot more sense, is more intense and pays homage to the original while also improving it.
  This is a film you should go see in the theater. Even if you did not like The Blair Witch Project you will probably like the sequel. It is not the best movie or the scariest but it at least takes the Blair Witch story and does it better than the original. It may be though that too much time has gone by since the first film and maybe audiences are not in the same place at the end of the found footage era than where they were at the beginning. Still get out there and see horror at the movies.  As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. (Not really expecting that though) It really is an experiment and where I love the horror community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people involved in it.  I am now following over 210 people while the followers is only 34 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :) (Note: Boy do I need an editor when I am rushing new movie reviews out. There were so many mistakes in this but all fixed now I hope.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Disappointments Room (2016) Horror

The Disappointments Room (2016) - When this film showed up at my theater this week without any advertising at all I wondered about the quiet launch. Often this lack of promotional money is one of two things, either the studio, in this case Rogue, is hoping early buzz from the few people who wander across the film will make worth their while to sink more cash into it. The other less promising option is that the film did not test particularly well and Rogue just is dumping it on the market trying to recoup some of the fifteen million it spent making it. Seeing that the lead actress Kate Beckinsale is a pretty well known quantity I have to think there might be something wrong with the film. She certainly has been in enough money making features that the studio could have thrown a couple million into promotion on her name alone. This review WILL have spoilers so bear that in mind if you are thinking about seeing this film. I think we all should go out and see horror in the theater this one maybe less than others but don't let me stop you, not every movie moves every person.
  Miss Peregrin's Home for Peculiar Children, Ouija: Origin Of Evil, These first two made sense horror or fantasy previews in a horror movie, then we got The Accountant Ben Affleck as a accountant for the criminals who has real problems socializing, Why Him? A Brian Cranston, James Franco comedy about Cranston's daughter picking a weird irritating man (Franco) to get hitched to and the shenanigans of Cranston trying to stop the ill conceived coupling. Finally the last film was a thriller that looks to be a long car chase in KidNap. Halle Berry stops at nothing when her son is kidnapped and she see the car driving away. Sort of a really mixed bag of previews before a film that was also sort of a mixed bag. So what's the message in those choses the first two are for horror / fantasy people the accountant is certainly for older people, the Why Him? film is all about teens and the last thriller hell its a muddled mess according to the previews.
 So the theater experience: Since I am trying to see more film in the theater lets talk about what that experience was like. maybe there is some insight about the movie by who went and what previews were shown. There was only one other person there when I arrived 10 minutes before the show was to start. Eventually as the previews ran out we were up to 8 people, not totally out of the norm for an early afternoon Saturday showing. Weather has also been particularly wonderful in New England which I am sure had an effect on attendance. All but to of the people seemed to be over fifty with the other couple thirty somethings. Now this is interesting because it may say something about the attractiveness of the name of the film. The young audience is really what the industry is after but the name "The Disappointment Room" may not be appealing to younger people. The previews in order were
  This is a story of a family Dana (Kate Beckinsale), her husband David (Mel Raido) and their son Lucas (Duncan Joiner) who have suffered the tragedy of the death of their infant child Catherine. After that trauma the family near what would have been Catherine's first birthday, is moving from New York City to a giant manor in the fictional Willow Glen North Carolina. This believe this  premise seems so familiar there has to be other films with it. We get the impression from the conversation in the car that most of this move was David's idea. He sold his business is moving the family as a way of distracting Dana at this difficult time of year. He figures that the old place will need a lot of renovation and that former architect Dana can embrace that to stay busy. Certainly he is not thinking that his medicated wife who is still struggling with the death of her child would be better served in the city around friends and neighbors. No to him isolating her in the countryside seems the best route to mental health. Things do not go as planned, of course as we get some imagined black Sheppard prowling around the place.
  Dana really is struggling and we see this through her at first mild and then stronger hallucinations. She also makes a point to stop taking her medication which is never a good for someone having vivid violent visions. Add on top of this her nightmares every night and we have a mentally ill woman with active violent hallucinations, lack of medication, and is not sleeping well, pulled into an isolated setting at a significant date to the child she lost. David pushing the "We'll get through this together." attitude soon decides he has to go back into the city to close his sale deal, leaving Dana and Lucas on their own. Dana starts with seeing lights in the upper part of the house in a room that is not on the blue prints. Investigation shows a room hidden behind a wardrobe and it is not long before she finds out what it is all about.
  Dana's dreams and hallucinations get more scary as time goes on with visions of the rich family that used to own the house,Judge Blacker (Gerald McRaney) the father tall and intimidating with his barking black dog, his feeble wife (Jennifer Leigh Mann) and their facially deformed daughter (Ella Jones) who of course lives in the disappointments room. We over the course of the film learn the story and outcome of having such a child. The problem with this particular set of scares is that the are not really connected to the really big revelation in the climatic scenes. The dog in particular is a convenient tool in creating shock. In fact the whole back story of the disappointments room are strangely constructed around Dana's own more important story. It is like the film could not decide if it was going to be a ghost story or a story about a woman struggling with mental illness brought on by guilt. Sure the imagery of the ghosts were useful for creating some scares, in particular the imagined dog attack on Lucas. Really though none of that was real and just in Dana's head. It brings up the point of why the film makers had the ghosts do things for the benefit of the audience if the ghost are not real. At times the ghosts are seen behind Dana or watching her but since they are in her head why show that? Like when she is looking through the keyhole to the disappointments room and after she leaves we get a shot of an eye appearing in the keyhole. It does not make sense. Even though we know our main character has stopped taking her medication and that the psychological angle is the one the story eventually settles on in the middle we are still more ghost story by the records keeper in town.
   Ms. Judith (Marcia DeRousse) at the town records hall gives us a really awkward bit of exposition explaining what a disappointments room. In the old days when a rich family had a deformed child they would build a disappoints room and lock the child away never to become an embarrassment to the family. She kicks in a bit about vengeful ghost to up the ante a bit too. It would be interesting to see the first few drafts of this script, I would be interested to see if whether it was a ghost story first or a psychological thriller first. Written by Wentworth Miller and directed by D. J. Caruso there are some good things in this film but what it ends up being is a bit of a duel entity where neither story gets the full attention it needs. I say it settled on the mental illness angle and there is a scene where on what would have been Catherine's first birthday, David invites friends Teddy (Michael Landes) and Jules (Michaela Conlin) out for dinner, and Dana slips out of the mansion and heads into town to get drunk. We catch up with her when she returns really late and brings out a birthday cake for her daughter and then proceeds to yell and tear the room up in what is the tour de force scene for the actress and Beckinsale really goes for it too.
  There are a couple things in the film that went nowhere or did not make sense. The primary one was there is this roofer guy Ben (Lucas Till) who is a young man who while coming around to work on the house continually offers himself through slick dialog to Dana. It is never anything but words but for what purpose. To make the main character feel attractive, was there in some draft a relationship? This flirtation happens in every scene they are in together but ultimately that entire sub plot is dropped. Then there is the vanishing child syndrome, where Lucas for large chunks of the film is nowhere to be seen. Sure maybe they have him tucked in bed but we never see any of that parenting. He just vanishes at times so the adults can play out there scenes undisturbed. It was just too noticeable and became a distraction.
  Finally the climax of this film which could have saved it through a punch to the stomach for the audience never got there. We know that Dana is losing her grip on reality and on a dark stormy night the lack of medication and hallucinations of ghost come to a head. She has a fight with the Old Man ghost who says he is going after her son and sics the black dog on her. Paced so that she has to do everything in her power to save little Lucas she fights the dog off eventually snapping its neck. She runs around and around down the mansions spiral staircase trying to catch the mean old man ghost before he suffocates her son. She reaches him as Lucas struggles under the pillow. She hits the ghost and he falls onto the bed. She slams his head with her hammer more and more violently crushing his scull. feathers from the pillow fly, Davis breaks into the house and reaches her and flash, there is no ghost. Did Dana just beat her son's brain in. Oh my what a powerful ending as she killed her other child. but no the film completely pulls that punch what could have saved the film was reduced to she was killing a pillow and Lucas was on the other side of the bed. We finally learn why Catherine died, not a dog mauling, not SIDS but that Dana could not stand her colicky baby and in her postpartum depression suffocated it. After she gets past this there is actually a happy ending where David is taking the family back to the city realizing what a horrible plan coming to the country was in the first place. To finish us off with more muddling of story we see the ghost Dad looking out of the window as they pull away from the house but why?
  That is pretty much and encapsulation of this film disjointed not sure what story it wanted to tell it ends up being Dana's but with too many artifact of the second story that was too ell developed to be put in the background as symptoms of her mental illness.
  As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. (Not really expecting that though) It really is an experiment and where I love the horror community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people involved in it.  I am now following over 200 people while the followers is only 33 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :) 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Kwaidan (1964) Horror Anthology

Kwaidan (1964) - I am going to borrow and credit this short description from the Criterion Collection which is a very nicely written and the version I watched for this review.
     "After more than a decade of sober political dramas and socially minded period pieces, the great Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi shifted gears dramatically for this rapturously stylized quartet of ghost stories. Featuring colorfully surreal sets and luminous cinematography, these haunting tales of demonic comeuppance and spiritual trials, adapted from writer Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of Japanese folklore, are existentially frightening and meticulously crafted. This version of Kwaidan is the original three-hour cut, never before released in the United States." - Criterion Collection description for Kwaidan
 Toru Takemitsu adds an ambience of sullen e
xpectation. Director Kobayashi paces the pieces with at a confident walk idling every now and again so not to get winded; Modern audience may find it a bit too slow but for this viewer it felt like a lovely stroll.
 Divided into four stories each featuring ghost, The Black Hair, Woman of the Snow, Hoichi the Earless, and In a Cup of Tea, and as the description says the sets are beautiful and the print just looks wonderful. I am a fan of older horror and this collection does not disappoint. Besides the look and feel the minimalist score by
  The Black Hair  -  A story about bad life decisions and the consequences and regrets that come with them. Rentar├┤ Mikuni is a husband who has a wife (Michiyo Aratama) who truly loves him. We join the story as the husband is leaving the wife because they are in such poverty that he feels he must leave and change his luck. His wife of course begs him to stay but his mind is made up. He leaves and takes a posting as a samurai marrying a lords daughter (Misako Watanabe). Ten years pass and over that time he realizes just how shallow and uncaring his second wife is. He is haunted by memories of the woman who really loved him. Finally not being able to deal with the memories he goes back to find his first wife. When he returns to his former house she is there waiting. She is so happy he has returned and he speaks of his regret and that he has learned that she is the one he wants to be with. The embrace and sleep together, as he wakes the next morning he learns that things the night before are not what he though they were. Although he reconciled it is not payment enough. This supernatural ending is satisfying since there really must be some consequence for his action. You can never really sympathize with the samurai since it is a foul thing that he did. So when he is with his second wife you may feel he got what he deserves but really it is not until he returns home that the viewer get the true satisfaction of his first wife's revenge.
  The Woman of the Snow - This is really the only vampire story, but with a twist. Two men collecting wood in the forest are caught in a blizzard and struggle to find shelter. Finally finding a shambled hut near a river the two men fall into it. Still not completely safe they fall into a cold sleep, the younger man wakes to see a woman standing over his older companion. She seems to be sucking the life out of him and then notices the younger man.  Instead of also killing the young man she looks at him as a handsome man and says she will let him live but with one condition; he is never to tell anyone what happened in that shack. He promises and is left alive.We fallow ____ when he meets a woman he falls in love with her. They are seen to have a great life loving each other and she bearing his three children. We get hints as we see his wife pass by some locals and the conversation about how she never seems to age.
  On the New Year he has made new sandals for the family and something about the way his wife looks reminds of the Woman of the Snow. He starts without thinking about it to tell her of his experience in the shack. There are consequences for breaking the promise he made so many years ago and the story explains all this but his life will never be the same.
  Hoichi The Earless is the longest of the stories and has the iconic image of the man covered in Sutras that we see in many images for this film. It starts with the explanation of an ancient battle between the Genji and Heike clans some 700 years before the telling. This great naval battle we learn is being told by Hoichi and we learn more of the battle each time Hoichi speaks of it playing his traditional Japanese instrument the biwa. The present day story features Hoichi as a blind apprentice at a monastery who has become more known for his ability to bring historical stories to life. One night when he is sitting on his porch he hears a voice calling him. He is requested to follow the warrior behind the voice and tell his tale to royalty. Being young and blind he does not know that the person requesting his services is a ghost. The Japanese lore behind this is not that anything good can happen to a person who follows the instruction of a ghost. Instead is madness and possession so the dangers for the young man are great. The story follows the Master trying to figure out where the young man is going and then when he learns protecting him from the dangers of the ghosts.
  While he is under the influence of the spirits Hoichi tells the tale of the Battle of Dan-no-ura one of the greatest sea battles in Japanese history. Hoichi in order to avoid being taken over completely by the ghost is covered with Sutras by the monks of the temple and set to meditate instructed not to speak to the ghosts, not to make any noise at all. Its really a cool take on how spirits interact with the humans in this culture. We have again consequences for interacting with them. It seems in this culture there is always some unwanted side effect when dealing with ghosts. Good story and well played out.
 In A Cup Of Tea -  The final story is about the consequences of  finishing an unfinished tale. We are set up with a man reading such tales and explaining that many Japanese stories stop without an ending. He tells the tale of one such tale it is about a samurai soldier who sees the image of another man as a reflection in the water he is trying to drink. Confused at first he tries several times to get new water but each time he sees the image of the man. The soldier frustrated drinks the water anyway and thinks nothing else of it. Later while on patrol at night the soldier is visited by the ghost from the cup. The ghost is upset that the soldier drank some of his soul in the water and wants some kind of retribution for this act. Instead the soldier draws his sword and engages the ghost who has a knack for disappearing and reappearing. The soldier though frustrated manages to wound the ghost with his sword causing it to vanish. That could have been the end of this unfinished tale but the next night the soldier is visited by three other ghosts who represent the first. 
 Again they want some sort of apology but the soldier is a fighter and would rather settle things with his sword. The fight scenes in this section is really cool but it really is a fight to a draw. We leave this story and and go back to the teller's house where his publisher is visiting and the teller is no where to be found. The ending not spoiled here is yet another instance of consequences around now even the telling of a ghost story.
  This was a very wonderful collection of stories based off Japanese ghost lore that is well done and probably worth every penny it would cost to buy the Criterian collection.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Don't Breathe (2016) Horror Thriller

Don't Breathe (2016) - In an attempt to support horror movies more actively I have been trying to commit to see more films in the theater. Tonight Don't Breathe and its bad idea gone worse plot was the target. My wife and I headed over but we never seem to agree on movies since she can not deal with scary at all, so she went off to see Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) while I went in to see this film. At the 7pm showing the audience was about 40 people a mix of young and older with some talkers that were not too annoying. Not a great crowd but at least I could gauge some reactions when the film was over. What I heard was very positive with quite a few people clapping and some of the younger people talking excitedly about the movie. If representative of other audiences I think this film will get some good word of mouth.
  The plot about three out of luck twenty somethings Money (Daniel Zovatto), Rocky (Jane Levy) and Alex (Dylan Minnette) who using information and keys gained from Alex's father's security business are robbing houses for small time gains. Set in Detroit with its bleak abandoned neighborhoods we get the picture that options are really slim for the three. Still Alex is cautious while Rocky and boyfriend Money would love a bigger score. That opportunity comes when Money hears about a blind man who is sitting on a boatload of settlement money. The Blind Man (Stephen Lang) has a sad story an Iraq veteran who was blinded by a grenade explosion who lost his daughter to a wealthy young woman who killed her in a car accident. The settlement money from that event is the target of the three burglars. He lives alone with his rottweiler on a mostly empty street and seems to the kids an easy target. The film does quite a few things that say something about wealth and poverty. Set in poverty we see the thieves targeting mostly nice houses, taking enough from each to survive. The owners of those houses are seen as having more than they need. The woman who killed the Blind Man's daughter got off because "rich girls don't go to jail" so for the poor there is no justice. Both the Robin Hood idea and the injustice of wealthy is to try to build sympathy for The Blind Man and the thieves. Rocky is seen with her really shitty Mother basically having to care for her little sister in her Mom's place. She wishes to get enough money to take her sister and escape to California. The blind man is the victim that will have to loose his money so she can do this so the film makes them both victims.
  After drugging the dog with some tainted meat the trio find there way into what is a really well locked down house. In the house they are not finding much but a door so locked they figure it has to be where the money is. While Alex is outside they are interrupted by the Blind Man who wakes and comes downstairs. Money and Rocky freeze and Money pulls a gun on the man with some unfortunate and awkward line about knowing what's behind the door. His mistake when the Blind Man ends up winning the struggle for the gun. Rocky standing silently watches as her boyfriend is killed. The blind man figuring out that there is at least one more person in the house proceeds to lock every possible exit and start listening. Here now begins the thrilling cat and mouse game as Alex and Rocky try to get out of the house alive and with the money they eventually locate. A twist in the story that should not be given away makes the audience realize that the Blind Man is not so innocent or helpless for that matter. Still Writer director Fede Alvarez and co-writer Rodo Sayagues pull punches with the character giving ample reasons why he has done what he has done. Maybe its because they made him a military veteran but boy they work hard at making him sympathetic. A injured soldier, grieving father and the last bit on the television report at the end of the movie all really are designed to make things okay with the Blind Man even though he is a killer (granted Money did break in and pull a gun) as well as another twist that is more than repulsive. It can not be overlooked or explained away with grief, the Blind Man is really mentally ill but his actions are awful and should not be explained away.
  The action and thrills with Rocky, Alex and the Blind Man with his again awake dog is really well done. The struggle to survive and escape with the cash and the blind man with a gun are enough to keep the audience on the edges of their seats throughout the taut 88 minute run time. A little slight of hand camera work later in the film is well played in making us think one thing when something different happened. Some really great sequences with quite a few well timed jump scares by the dog make the film really active considering the small set and limited number of characters. Everyone gets bruised and battered by the end fighting to survive The struggle plays out well but the strangely upbeat ending felt like another punch pulled. The acting is good with Lang toning down his regularly larger than life energy to pull emotions without being big. An intimidating actor who is big and strong looking he really is perfect for this role. Levy who is usually the best person in whatever she is in carries her role well and makes a great final girl. She was Mia in the Evil Dead (2013) remake and carried the under rated television show Suburgatory. Alverez does a great job keeping the pacing up and delivering tense, danger filled scenes. This film is very much worth seeing and you should all head out to the theater and give this film some money.
  As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. (Not really expecting that though) It really is an experiment and where I love the horror community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people involved in it.  I am now following over 188 people while the followers is only 31 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :)